After launching an event staffing and modeling agency, Femme Fatale Media, at the age of 23 – and with only $80 in her pocket – Emily Lyons deftly commandeered it towards a position of esteem and prestige in the event and experiential marketing industry. Headquartered in Toronto, Ontario, the agency’s roster is made up of over 4,000 staff members across North America. She has been featured extensively in business-related pieces in Forbes, Huffington Post, MAXIM, FHM, NY Post, Globe and Mail, and more. Emily has also garnered the business of brands like Warner Bros., UFC, Sony, and of celebrities like Justin Bieber and Drake. Emily’s social media networks total over 200,000 followers, a testament to the popular appeal of her fresh, authentic, and edgy brand identity. Ever the entrepreneur, Emily now has her sights set on explosively expanding the presence of her companies throughout the continent – continuing, in this way, to contribute to the marketing and business community and the world at large.
What motivated and inspired you to start your own business?
I received a book from my late sister Julia called “Career Renegade”. It was about how to make a great living doing what you love. After reading only two chapters, I had decided I was going to start my own business. Shortly after my sister bought me my first laptop and told me to go for it. Sadly she passed away in 2011 from Cystic Fibrosis.
Tell us about your business.
My first business is called Femme Fatale Media. It’s a nationwide event staffing and experiential marketing agency. We provide all types of event staffing solutions and professional models for a wide variety of events and more. In 2015 we launched our experiential marketing division. We plan, create and execute unique activations, events and experiential campaigns. Since our initial launch in 2009 we’ve grown to over 4,000 staff nationwide, won over a dozen awards and have had countless media features.
In 2014 I launched my next business True Glue, which is the first all natural eyelash adhesive and have now expanded into organic cosmetics. We are carried in Target USA and Anthropologie stores, amongst others.
Next I launched Lyons Elite, a luxury boutique matchmaking agency. We have clients around the world including Barcelona, Trinidad, New York City and all across Canada. We work with successful entrepreneurs, helping them their ideal match. In this day and age we outsource everything, finding a partner is no different.
We’ve received over a dozen awards including Top Choice Awards and TNC Awards for best event staffing agency. Earlier this year I was nominated for Marketer On The Rise Award by the AMA Marketing Association. Most recently I’ve been nominated for the RBC Entrepreneur Of The Year Award as well as Canada’s Most Powerful Women Top 100 Award. The winners for these will be announced this fall.
Where is your business based?
Our head office is in Toronto, Ontario however we have clients all across North America.
What were the first few steps you took to get your business up and running?
It feels like it was a lifetime ago now! I actually bought a “Business For Dummies” book haha! Then I researched as much as I could online. When you really love something you have a thirst for knowledge to help it succeed.
What has been the most effective way of raising awareness of your business and getting new customers?
We have a large social media following, over 200,000, so that has been great. I’ve always been very active on social media since day one. It is a free tool that I like to capitalize on. I find a lot of large companies forget the SOCIAL part in social media. Forgetting to listen to feedback, respond to posts, and interact with their followers.
Also word of mouth has been another big thing for us over the years. Our clients are royalty and we treat them that way, as a result we are constantly getting referrals. Lastly we rank top on google above all competitors. If you type in something like “promotional models toronto,” we are the first to show up.
What have been your biggest challenges so far?
When I was first starting out, it was difficult to get those initial corporate clients. When you are a young, female entrepreneur just getting started – it is hard to be taken seriously. Throw in the mix that I was a high school drop out and you really have a difficult time! I remember my first meeting with a top financial institution for a very large staffing contract, this was eight years ago now, the VP walked in and looked at me and said, “how old are you?!”
How did you overcome these challenges?
It was actually a great blessing in disguise. It just made me work that much harder to prove my/our capabilities. Which we’ve gone above and beyond doing.
Whenever things have gotten really tough, I’ve often thought of my sister Julia and all that she went through. I’m blessed to have air in my lungs, and with that I’m going to continue to do what I love.
How do you keep motivated through difficult times?
Remember why I started. I also remind myself that life is short, don’t worry about the small things and just go for it. I’d rather look back and say “oh well”, than “what if?”
How do you distinguish yourself from your competitors?
Our work and services speak for itself. You can network and be friends with as many people and potential clients as you want, but if another company is going to get you the results, they will go with them. We focus on always getting the best possible ROI for each and every client, despite how big or small it is.
What is the best advice you have received recently?
5×5 rule – If it’s not gonna matter in 5 years, don’t spend more than 5 minutes upset by it.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?
Keep your overhead low. Don’t be concerned about being flashy and splashing out to show off, that’s how so many businesses fail early on. It’s important to stay scared in the beginning. I remember at one point I’d kept so much money in my corporation I had half a million in cash in the corporate account, and a few thousand in my personal. I didn’t need it, so I didn’t spend it. I invested it for the corporation or new businesses.
What is your favorite business tool or resource?
These are my secret weapons! One thing I would say is to really capitalize on any media opportunities, magazine or newspaper interviews and when doing them remember to always bring your A game. They will literally write whatever you do or say!
What is a good article or book you have read recently?
“Start With Why” by Simon Sinek. A client gave it to me as a gift and it’s a must read.
What are you currently learning about for your business or looking for help with?
I’m always learning whatever I can. I attend business conferences, meet with older female mentors often, and take courses through the Art Of Management.
What are your goals for the next few months and how are you striving to achieve them?
We’ve got some big things in the works but those are top secret! Some small things we are currently working on is the relaunching of our site for Femme Fatale Media as well as True Glue and a brand new company that is already pre six-figure revenue.
We are also continuing with our expansion to new cities with Femme Fatale Media through new large international contracts. We just moved to a bigger office recently and have brought on some new amazing superstar employees.
With True Glue we just launched the first of our organic makeup and a new proprietary product – the first organic professional salon grade extension glue.
What social media outlets do you use? List them below.