“Ever since I was 8 years old, I would walk around telling people that I was going to be my own boss.”
At the start of her career, as a young and hungry aspiring business woman in her 20s living in Stockholm, Babba Canales landed the job opportunity of a lifetime when she joined the Uber team to help launch the company’s presence in Sweden. Although admitting she wasn’t entirely sure of how she was going to ensure Uber’s success in Sweden’s capital, Canales took the city by storm and eventually made Stockholm the fastest growing launch city for Uber at the time.
Despite her stellar success with Uber, it didn’t take long until the young professional grew hungrier for a bigger challenge. Canales eventually made her way back to the States, and scored a job as director of brand marketing for swanky luggage label, Away. As a brand marketing guru for Away luggage, Canales noticed a lack in brand exclusivity with the marketing agencies she worked with and sought help from agencies who could get things, “done smarter and do more with less.” What was originally a creative business need soon became the inspiration for her next professional move, thus the brand marketing agency, BY BABBA, was born.
Since Canales officially launched the NY-based agency in 2017 with just her laptop, the company has grown to six employees and now offers services from “experimental marketing” and social strategy to full-service PR, events and everything in between. We had a chance to chat with the marketing femme boss to get a deeper look at how she got to where she is today.
How did By Babba come to be?
I always wanted to start my own company, and the idea behind this company actually came from my experience working at fast-paced companies–I wanted to create the agency I wish I had when I was at Uber and Away. During my time at those companies, we found it really hard to work with agencies because most of them lacked the startup mentality of getting things done smarter and to do more with less!
How did working for the popular luggage company Away influence your career path?
Working with Away was a great opportunity to understand the D2C [direct-to-consumer] world and learn about the opportunities (and challenges!) that often come with physical products. It was also a great experience to have been able to have the opportunity to be part of shaping the brand and building an internal structure to support that strategy from such an early stage.
Had you always dreamed of running your own business?
Yes, ever since I was 8 years old, I would walk around telling people that I was going to be my own boss.
If you had to summarize your brand/company in three words, what would they be?
Collaborative, innovative and purposeful.
What is a typical day like for a multitasking business woman like yourself?
A typical day for me usually starts with a morning workout, or long walk with my dog, followed by office hours with the team, a meeting marathon of back-to-back meetings and often times ending the evening with an event.
What do you love about what you do?
The people I meet and the energy I get from seeing someone really passionate about what they are doing and the adrenaline I get from envisioning how I can play a part in helping someone achieve their highest potential.
How do you feel you and your business have evolved from when you first started?
It evolves all the time. When we started, it was basically just myself and my laptop. It’s crazy to realize how much can happen in just a few months. We are now a team of six, we have our office at Spring Place and we have really inspiring clients. We are excited about the new year and the exciting projects in the pipeline we have been aligning. As we’ve managed to grow the agency, we’ve also been able to become more full-service in all aspects of brand marketing- from brand strategy and messaging, to influencer marketing, to content and storytelling, to events and experiential marketing, to PR and founder branding.
In a world where everyone strives to be different in their craft, how did you manage to forge your own path to finding your own unique brand?
I don’t overthink it. Instead of focusing on how I can be different, I have focused on how I can be me.
With such a busy schedule how do you make sure you save time for a little TLC?
I block off time for myself. Sometimes I allow myself a slow morning of sleepwalking in my pajamas and eating breakfast in bed, or going for a longer workout and taking in the day. Sometimes I block off evenings for doing nothing. It’s so easy to otherwise get caught up with too many commitments.
What is something folks might not know about you outside of your professional branding?
Something folks might not know about me is that I love to bake and I am obsessed with desserts! I’m often times the only one at dinner ordering dessert.
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned starting your own brand marketing agency?
That just because you’re your own boss doesn’t mean you are able to do whatever you want! All of my friends think I can just spontaneously get on a plane and go on vacation, just because I’m in charge, but the reality is, I can’t. Hard work and persistence are key when building your own company and just because you took a flight and turned off your computer, doesn’t mean your head shut off as well. You’re constantly thinking of all of the things you should be doing.
What is one of your greatest accomplishments thus far, professionally and personally?
Personally, by far my little family – my husband who is so supportive and loving and our little Boston Terrier. Professionally, I can’t really point to one thing in particular. It’s honestly everything, because it all ladders up to where I am today and I am proud of every part of it.
What is the biggest piece of advice to other young professionals, especially women, looking to start their own business?
To stop focusing on reasons as to why it won’t work and just do it. There is no such thing as great timing- I started my company at terrible timing, right before getting married and having to go through a visa process, in which I had to find the funding for myself. Now it’s something I look back to as the best decision I ever made. I also met my husband at terrible timing, having just come out of a relationship, not looking to engage in a new one… and here we are, married and crazy in love, 6.5 years in.
Photography by Amanda Villarosa