In a way, Steven Branco’s career chose him.
Though he started off his career in a different track, writing always seemed to find subtle ways to weave into his life. For instance, he began a microblog as a way to bring in some side income and also for the fun of it. What began as a fun hobby quickly turned into a viable career option. We sat down with Branco to learn more about how thinking outside the box has allowed him to dive into a fulfilling writing career.
How did you get started?
I’ve always been into fashion, personal care and cars–you know–guy stuff. I enjoyed writing in my “downtime” and living in the age that we do, needing to do the side hustle…So, back in the early days of my career when I started in Brand Marketing and Creative, I would microblog, even dating back to Myspace. I became somewhat of an expert, so much so that my circle of friends, family and even random coworkers or students would reach out to me for advice. Very early on, I was very fortunate to have some great mentors in my life, so I always felt the need to give back by mentoring others–and writing was my way to do that.
I ended up pursuing an education in MarComm and New Media, picking up skills including photography and design. Very quickly, I realized that there were a lot of restrictions and gaps in the men’s lifestyle space. For example, many of the items being considered for features and roundups weren’t widely accessible. I mean, in my mind, why would we want to feature something that the majority of our readers cannot access. Which let me on to my current career path with SWAGGER Magazine and our other lifestyle brands that I work on.
What type of Notable are you? Entrepreneur? Creator? Professional?
Truthfully, all of the above. I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit, from taking my old toys, cleaning them up and reselling them to my friends, to cutting people’s grass on my street. Although business is important to me, creative is what drives me. I love being able to think outside the box, letting my creative juices flow and storytelling. I’m also a professional because I’d like to believe that I have, and continue to learn and develop my craft.
Tell me about why you love your job and the cool things you get to do.
Because I get to see my creative vision come to life in what I write, shoot and produce. It doesn’t even feel like work. I get to search through the latest and greatest and take part in some amazing experiences. The most memorable being when I was given the opportunity to collaborate with some of my favourite brands for Canada 150 with a trip out west to experience several luxury properties in some of my bucket list destinations. I mean, if you told my younger self that I would have done that before I turned 30, I would have laughed.
What do you want to be known for?
My passion, creativity and versatility both in my personal brand and the brands that I work with. A gentleman with SWAGGER is fashionable and memorable without being over the top.
What does ambition mean to you?
When drive meets opportunity.
Looking back are there moments in your life that clearly stand out as defining moments?
Taking a risk and giving up a secure “cushy” administrative job, to take a contract marketing and communications role which was my true passion, where I gained invaluable experience and connections that helped me get to where I am today.
When I did my first TV segment, because being in-front of the camera was something I NEVER would have imagined. Most importantly, when I took the plunge and came out to my family and friends, after having lived a lie.
What would you consider your biggest accomplishment to date? Or your most proud moment?
When I was featured in a cover story in the Wall St. Journal.
How about the worst mistake you ever made?
Truthfully, listening to family, religious, and cultural pressures and beliefs, that lead me to question my sexuality, and believe that I wasn’t born this way. That it wasn’t “normal” for me to think, feel and like what I do. You should never have to question who you are and who or what you love. I should have never tried to mask my feelings and be someone I wasn’t. But I don’t regret it either. It’s made me who I am today, and I’ve learned from it.
Is there a business decision you look back on now that you wish you’d made differently?
I don’t believe in regrets, everything happens for a reason. What may seem like a bad decision at the time or a mistake is a chance to develop professionally and come away stronger.
Tell me about a moment you knew you’d “made it”.
When I was approached by the Wall Street Journal last year to comment about my feelings with respect to the US Secretary of State, repeatedly mentioning #Swagger to the media. This resulted in us having to present a proposal that I wrote, to help the State Department redefine their Swagger, which was then reviewed by the White House.
Being able to dress Denzel Washington for a TIFF red carpet a few years back was a highlight.
Getting to walk the runway at Startup Fashion Week amongst other reputable entrepreneurs and icons in Toronto also stands out as an “I made it” moment for me.
Tell me about some pivotal mentors or mentorship moments?
I’ve had several pivotal mentors throughout my career; some who directly managed me and others who did not. They prefer not to be named, and there’s nothing that I could ever do to repay them for their impact on my life and career. One thing that one of my key mentors once said to me, was to never come to people with problems, but rather solutions — and it’s stuck with me ever since. In fact, I find myself repeating it to my teams now, frequently.
Have there been the key steps in your professional development?
Being eager to learn and always looking for opportunities to grow and try new things to develop myself, has been essential for my professional development.
Tell me about parts of your personality or skills or approach that has helped in your career?
My approachable and extroverted personality has definitely helped me to be able to connect with people, and build stronger relationships.
What’s the one piece of advice that changed everything for you?
You are your own brand ambassador, value your own brand.
What are your Notable Life goals?
As a writer I want to create more of an emotional connection with my audience. I usually concentrate on the fun stuff, but I want to dig a little deeper. I believe that this will help take SWAGGER to the next level, making it a globally recognized brand, that the modern man can relate to.
What’s the next challenge or project you’re tackling?
To continue to build my personal brand resulting in more on-air/on-screen visibility. I want to keep honing my skills, to be a stronger speaker and be more comfortable on camera.
I also have a new top-secret project for a new national media brand to launch in early 2020, but you’re going to have to stay tuned for that.
Any hidden talents? Secret passions?
Secretly kind of a geek, I stumbled into learning how to code and develop websites early on in my career because I was fascinated by it all.
Tell us a secret – don’t worry we won’t tell. What’s something we don’t know about you?
I secretly am OCD and love to clean. I can’t go a week without changing the sheets and tidying up, and can’t wrap my head around getting someone else doing it for me — because they can’t do it with as much passion as me. Ha!
But also, unashamedly, I LOVE wrapping presents. In earlier years, all my family members would drop of their gifts at my place and I would buy bulk rolls of wrapping paper and then colour coordinate the gifts by age group so we can easily pick out the elders and children’s gifts for Christmas night gift opening. I love it, and I get so into it, buy ribbons, the special tape, setup a whole station and everything. I’m crazy, I know.
Where can we learn more about you / connect with you / your social channels.
I mean, where can’t you, just google me, ha. Seriously, you can find me on Instagram @mr.stevenbranco, Twitter @mrstevenbranco, Facebook, LinkedIn and obviously on Swagger Magazine and View the VIBE, where you’re bound to come across my content all over both sites.