Why the Women Behind Coveteur Left the Media Business to Start an Ad Agency
You spent your 20s working toward building your dream career, but now that you’re in your 30s, what do you do when you’ve, well, changed your mind? Or maybe you never quite figured it out, and you’re now ready to commit to something you’re passionate about, whether it’s a job, a city, or just a new way of life. To celebrate the career changes that can come at any age, we’re debuting a new series, Second Life. Each week, we’ll hear from women who got over their doubts and fears and made the biggest changes of their lives.
Prior to founding Métier Creative, a forward-thinking creative branding and advertising agency, Erin Kleinberg and Stacie Brockman were on staff at the undeniably cool and compulsively readable fashion and beauty site Coveteur, as co-founder and managing editor respectively. When the pair saw an opportunity to disrupt the advertising industry with a female-fronted, digital-first agency, they took the plunge and started their own forward-thinking company.
"We both felt like the industry had sort of plateaued," explained Kleinberg and Brockman. "Everyone's content looked the same; everyone's social strategy looked the same. We felt there was a need to create brands (or re-brand existing ones) with an eternal relevance," the entrepreneurs told MyDomaine. "We wanted to help brands find that sweet spot of people who genuinely believe what you're selling them and who drink the Kool-aid so hard that they think it's the greatest thing ever and can't help but share it."
In this installment of Second Life, we chat with the co-founders of Métier Creative all about making the transition from digital media to creative branding and advertising, including the biggest challenges they've faced along the way and their motivating advice for women who want to take a leap but fear change.
Tell us about your first career paths.
EK: My early taste of the fashion world was working as a personal shopper at Holt Renfrew. I also had the opportunity to be mentored by some of the most inspiring and badass women in the biz—from Susie Sheffman in Toronto to working alongside Alex White at W Magazine in NYC.
I then launched my namesake clothing line, erinkleinberg, when I was just 18 years old. I didn't know a thing about sewing, pattern making, distribution, wholesale, merchandising, etc. But I've always been a serial 'entrepreneur and believed in the power of Google. I figured it all out myself. Almost in an instant, I was selling to 80 stores worldwide including, Barneys, Saks, Neiman Marcus, Intermix, Lane Crawford, and more. Then in 2011, I co-founded Coveteur—and I guess you could say the rest was history!
SB: I interned (a lot!) throughout university at various magazines in Toronto—I actually started with a high school co-op placement. But my real career began when I was the first intern-turned-employee at Coveteur. It was the best training wheels I needed to jump-start everything and learn it all in real time.
I've always been an internet kid and early adopter of emerging platforms, so it was an incredible opportunity to build something from scratch that would redefine the world of online publishing and social-first branding. As the managing editor, I wore a lot of hats—writing all the content for the website, conducting interviews with the subjects, casting, styling, and running all of our social media channels. It was my first taste of a start-up and solidified what I knew I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
How did you make the transition from Coveteur to Métier Creative?
BOTH: It was pretty seamless. We're all about a "fake it till you make it" mentality, so we just sort of winged it by pulling in bits and pieces we knew of the traditional agency world mixed with ideas about how we wanted to transform the Mad Men mentality. We both had worked on the publishing side with Coveteur and on the brand side—Stacie at an advertising agency and Erin with her own brand—and we felt like there was a major white space in the agency world, particularly for luxury fashion, beauty, and lifestyle brands. They felt snoozy and needed a tour guide to show them the lay of the land.
We inherently understood how to build brands, create social-first identities, tell stories, find cult-like audiences, and reach like-minded people. Ultimately, we felt like we were the consumers and creators of these social-first brands and knew how to build them and who to build them for. We kept pretty quiet when launching to be the Soho House of branding agencies and shared the vision with special people we met through Coveteur. Our first clients were Jen Atkin as she was launching OUAI, Dior Beauty, J Brand, and Stuart Weitzman.
Tell us about Métier Creative.
BOTH: Our business is beyond anything we imagined it to be—especially having just celebrated our three-year anniversary. We are a true full-service advertising and branding agency. We get the pleasure of working with start-ups who want to grow to be Fortune 500 status and Fortune 500 companies who want to be nimble like a start-up. Somehow, we managed to make a name for ourselves and are now being RFP'd against the big guys like WPP and Omnicom.
We've assembled a 15-person, all-female founded and operated team in two cities (NYC and Toronto) who operate like one mega-machine. Our business is unique in that many of the women in our company have never even worked in an ad agency before; they each bring their own Métier (a unique skill or craft) to the table to become an integral piece of the larger puzzle.
We do everything now: logo, packaging, branding, communication strategy, audience identity, competitive audits, content production, creative direction, partnerships, collaborations, community management, influencer mailers, paid media—the works! In terms of our path, our goal is to create our own consumer products under the Métier umbrella.
