Media, Darling: Lisa and Wendy from Hip Urban Girl

Wendy graduated from the University of Toronto with a B.Sc. Honours degree. Prior to co-founding The Hip and Urban Girl’s Guide (HUG), a women’s lifestyle website, Wendy spent eight years in marketing, event planning and project management for both private and public sectors. She recently retired from her corporate job to fulfill her startup dreams and is now juggling the blogging life with her role as Director of Adfluent Media Inc.
When Wendy is not pulling rank on Google or shamelessly being entertained by Facebook and Twitter (she does unplug!), you can find her at the Biography section of Chapters, dining out, jetsetting around the world, or getting involved in community service. Wendy has lived in Vancouver and New York City but currently calls Toronto home.

Lisa is the Editor-in-Chief, and co-founder of The Hip & Urban Girl’s Guide, a lifestyle website for busy women in the city. She can usually be found hunting down the best cupcake for her food features or going on her next getaway to bring back the best travel tips. Her passion for food, travel, style and events led her to launch The Hip & Urban Girl (hug) in June 2010 with Wendy.

The beautiful minds behind The Hip & Urban Girl’s Guide: Lisa and Wendy.

Twitter: @HipUrbanGirl, @BossLadyWendy, #hugTO

Did you always want to be in the media? If not, what other careers were on the horizon?
Wendy: At 16, I wanted to be a psychologist but after my first year at U of T, I got a summer job at a publishing company and was introduced to advertising. I fell in love immediately and figured that I can always be a shrink in my next lifetime. I’m really lucky that I’ve never had to think twice about what I wanted to be when I grow up. I’ve been blogging for a year and have been in the marketing/advertising industry for eight years now. I still have the same passion as I have since day one.
Lisa: I seriously thought I was going to pursue a career in musical theatre and sing and dance on Broadway. I did a lot of community theatre when I was a kid and even attended a theatre arts high school in Mississauga. I also started DJ-ing weddings and events while doing my political science and cinema studies degree at U of T. The DJ-ing turned into a full-time job (company is called hello DJ!) that I have been running for over six years. So really, it was a smorgasbord. I’m really happy to be working in media now because it ties up less of my weekends in the summer.

Where would you like to be five years from now?
Lisa: I would love to see the readership of The Hip & Urban Girl grow and expand into a few other cities.
Wendy: +1 for what Lisa said above. Right now so much of my life is online, so I’d like to balance it out with an offline component and give back to the community. Ideally I hope to be financially ready and have gained enough business knowledge and experience to start a venture capitalist company. Plus, I’ll be a mommy then!

Any advice for people getting started in your industry?

Lisa and Wendy:
For anyone looking to run a successful blog, be consistent and re-evaluate your editorial direction every two to three months. We wrote about everything and anything we could get our little hands on when we first started out. Install a good analytics program such as Google Analytics (it’s free) and constantly check your data to see what’s working and what isn’t. Talk to other bloggers, read books about the business, and pick a niche to focus on. 

We also find it funny when people think we’re going to steal their ideas. The way we’ll become successful could not possibly be the same path as someone else who finds success in the same industry. There’s enough to go around. Stick to your guns and do what you do best. Don’t worry about other people and what they are doing – what works for someone else may not work for you.

What are your favourite media outlets?
Wendy: Toronto Life, the Globe and Mail, One Degree, Mashable, Daily Candy, CNN, History Channel and A&E, 99.9 Virgin and Z103.5.
Lisa: I read the Toronto Star, the Globe and Mail, and watch CP24 for quick updates on the weather and news. I never go to bed before catching Lloyd Robertson on the 11 p.m. news. Love that Lloyd. I’m a magazine addict and rotate through Toronto Life, InStyle, Nylon, Glamour, Style At Home, House and Home, Real Simple, Lucky, Lou Lou, Shape, Self and many, many others.

Best interview you’ve ever had? Worst?
Wendy and Lisa:
Josie Dye of 102.1 The Edge and Oh-So-Cosmo is incredibly down-to-earth and had some great advice to share from her own life lessons. She spoke with such conviction and passion from her position as a successful hip and urban girl.

