Heather Catania is Los Angeles-based Digital Content Creator, Social Media Expert, Business Strategist, Entrepreneur, and Award-Winning Media Maker. She recently started The Social Fleur, a digital marketing agency specializing in social media coordination, product development strategy, and facilitating brand sponsorships with notable online influencers.
Heater’s schooling began at The School of Art Institute of Chicago, where earned a BFA and double-majored in Art Theory and Visual Communication. At the young age of 18, she was accepted, along with only 60 other students, in the Central St. Martins School of Design in London, England.
Upon finishing her schooling, Heather Catania secured a position at NYLON Magazine in New York City as a Beauty Intern. After only three weeks, Heather was promoted to Assistant to the Editor in Chief, Marvin Scott Jarrett. During her time at NYLON, she was able to follow her dreams and do work she was truly passionate about. Heather’s duties included: scouting models, working with stylists and photographers, overseeing photo shoots, and publishing her own photos.
After a few years at NYLON, Heather, now in her early 20s, was promoted to NYLON’s first Bookings Editor. In this new position, she was able to secure five international licensing deals to the Asian market and launch the magazine’s first ever male print vertical, NYLON Guys. On top of this, Heather started the brand’s first video platform, NYLON TV, on YouTube, making it one of the first ever magazines to partner with YouTube. Some of the celebrities Heather worked with during her time at NYLON include Armie Hammer, Jonah Hill, Zac Efron, Katy Perry, Nicki Minaj, Emma Stone, and Nicole Richie.
Heather Catania then spent time working at Condé Nast before moving to Hearst Publishing. During her time at Hearst Publishing, she worked under titles like ELLE and Harper’s BAZAAR, producing cover shoots and fashion editorials for significant individuals in the fashion photography world like Karl Lagerfeld, Terry Richardson, Peter Lindbergh, and Carter Smith.
In 2011, Heather made the move from New York City to Los Angeles when she was recruited to create a TV and digital series called The Conversation. The show was to be dedicated to interviews with modern female role models to empower females around the world. Among her other responsibilities, Heather was also responsible for booking the guests on the show. She was able to secure A-List female guests that included: Miley Cyrus, Jane Fonda, Secretary Hillary Clinton, Alicia Keys, and Gwyneth Paltrow.
After completing this project, Heather returned to NYLON Magazine with the goal building a strong presence on the West Coast and creating a stronger digital video base for the company. In this new chapter of her career, Heather took on greater responsibility and worked with brands including Nike, Puma, Google, MAC Cosmetics, Urban Outfitters, and Absolut Vodka, among others. She was also able to secure a partnership between NYLON TV and MAKER STUDIO, leading to the creation of MAKER’S first scripted series, Oh, You Pretty Things!
Heather made the decision to go her own way recently and started her own digital content creation company, The Social Fleur. The Social Fleur, along with several of her other ventures, have kept Heather very busy and constantly innovating, learning, and changing.
In the last decade, Heather Catania has been able to accomplish more of her dreams than she ever thought possible and has had the privilege of working with some of the world’s most prestigious brands and individuals. Heather is looking forward to what the next decade has in store for her.
How did you get started in this business? What inspired you?
I personally love social media so much, and not because I look at it as technology. To me, social media is your relationship to the rest of the world. It’s the opportunity for you to get to tell your own story, in your own words. For that reason, it has become the point of connection for how we’re engaging in lives both on and offline, from where we go, how we take pictures, shop, travel, unplug, workout, watch, and feel.
I started in this business after working in fashion publishing for 12 years. I was fortunate to work for some of the world’s most prestigious magazines, such as NYLON, ELLE, and Harper’s BAZAAR. Working for a magazine was such a lifelong dream of mine, especially in my teens and early 20’s. Fashion magazines, at the time, ruled how we consumed news about living an aspirational life, information about the fashion world, how to dress, how to beautify, and what was happening in celebrity culture. Magazines were the epicenter of lifestyle content. As digital slowly entered the conversation, I became obsessed with how I was going to translate the information I was creating for a magazine and adapting print to digital.
