Today’s Notable Young Entrepreneur is Spark Sessions Founder Marissa Anwar, who’s creating a platform for bloggers to help them navigate the digital space and fuelling growth in the fashion and beauty blogger landscape here in Canada…
Elevator Pitch: Describe your business in a nutshell.
Spark Sessions is Canada’s only fashion and beauty blogger non-for-profit organization whose mandate is to foster and promote digital literacy and technical skills in a collaborative and engaging way. We run a series of workshops and conferences connecting brands, industry leaders, and bloggers in Toronto.
Why did you start your business, what was the inspiration?
We have so many talented bloggers creating content. The Canadian fashion and beauty blogger space is a bit behind the United States, and we didn’t have the proper resources that we need to take advantage of the digital shift that is slowly taking place in Canada. Since we lacked a hub at home, I decided to create one. It started with a few conversations with friends to see the need, and it grew very quickly from there. The truth is that bloggers are not just teenagers anymore – we have doctors and engineers running fashion and beauty blogs, but the stigma of being a blogger is still there. We want to create a space where everyone can contribute and grow.
What is the best part of what you do on a day-to-day basis? The most challenging part?
The best: We’re in the process of organizing our second conference for 250 people in Toronto, so my day consists of meetings, phone calls, and more meetings. I’m an operations girl by trade, and I’m happiest building plans and executing them. As the Founder and Managing Director, I lead a team of eight highly specialized ladies who are extremely invested in making Spark Sessions succeed.
The most challenging part: I love what I do, but we’re also creating a new category while launching a new business so the growing pains are still there.
Where do you see your business going in five years?
I hope to be in five major cities in Canada in 24 months so we’re able to serve a larger audience. We’re also working on a few very exciting initiatives that we hope to launch soon!
What does success look like to you?
Success to me is doing something that I’m passionate about every day while helping to foster growth in others. Everything else is gravy.
What is the most memorable milestone in your career?
I started my own consulting firm at the age of 27, and grew it to 43 employees with offices in NY and Austin, before partially stepping away to focus more on growing Spark Sessions. However, if I were to pinpoint the exact moment, it would be when I hired my first employee. Someone else was relying on me for their pay check!
Do you have any advice for other young professionals?
Don’t be afraid to put in the work for something that you’re passionate about. It doesn’t matter what you went to school for. I find that experience (whether paid or an internships) trumps school any day of the week. Don’t get me wrong, while having two post-graduate degrees in biology have helped my resume, I haven’t worked in that field a day in my life. Instead, I found a career that I was passionate about and worked from the bottom up, soaking up as much as I could before launching on my own.
Do you support any charities? If so, which one(s) and why is that important to you?
I truly believe that being involved in your community is the only way to make it what you want. I currently volunteer for a few different youth-based organizations, and I’ve had the privilege to be on the board of directors of many great organizations including The Remix Project, United Way KW, and the Social Planning Council, where I currently serve as President.
What is Notable to you?
Kindness, humility and grace.
Blackberry, iPhone, Android, or Other?
I hate to say it since I’m from the home of the BlackBerry, but I currently switched my personal BlackBerry to an iPhone. My work phone is still a BlackBerry, so that has to count for something, right?!
How do you keep active, energetic, and vibrant?
I am fortunate enough to be surrounded by some really amazing people who motivate me all the time. I also play and coach soccer every week. There is nothing like running around with a bunch of 7-year-olds!