Above is a photo of Team Make It at the very end of our 2017 holiday show in Vancouver. The moment in time that the photo captures we were feeling exhausted, worn out, and incredibly relieved because we finished the season on an high note. The Vancouver show broke attendance records and I know many Makies had massive success too, which at the end of the day is the reason why we do what we do. A few days later I took the ladies to The Shameful Tiki Room on Main St and we celebrated with exceptionally strong drinks. It so much fun – although the next day was not!
Today is International Women’s Day and I am devoting this post to the women in my life that have devoted their time, energy, and talents to helping me achieve my dreams. Two of the incredible ladies in the photos are no longer working with Make It, but last year was such a pivotal year for the company and without them, the experience wouldn’t be what it was.
If you’ve been following my story, you may remember that Make It was founded by my brother Chandler and I in 2008. We were just two punks from Edmonton who had recently moved to Vancouver that had no idea wtf we we’re doing a lot of the time. It was 8 years later that I made the decision to buy Chandler out so he could pursue his clothing company, Ole Originals full time.
Making the decision to run Make It solo was absolutely terrifying! Producing events is not an easy business, because every show you must prove yourself again and again. Reputation is EVERYTHING, and it can be emotional too because the Makies who participate are counting on us for their success. There are many highs and lows when it comes to Make It, and 10 years later it’s never felt easy or simple to pull off a show, and at this point I don’t think it ever will. Leading up to each season I usually feel pretty much the same way as I did at the very first show – excited, uncertain, and a bit light headed!
Since buying Chandler out I have cultivated a small, but mighty team of fierce ladies who are as smart as they are hilarious. Each one of them brings their own special mix of skills and talents to the table, which is why Make It feels the way it does. These ladies pour their heart into supporting the Makies and making the customers who come out to the show feel loved and appreciated too. Plus, they’re SO delightful and fun to be around, and some of my favourite humans to drink wine and giggle with!
I would like to introduce you to the brilliant, women who have made a massive impact in my business and my life. From left to right:
Benny Etienne- The moment I saw Benny smile for the first time, I was immediately drawn to her! I was volunteering to help a friend out at a soccer tournament last summer, and Benny was the volunteer coordinator. When she found out what I did she told me how much she loved Make It and that her and her friend had been going to the show since the Croatian Cultural Centre days. At the time I had signed the lease for Conscious Lab and needed to hire someone to help me run it. I asked Benny if she’d be interested and she responded with an enthusiastic yes!
For the next 4 months Benny and I had a wild ride of trying to launch an event space for conscious entrepreneurs without much of a plan. I had the vision, but was preoccupied with finishing my book and running Make It. Benny was left without a lot of direction, but continued to show up to work with a beaming smile and positive attitude.
It was stressful at times, but after spinning our wheels for a few months I decided that Conscious Lab needed to take a back seat, and Benny came on board Team Make It to help run the door in Edmonton and Vancouver. She was such a blast to work and never complain despite fighting a cold.
Although Benny isn’t working with Make It currently, she will be rocking the door once again at the Vancouver show. If you see her, make sure to give her a big smile and high-5!
Benny – thank you for being there for me despite some challenging circumstances. Despite Conscious Lab not becoming the exact vision that I had in my head, just knowing you taught me so much about life. You inspired me in so many ways, and gave some of the best dating advice I’ve ever received! The ladies and I miss your smile and energy and can’t wait to see you again soon!
Hillary Samson- I got to know Hillary a few years ago because she was helping my friend Ashley Wray take her company Mala Collective to the next level. When I heard of how much she was helping Ashley, I knew I wanted to hire her too.
We first started on a very small consulting contract where I basically cried, and she would tell me everything was going to be ok! I nicknamed Hillary “the grownup” because she has this beautiful, soothing mom energy that relaxes me no matter how stressed out I might feel. Being an entrepreneur is tough AF sometimes, and a big reason is there’s no one to tell you what to do or that you can even do it. Hillary helps me to get through the stickiness.
In the fall, when I was dealing with burnout, exhaustion, overwhelm and all the other byproducts associated with overachievement – Hillary and I had lunch. She asked me if I knew of anyone who would be interested in hiring a part time COO. As she gave me the pitch I blurted out “ME” excitedly. I think she was a little take back, but I knew immediately in my gut it was right and I never looked back since.
Now we have the privilege of having Hillary’s wisdom, experience, and grownup-ness in the office regularly. She has taken so much off my plate by creating systems so we’ve as effective and streamlined as possible. We’ve taking Make It to the next level, and although the internal shift can be challenging at times, I know with Hillary there anything is possible. She loves spreadsheets and processes more than I knew was humanly possible, and I can’t wait to see how things unfold this year as she works her magic.
Hillary – since the short time you’ve been part of the team, I can already see the benefits. From Monday morning meetings, to Basecamp and timelines, you’re already made Make It a stronger and more streamlined company. But, the best part about working with you is your kindness, grace, and authenticity. You’re allowing me to step into a whole new role that I didn’t even know was a possibility before. Thank you for changing my business and my life.
