Star Media diversifies revenue with fashion career fair

By Sandy MacLeod

The Toronto Star

Ontario, Canada


As revenues for traditional media companies continue to be disrupted by market factors, the pressure to modify our business models intensifies.

At Star Media Group, we have been focused on revenue diversification for some time. One of our business units, The Kit (a fashion and beauty publication), had a business model that we are all too familiar with: a heavy reliance on print advertising.

Even though The Kit was actively digitally and had a large newsletter following, the business in 2015 was reliant on print advertising for roughly 75% of its revenue.

A fashion career conference has proven to be a positive brand extension for Star Media.
A fashion career conference has proven to be a positive brand extension for Star Media.

We undertook an extensive business review of The Kit in 2016 and considered several options for the future of the business.

We interviewed key stakeholders, including several advertising agencies that specialise in this space. We held numerous client-direct sessions and met with industry experts in Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States. We dug deeply into the fashion and beauty space to better understand the evolving media space in this category.

Our revised strategy had us focus on new revenue streams, build out our creative service capabilities, broaden our client base, and lower our operating costs. The revised operating plan reduces our reliance on print advertising revenues over time, with more than 60% of revenues expected to be generated through new business lines.

One of our new initiatives was a Kit Fashion Conference Series. The first event was a career fair for those interested in fashion and beauty as a career choice.

Breaking into the fashion and beauty industry is tough, which makes career paths uncertain and difficult to plan. The Kit team made it its mission to connect industry experts who are passionate about the field with people interested in making fashion and beauty a career.

What developed was the Kit Connect Conference, a fashion series designed to provide the next generation of talent with the opportunity to connect with industry experts.

The event was linked to the Canadian Arts & Fashion Awards to build credibility. The kickoff party was held at one of Toronto’s leading fashion retailers, and the conference included key retailers and designers.

The event itself, which was held in a local gallery, included a full day of programming, with six separate panels of experts that had 30-minute moderated discussions and 15-minute audience questioning periods. Networking sessions were made available during each session, and a networking lunch was included for participants.

Because this event was designed not just as a brand-building initiative but as a new profit center, there was a focus on profitability from the beginning. Revenue was generated through ticket sales and sponsorship opportunities. Costs were kept in check by using existing staff, partnerships, and contra, and by recruiting panelists for industry enthusiasts at virtually no cost.

To promote the conference, we used a combination of B2B efforts, outreach initiatives as well as digital and print. We sent e-mails, ran ads, and used Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn to get the word out — and it worked!

We were pleased with our inaugural event. Ticket sales were solid, sponsorships went well, and we kept our costs in line. We also attracted a new, younger audience to The Kit, and feedback from participants was encouraging.

Here are a few testimonials:

  • “I loved how this conference was able to fill a gap (there’s no other conference like it that I know of in Canada) by providing an opportunity for young professionals like me to network and learn from those more experienced in the field. I also love how there was something for everyone, and that the format allowed all guests to attend every panel session.”
  • “There is nothing else like this out there to connect like-minded, inspired individuals within the fashion/beauty industry.”
  • “As someone who has felt a bit stagnant in my fashion career, it was truly helpful. I feel like I'm back on track!
  • “LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVED IT!!!!!! Please do more of these conferences!!!!”
  • “The best takeaway I received is that I now know I would like to continue moving toward a career in the fashion and beauty industry. Advice like, ‘Do the job you want before it's given to you’ and other tips and tricks are going to help me kickstart things on my own. I like the idea of making your own opportunities.”

While we are pleased with the results of our first Kit Connect event, the issue becomes one of scale. Can we replicate this event in other Canadian cities? Can it be done more than once per year per city?

We’re working on the plan to grow this opportunity and will update you when we have more to report.

About Sandy MacLeod

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