A Requiem for an Agency

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WUT. Yep. It’s been a crazy two months!

About two months ago, as some major contracts were wrapping up, Stylesmith “the agency” found itself at a crossroads. Do we keep going on a skeleton budget and skeleton staff?  Keep pushing through another “famine” to get to the “feast”?

I started Stylesmith in 2009. Mostly by accident, my work with bloggers and with this very blog, had lead to a few social media contracts and that work grew organically over the next couple of years. In 2012 I landed a client with a retainer big enough to afford me a staff and, as we grew more, in 2013, an office.

It’s never been easy, but it’s been fun. I loved running a business, doing some really fun work, really pushing my boundaries creatively and sometimes humanly. I’ve employed some amazing individuals, many of which remain incredible friends, nay, family.

But, it’s taken it’s toll on me, and this year, with some tough losses both personally and professionally, the weight of running a business, things like doing taxes, payroll, pushing for new business, all started to weigh too heavily on me. I just wanted to do good work, and empower my incredible staff, and instead I was doing paperwork.

So, after a moment of clarity, and the support of the best team I’ve ever had, I decided it was time to move on. We had rented a house in Palm Springs for Coachella weekend and took Stylesmith “the agency” out in style, whilst concurrently working on our resumes and applying for jobs. We know how to partay. Hagop managed to creepily snap the above pic of me “partying away”.

So, a resume, and a job. Something I hadn’t considered for over a decade! I immediately went to the website of a social media agency I’d been admiring from afar, McBeard. They had an Account Director position available and I just thought, that would be pretty perfect.

By the end of the weekend I had my first interview. Three more interviews/meetings later, whilst I was up in Portland (I figured if it was bad news there’d be lots of beer, and if it was good news, there’d be lots of beer) I was offered the job, and I started the following week.

That was a little under two months ago, and so far, it was the smartest decision I could have made. I’m working on a great account, with a great team. In such a short time I’ve really felt a part of the company, in a really meaningful way. A lot of the confidence I had lost in running my own company is returning, and having my experience and expertise valued has been incredibly validating.

So what happens to Stylesmith? Well, I’ll always be Stylesmith, and this blog, where the whole thing began almost a decade ago, isn’t going anywhere! In fact, I’m hoping I’ll be much better at blogging much more frequently now. But no promises just yet!

As a sort of goodbye to Stylesmith “the agency” I wanted to share some of the work that I was most proud of in it’s last few months, so I’ll leave you with that, and next time I’m back I’ll be able to share all the fun stuff from 2016 so far :)

UNIQLO “Cold Weather” Highlights for Social Media
Shot and Styled by Me. Modeled by Caitly Balthazar.

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UNIQLO: ANew: Sportswear for the New Year for Social Media
Shot and Styled by Me, modeled by Danielle Cuccio.Anew_Pose_Airism Anew_35 Anew_15 Anew_23 Anew_Recipe_6

UNIQLO Valentines Day Web and Social Campaign
Shot by Me, Styled by Veronica de la Cerda, Seidi Hakkanen & Laura Cuellar.

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UNIQLO Chinese New Year for Social Media
Shot by Me, modeled by Natasha Lewka.

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UNIQLO Made in LA Denim for Social Media
Shot by me, styled and modeled by Amy Leverton of Denim Dudes.

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Trinidad, Cuba. March 2016

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Trinidad, located in central Cuba, is a 500 year old colonial town that has been subject to little modernisation in it’s tenure. Plumbing and electricity has been built in without changing the fabrication of the town itself.

As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, there has been some restoration in the main hub of the town. This is where the tourists flock to see the colourful buildings, resplendent with the patina of “old”. Here we visited a restored church and feasted in remains of another.

Step away from the throngs of tourists and down the hill and the buildings become more dilapidated, the patina’s, less intentional and you get a real glimpse at life in Trinidad.

Taking this trip with Coast to Costa, helmed by charismatic and fluently Spanish speaking, Andrew Tyree, allowed us to experience Cuba in a way that the tourists shlepped in by the bus load were just not able to. Andrew was willing to strike up conversation with anyone, which led to us unearthing a pottery studio and an ancient cocktail recipe, amongst other things.

Trinidad_3_20_2016_SFW_1_ Trinidad_3_20_2016_SFW_3_From the rooftop of our Casa.

Dinner in the ruins of an old church.

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Trinidad_3_20_2016_SFW_15_Trinidad_3_20_2016_SFW_30_Away from the throngs of tourists. Here Andrew struck up conversation with a local butcher cooking up the innards of an entire few hundred pound pig.

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Another well timed conversation lead to this pottery studio. Whilst we were picking out what we thought were tiny planters, Chichi, the owner, explained to us that they were in fact cups for an ancient cocktail, native to Cuba, the “Canchanchara”. The cocktail consists of rum, sugar, honey and lime (or lemon). It’s very tasty.

Trinidad_3_20_2016_SFW_45_ Trinidad_3_20_2016_SFW_42_ Trinidad_3_20_2016_SFW_44_ Trinidad_3_20_2016_SFW_43_The Trinidad area is also home to Playa Ancon, one of Cuba’s most famed beaches.

Trinidad_3_20_2016_SFW_17_ Trinidad_3_20_2016_SFW_34_More from central Trinidad and a snap of our #CubaSquad. From left to right: Scott, Andrew from Coast to Costa, Erin, Michael and Megan from Fresh Off the Grid.

So much more to come from Cuba!

Bay of Pigs, Cuba, March 2016

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After a whirlwind 24 hours in Havana, we hit the road, headed for Trinidad. We took the long way round and made some very special stops along the way, the first of which was the Bay of Pigs. I’ve traveled to a variety of places, but this was my first tropical beach visit – coconut laden palms, sparkling blue Caribbean Sea. It was hard to reconcile this paradise with it’s history.

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After a little beach time we were treated to an incredible spread before heading out to our next stop.

Just a few minutes away was the Cave of the Fishes, a unique spot where the salt water meets the freshwater. The deep pool was completely clear and filled with brightly coloured tropical fishes (hence the name!)

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