“Five years ago I had to fight with clients on why I believed they should have websites that worked on their phones – but they would disagree and not want me to design for that. Now people come to me asking for a website and “it needs to work on their phone” – it’s almost always the first requirement (as it should be). In ten years, there will be more elaborate things we’ll need to code and design for and as we keep growing, learning and adapting – we’ll be focusing on offering that to our clients too!”
I first met Emilia a few years ago when we both worked as bottle service girls at one of Toronto’s nightclubs. I still have vivid memories of us washing juice jugs and ice buckets at 3am in tiny black dresses, while talking about our ambitious career goals.
Emilia is the definition of ‘busy’ as she is the Creative Director and Founder of Simply Elaborate Creative Agency + Emilia Farrace Consulting. In addition to all of this, she is the Part Owner of Mealspirations.com.
Emilia grew up in Mississauga with a supportive Italian family who constantly encouraged her to go for ‘the dream.’
When she founded Simply Elaborate in 2009, “the dream” was to create a new kind of agency—one that pulled together a rainbow of creatively-minded individuals with big ideas to boot.
Emilia invested in her education by first attending the University of Windsor, gaining a Bachelors Degree in Communications with a minor in Applied Information Technology.
What was it that you wanted to do while in school?
“Designing a magazine; then writing for a magazine was my dream; then a radio show host; then it was being a Much Music VJ.”
What caused you to change your mind?
“When the Internet became more mainstream, I became obsessed with making my own websites and creating a place for teenagers to get lifestyle advice and read the online teen-fan-fiction about Hanson I was writing. I fell in love with connecting with people online. So – I wanted to do everything in the creative field at one point.”
After her undergrad she attended Humber College, Certificate in Website Design + Development Program.
Why did you decide to take this program?
“I basically taught myself how to code websites since I was 14 years old. But generally people get a little scared when you say ‘I taught myself’ and sometimes you may want to back up your experience with a little educational credibility.
A lot of where I am today, here, is my motivation to take action with connecting with people. Not my schooling. I’m a really big believer of this so I just want to make sure that’s understood when you’re writing this. Someone who has my exact education or equivalent is not going to be here without going after what they want by thinking outside of the box.”
Why did you decide to start your own creative agency instead of working for one?
“The beginning of the business sort of fell into my lap because I would listen to my friends speak about their business ideas and direction and I would automatically be thinking of what they could do to see their business grow. Slowly, they would remember what I had advised them to do and when they met someone who needed similar items – they would send them my way! After a while, I saw the need was there. Working for another agency looked to me like I was going to be given one job, and then have to perform that one job, all the time. I have too many ideas for that!”
What are some aspects of owning a creative agency business that people might not consider before starting one of their own?
“You may not realize the amount of relationship building and team/project management that is required. If you don’t get a handle on your time and deadlines, or your teams – your work will suffer, the project will suffer, your client will suffer and thus your relationship in the end will suffer. You’re constantly building trust – that takes time – and it takes one bad move to lose it.”
How much did you have to invest in the company before you hit a profit?
“A lot. And it’s still happening. Constant growth requires constant risk.”
What type of female would you recommend going into your field?
“Someone who won’t be disappointed with not getting EXACTLY what they want, rolling with the punches, a calm-personality but outgoing personality.
Don’t expect to be a solo-entrepreneur and not have to talk to anybody. Your personality becomes your brand. So you’ll need to remember that when you’re telling off the person at Bell, regardless of whom you think they are in regards to your life (ie. Not important – they are. Everyone is important).”
Is there a strong female representation in your field? if not, why do you think that is?
“This is a tough question because although I definitely do see a lot of women designers, it’s tough to find the developers to match. Ladies Learning Code is doing a great job of increasing the amount of people (and women especially) learning the field. But it’s a tough job.”
What is the deference between a designer and a developer?
“Short answer: Designers make things beautiful. Developers make things work.
You’re a designer; developer; project manager; relationship builder and sales person and these are all very different fields. You can’t be everything, but knowledge in these different fields (I think) is necessary and not always encouraged.
We’re conditioned to find out our one path and follow it – and it creates a one-track mind which can come back to kick you in the butt a bit later on. We somehow think then we’re not qualified to ask certain questions or learn new things – I’m slowly finding a community of women helping women that wasn’t always available to us. This is great – hopefully it will close the gap and create more well-rounded individuals who know (or are willing to find out) what they want and learn the tools to go get it.”
What is your 5-10 year plan now?
“Hard one to answer! I want the team at Simply Elaborate to be flourishing on their own, Mealspirations a well-recognized brand in homes in Toronto and province-wide, while I would be off helping others to recognize their dreams within the business realm and service and sales industries with my consulting company.”
I have looked into some predictions about the tech industry and its effects on the job market in Toronto in the next 10-20 years. What do you think will happen with your specific field?
“I think it will change! Always! There will be new code, mark-up and design is an ever-changing taste.
Five years ago I had to fight with clients on why I believed they should have websites that worked on their phones – but they would disagree and not want me to design for that. Now people come to me asking for a website and “it n .eeds to work on their phone” – it’s almost always the first requirement (as it should be). In ten years, there will be more elaborate things we’ll need to code and design for and as we keep growing, learning and adapting – we’ll be focusing on offering that to our clients too!
I feel that more and more people are becoming interested and invested in where they’re working. They’re creating their own companies and finding positions with small, yet impactful, start-ups.
Also, nobody will have a hard-drive.”
What would you have done differently to get where you are now?
“I would have started sooner.”
Professional Development Recommendations from Emilia
BLOC (An online bootcamp for learning how to code and design (primarily code) in web and mobile development)
TEAM TREEHOUSE (An online resource for learning how to build websites & apps, write code or start a business)
B-SCHOOL (This 8 week online training program is designed to turn your business into a force for good that fuels higher profits and your higher purpose.)