Rachel Hopkins- I was introduced to Rachel through my good friend Annika who had hired her to work at a conference she produced. Annika is a littttttle bit of a perfectionist, so I knew if she recommended someone it meant they were really special!
Rachel is originally from Australia, and her and her boyfriend were temporarily living in Vancouver for a couple years. When I first met her I loved her energy, and although I wasn’t 100% sure what her role would be at Make It, I knew she’d be great to work with. Over the next few months I got the hang of her work style and she fell into the role that included partnership coordination, marketing, PR, managing door staff, and a bunch of other jobs.
One of the first experiences working with Rachel was at the holiday Vancouver show in 2016. It was the weekend of “snowmageddon” and we had her checking Makies in for setup. Rachel was setup right by the loading bay and although it was freezing cold, she never complained once. Because she’s Australian and not used to frigid winter temps I was even more impressed!
Rachel worked for Make It for over a year and travelled to Edmonton and Calgary for both sets of shows in 2017. She got to see parts of Canada she had never planned to, and likely had a work experience that was a little outside the box too. The other Make It ladies formed a strong bond with Rachel, and at our last dinner as a group we all cried a little bit because we knew we had to say goodbye…at least for now.
Rachel – I’m sure you did not plan for the work experience you received, but hopefully you valued it as much as I did. You’re so composed, and I can’t tell me how much I appreciate you’re ability to remain calm under pressure. Thank you for all you did last year at Make It and I hope you and Greg are having the time of your lives travelling the world.
Diana Luong- The story of how I met Diana is full of serendipity. I was first introduced to her when her and her friend Stephanie reached out to me from Hootsuite. They were planning a #HootupCraft and wanted me to lead it. Because they are two of the most adorable people I’ve ever met, I couldn’t help but say YES.
After the Hootsuite event Diana and her business partner Erica started a paper good company called Craftedvan. They started participating at Make It as their business grew and they developed a following on Etsy and Instagram.
When I bought Chandler out of Make It I immediately moved into an office in the Dominion Building in Gastown and put a Facebook post looking to hire a graphic designer. Within 7 mins of my post being up, Diana reached out and said she wanted the job.
The day I got my keys to my office I had ordered a bunch of furniture to be delivered that same afternoon. I had also planned to interview Diana that to see if she was the right fit for the job. As I waited for the delivery truck to arrive, I interviewed her in Victory Square amongst homeless people doing drugs and offered her the job. We still laugh at how hilarious the whole situation was!
Diana making the decision to leave Hootsuite and work for Make It was a big one for her. I remember asking her over and over again if she was sure because I didn’t want her to regret it. It’s now been 2 years and Diana has been such a BIG part of the reason the show has experienced steady. We call her Speedy-D because she is able to whip out graphics like nobodies business!
Working with Diana is such a delight. She is personable, enthusiastic and gives us the Makie POV on things. We do things at a super-fast pace, but Speedy-D always delivers with a smile! She’s also is continuing to grow Craftedvan, and her and Erica even went to NYC last year to participate in the stationary show.
Diana – thank you for being a such a source of light and positivity. You have done an exceptional job developing the Make It brand and breathing personality into it. My favourite part about working with you is when it’s just us in the office and we can talk about all the other things
Brigitte Stroud- I’m really glad Brigitte is on my right-hand side of this photo because I got to save her for last! In 2013 Brigitte joined Make It, and was one of the very first hires Chandler and I made. To say we had no idea how to onboard is a huge understatement! Luckily Brigitte was already an experienced entrepreneur and had run a store on Main St for 10 years so she was well seasoned for the job.
In the first few years I think Brigitte told us what to do more than the other way around! But, after a few cycles of shows we finally got into the groove and her role got defined as the exhibitor coordinator…or as I like to called her “Makie Mama!” Brigitte however is not a huge fan of this title, but I’ve seen her mama-bear qualities come out on many occasions because no one looks out for the Makies like she does.
If it wasn’t for Brigitte I don’t know if I would have had the confidence to buy Chandler out of Make It. Even though it was still challenging, she gave me the support that I needed to be able to go for it. Brigitte cares about the company like a founder, and is constantly coming up amazing ideas to grow the biz.
B – what can I say. I really can’t imagine working with anyone else. When you think of how far we’ve come since you started it’s pretty incredible. Thank you for being such a strong supporter of Make It, and also being a true friend.
International Women’s Day seems to be a more important holiday than ever this year because of the political state of the world. As hard as it can be to be a woman, I also think this new awareness will only strengthen us and allow for incredible things to happen. When light is shone, healing can begin.
I believe change happens when we support one another to be the best and most fully actualized versions of ourselves. I wrote this post to celebrate and acknowledge the women who have helped me rise, and who also have allowed the Makies – predominately women to rise as well.
Thank you so much for reading and make sure you come out to one of our Make It shows in Edmonton: March 23-25, Calgary: April 6-8, and Vancouver: April 20-22. If you buy early bird tickets you’ll save 50% off admission.