Once social media launched, I saw a great power shift in the way people were consuming content. In magazines, we had to work 3 months ahead to service the timeline of creating content, doing photo shoots, writing stories, and sending the issues overseas to print. Once digital became rampant – especially as celebrity culture and gossip blogs like US Weekly, Just Jared, and Perez Hilton launched – celebrity culture was being discussed in real time, oftentimes making our cover stories irrelevant. I remember working at Harper’s BAZAAR, and Gisele was on the cover of the May issue that year. We had to pull the magazine off the print press to adjust the story when she married Tom Brady in a secret wedding. The article would have been irrelevant had it not talked about Gisele becoming Mrs. Brady. Now, adjusting a story on a website takes all of 2 minutes. This is when I realized that the pace of print was slowly becoming an archaic system that wouldn’t be able to hold up against the rapid speed of the internet.
Around 2011 and 2012, when Instagram launched, I was working at NYLON Magazine on the West Coast, and I became increasingly interested in how we were telling our brand narrative across Social Media, YouTube, and online. I had a hand in every pocket of the brand, and I loved learning from the digital team, the social team, and my own team in the Video + Print department. I also strategized all of our branded partnerships with influencers, leveraging our celebrity relationships to produce original content between them and brands. This was the early stages of influencer marketing, and I had a very heavy hand in it. Producing exclusive “digital campaigns” which felt like “mini-commercials” was fun and exciting to me – I was so interested in the what the celebrity or influencer was bringing to the narrative, and how we leveraged their personal platforms to help promote the individual piece of content. Also, the influencer felt good about aligning with a major brand – it was a win/win for every party.
I was producing partnerships with DKNY Jeans, Google, Nordstrom, MAC Cosmetics…huge brands that were all interested in NYLON’s content-making capabilities and leveraging our relationships with influencers. It was like a light bulb went off in my head. This became a major new revenue source for the brand.
In 2014, NYLON was bought by new investors and, at the time, many of my celebrity and influential friends started asking me for help. They were trying to figure out how to produce high-level content for their own platforms, how to monetize their content, and attract big brand deals. When I saw that my content creation skill and strategy could actually be a business, I saw the demand, especially in a place like Los Angeles where I lived. This is when I decided to go off on my own and start my own digital agency, to empower influencers and brands with AMAZING content creation skills, a deep knowledge of the business, and the ability to help empower both influencers and brands across multiple industries.
I focus specifically on strong digital content for social media that hits the mark, because there truly is no “one size fits all” when it comes to content. I always focus on the individual or brand and create content that places a megaphone on that very essence to amplify who they are, what they stand for, and how they can serve.
Personally, I always create content that has the ability to move someone, whether it’s to inspire, connect, get a laugh; I put the audience at the center of everything I do and create.
When you were starting out, was there ever a time you doubted it would work? If so, how did you handle that?
Of course, when I was first starting out, I had doubts. I began working in fashion publishing when I was a teenager as an intern at PAPER Magazine, which is an independent magazine in New York City. Working in fashion publishing prior to digital media, I knew I had to stand out. Here I was, 18 years old, I was determined to turn my internship into a job. I knew that to do so, I had to stand out and out-work everyone in the office, including some of the staff members. If there was a photo shoot happening on a Saturday, I aggressively volunteered, even though I was working with no pay and when the call times on a Saturday morning were often 6AM.
I faced a lot of adversity being a teenage intern at a fashion magazine; people were cold to me. As a teenager or a young person, you show up and expect everyone to care that you’re in the room, and no one does! So, I knew that it was my job to get people to take notice of me, and I knew the only way to stand out in a rapid-paced fashion office was to be really good, be helpful, and to get things done early and way ahead of deadline. When I took an internship at NYLON after PAPER, as a 21-year-old college graduate, I was hired within 3 weeks because I was the hardest working person in the office. I was the first one there and often the last one to leave. My hard work went such a long way that I got hired 3 weeks in as the assistant to the Editor In Chief, and then was promoted to Editor at the age of 23.
After working in fashion publishing for so long and returning to NYLON Magazine on the West coast, I knew I wanted to work for myself, but I was really afraid to leave a job with a full-time paycheck. I was extremely unhappy and stressed by my job – I was spending every waking hour producing someone else’s dream. I had spent 17 hours a day working at NYLON, nonstop, 7 days per week. But when the company was sold to new investors overnight, I was left without a job, without severance, and without any financial security net. I also had dedicated such a large portion of my life to building this multi-million-dollar media empire and held no equity. So, when the new team came in and everyone was jumping ship, I had to say goodbye to a long chapter of my life, one that was lucrative partially due to my blood, sweat, and tears. My work was so tied to my identity, to my relationships, and I felt that my job defined me in a huge way. When the company was sold, I felt like I had to start from scratch.
