F20: Part One, The Origins

I am incredibly honoured to be sharing this post celebrating FAULHABER’s 20 year milestone. As a women-owned independent agency owner I have had my share of hurdles, and it is impossible to not to recognize the immense gratitude I feel to all the people who have been part of this journey for the past two decades. From past and current clients, team members, media partners and more, FAULHABER is what it is today because of many people and for that I am eternally humbled.

I started this business in 2001 with a laptop in my kitchen. Oddly I am back at my laptop in my kitchen as I write this today! It was post 9/11 and the world felt like it was falling apart. I was 26 years old and had cut my teeth working in retail for Fairweather in shopping malls and later in a corporate gig at Dylex Ltd. HQ and then travelling the country doing marketing and sales for Canadian fashion designer Joeffer Caoc. Retail and fashion were firmly in my blood and I had always excelled at creating innovative ideas and seeing new opportunities where none existed.

By 2001, my network was strong from years of dressing the smart set and pitching media on the latest outfits from Joeffer’s studio. I decided to take a leap of faith and start my own business with the sole purpose of helping brands grow. I bought the URL “www.isellideas.com” and asked my brother to design a business card and a website for me. I was going to call my business Elevator Nine. I was so inspired and excited about the name I came up with, but when I had lunch with my mentor Elyse Parker and told her my news she squinted and looked at me with brows raised and said, “What’s wrong with your name?”.  I remember feeling scared to attach my name to my business, and spent the next year explaining it to everyone I met. If you can imagine this all was before smart phones and social media.

I didn’t start out with a business plan and actually didn’t go to PR school. I did have loads of retail experience, a commerce & comms degree from Toronto Metropolitan University and a lot of ambition, drive and the keen understanding of exactly what my retail clients needed. I took a tailored, customized approach to each client I worked with right from the start.

One of my first clients was Finishing Touches, an amazing retailer that supported Canadian brands and gave me one of my very first paycheques. When I started working with them, I produced trunk shows, launched a formal newsletter, earned media wins and upped their value proposition for their engaged clients. When Joel Carman from Over The Rainbow started seeing their name in the media, he called the owners and asked what they were doing. Word of mouth hard at work! Over The Rainbow hired me and we worked together for an impressive and rewarding decade of denim launches, anniversary parties, photoshoots and more. I even helped Joel build his first website! Susan Langdon at The Toronto Fashion Incubator (TFI) paid one of my very first invoices. We ran countless Fashion Week events for the TFI, and though our work ended I still mentor her new recruits. Zola Shoes, Urban Dog and Steven & Chris’ furniture brand rounded out my earliest clientele.

By 2005, I had a small team and decided to create an agency. I had my new logo designed by Scott Christie at Pylon Design, and Leanne Delap wrote about the logo for The Globe & Mail.

From there the business and the team continued to evolve. At first, we worked out of my Dundas Street loft. The talented Naomi Olsen and Rachel Bryan were the first hires. Tatiana Read was my right hand at one point until she set out on her own. Several others did the same, and many others have gone on to high profile jobs. In 2009, after my son was born, we moved to a shared office space in Liberty Village, in the suite that we are located today.  Fellow entrepreneur Suzanne Dyment of Marrin was an early supporter and offered me a few desks. Clients expanded to include brands like Tomee Tippee, Fidelity Denim, Para Paints, Brave Leather and RK Stores. Now an event guru, Candice Chan hired me to do PR work with RK back then! Shauna Levy founded and ran the amazing Interior Design Show and took a chance on me, which was a pivotal milestone for the agency. We still work with IDS 12+ years later.  Countless incredible memories for myself and the team have been made from working on this show for so many years.

In 2010 my team grew again, and we added cool clients like Thomas Sabo, which we launched in Canada. Lindsay Singer, then an intern and now a Director, and Lexi Pathak, then a SR Account Executive, now Vice President & Partner, joined the team working on clients like Thomas Sabo, Dermalogica and Canadian fashion designer Sunny Fong’s label, VAWK. My daughter was born in year 10 and that November 2011 we celebrated FAULHABER’s 10-year anniversary with a special commemorative logo and a 200-person event at the Neubacher Shor Contemporary, a super cool gallery and event space run by our friends Anya Shor and Manny Neubacher.

