Mixing [Small] Business with Pleasure: Why MPC Grads Love Working with Startups
By: Jessica Chambers, MPC 2014
If you had asked me a couple of years ago where I would end up after the MPC program, I wouldn’t have said “a startup.” Yet I just celebrated my first year at SlimCut Media, an advertising startup incubating at Ryerson’s DMZ.
If I could do it all over again, I’d still work for a startup.
As Canada churns out more entrepreneurs, working for a startup is quickly becoming a viable and exciting career move for young communications professionals. I asked some fellow MPC grads who currently work in the industry about their experience, and their advice on how to get into Canada’s startup scene.
How did you end up working for a startup?
The road to startup life is often by chance. While I didn’t know exactly where I was going after the MPC program, I knew that I wanted a fast-paced work environment. When a position opened up at SlimCut Media, I was intrigued by the company’s mission to help newspapers better monetize their content. As a politics-junkie, I rely on quality journalism to “tell the whole story.” and felt inspired to help media companies transition into the digital era.
Similarly, Annie Williams (MPC ’12) knew she wanted to work in healthcare communications. Her opportunity to join a startup came after completing her Major Research Paper and internship. Dr. Gregory Levey had just founded Figure1, a health technology startup, and was looking for someone to fill a communications role. Annie quickly said “yes” and is now the Communications Manager for the growing company.
Other MPC grads began working with startups after recognizing their passion for storytelling. Cleo Pyke (MPC ’15, Director of Startup School at The Launch Zone at Ryerson) and Jelena Djurkic (MPC ’13, Communications Associate at MaRS Discovery District) work for organizations that support entrepreneurs. Both Cleo and Jelena work in a “startup-support” role, and help their organizations tell startup stories.
What kind of roles and responsibilities do startups offer?
Unlike at larger companies, startup employees hold roles and responsibilities that are often fluid and expansive. Annie writes and designs copy, and crafts compelling email campaigns for her unique audience. Mata Kranakis (MPC ’13, User Growth at Figure1) uses graphic design skills in her marketing and communication responsibilities. At SlimCut Media, I often find myself “pitching” for my company, relying on the presentation skills I developed in the MPC program.
Surprisingly, many of the MPC grads I talked to have found themselves in data analysis roles. Sarah (MPC ’11, Growth Manager at Tilt) and Mata both noted that they work with numbers and data more often than they thought they would. Sarah says that when “…building a brand, startups need to be scrappy, and find new and alternative ways of reaching their audience.”
How can you get involved with startups?
Like any other industry, working for startups requires networking and volunteering. For Jelena, volunteering at events while in school helped her build her own portfolio and make connections with people who work with entrepreneurs. For Annie and Mata, taking a class with Dr. Levey introduced them to new career opportunities. What’s great about startups is that there is never a shortage of opportunities. Many startups are “bootstrapping,” and will greatly appreciate the help.
Networking is also a great way to meet entrepreneurs. I first learned about SlimCut Media when I met the president at the 2013 MPC Evening with Industry. Sarah joined Tilt very early on, after meeting the founder at a networking event.
On the other hand, you could also start your own business. If you have an idea for a great startup, make sure you have the passion to grow it, warns Cleo. “Without passion, I don’t think many people can successfully run and grow their own business. Another important skill one needs to have is discipline—starting your own business is insanely difficult because you need to be able to manage your expectations constantly.”
If you’re thinking about working with or for a startup, the best way to find job opportunities is to get out and meet entrepreneurs. Check out events run by places such as HackerNest and other tech and startup events happening across the country.
Cover photo by Marianne Bulger, DMZ.