Financial security is a big one for me. The biggest fear, for me, in starting my own business was going off on my own and relying on myself to consistently bring in new work. I knew I was extremely talented, but I didn’t know exactly how I was going to find people who were looking for my services. I didn’t have a partner, or a safety net. It forced me to learn so much about building an incredible website, owning my story, leveraging social media, and becoming an incredible sales person for myself. I was fortunate to have a lot of incredible people referring me and supporting me from day one. Relationships have played a huge part in my success thus far.
As an entrepreneur, I rarely take a day off. I can’t call in sick on myself or take a day to drop the ball. Also, I learned quickly not to procrastinate. It’s important to over-deliver, listen deeply, and lead with heart. I put service at the center of everything I do, because when it comes to creating digital content, there truly is no “one size fits all” formula. You have to care about every person who follows, every like, every comment – your digital empire will be built on how much you genuinely care.
How did you get your first customer?
My first client was one of my best friends, Tyler Blackburn, who was on the show Pretty Little Liars. I was bugging him to get active on social media for years, and he came to me right as I was leaving NYLON and asked me to help him build his social presence. I was so excited that he was willing to take that step, so I signed him as one of my first social media clients. We created some amazing work together. He grew from 2 million to 6 million in under 2 years. We launched products, created branded campaigns, and helped bring clean water to over 250,000 people. I still work with Tyler to this day as we co-own a travel platform called ROVE together and he, to this day, is still one of my closest friends.
My second client was actually The Weinstein Company, as I was hired to help market a movie they were releasing with Natalie Portman. Ironically, we recently saw how social media took Harvey Weinstein down with the #MeToo movement.
All of my clients come from word of mouth, and I’m so lucky to have some incredibly connected people rooting for me. Without them, my business would be nowhere near what it is today. Community is extremely important; your network equals your net worth.
What is one marketing strategy (other than referrals) that you’re using that works really well to generate new business?
Instagram has played a huge part of marketing my business. I often work with clients, and when my work goes live on one of my client’s platforms, their followers and friends immediately take notice. My VIP services work on a referral basis, and my client’s friends and colleagues often ask who they’re “working with” on their social media content since the change in their content is so visible.
My strategy always focuses on two key things. The first focus is in creating mind-blowing content. The space of social media, particularly Instagram, is saturated now with over 50 million users, so how does one stand out in such a crowded space? Content truly is king, and I put such an extreme focus on creating incredible content that truly tells my client’s story. Social media is all about strong storytelling, and I’m obsessed with storytelling. If you aren’t owning your story and using content to consciously tell that narrative on a daily basis, it’s like you’re trying to build a house without using a hammer.
The second always focuses on audience. I can’t tell you how many times experts and influencers come to me, and they’re just missing the mark. Social media is all about service, so how can you show up to inspire, educate, or serve someone? I make sure to always post what I call “conscious content,” which is content that was created with a strong intention behind it. If you miss your mark, social media content can feel like a giant waste of your precious time and energy, because it’s triggering. Every post should be like lifting up your bow and arrow and aiming it right at the bullseye.
Instagram has been my business card again and again. With millennials overwhelming the workplace, rules have begun to change. Social media has taken over our lives, and it makes sense that it would take over the business world as well, so having a strong social presence is a must. Do we even need business cards when we can do so much better by scoring a follow on Instagram? In understanding the importance of having a strong social media presence, you must ask yourself: What is the first thing that pops up when following a new Instagram account? Your profile page. The profile consists of four parts: your profile picture, your description, your website, and an overview of your ‘grams. Each part is as important as the next. Let’s break it down:
- Your profile picture. How do you want to represent YOU visually? If your Instagram is that of a brand, use your logo. That’s simple. But if you are giving out your personal Instagram handle, don’t forget that you are a brand, too. Sure, you may want a silly picture to tickle your friends’ funny bones, but is that really the first impression you want to give professionally? Probably not. Pick a profile picture that shows your beautiful face, head-on, and with a smile. Don’t have one? Hire a friend or photographer to take a quality headshot. Sometimes business is business, and you have to step up to the plate.
