She’s the leader of Ayden Creative, one of Western Canada’s fastest growing, boundary-pushing PR and brand management agencies. She is also a proud Blanche Macdonald Fashion Marketing graduate and a rising star in the world of female entrepreneurship. Skyping on a sunny day from Regina’s warehouse district, one of the hottest addresses in the city’s business community, Tara Osipoff comes in clear, calm, and confident. Her undeniable passion for both Ayden Creative and its sister company, clothing brand IN2BN (it’s nice 2B nice), has been key to their massive growth and success over the last few years. Catch up with Tara as she talks about finding her calling, the highs and lows of owning your own marketing agency, and things you should know before you start a career in marketing!
You just celebrated the three year anniversary of Ayden Creative in May! Can you share some milestones from along the way?
When we started to see some of our early successes grow into contracts with high-profile brands, that was really exciting and made us stop and think, “Ok, we’re on to something.” I’m really proud of the fact that we have achieved what we have today with a team that is predominantly female. It has given us a unique perspective that brands have latched onto and it has helped us to find our own voice in the marketing industry. Yes, we are a group of professional women, but we have worked really hard not to let our work be defined by traditional gender bias. We work with brands ranging from world-renowned skin care and makeup lines, to automotive groups. Our greatest milestone has been finding our own voice: coming into our own skin, knowing who we are, and being proud of every piece of work we put out.
It’s hard work, but it’s rewarding and I love it. Blanche Macdonald played a huge role in my success.
Where did the name ‘Ayden’ come from?
Ayden is Gaelic and it means ‘to start a small fire.’ That is our intention with the brands we work with, to help them to spread like wildfire. As an agency our job is to stay in the shadows and watch the brands we work with take centre stage. We are the gasoline.
Did you always know that being in Regina running an agency was what you wanted to do?
After I graduated from Blanche Macdonald’s Fashion program, my intention was to come home to Regina to catch up with my family and work for a few months before jetting off to work with a Fashion PR firm in England. I got a term position with a brokerage in Regina, and while I was there I looked after their marketing. They were the ones who said, ‘You have a unique approach to this and would be disruptive to the market. You should think about starting your own agency.’ So I did! Looking back, I was very naive as to what owning an agency would actually entail. I always think about what Steve Jobs said, ‘Stay hungry, stay foolish,’ because you make these grandiose decisions not really knowing what you’re getting into, and if you’re strong enough to persevere, you will be enormously successful.
It seems to have worked out well for you, though!
It did, I’m really thankful that I have a healthy supply of optimism and resilience. We’ve managed to create a very successful company and I’m proud to say that our business grew 96% last year. We went from doing pretty well the first year, to being placed in a very comfortable position in our third. It’s hard work, but it’s rewarding and I love it. Blanche Macdonald played a huge role in my success.
Yes you’re a graduate of our Fashion Marketing program! What brought you to Blanche Macdonald initially?
I actually started in Blanche Macdonald’s Fashion Design program. I happened to strike up a conversation with a recent Fashion Design grad who was using a sewing machine in our classroom and asked her what her career goals were. As much as I loved the idea of Fashion Design, I realized that my heart was more on the business side of fashion. So I switched into Fashion Marketing which is a perfect fit because our agency primarily works with fashion, beauty and lifestyle brands.
The entire program is incredibly well-rounded and prepares you for a variety of career roles.
So once you switched from design to marketing, what did you enjoy about the program?
It was so fascinating. I didn’t realize how much fashion was tied to everything—from art to economics to history in general. It was a insightful process for me sitting in Peggy’s class learning how you could tell what the economy was like in different eras based on the colours, fabrics, and shapes of what they wore. I never realized fashion was so telling of the times. That got me passionate about fashion, but the main things in the program that really ignited my interests were the classes like Retail Buying, Marketing Essentials, and Business Entrepreneurship. I was interested in the classes that sat at the intersection between fashion, business, and economy. The entire program is incredibly well-rounded and prepares you for a variety of career roles. I definitely attribute a lot of my success to what I learned at Blanche. The program is realistic and really preps you for a diverse career path.