What have been the biggest challenges in your many careers and why?
EK: The biggest challenge for me has been learning how to be a momtrepreneur in my third life. In my first life (erinkleinberg inc.) and second life (Coveteur), I was able to enjoy the luxury of freedom, a lot of sleep, and little responsibilities. Now, in my third life, the biggest challenge has been establishing my role and definition as a mom to my amazing daughter, Parker, a wife to my husband and a "mom" to my team. It's a battle I struggle with—accepting that some days I have to be a better mom and a less-than-perfect boss and vice versa.
SB: I think being young is both a blessing and curse. I have the advantage of being fearless, bold, carefree and super connected to the world we work in. However, it can be hard to find the balance between authority and friend within our family-like company. I've always said that age is just a number, and it truly comes down to what you know and how you carry yourself. I've definitely been challenged by both older men and women in a boardroom who underestimated and undermined me at first. Then, once I began speaking, their entire attitude and demeanor shifted. I think being the underdog is the best challenge and gift we've been given at Métier because it pushes us harder to be bigger, work harder, and move faster.
What's the most important thing you have learned in making a big change in your career life?
EK: Don't expect everything to go as planned. Lean into the curves and grace over the speed bumps. Also, treat every relationship with respect and dignity. You never know who is going to come out of the woodwork to be your most important asset.
SB: Every mistake is the greatest gift to learn something new. Failure is the best motivator you can have to be better.
What's the biggest risk you took that paid off?
EK: Putting my successful clothing line on hold twice—once to start Coveteur and once again to start Métier. People always ask me why would I abandon something so good to do something else, and I always tell them it's the bigger risks that have a bigger reward.
SB: Leaving my job at Coveteur to jump ship to an ad agency was definitely risky but I gained a pseudo-MBA in the short time I was there. Then, leaving that cushy job to start my own thing with Erin—albeit having minimal experience and an uncertainty of clients—was even riskier. But, like Erin said, the payoff was well worth it. The more terrifying something feels, the more right it probably is.
What are some mistakes you made along the way that ended up helping your success?
BOTH: Listening too much to others instead of our own gut intuition or voice. It's easy to get caught up in the chaos of people pulling you left and right, but ultimately, we learned that you need to stick to your core beliefs and sometimes tune the rest out.
We've made our fair share of mistakes over the years, but our biggest learning has been in building our team. It's unconventional to run an advertising agency comprised of people from various verticals—editorial, e-commerce, tech, or even straight out of school— but we learned first-hand it's more important to hire based on personality than a shiny résumé. Ultimately, we look for like-minded hustlers who are down to get down, have no ego, and bring a sense of vibrant energy to the team.
What do you love most about your current role and why?
EK: Stacie and I share the big-picture business and operations. We both love strategizing on the company growth, new business plans, infrastructure, and how we can constantly improve our overall culture and team.
I feel privileged to primarily head up our creative department. I love that I get to nurture Maison Métier—our in-house creative team—and channel a vision through people who somehow already live inside my brain. I love collaborating with them. They inspire me and never fail to blow me away with their sheer genius, tenacity, work ethic, determination, and creativity.
SB: We're both obsessed with looking at the big picture—it's exciting to think about Métier now and what it could be like in the future. It's tough for me to take my hands off the wheel and be a passenger, but it's been an amazing learning experience. Like Erin, I really take pride in nurturing and mentoring the strategy and editorial department.
I feel so privileged to be surrounded by some of the smartest, savviest, and coolest women every day. They're constantly teaching me things, and I'm so inspired by each and every one of them. The strategy department really helps set the foundational thinking and rationale, and it's so cool to see how the art department takes it to the next level and brings it to life. There's nothing more satisfying than seeing our whole team flourish within their respective roles.
When you look back and reflect on your previous career, do you have any regrets? Or are you still really happy with your decision?
EK: I wouldn't change a thing. Everything I've done to date has set the groundwork for what I'm doing now with Métier.
SB: Amen! I really try not to live with regrets; everything has been an important learning experience. I'm so grateful for the experiences I've had as they've paved the pathway to this.
What advice do you have for other women who want to take a leap but fear change?
EK: Change is good. And it's important you switch things up often. The second you feel comfortable or complacent, ask yourself what do you want to do next. Ultimately, as cheesy as it sounds, I'm all about living and breathing your passion. The fear will go away if the career change is fueled by sheer passion.
SB: Just do it. What do you have to lose? If it doesn't work out, you can always pivot. Change is the best motivator; it should feel uncomfortable but the more you lean into it, the easier it will get.
Anything else you'd like to add?
BOTH: It's always the right time to start your second, third, or maybe even fourth life. We're living in a new generation, and it's okay to start over time and time again. Surround yourself with people who build you up and respect everyone along the way. The people who support you in your first life will likely play a huge role in your second (or third, or fourth!) life too.