- Your bio. Some profile descriptions only feature a brand’s name or a couple of descriptive words, but if you really want someone to get to know you and your brand, utilize the space given to you. Want an absolute kick ass bio? Here are 5 ways to pack your bio with punch:
What You Do. Are you a writer, stylist, or femmepreneur? Make it known.
Say something Personal. Write something fun and tongue-in-cheek, like “expert guacamole taster,” or “coffee drinker extraordinaire.” Show your personality.
Tell People Where You Live. Share your location and be sure to add drop pin emoji for extra emphasis.
Note Your Business Email. You should also add this if you upgrade to Business Profile.
Always Include Your URL. Share the URL to your website. The website field doesn’t always have to be static, though. Change it with your content. Have an important post you want to direct your followers to? Share it. Giveaway? Share it. And do make sure that each webpage has an easy way to direct back to your home site.
What is the toughest decision you’ve had to make in the last few months?
This year, I had to expand my team by almost double. Hiring new team members is super important as I always want to make sure to scale slowly, but I think it’s important to start before you’re ready. It’s so important to me that I over-deliver for my clients and having the internal support has been vital to the growth and success of my company.
It’s also tough to let clients go. I’ve had certain clients who really require a full-time assistant or person working for them full time in-house. As an agency, you have to really define your boundaries. We work extremely hard for our clients, but there are times when clients will take advantage of your time, your energy, and your effort. It’s really important to state your terms contractually, define your deliverables and your working hours. Since social media is a 24/7 machine that never sleeps, it’s important to let your clients know not to text you after 7PM, on weekends, at 6AM, etc.
What do you think it is that makes you successful?
I listen. I read incessantly. I never stop learning. I carve out a portion of every single day listening to Podcasts, listening to stories from other entrepreneurs about the long and winding road of business building. When I was younger, I was taught that “success” was a place that you arrived to, like a destination. But as my business grows, I realize that the target always moves. As soon as I achieve a goal, I have a set of new goals already mapped out so that I keep growing vertically. Sometimes, I’m working so hard that I forget to take time to deeply acknowledge and revel in my wins and successes. I just keep moving forward, because there’s always something to build, create, disrupt. I think this is one of the most exciting times to be an entrepreneur.
I also keep looking at trends and predicting the future based on how consumers are behaving. There is so much information available to us, yet oftentimes we ignore all of the tools and data that are often right in front of us.
What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
I am honestly so satisfied to see my clients surpass their goals. Social content can be so demanding and triggering and watching my clients break their own glass ceilings fills me with so much joy. My client (and friend) Tyler Blackburn came to me with just over one million followers, and after working together he has reached over 6.2 million followers, booked a new CW series, and was able to monetize his social channels. I have seen tremendous milestones, like when my client Genevieve Padalecki hit 1 million Instagram followers in exactly one year of launching her business. Another client, Shani Darden, went from 30K followers to over 150K followers in one year and landed a 6-figure social media beauty endorsement. I was both humbled and impressed when Shani was doing a photo shoot for her friend and client, Rosie Huntington-Whitley, and her new beauty focused website, Rose Inc. Rosie turned to me and complimented me on the content I have been creating for Shani, and said I was doing such an incredible job.
Giving back is a huge motivation for me. Tyler Blackburn, as known for his role on Pretty Little Liars, and I raised money for TheWaterbearers.org by launching an exclusive t-shirt with proceeds going towards getting 250,000 people clean water by World Water Day. Genevieve Padalecki and I rolled out content on her social platforms to raise over $100K for the Human Rights Campaign and Planned Parenthood, and $60K for GirlUp Campaign in partnership with the brand Pop & Suki. Partnering with my clients and giving back to people in need is a huge motivation and has been one of the most rewarding moments of my business.
I’m also so fortunate to having incredible clients and friends working in PR and media who have supported me and my agency, The Social Fleur, since day one. I have doubled my business and revenue every year since we launched, which has both impressed and shocked me at times. Growing a business is not easy, but I always think to go where the demand is and try to put service in everything I do.
