Bianca Harris; Toronto; @iambiancaharris
Let’s say we’ve just met at a cocktail party. How would you describe, in a nutshell, what you do?
Honestly, at this point what I’ve been saying—because I do a lot of things so it’s a little bit hard to break down—is that I’m an entrepreneur. I’ve been a freelance makeup artist for the last nine years, and I am the CEO and founder of Women Inspiring Passion and Purpose (WIPP), which is a female empowerment collective.
Where did you go to school and what did you study?
I studied makeup at George Brown College, which is a year and a half course that teaches you the art of makeup and some of the business behind it. I went to college for two years at Seneca College studying general arts as well. Otherwise, all of my experience is really based on real life.
What was your first paying gig out of school? (In your field, or not.)
Bartending. I did that for around two years.
What was your BIG break? How did you land it?
I don’t have a job that was like a “big break” because my whole career has really been steady. It’s been awesome to see the things that have accumulated over time and that have gotten bigger and bigger. Starting the WIPP brand is super important to me, but so is the opportunity to be featured as a Much Digital Studios Creator. It’s more like a steady incline for my career, and I’m actually really grateful that it happened that way.
Describe the moment in which you first realized, I think this is actually going to work out?
I think it was after I started WIPP. We did one super-small event and then we did another event that was much bigger in July 2016. After I saw that there was like 450 people in attendance, and I heard all the feedback, I remember just standing in the room and thinking, Wow this is really having a really big impact and it’s going to make a huge change.
What would you say has been your biggest failure or shortcoming, career-wise, to date? How did you bounce back?
Right before our May 2017 summit, one of our speakers posted something inappropriate on social media and we had to remove her from our panel. I don’t like to use the word “failure” necessarily because I learned a lot from that situation. But, I had put my heart and soul into this event and having this happen was really difficult.
When it happened, I worried that the sponsors and all my speakers were going to pull out—that no one would want to want to be attached to WIPP. I was just thinking of the worst possible scenario. How I did I deal with it? I mean, I have an amazing support system. I have awesome women in my family who were just like, “Listen that’s not going to happen. You have to just be positive and just keep going. You know you’ve worked on this event for six months and you can’t just let it all go down the drain in a day.” It’s something I would hear growing up, and I didn’t really take it in until I was a bit older. You have to have an amazing support system around you. I don’t think I would’ve been able to get through that if I didn’t.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve also done a lot of work on myself and on being spiritual. I have to be quiet and turn off my phone, go inward and be like, “I’m confident in this event; I know it’s going to do amazing.” I just had to push through it, and I did. I got another speaker in a day and I made it work.
Name one piece of career advice you always give.
Trust your instincts. I don’t have a business degree, I’ve never taken any courses, but I have really good instincts for the most part. So, if you follow them, generally they will lead you in the right direction. I’ve been offered things that people would jump at, but something just wasn’t right for me so I didn’t do it. Three months later, I was like, Oh thank God I didn’t do it, you know? I’m a very spiritual person so a lot of my answers come back to that, which could sound a little silly when it comes to business, but that’s really how I feel. You just have to go with what you feel in your gut.
Did you deal with barriers in your field because you are a woman? If so, what were they?
I know the barriers are there, I see them clearly, but I also try my hardest to ignore them. I’m a very strong believer in creating your way. If the doors are shutting on you, stop complaining and create your own door. I did it and I did it without any money. You don’t always have to be validated by a company or a job or a man or whatever, do your own thing. And if you do it passionately and with integrity, I don’t see why you wouldn’t be able to “make it.”
Are you making a fair income for your work? Why or why not?
At this point in my career, yes and no. I know that if I was in the States, if I’m totally honest, I’d be making a lot more for what I’m doing. But at this point in my career, I don’t even accept jobs unless it’s what I’m comfortable with and what I know my work and time is worth. So it is fair because I won’t accept any less than that at this point. When you’re starting out, you don’t want to have that attitude. I did a lot of stuff for free. Even now, if I was offered a job that is totally outside of what I normally do and they didn’t have much of a budget, but it would be a learning opportunity for me, then hell ya I would still do it. If it’s something I’ve been doing for a long time and I’m now an expert in, I’m definitely going to charge you for my time and effort. You’ve got to pick and choose.
Do you have a side hustle for extra cash? If so, what is it?
At this point, it’s only makeup and WIPP. When I was starting out though, there was no way I could have done without having my bartending gig; I also worked at M.A.C and freelanced on the side. But, the thing I would say with that is that it’s a very slippery slope. You can get stuck in those careers easily because you get benefits and you’re comfortable. So you want to make sure you’re leaving at the right time.
What’s the worst stereotype you’ve heard about millennials at work?
As a millennial I think MY “stereotype” can ring true for myself. They say millennials can be entitled. Sometimes I do feel a little entitled to things, although I’m not quite sure if that’s the correct word. I’ll think to myself, Well, I worked really hard, so I should be getting A/B/C. Millennials tend to ask for what they want. And sometimes you get it! I believe it really is a generational thing (from seminars I’ve attended and conversations I’ve had). When I chat with my mom or dad it also seems to be true; their generation wouldn’t ask for things like we do. I always tell my team, if you want something… ask for it!!!