The event revealed 10 custom photographs that we produced that brought to life concepts inherent to our brand, illustrated by artist Matt Forysthe – from building relationships to dreaming BIG. Our fashion S.W.O.T. team photographer Christopher Wadsworth, hair magician Brenden DeMello, stylist Evgeny Loukianenkov, and our model burned the midnight hours roaming alleyways to get the 10 cool shots we had imagined. Lexi was our U-Haul driver carting around all our incredible fashion. We tweaked our logo once again and the team asked artist Danielle Meader to do a custom icon of me as a gift! 

The event raised money for KIVA, a micro-lending organization that helps female entrepreneurs around the world get a hand up, not a handout. We take care to reinvest on the regular. Still such a cool and rewarding initiative. Supporting other women through mentorship and charity has always been important to FAULHABER and our work.

In 2012, we rebranded to FAULHABER Communications after noticing changes in the industry. Bloggers, custom content, social media and new scopes of work were changing our work and evolving outside of traditional PR. The new FAULHABER Communications logo was designed by Montreal design agency Igloo Design and remains our current brand identity. Alain Courchesne who was a principal of Igloo Design has since founded Doggy Bathroom and is now a current client. Relationships new and old are a wonderful thing and have always been the heartbeat of our agency.

By now we were all on a plane every month. Frankfurt, Amsterdam, London, New York and LA. We continued to grow and in 2013 took over the whole office space at the Carpet Factory Lofts. We partnered with Elephant Limited design agency led by Alana Fletcher and Robin Lewis to design our office, which was eventually featured in Toronto Life. We also launched our FSHOPPE product placement showroom, one of the first of its kind. Since its launch we have held hundreds of meetings and events with editors, influencers, tastemakers, stylists and celebrities in the space.

New clients like Ted Baker London, National Bank, Charlotte Tilbury, Dermalogica, Bugaboo and Caesarstone were added to our roster. We launched a dozen condos through our work with Urban Capital, TAS and Minto. Kayla Matos, now SR Account Manager, and Megan Taylor, now Beauty Director, joined our team. One of the things I am very proud of is the long retention of most of my senior team. What a privilege to have such cool brands and such a winning team!

FAULHABER has always had its finger on the pulse and been ahead of any wave of change. We were early adopters to offering our clients social media management and content production.  In 2014, we hosted a Twitter party with Justin Bieber for essence cosmetics, our client at the time. In 2019, we launched FStop Studios, our content production arm, to better service our clients who needed more and more custom content.

Today, we have a full digital team and are digital-first in many of our custom strategies that we develop for our clients – from managing the social media channels for brands like Bed, Bath and Beyond, to executing creative TikTok campaigns for our beauty clients.

The agency’s ability to innovate and adapt has been crucial to our success.  This entrepreneurial spirit and constant drive have been our secret sauce over the years. Whether we were working with Canadian brands like Rocky Mountain Soap or The Artist Project, or launching global success stories like Charlotte Tilbury or Genesis Motors, or identifying new sectors like cannabis where we can add our marketing flair, we have always been able to help propel our clients forward using smart and innovative storytelling. It is with full confidence that I can share our constant innovation is what will lead us to our next 20 years of success.

To celebrate our 20th anniversary, we are pleased to share our special logo designed in-house by our creative team.

We are also thrilled to announce our F20 programming with a focus on giving back, building on our longstanding commitment to mentorship and helping businesses grow.

The year-long program will include offering $20,000 of pro-bono services to BIPOC or women-owned businesses through the agency’s FConsults service offering, launching FMentors, a program devoted to supporting and engaging the next generation of energized PR leaders, and extending the agency’s existing Toronto Metropolitan University Faulhaber Communications Award.

To our past and current clients, all the amazing FAULHABER team members and trainees we have had over the years, our media and influencer friends, and incredible vendors and partners, I offer the most ecstatic heartfelt thank you.

Stay tuned to our social channels for more exciting updates to come later this year.

Xo Christine