Do you remember the day you found out you were accepted into Blanche Macdonald?
My brother, who I was very close with, had passed away a few years before. The day I found out I was accepted into Blanche Macdonald was on his birthday. It was a very special moment that allowed me to change the narrative of that day into something positive. I had learned so much from him through the way he lived his life and have continued to learn from him in his death. Brian prepared me for challenges, has made me appreciate all triumphs and has allowed me to find courage in times of need. In a way, he prepared me for Blanche, Ayden, and all of life’s chapters. I’d never lived in a metropolitan city like Vancouver, it was a huge change and although it came with its challenges, it was one of the most rewarding experiences to date. The move definitely was an awakening for me. It forced me to grow. You never really know what school is going to entail until you start. Blanche Macdonald was an incredible experience.
What kind of industry opportunities did you get from our Fashion Career Director and Instructors?
I would say all the teachers I had at Blanche Macdonald had some sort of business outside of Blanche Macdonald and I was lucky enough to intern for a lot of them. I was afforded incredible opportunities from these experienced instructors who were also entrepreneurs themselves. I have an immense amount respect for them and what they’ve created. I’ve maintained relationships with them and continue to look up to them today. They have so much to share outside of school. [Fashion Career Director] Mel [Watts] and I talked often as well—she knows a lot about the industry and has all of the connections which she shares with the students. I had so much support from every person at Blanche Macdonald. There was a point where I was so overwhelmed with school and work and I went to see [Admissions Director] Mary [Hombrebueno-Hardy] to talk about my journey. Mary is truly an angel on earth, I attribute my success at Blanche Macdonald to this woman. She believed in me when I really needed the support—it was powerful. I still think about it now—the strength Mary gave me reminds me in hard times that all I need to do is put in the work and keep pushing forward. Even now when we have a bad day, I’m more energized than when we’re on top and killing it, because our low days allow us to dig deep and challenge ourselves to consider what we could be doing better. I acquired these skills at Blanche and living on my own in Vancouver.
What is a typical day like for you as President of Ayden Creative?
We spend a lot of time developing strategies and plans for our clients, so most days the team arrives at the office with a clear idea of the role they are going to play that day and our direction. We get together in the morning to review any challenges or barriers that we have encountered. My day revolves around managing those challenges and finding solutions to any obstacles.
If you could describe Ayden Creative in a hashtag, what would it be?
You’re running Ayden Creative and in2bn – which came first and why?
Ayden Creative came first and then IN2BN. IN2BN was born out of a need in our community. One of our nonprofit clients needed to find new fundraising opportunities and we wanted to create a brand that projected positive attitudes in a time where there is a lot of negative noise. We wanted to create a brand that spoke of hope, unity and optimism. Our first collection was well received, and from there we decided to develop a brand. We create minimal, sleek, and basic pieces that speak of empowerment, confidence, and kindness.
How did our program ready you for owning not one, but two businesses?!
IN2BN simply wouldn’t exist without the knowledge I gained during the Fashion Marketing program. The skills I use in managing both businesses were developed and honed at Blanche.
Top 5 things to know before you start a career in marketing:
- Be introspective and find validation in yourself. You will help other brands and people succeed, but don’t expect direct praise and acknowledgment. Shine when your clients shine.
- Be energetic. You’re ‘on’ a lot! Prep yourself during your off-time by doing things that are good for your health. Doing so will allow you to think innovatively and creatively when you’re working.
- Be outgoing. Meeting and talking with people is a huge part of your job.
- Be genuine. You have to be able to genuinely care about a brand’s success as much as they do.
- Be patient. When results aren’t immediate, it doesn’t mean you did a bad job. It can sometimes take over three months before for a campaign starts to pick up.