We were lucky enough to meet up with and chat with Mariella Katz, founder of the Montreal-based social media agency Frenzr. Mariella showed up with incredible hair (hair tips below) and a killer bag. With her naturally exuberant personality and vibrant high energy, it's easy to see how she's launched a successful startup in less than a year. We had a blast photographing her on the sunny medieval-gray-stone streets of Old Montreal, and we're excited to share with you here her entrepreneurial story, tips, and style advice.
First things first - your hair is amazing. How did you do that?
I used a curling iron. You simply have to wrap the hair around the iron from the middle of the strand, away from your face - towards the outside of your face.
Where did you grow up?
I was born in Russia and spent my early childhood in Bulgaria. I immigrated with my parents to Montreal 14 years ago. I grew up on the south shore of Montreal. I didn’t speak the language when I first came, not English, not French. It was a very hard period of adaptation - I was lucky enough to build a great circle of friends with whom I was able to practice the two languages.
How did you start Frenzr?
I studied interactive media and web tv, later transitioned to advertising and PR, and that landed me a job in corporate advertising. I really liked it at first because of the experience. Who doesn’t want to land a good job as your first one? But it wasn’t creative enough for me. I felt like a lot of entrepreneurs were walking in the door and they were being told no because they didn’t have the budget. They were all brands I really wanted to work with. I started doing some freelancing on the side - I probably had 3 or 4 customers. I decided a month later to quit my job. Funnily enough, Frenzr came out of being a university project. I had just taken a project a little bit further than usual. I put one and one together, my site and the existing customers - that’s how an agency was born. Today we have an amazing office in Little Italy, about 15 active customers, 3 full-time employees, and 10 collaborators with whom we work on contract bases.
So you were in school when you started Frenzr?
I was finishing up university while I was working. I was still in university when Frenzr first first started. It was evening classes, because I had my full-time job during the day. I had maybe 3 crazy months when I was working full-time, going to university full-time, and I was trying to start my own company!
What gave you the courage to take the plunge?
After having a little taste of the entrepreneurial life by doing freelancing, I simply started to want it more and more and to really take it to a bigger scale, although the risks were a lot higher. I knew that if I quit my corporate job, I wouldn’t be making the same salary. I knew the time investment would be a lot bigger, and the efforts required would be higher as well. But there was no going back. That really was how I felt. I just knew my passion was in this direction - I was inspired, I was driven, I found all these entrepreneurs super-inspiring, and their motivation towards their projects motivated me. Imagine working with 15 people who are super-driven towards their products and startups! It super charged me.
What was the biggest step you had to take?
The biggest step was when I got an office. That was 2 months after I quit my job. My business had grown already by a lot in a matter of 2 months, which was amazing but also extremely scary. I started having to do a lot of meetings and photo shoots and I simply needed a space. I had just hired my first employee - so I really had to make this happen!
How did having an office change things?
It made everything more organized. I started really building a team. Now we’re 3 people full time and we work with a lot of collaborators, photographers, writers, so on. It created the company dynamic. Before, it was two or three freelancers coming together. Now it’s a company. On top of that, it's an amazing studio, so we get to be a lot more creative, take a lot more pictures, and just have more fun as well.
How did you come up with the name "Frenzr"?
Frenzr comes from the word friends. It’s becoming friends with your target audience, which is what social media does - it gives you the opportunity to create personal interactions with the people who you would ordinarily never meet or get a chance to talk to. I really wanted to translate that action into a name for my company. Although it’s hard to pronounce for most people, I feel like Frenzr stands for making friends.
What does Frenzr do?
We create content, we grow communities, and we manage them. So a lot of times, our clients are businesses who are doing great in their day-to-day life, but they don't yet have a digital presence. These businesses are very focused in what they do, but their digital presence doesn’t translate the quality of their work. That’s where I like to step in, and that’s why I like to work with a lot of small-to-medium-sized businesses. I love making all the difference.
What are 3 tips you'd give to small businesses or first-time entrepreneurs?
1. Give yourself short-term goals.
2. Be specific but think at large. It’s important to put effort into every single tactic you’re going to use. But it’s also important to have different tactics, especially when you’re just starting up. You need to have a steady income somehow, so figure out your steady income first, and then take your risks.
3. Be out there! Become the face of your business. Talk about it, become annoying, go to networking events, coffee shops, talk with people, and post in social media about it.
What are a few resources for start-ups that you'd recommend?
- 50 Sources of Funding For Women Entrepreneurs
- For Canadians - Canada Business Network
- Gary Vee article on "What to do After You Graduate From College"
- Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell - a different take on success
- The Lean Startup By Eric Ries
How would you distinguish your agency from other agencies out there?
I think the approach I have with my clients is a lot more personal than other agencies. I understand and translate their needs a lot better visually and editorially. I’m simply passionate about what I do and I want to bring the results. I’m not about getting more clients, bigger amounts - this is why I stepped down from my corporate job. My goal is to be able to work with entrepreneurs, be more creative, and allow them to stand out with a creative vision. It’s your branding translated into all of their facets. There are just so many ways you can go with that, so you really need to think outside of the box to make it!
What do you think the main style in Montreal is?
It’s unique. It's classy, sometimes casual, sometimes vibrant. I’ve been to a lot of cities, and people in Montreal like to dress nice and look good, of course not comparably to Europe for sure (in Bulgaria for example, which is a fairly poor country, you can spend your last dime to get a manicure, buy a lipstick, or get your hair done - and that’s accepted by society). I really like how you can be taken seriously in a meeting even if you're wearing sneakers - okay, maybe that's just my field ;)
Did your sense of style change when you transitioned into being an entrepreneur?
Yes, it did change. I have a lot more freedom in the way I dress. Some days I can be really dressy, and some days I can dress just as if I'm at home. I have the freedom of doing that. That also carries over into my personality, where I don’t really take myself too seriously. It’s nice to look good. But it’s also important to go with how you’re feeling, your mood - if you’re tired and you feel like having a bun and flats, that’s fine.
How would you characterize your style?
Diverse! But I’m obsessed with beiges…. 50 shades of beige would be the best way to describe it. I can’t get enough of beige, and it’s been years now. I can’t get it out of my wardrobe, I try to add a lot of color, in the summer especially, but my biggest essentials are in the beige spectrum.
What do you think is worth splurging on?
Stuff that will last you and that you will take care of. For me, I know that it’s not worth spending a large amount of money on a dress, because I know I’m going to wear it for one season, and a season in Montreal is 2 months. Shoes: they end up breaking, you go out and mess them up - the expensive shoes I’ve bought, I’ve regretted them all. I think bags are a great investment, or a great hair color or haircut is more worth the money. Jewelry - I prefer to just wear gold. It’s all about mixing and matching and making it fun for yourself. There are people who will put an etiquette towards fast fashion vs. high fashion, but at the end of the day, I would say it’s all about making it fun for yourself.
What are your fav places to shop in Montreal?
I honestly never go out just to go shopping. When I buy stuff, it's when I’m out for a coffee or when I’m walking down the street after a meeting. It’s never intentional. I walk into a store because I’m passing in front of it and something catches my eye. I like discovering places. When I travel, I search for independent stores and small boutiques mostly.
Zara. perforated thin faux-suede dress
Aldo. fringe stilettos
Givenchy. Antigona bag
Check out Mariella's Silkstaq profile and stay tuned for more interviews with Montreal influencers coming soon!