HUG has never had a bad interview, but I did have one in my other career that I can share. I don’t want to mention names, but during a public interview, someone I worked with was the worst while being interviewed. All team members were there, but this person hogged the microphone, answered on behalf of everyone, and at the end, she thanked all the clients and people in her professional circle, but forgot to mention her own support team and family (who were all present)! Yes, she did achieve a milestone in her career, but sadly, she forgot about her roots. Obviously what got her there won’t get her here.

Best advice you’ve ever been given?

Wendy: Be true to yourself. This means following your instincts and passions and not falling for temptations or short-term gains. Much easier said than done!

Lisa: Never overestimate others and underestimate yourself.

What rule(s) do you live your life by?
Wendy: My golden rule: don’t seek to be validated. 
On a professional level, conduct business with integrity and transparency. At the end of the day, all you have is your reputation. Define success in your own terms and let passion drive you. The money will follow. 
On a personal level, surround yourself with people who have a positive energy. Don’t wait for special occasions to light that candle or wear that cashmere sweater, the present really is a gift. Work hard and play hard but don’t forget to smell the roses along the way.

Lisa: I wrote a whole post on rules I now live by, but the biggest one is not to be a doormat. I was raised by my shy parents to be nice, not to ruffle too many feathers, or be overly assertive. I definitely got taken advantage of because I was always more worried about being liked over what I really wanted or cared about. I would get stuck doing crap I didn’t like because I thought it was the stuff I should be doing. Yeah, never again.

What’s the most important tip you can give PR pros?
Wendy: Blogs should be treated as seriously as any other type of traditional media.

Lisa: Please don’t make it seem like you’re doing us a favour by inviting us to an event. I also won’t write a story for a linkback on your page or review a product I have never tried. 
Best experience you’ve had with a PR pro? We love to hear about #wins.
Wendy and Lisa:
We love working with the rock-it promotions team because they are always organized and responsive. They know who everyone is and you know it’s not going to be some sort of frenzy when you arrive. They also have a great roster of clients, are innovative and they get the online space. (Ed note: Thank you very kindly, ladies.)
I hate?
Wendy: People that fake it ’til they make it. Also close-mindedness and self-centredness. The world doesn’t owe you anything.

Lisa: Entitled people who are rude to waitstaff or those working in customer service. I worked in retail for most of high school and university and you wouldn’t believe some of the jackasses you get. 

I love?
Wendy: My family and friends because they help me become a better person. I also love food and New York City. I used to live there and a part of me has never left.
Lisa: My husband, Paul. We’ve been together since high school. Runner up? Exploring new cities, trying new foods and travelling to new places together.

Wendy: I just finished The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. I got a lot out of it, it’s an easy and fun read.

Lisa: The 4-Hour Work Week (again). It reminds me to work efficiently and not to get sucked into bad habits like constantly checking email and mindlessly surfing the web.

Best place on earth?
Wendy: In my husband’s arms… is that cheesy? I travel a lot and have shared so many unique experiences with him. At the end of the day, no matter where we are in the world, it can’t beat the comfort and safety I feel lying beside him.
Lisa: Monterosso Al Mare, Italy. It’s as beautiful as it sounds.

Dinner guest?
Wendy: Is this a dead or alive question? My beloved grandmother who passed away two years ago.

Lisa: Oprah Winfrey.

Wendy: I don’t really have one hero per se but I greatly admire women in general who have been struck by some catastrophe (cancer victims, suppressed women in war-torn countries, wives who lost their husbands in 9/11) and manage to keep an optimistic outlook in life.

Lisa: My grandmother. She was lovely and had a need to feed everybody.

Favourite app (or whatever you are downloading these days)?
Wendy: Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and the Weather. I keep things simple.

Lisa: Urbanspoon lets you find cool restaurants in major cities across North America. It’s great when you’re travelling.

Pool or ocean?
Wendy: Ocean. I lived in Vancouver for a bit and there’s just something about being surrounded by water and the mountains.
Lisa: Poolside with bar service.

Voicemail or email?
Wendy: Email. People still make calls?
Lisa: Email, please. I’m a night-owl and I like to work late at night. Email is much more convenient.