My Story: How I Became A Brand Strategist

I didn’t choose it, it chose me.

In 2015, I was passionate about art, music, and business.

I went to an audio engineering school in Montreal as I wanted to build a network and hopefully get a job in the music scene.

Fast forward to the end of the program, we kept getting discouraged by the teachers to pursue a career in music production.

I guess they resented for the most part the fact that they didn’t all succeed in their own pursuit, so they decided to teach instead. It wasn’t all of them though. There was a teacher that is actually a music producer that I still love to this day: Eekkoo, he’s on the Deadmau5 Label Mau5trap.

Which is kinda huge.

Nevertheless, when the course was over, I gave up the dream of making music for a living. Indeed, the prospect of not being able to make money fast wasn’t appealing to me.

(That being said, I’m sure one day I’ll get back to music because it’s truly a passion of mine.)

And that’s where the fun began: I gave up the prospect of a music career and got a job in sales for a real estate corporation. Drastic shift, I know! I was making way too much money for my age and it got to my head real fast. (I made about 80k in six months. Not bad for a music producer who redirected his career, heh?)

Even though the money was great, I was miserable. I dreaded getting in my car in the morning, getting to work, making sales calls and selling stuff I didn’t truly care about.

Don’t get me wrong; I was good at it. I loved to chat with entrepreneurs about how I could help them, but I didn’t LOVE selling what I had to offer.

After six months on the job, I gave in my resignation. The lack of purpose in the work almost drove me insane.

And that’s where my life started to shift for the better.

I felt ecstatic! I sold everything I could and moved to Australia, hopefully for one year.

I had no plans really. I wanted to visit and do freelance video work.

After spending Christmas alone in a random hostel in Tasmania, without cash nor friends or family around, I realized that I didn’t want to ‘’live’’ somewhere else. All I wanted to do was to be around my friends and family, and to work on something that would make me truly happy.

That was a life-changing experience for me; it made me realize that the true nature of this trip was to open up my eyes to what I really wanted in life. And that was to build a business that I loved and to work on projects I enjoyed, surrounded by driven and ambitious people.

As it turned out, this Australian adventure was freaking expensive and I ran out of cash after only four months with all my credit cards maxed out.

10K in debt later, I had to come back to Canada… and move to my dad’s basement. The Australian dream was over. But my dream to become a great businessman was far from being over.

I was determined because I knew I was on the right path. But, truth be told, I was also very depressed at the same time.

I didn’t want to go back to a corporate job. That was a certainty.

So I improvised and started driving people around as a Uber driver while I was trying to figure things out.

Six months later, I started to get really bored driving people around 12 hours a day.

Then, one night, some random business person I drove downtown Montreal suggested that I should join my local chamber of commerce. He said that it would help me take a step forward in the business world and that I should go to a networking event.

I thought it was a great idea and so I picked one such event: it was the launch of my local chamber of commerce, just five minutes away from my dad’s place.

I put on a suit and my favorite pair of jeans then I jumped in my car. But this time, it wasn’t to drive some strangers around town. I was indeed driving myself straight to a new business adventure!

When I got to the event, I quickly realized that I had no clue what I was doing there. I was, after all, a 22-year-old Uber driver who wanted to do some business, without any concrete plan! Looking back, I can see that, in the end, it served me well.

When I think about this pivotal moment in my life, I still have no idea what made me do the jump. I guess that, sometimes, you just have to follow your intuition and give it a shot.

So here goes nothing. I was simply chatting with people at the event without anything to pitch, and that, it seems, was the right mindset, because I was listening deeply.

Early in the evening, I found the most un-intimidating guy in the room. His name was Phil. While everyone was wearing the typical suits and ties, this guy had a lumberjack shirt and a cap on. I’ll always remember spotting him. He definitely stood out of the crowd!

That was my guy.

It turned out that he owned a gym and was hiring five personal trainers; he couldn’t care less about what he looked like.

I chatted with him and we immediately clicked. He was passionate about entrepreneurship, he had won an award the year before within the chamber of commerce and was super keen on speaking with fellow business owners.

As you can imagine, I was pretty excited that I had found someone cool to talk with. Sooner than later, we found out that we both shared a passion for building a brand.

We delved deep into topics such as the best branding strategies to deploy online using social media, content strategy to attract more customers organically, entrepreneurship, and how powerful and well-executed branding works for you while you sleep.

(See a breadcrumb here?) 

As the evening was unfolding, and after a few drinks, he invited me to visit his gym the following Monday. The event finally ended and we closed the place down. 

Then Monday came in, I got back in my red car and went to meet Phil at his gym. It turned out there were multiple personal training businesses that were operating in the same building. I remember telling myself : “Okay, maybe I’ll even find some more prospects…”

Little did I know what was to come…

So, I met with Phil and we started chatting when, all of a sudden, his colleague heard us from afar.

He came by and stopped us shortly to ask me if I could meet with him after my talk with Phil.

I said promptly: “Sure! I’ll come and meet you with pleasure.’’

I went back to my conversation with Phil and, eventually, we finished our chat without concluding any concrete business deal.

Which was fine.

He was interested in what I had to offer, but he didn’t quite know what he wanted at this point in time… and nor did I have anything yet to sell either.

(Eventually, we started working together, but that was only a few months later.)

So, when we were done, I went upstairs to meet with his colleague, Jacob.

Right away, we started discussing what it was exactly that he needed help with. I also told him my story and what I was passionate about (branding, especially personal branding, strategies, etc.).

At one point, I started to share the fact that I loved the idea of helping entrepreneurs to restructure their content strategies on social media in order to use their brand recognition to become known in their niche. (Remember folks, this was in 2016 when social media was exploding and when Facebook pages actually had organic reach.) 

He went straight to the point and asked me how much I would charge him to build a solid content strategy to achieve his dream of being the most renowned personal training business in Quebec.

Of course, I was in. But, obviously, I was taken by surprise since I still had nothing ‘’official’’ to sell!

We discussed what he needed me to do and I told him I’d get back to him with a one-year proposal.

When I met him for the second time, I had studied what he was currently doing and spotted many opportunities. He was producing a lot of content without any strategy behind it all. He knew that ‘’content’’ worked, but he didn’t know what would specifically work for his brand and how to attract the clientele he was after.

So that’s how I got started! I offered to work ten hours a month on a consulting retainer in order to help him reach his dream and to restructure his content & brand strategy. That was the basis for my highly successful ‘’Branding Training Program’’, which is more than 80% of my business today.

We started by assessing who his dream client was and focused ALL of our efforts to appeal to this very client in every way possible throughout his content on social media.

We built a Facebook content strategy, then we graduated to Instagram and built a podcast that led him to interview HUGE names in the industry.

He started to create info products and then built multiple revenue streams to deliver valuable information to his audience. Five years later, he now owns his private gym (which is huge by the way) and has more than ten trainers under his brand to execute his vision.

That’s when it clicked. I had found purpose in my work.

I got hooked immediately. From then on, I wanted to learn everything and anything about branding and content strategy: from the psychology behind why people buy a certain brand, to how much colors affect a decision.

I started to absorb everything I could find related to branding and content strategy, on YouTube as well as in books.

Five years later, here I am writing this blog in 2021, sharing my story and passing on some of my hard-earned knowledge to you.

I think the saying is true:

“You don’t go into a career you love; you love something enough that it becomes a career.”

To me, THAT is being a brand strategist.

See you soon,
Simon