I first heard about City MOGULS last year in November when they were promoting their signature event, The MOGUL Awards – where fashion meets philanthropy. Naturally, I was very curious and intrigued for a couple of reasons – I had never been to a fashion show, let alone a fashion show where Canadian entrepreneurs walked the runway and it was for a good cause.
Earlier this year, I made the decision to participate in MOGUL Crews (and am in the process of completing my second cohort as this post is being published)- another one of their amazing ideas brought to life: a peer-to-peer digital mastermind.
While I haven’t had the chance to meet the co-founders Dani and Victoria in-person (yet), I have had the pleasure of getting to know them through the MOGUL Crews. I will openly admit that I am a fangirl of this dynamic duo and after reading this inspiring interview/checking out the City MOGULS IG account, you’ll probably end up becoming a big fan as well.
Growing up did you see yourself as someone who was entrepreneurial?
Dani: 100%. It’s been in my blood since I was a kid! I saw how hard my immigrant father worked at a stressful job to support his family so that he could go off on his own to build his own company and found great satisfaction being an entrepreneur. As a kid, I was the girl on the street with a lemonade stand. I knew I sucked at math, but I learned quickly that I could sell anything and my heart exploded with excitement every time that happened. I was always organizing school fashion shows, creating new projects on student council and creating new fundraising initiatives. I never knew what I was doing, but I knew I loved creating projects from nothing. I will say though, I never knew exactly WHAT I wanted to be, which was tough when everyone around me knew (or thought they knew) what they wanted to be. But once I grew up and travelled, worked at different types of jobs, had new interesting experiences, I met people along the way (like my Co-Founder Victoria) who are just as passionate as creating. That’s what I learned entrepreneurship really is. And I haven’t looked back since.
Victoria: Having found a passion for dance at a young age, I was always looking for ways to make money to help pay for my expensive dance bills. As early as 11 years old I had started my first business: a cleaning service business in my apartment building called “Vicky the Cleaning Lady”. I had clients around the building that I would do all sorts of chores for. I even created a pricing list and wrote out receipts for them!
One of my earliest accomplishments was making enough money with that business to travel to New York City with my dance studio and attend a prestigious dance convention. I learned early on the value of hard work, resilience, and doing whatever it took to get the job done. Although I didn’t realize it then, this was the seed that planted entrepreneurship in my core – from that initial cleaning business, I knew I had a deep love of creating something from nothing and that I had a knack for building businesses.
How did you come up with the idea for City MOGULS?
Our story really begins when we became the co-captains of the UofT Dance Team. We were so passionate about giving back that we created a fundraising event to showcase local dance and music talent. After raising thousands of dollars and putting on that event every year for several years, we re-branded the entire event to focus on celebrating innovative entrepreneurs when we launched our own event planning business.
Once we were working in the corporate world, we were exposed to so many incredible entrepreneurs that were not only creating very forward-thinking businesses but also making time to give back and use their platform for good. We were inspired by these bright leaders and wanted to celebrate them. We truly looked up to these people because we knew that having an idea and turning it into a full-fledged business was something inspirational. That was the birth of The MOGUL Awards, which celebrates the country’s top 20 entrepreneurs in a unique fashion show for charity.
Now, 5 years later, we have created a hub for all types of entrepreneurs to connect. We know how hard it is to start a business and be a leader within an organization, so we integrated education and networking into our mission. It’s important to have a community to lean on when you are going through epic failures, struggles, and working in isolation to make your dream happen. City MOGULS is now a place for any type of entrepreneur to access resources, a network of like-minded people, and ultimately grow.
What was it like in the early days of starting City MOGULS? Did you encounter any obstacles? How did you overcome them?
Mistakes are inevitable. No one gives you a handbook on how to run your unique business. Even if you go to business school or take courses, no one can really teach you what you learn on the job. We definitely made some financial errors along the way. To get super vulnerable, one of them was forgetting to charge tax on certain ticket items and we pretty much lost thousands of dollars because we had to eat those costs. As well, working with a team is always a challenge. You learn along the way who your true people are and that they will have your back no matter what, and you, unfortunately, have to let people go along the way that aren’t 110% in.
Your signature event, The MOGUL Awards, where fashion meets philanthropy with a carefully curated selection of 20 Canadian Entrepreneurs. What are the selection criteria for deciding who gets to walk the runway?
Since we get over 500 nominations every year, the criteria have narrowed from years passed. MOGULS must be a founder of their own business. They must be a passionate leader in their industry and have had their business for a minimum of 5 years. Their business must have a philanthropic piece: either it is a social enterprise, has a charitable arm, or has a clear cause that they are heavily involved in.
Finally, MOGULS should have an inspiring story about how they have made an impact on their industry and/or City MOGULS are those types of people that not only have that fire, but they are the types of people that young entrepreneurs everywhere aspire to be.
What are some of the key factors that have contributed to the success of City MOGULS thus far?
Persistence. Consistency. Passion. Giving Back. An incredible community!
What is the best advice you’ve been given regarding entrepreneurship?
Go out there and DO. There is only so much planning you can do, sometimes you just have to get out there, fall on your face, iterate, make revisions, and keep moving forward.
What advice would you give to businesses who are struggling to pivot their businesses during the pandemic?
The incredible thing about running a start-up/small business is that you have the power to change your business overnight. Larger Corporations take months if not years to instill real change. If you are nimble enough, you could change your entire business plan within weeks, if not days. That’s exactly what we’ve done with City MOGULS through the pandemic and haven’t looked back. If you’re struggling to pivot your business right now, I’d suggest doing what we call “The Spaghetti Effect”. Throw a bunch of stuff at the wall and see what sticks and resonates with your brand. A few things will flop, but then go with what works. A lot of people freeze with worry thinking about what people will think if they take their business in another direction, but the fact of the matter is that your business is YOURS, and you can do whatever you damn want with it!
Never be afraid to change the direction of your business, so long as you stay true to your mission and vision.