Bianca Caampued, cofounder and creative director of Small Girls PR, believes social media and compelling brand content are an integral part of any public relations campaign. Caampued heads the firm’s creative strategy team, “ideating unconventional ways to promote Small Girls clients, through digital campaigns, blogger/influencer collaborations, stunts and events,” the company noted.
She has also led projects for Ann Taylor, Google, The Kingdom of the Netherlands, Simon & Schuster books and Verizon’s Go90, among other campaigns. Caampued is also a fashion and lifestyle blogger.
Caampued and her firm have been cited by Forbes in its Top 15 Women-Led Start-ups as well as L Magazine’s 30 Under 30 and Marie Claire’s Young Guns. She’s also the recipient of LIM College’s 2015 Rising Star Alumni Award. Here, Caampued, who graduated from LIM College in 2007, shares insights into her career path and trends in the market as well as who she considers to be her personal Yoda.
WWD: How did your coursework and your experience at LIM help inform your career decisions?
Bianca Caampued: When I was in high school, my planned career path was to go into the sciences, until one day I turned to my friend in my AP Chemistry class while reading Lucky Magazine, and said, “I’m going to work here.”
I decided to move away from what I realized was more of a hobby [evolutionary biology], and applied to LIM College because I felt that with its sole focus on the business of fashion it would get me closer to my newfound goal of working on the business side of the magazine.
While working in a part-time retail position at Lacoste — a job I found via LIM’s Career Management Department — I met the vice president of p.r. at Chanel, who I recognized from a feature in Lucky. I ended up interning for her and she helped me get my next internship, which was in Lucky’s promotions department. After I graduated I got hired at Lucky in the advertising department, where I put a lot of the skills I learned at LIM to use.
Since then, having started my own company, I find myself doing things that I gained experience in when I did them for other companies during my internships. I’m also using skills I learned in many of the classes I took at LIM — including p.r. writing, public speaking, consumer behavior, marketing and Excel. Though fashion represents only one segment of the wide range of brands my agency works with, my LIM education still gives me a competitive advantage over people at other media agencies who may not have had such a comprehensive fashion marketing background.
The relevancy of what I learned at LIM also carries through in my role as the creative director at Small Girls PR. The marketing and visual merchandising classes I took at LIM were all about how to present brands to the public. Everything from color schemes, logos, copy, tag lines, etc. I think that what I learned has just become ingrained in me so that I view the world through the eyes of a marketer. This comes into play not only with branding Small Girls itself, but also in the creative projects we do for clients.
I learned a lot from experiencing and watching people in the industry through all of my internships. Everything I do at Small Girls is an amalgamation of skills and processes I’ve picked up from those previous jobs — through LIM.
WWD: If you could go back in time and give career advice to your younger self, what would you say?
B.C.: Learn to stay humble. Humility is such an important human trait and I think it’s unfortunate that there’s sometimes a negative connotation around it. There’s this idea of “faking it ‘til you make it,” or being overly confident. Sometimes that can backfire when that confidence turns into ego.
I was young, driven and felt like my work was amazing, but I couldn’t necessarily handle constructive feedback and rebelled against authority. Sometimes I cringe thinking about this inflated sense of self that I had at times. Ten years later I’ve learned to check myself for that kind of thinking and behavior.
The universe has also definitely sent me lessons in humility that I would have previously felt shame around, but now I know that these are opportunities to learn and stay grounded. I accept them, and am actually grateful for those moments when they happen.
WWD: How would you describe your career path? What were some of the challenges you faced?
B.C.: It’s honestly a bit of an adventure where I just went with the flow on opportunities presented to me — trying, failing, trying again, learning and being open. There was a moment when I didn’t know what I should pursue after Lucky. I thought maybe I wanted to work in music due to the relationships I had in that industry, so I dabbled a bit, but ultimately realized it wasn’t for me (again, it was more of a hobby/social lifestyle for me personally rather than a career).
Right before Small Girls, I was doing p.r. at Cure Thrift Shop in the East Village where I decided my approach would be to use the social platforms I was currently using myself to create content for the store. This was when brands weren’t using social yet. I ran their Tumblr, Foursquare, Facebook and Twitter, invited blogger friends of mine who were just starting out to come to the store to do shoots and videos of their picks, and planned events.
I met my current business partner during that time. I crashed her 21st birthday party, then we reconnected via the Internet, where I discovered she was hosting MTVu and Paper TV for Paper Magazine. I had her come into the store and do a video with me. Inspired by what I was doing at Cure, she e-mailed me one night saying that we should start a p.r. company doing the same for multiple brands instead of just one.
We met the next day to pull our business plan and services deck together and thought this was something we could try and if it didn’t work out we could do something else. We just knew that we had chemistry and we wanted to figure out a way to work together.
Six years later, we’re a 40-person, bicoastal company with a robust traditional press wing, in addition to the creative services that we’ve offered from the start. We’re GE’s agency of record for their consumer-facing campaigns, and have worked with tech, lifestyle and fashion brands including Google, AOL, Verizon, Simon & Schuster, Ann Taylor, The Kingdom of the Netherlands, TaskRabbit and more.
I walk into the office every day in awe of what we’ve built and also feel an overwhelming amount of gratitude for our team who helped us get here.
WWD: Have you had mentors at LIM or in the industry?
B.C.: The mentors I have in my life are actually a bit nontraditional. The first is one of my best friends, David Goldberg, who founded StyleCaster and the other is Leslye Headland, who is a playwright, screenwriter and director.
David is essentially the Obi-Wan Kenobi of my life. He’s grown and sold a business, and therefore has this outside — forward-thinking — perspective on the experiences I’m currently having, which I respect and appreciate when I’m bouncing everything, including thoughts, fears and exciting news, off him. There’s also an amazing positive energy that I feel in his presence. I liken it to “the force.” If I ever feel any doubt or insecurity, I have a vault of David Goldberg-isms that will help me put things into perspective even when I don’t get to speak to him. I’ve learned so much from him — even by just observing and absorbing his actions and the way that he lives his life — that has helped me become a better person and a better leader.
Leslye is someone who I look up to in an entirely different industry, which I find to be a refreshing mental break from my world. The fact of the matter is that I learn just as much from her experiences in the film industry as I would from someone in my own field. She’s an inspiring, badass woman-in-charge who keeps me in check.
If David is my Obi-Wan, Leslye is my Yoda. I also have a vault of Leslye-isms that help me stay honest, accountable, grounded in reality and able to take action when difficulties arise. I’ll run something by her that’s happening in my work life and she’ll have a mirror-image scenario of something that happened to her on set. We’ll talk through how she handled it, and then think about new ideas I can implement to change my perspective or help me move forward.
WWD: What advice would you give someone considering a career in the retail and fashion apparel market?
B.C.: This advice is actually for anyone going into any industry, and I still remind myself of it every day: Don’t be afraid to fail. I’ve been a perfectionist my whole life, but unfortunately life doesn’t really allow for things to go perfectly. I’ve had to let go, accept failures, flow and learn from my mistakes. There are many things about my life that people could perceive as failures or struggles, which are tough when you’re in them, but I wouldn’t trade them for anything. I’ve learned from all of them, and the only thing you can do is take a beat and keep moving.
Write your ideas down. Find people who are just as passionate about what you want to do in life as you are and work with them. Figure out the next steps. Don’t get caught up in rules and red tape. Take risks. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Also, if something really isn’t working, don’t be afraid to let that thing go or shift your perspective so you can make a change to something that does work.
Long story short — realize how fears can guide your actions and inactions. Get close to them and learn how to navigate around them.