What does the future hold for your business? What are you most excited about?
I’m so excited to work more with VIP clients, particularly beauty and lifestyle brands. The beauty industry has exploded over the past year, and we have seen extreme success with many of our beauty and lifestyle clients.
A new realm I’m excited to dive into is exclusive product development with some of my influencer clients. We have two specific products that are launching for holiday 2018 with two specific clients, and I can’t wait to see our products reach people. I love to solve problems. I love to find any “holes” the market has and launch products that help ease any challenges and pain points. I’ve fallen in love with the discovery and product development since I look to social media and frequently go straight to my respective audience for market research. The beauty of social media that is that it’s like a living, breathing platform that speaks back to you. I consistently use Instagram Polls in Instagram Stories asking “This or That” to obtain market research, or I’ll use a Call to Action and get followers to tell us what they’d like to see in the comments. I’m also excited to work more with influencers, providing them with insights on how to grow their teams, target specific goals, launch products, and roll out effective monetization strategies.
I’ve also become really curious and inspired by education. I’m really excited to launch several courses this year. Not everyone can afford a Social Media Manager or a Digital Team, however, Social Media is a language we all need to know how to speak. I created my first course, UNBLOCKED: Seven Figure Secrets to Social Badassery, for people to be able to have the exact tools I use in my business every single day. It’s important that we all know how to create amazing content, learn how to write captivating captions, learn how to properly connect and engage with our audience, and move beyond the triggering emotional aspects that Social Media can bring about in all of us.
I’m also going to be launching a Mastermind in 2019 of 15 entrepreneurs. Details will be revealed in early 2019 on that, but if you’re interested in learning more, visit The Social Fleur website and sign up for my newsletter to be the first to know when we’re taking applicants.
What is a recent purchase you have made that’s helped with your business?
I invest in a lot of courses, which is why I also created my own course called UNBLOCKED: Seven Figure Secrets to Social Badassery.
I recently purchased a new iPhone XS – my iPhone is one of the most important tools in my business, so I always make sure my technology is cutting edge and up to date. I have a small gold 13-inch MacBook that I take everywhere, and I recently purchased a Canon 5D to shoot both photo and video content on. I’m investing a lot into video lately.
Another important purchase has been a simple lighting kit, which I use to record my new YouTube tutorials and Instagram Stories. Lighting is so important when it comes to creating strong, stunning visual content.
I also love the app Planoly, which I have a Team Account with. My entire team works on the app and we curate all of our clients’ Instagram feeds using this app. It’s been a game changer for my business and brand.
What is the best thing about your current job?
I have an all-female team. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for equality but I love that I get to work with incredibly intelligent, empowered women. In addition to my core team of six, I also shoot with about five female photographers who I would consider some of the best in the business (LA and beyond). I find it so cool to see girls carrying heavy cameras and doing the jobs that guys typically do – doing graphic design, coding websites and newsletters, project managing…it makes me feel incredibly lucky.
I’ve been able to create a space and a more modern working system for my team that was very different from when I was in my 20’s. When I was working at fashion magazines throughout my 20’s, I lived in my cubicle and if I left the office at 9PM, it was an early night. Today, our team works both in person and remotely, and we utilize technology like Skype, Zoom Conference, or Google Hangout for team meetings – face time is important for human connection. I love that my team doesn’t have to work in a cubicle, we do have a creative office space, we shoot often together, and do spend time together, but we also have “work from home” days built into our schedules so that we can also have a life around work.
I love that I get to work with such an emotionally intelligent team, one that is actually excited to create incredible content and shoot amazing images. I think the hardest part of finding a team is getting people to actually care about what they’re doing the way I care about my company. I let each one of my girls own their own accounts and processes, with the mutual support of the entire company. We all jump in to brainstorm, support, and create with one another, and we have fun doing it.
I also travel a good amount. I’m in Austin, Texas once per month working with clients and I travel frequently for the travel platform I co-own called ROVE. Digital media allows us to work anywhere. Last year, I took a two-week trip to Thailand in the summer and was still able to communicate with clients while spending my days in a gorgeous villa in the Asia Pacific. We’re so lucky to be able to be connected across the globe. Yes, it can be a blessing and a curse, but digital media definitely provides a lot of reward, freedom, and flexibility.