‘ I worked for free’

The best ad­vice any­one ever gave Erika Fox was ‘ the harder you work, the luck­ier you get’

The Irish Times Magazine - - SPONSORED -

Mak­ing the move from Kerry to Man­hat­tan isn’t the big­gest move Erika Fox has ever made. She also made the leap from mar­ket­ing other peo­ple’s prod­ucts and ser­vices, to mar­ket­ing her­self. And she has suc­ceeded with style. Today her fash­ion and life­style brand Retro Flame is a so­cial me­dia sen­sa­tion, with more than 100,000 fol­low­ers world­wide.

Fox has been nom­i­nated one of Ir­ishCen­tral’s Top 40 US Dig­i­tal In­flu­encers and one of New York’s Top 20 style blog­gers.

Retro Flame doc­u­ments her work, trav­els, out­fits and in­spi­ra­tions across YouTube, In­sta­gram and Snapchat. Her blog­ging, which started out ad­dress­ing an au­di­ence com­prised mainly of fam­ily and friends, soon turned into a pass­port to work with global brands such as Michael Kors, Vera Wang and Ted Baker, shoot­ing Fox into the pages of in­ter­na­tional pub­li­ca­tion from Teen Vogue to Sev­en­teen.

It has been a stel­lar ride for a woman who started out study­ing com­merce at NUI Gal­way, spe­cial­is­ing in mar­ket­ing. Show­ing global am­bi­tion even as a stu­dent, she spent her sum­mers in­tern­ing with pub­lic re­la­tions com­pa­nies and brands in New York, in­clud­ing Re­fin­ery29, Whit­ney Port and Olivia Palermo, typ­i­cally work­ing for free.

That en­abled her move to Man­hat­tan on a grad­u­ate visa. “I got a full- time job work­ing as a so­cial me­dia man­ager with Vince Ca­muto and af­ter a year there, I was able to se­cure a visa in the US to work on Retro Flame full time, col­lab­o­rat­ing with brands through my so­cial me­dia, blog and Youtube chan­nel both in the US and back home in Europe,” says Fox.

Not bad for an en­deav­our that started out as a hobby. “I never imag­ined in a mil­lion years it would be­come my full- time job. I’m pretty sure my friends and fam­ily thought I was crazy at the time but I just wanted some­where that I could share my out­fits and in­spi­ra­tions. I worked hard – and for free – for years and then even­tu­ally, I be­gan mak­ing an in­come from it through work­ing with brands. I be­lieve you know you love what you’re do­ing when your job stems from a pas­sion you were will­ing to do for free for years.”

Pas­sion cer­tainly takes a lot of the pain out of the hard work of grow­ing a busi­ness. “You need a lot of pa­tience to do this but I think my sit­u­a­tion was a lit­tle dif­fer­ent [ to other start- ups] mainly be­cause I never started Retro Flame in a bid to make money or grow it into some­thing as big as it is now. I did it be- cause I was pas­sion­ate and I think that re­ally stood to me and helped me grow it with­out even re­al­is­ing.”

If she was start­ing out again she’d do some things dif­fer­ently how­ever. “I would def­i­nitely have ex­panded my team ear­lier. Some­times you just have to do things be­fore you’re ready. I cur­rently have one per­son on the Retro Flame team. I didn’t ex­pand ear­lier be- cause I felt I wasn’t ready fi­nan­cially but tak­ing on some­one has made a huge dif­fer­ence to my busi­ness – I can pro­duce so much more con­tent and I be­lieve del­e­ga­tion is key to suc­ceed­ing.”

Her other top tip is to stay grounded. “I al­ways say if you work hard and be a nice per­son, it will get you places. Those are two at­tributes which are so im­por­tant in my in­dus­try,” says Fox. “I’m gen­uinely so in­spired by fel­low blog­gers. It’s an in­dus­try we crafted from noth­ing and it’s so in­spir­ing to see other blog­gers go on and build huge brands out­side of their blogs.”

Her pri­mary in­spi­ra­tion is closer to home. “Def­i­nitely my Mom. She al­ways taught me to think big, work hard and never give up. She also def­i­nitely passed down her per­fec­tion­ism to me.”

She in turn is keen to be a good role model for younger women look­ing to fol­low in her foot­steps. “What I have learned – in life and busi­ness – is the im­por­tance of al­ways be­ing true to your­self. Try­ing to be any­thing else will al­ways come back to bite you. Stand up for what you be­lieve in, al­ways, and you’ll at­tract the right peo­ple and op­por­tu­ni­ties.”

With ev­ery step she takes, her aim is to make her next step even bet­ter. “I’m more com­pet­i­tive with my­self than any­one else so I’m al­ways try­ing to be bet­ter than I was yes­ter­day. That’s my mo­ti­va­tion,” says Fox. “My read­ers and fol­low­ers mo­ti­vate me too – I never want them to get bored.”

Though the com­mer­cial suc­cess of her busi­ness is a mea­sure of its suc­cess, for Fox, true suc­cess is hap­pi­ness. “Whether it’s in busi­ness or in re­la­tion­ships, once I’m truly happy, I know I’m do­ing things right,” she says.

Cen­tral to that hap­pi­ness is find­ing a good work- life bal­ance. “It’s def­i­nitely im­por­tant to me,” says Fox, “al­though I do find it a lit­tle bit dif­fi­cult, I won’t lie! I find it es­pe­cially hard to achieve that bal­ance in New York as it’s a city where every­one is al­ways switched ‘ on’.”

She needs that down­time, be­cause al­ways, at the back of her mind is the phrase she cites as the best ad­vice any­one ever gave her – “The harder you work, the luck­ier you get.” Se­ries con­cludes

Erika Fox’s fash­ion and life­style brand Retro Flame is a so­cial me­dia sen­sa­tion

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