A dream come true for dreamwear!

In the latest edition of Biz Talk, we’re chatting with Malania, the Vice President at Canadian lifestyle PR and Marketing firm, Nine Point Agency.

Malania leads the strategic growth at Nine Point while building close-knit relationships with local and national clients. We’re excited to catch up with her to dive into her wealth of experience, some of the projects she’s working on now, and to talk all things biz!

Introduce yourself to our readers! Who are you and what do you do?

Hi all you Smash + Tess fans, I’m Malania Dela Cruz and I’m the VP at Nine Point Agency, a Canadian lifestyle PR and Marketing agency, dedicated to creating a radical vision of wellbeing. We work with incredible brands in fashion, beauty, wellness, design, food, beverage and cannabis, to help them create and cultivate positive brand recognition in all the areas you work and play in.

You have extensive experience in PR and media. What advice would you give to someone looking to break into this industry?

Since PR is such a specialized skillset, my first recommendation would be to find a post-secondary program that will give you the basic skills and knowledge needed to get your foot in the door. From there, think about what you’re passionate about – is it fashion? Sustainability? Do you love wine? Make a list of top agencies or brands in passion areas that you’d love to work for and go after it! Internships are a great way to build your initial experience and relationships that will become the foundation of your career. And find leaders who can become your mentors, for those are the ones that will help support your growth.

And don’t forget -- working hard, being dedicated will get you far, and being kind will get you even farther. Treat everyone with respect, no matter what “level” you are meeting them at.

Nine Point has an impressive and diverse roster of clients (including us!) How do you go about choosing clients that align with your values? 

Such a great question! We have spent a lot of time defining our values at Nine Point, and this has become our guiding light when deciding to take a client on -- or not. A brand really needs to demonstrate similar values to ours in their business practices for us to feel passionate and proud to support their growth; to really get behind the business and champion them -- not just at work, but in our personal lives too. Smash + Tess is a perfect example of a 10 out of 10 for us! Integrity, inclusivity and progression, you really check all the boxes ;) 

As a woman entrepreneur, previously owning and operating a boutique agency, and now leading a predominately women team, what are some opportunities and obstacles you’ve faced?

Because our industry is so female dominated to begin with, I’ve had the pleasure to work with incredibly talented women, both as a mentor and as a mentee. Of course, I have been in positions where I’ve had to endure mansplaining, discrimination and male ego power dynamics in the workplace, where in the earlier days of my career, I wasn’t as sure how to deal with it. But I was lucky to be surrounded by both women AND men in my career who championed and celebrated the advancement of women in the workplace.

The opportunity I see as a woman who has worked hard for a seat at the table is to make space for more acceptance and development of diversity in the workplace. We are no longer living (or shouldn’t be, at least) in a confined box with gender, race, culture religion and disability. I not only want to see women continue to advance in leadership positions, but I want to see representation with LGBTQ+, BIPOC, women of colour and more. As a leader I have the responsibility to work towards these goals through our hiring practices, providing education for our team, showing up and advocating in and outside of the workplace.

Nine Point also supports non-profit organizations, like One Girl Can, with their PR efforts. How does your approach to marketing and PR shift when working with these types of clients and how do you select which organizations to support?

We are proud to contribute to our community through the support of non-profits and charitable organizations including Arts Umbrella, One Girl Can, Sarah McLachlan School of Music, Children’s Wish Foundation and Freedom March Vancouver. Our approach to PR isn’t necessarily different from other clients – we are still creating engaging campaigns customized to what the needs are. And, of course, the charity and their mission must align with our values. We have many dedicated team members who take our work with charitable organizations further as a passion project, often times growing into larger roles as volunteers or board members!

Is there a Nine Point project you are most proud of?

There are so many! I truly feel that with each project or campaign that passes, we are continuously leveling up. First – our Nine Point Agency rebrand at the end of 2020 was something that was so rewarding because we spent a lot of time in our “brand therapy” sessions with our creative agency partner, Super Bonjour, and it was immensely rewarding to watch our baby come to life. 

We’ve had incredible success over the last year launching new brands while navigating the new realities of Covid-19. For example, through our team’s collaborative ideations, we launched multiple campaigns for our cannabis clients that included free virtual workshops, retail activations, custom mailers, influencer campaigns, strategic partnerships and creative developments. You can see this integrated approach come to life in our recent SYNC Wellness campaign launch on our Nine Point blog. 

And of course, working to support the Smash + Tess x Hilary Duff collaboration was extremely fun and rewarding for our team – especially when it sold out within the day! We are always proud when we get to watch the success of our clients from the sidelines!

What is Nine Point working on right now that has you feeling inspired and excited? 

This month we introduced our Nine Point incubator program, which helps small and emerging businesses grow through affordable PR services and support. I have always been a supporter of local and upcoming brands – in fact, it’s how I grew my own boutique agency back in the day. We recognize the barrier for small-sized companies to invest and achieve their marketing goals and designed this program to assist the growth of these companies by giving them tools, services, community and expert guidance that will get them in front of new audiences, increase brand awareness and, ultimately, support sales and business growth! We’ve got four incredible Canadian brands signed on for our first six-month program including Taikan Everything, Woodlot, Empyri and Ohai. 

After a long 18 months of having to adapt our events and activities to Covid-19 restrictions, I am extremely excited to start hosting and seeing people in person again! This includes some super fun activations for Smash + Tess for Fall 2021… stay tuned ;) 

Who has been your mentor or source of support throughout your career journey? 

Prem Gill, CEO at Creative BC, was my first boss in broadcast television at Citytv, where I got my first producing gig, and she taught me the value of diversity. As a woman of colour, she not only held an executive level leadership position at Citytv (at a time when it was very white-male dominated), she also created the Multicultural Department which produced 5-6 shows that promoted diversity in entertainment. Back in the early 2000’s that was a HUGE deal, and as a person-of-colour, to see people who looked like me finally reflected back on the TV screen was a big deal. It also showed me the power you can have as a woman-of-colour – to be persistent in the pursuit of diversity. 

I’ve also learned and grown so much working alongside fabulous entrepreneurs in the PR industry, including Christine Faulhaber, Lexi Pathak from my days at Faulhaber Communications and, of course, my work wife and Founder of Nine Point, Tiffany Soper. 

When you aren't creating PR magic, what do you love to do for fun?

I love nature! I need my daily nature walks with my furbaby, Zephyr, which are abundant here in beautiful BC. I also love listening to music, playing music (I started taking drum lessons before covid and fell in love!), dancing, gardening and hosting BBQs at my house. And in the winter I must get out of the rain and into the snowy mountains for a snowboard shred.   

With things opening up again post-Covid (I know, how many times in this interview do I need to say it!) I’m extremely excited to get back out there and travel, to explore the world, to go to concerts, to live a bit more outside of my humble abode. 

Who are your fave people to follow on IG right now? 

Shayla Stonechild @shayla0h – I’ve been learning a lot from her as a young woman and indigenous rights activist

Farm Sanctuary @farmsanctuary – I have a dream (and I WILL do it eventually) of creating a farm sanctuary here in BC and this account keeps me informed, inspired and motivated. Animals need advocacy too! 

Business of Fashion @bof – one of my all time favourite accounts and media platforms for timely, considerate global fashion news

Lydia Ortiz @lydia_ortiz – a filipina- American artist I discovered recently, whose work is so vibrant and inspiring!

By Smash+Tess

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