We'd like to present this story from Career Contessa, an online platform guiding career-driven women to success. The site features stories from business-savvy and entrepreneurial-minded women who shed light into their journeys after college. Read Carol's story below!
In 2010, several fashion brands were beginning to realize how important a digital voice could be, but they didn't know what to do about it. Enter Carol Han. Carol, 34, had been working at StyleCaster as the executive fashion director when she noticed this trend occurring. Instead of just letting it pass by, she took control and started CA Creative, a digital media agency that helps brands with the exact problems they were facing.
Carol and friend/partner Alexandra Weiss turned CA Creative from a two-person operation into a wildly successful agency with a team of intelligent and creative employees. Building up the business may have been one of the hardest parts, but it also turned out to be the most rewarding. This inspiration has led Carol to grow an entrepreneurial mind and now is prospering as her own boss!
While it's no secret that she loves her job, Carol also is dedicated to maintaining a balanced lifestyle outside of the office. She makes time to run and do yoga every day and also loves to cook (check out her blog!). But for right now, Carol is mostly focused on the future of CA Creative and expanding the agency — maybe even into the art market . . . Intrigued? Read the full story below.
Her Starting Point
Many people find the transition between college and "real life" a bit daunting. Can you tell us about your journey between the two? What was your first job postcollege?
My first job postcollege was at a fashion PR firm called BPCM. I was there when it was five employees and a few really amazing clients (i.e. Stella McCartney, Derek Lam when he was just starting out, Bruno Frisoni, etc.). Now they're huge with offices in NYC, LA, and London! I really loved that job because it showed me firsthand when I was really young what it was like to build a business. I always knew I wanted to go into editorial though, so I soon transitioned over to the fashion department of Lucky magazine, which led to a four-year stint at ELLE magazine and ELLE.com.
I honestly didn't find the transition from college to "real life" daunting at all (until you get me started on the topic of apartment hunting in NYC). I had three solid internships under my belt (Interview magazine, W magazine and Harper's Bazaar) and I was incredibly excited to start my career.
When did you first spark the idea for CA Creative? How long did it take to make your vision a reality?
I was at StyleCaster as their executive fashion director. It was 2010, and brands were really starting to understand the importance of creating their own content online, crafting voices to communicate with their consumers in a social way, and building solid digital strategies. Not a lot of them had any idea where to even start, so they were going out to their editor contacts for help with content creation. I was getting a lot of consultation requests and figured we could create a new type of agency from the sudden demand. It took us less than a year to get started.
You and your cofounder, Alex Weiss, are friends in addition to being business partners, which is pretty impressive! How did the two of you meet?
We met at ELLE magazine! Everyone knows that starting a business with your best friend is certainly not the easiest thing in the world, but when all is said and done, we work very well together and we make it a priority to nurture our friendship as well as our business relationship.
Running your own company is no easy feat. When did you feel like this was the right path for you? When did you feel like it was time to be your own boss?
I had watched Vanessa Bismarck and Carrie Phillips in the early days do such a splendid job building BPCM, and then I had joined StyleCaster as part of the launch team when there was no office and no website. Those two experiences were very inspiring to me and really planted the entrepreneurial seed in my head.
Her Big Break
What was the process of starting your business like? How did you handle things like marketing, production, and PR in the beginning? Have those things changed since starting the company?
In the beginning, it was just Alex and me working out of the Soho House every day. As we signed more clients, we slowly built out our team of content managers, designers, and digital strategists. We also struck up a partnership with King & Partners, an incredibly talented agency helmed by Tony King, that creates digital platforms for luxury and fashion clients. Their services were very complementary to ours, so we thought an official partnership made sense, and it's been a brilliant working relationship for the past few years.
If we had the chance to peek at your schedule, what would an average day look like?
Loads of meetings and client calls, business breakfasts and lunches, and one yoga class every single day. It's how I chill out.
What do you love most about working at CA Creative? What is the company culture like?
I love being able to build the team here and hire extremely bright, intelligent people to surround myself with. It's the hardest part of the job, but definitely the most rewarding. I also love coming up with innovative ideas for clients and being able to execute them from start to finish, ending up with something that you're really very proud of. The team is quite tight-knit and very creative.
How do you handle work/life balance?
I have a pretty full stable of hobbies and things I'm passionate about, so I make sure to make those things priorities as much as possible. I love yoga and running, so I carve out time in the wee hours of the morning or for an hour in the afternoon every day. I love cooking, and I write a blog about it, so I dedicate a good amount of weekend time to that pursuit. It's really about making a commitment to lead an interesting, varied, and well-rounded life and sticking to it.
What skills are essential to working as your own boss?
A certain amount of discipline, great people skills to manage a team, and a sense of humor.
Translating passion into a career is tough. What advice would you give to women trying to figure this out?
I would say that it's important to consistently take time out to sit with yourself and have an honest look at your life and career to determine whether or not you like where you are and where you're going. It's so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day and to never take stock of those things. When you're clear-headed and able to see things from a larger perspective, it becomes simpler to figure out where you would like to be and then take steps to get there.
And finally, what do you wake up looking forward to? What's next for your career?
Right now, I genuinely wake up every day looking forward to being at CA and taking decisive actions toward the growth of the agency. Building a business has been an exhilarating experience. In terms of the future, I've always been interested in the art market, so getting to work with clients in that realm (i.e. galleries, museums, foundations) would be a dream.
Want to know more about the founder of Career Contessa? Read our interview with Lauren McGoodwin here.
Source: Shannen Norman