The former influencer now uses her powers for commerce
If there’s any doubt about the immense power of social media, one needs only look at Alexa Suter. Back in 2013, when Instagram was still a shadow of what it has become, Suter gained notoriety as an influencer, commanding tens of thousands of followers while freelance writing and travelling the likes of Paris and Hungary. So when she returned to B.C. (she was raised in Langley), she used some of that social capital to start a Vancouver public relations firm called Studio Media.
It didn’t take long for clients to start flocking to her social media services and video campaigns. Today, the brands in Studio Media’s portfolio range from French cosmetics giant L’Oréal to U.S. chain Westin Hotels & Resorts. Suter manages the company out of a small office in Gastown with one other full-time employee, hiring contractors when needed. Together they oversee dozens of social media accounts, including a couple for Suter’s latest venture, a line of healthy (no harmful chemicals), comfortable women’s underwear called Huha that launched on Kickstarter in late October.
Gone are the days of posing by elaborate tourist destinations, but that’s probably just fine in her books.
Suter doesn’t put a huge emphasis on getting to the office early. That means spending the early morning writing in a gratitude journal and going to the gym before arriving at work around 9:30. It’s all part of an effort to be less stressed throughout the day.
To that end, the 29-year-old takes pride in being down to two or three coffees daily: “A big improvement. It’s been five to six at times.”
Many days come with a photo or video shoot for a client, like a recent meetup with a Richmond architect to show off his work. Then there was last week’s session with U.S. plant-based meal producer Alpha Foods.
“We went last week to Safeway and brought their product there and stocked up the food in the freezer real quick and quickly did the photo shoot,” Suter says with a laugh, noting that Alpha isn’t in Canadian stores yet, so options were limited. “You’d rather ask for forgiveness than permission, right?”
Almost every client video or photo has Suter behind the camera, something she has no plans to change even as the new business eats at her time.
Though she tries to pack a lunch, Suter often finds herself grabbing a meal around the corner at Cordova Street’s Bambo Café. Or, if the mood hits and she’s busy working, the siren song of Uber Eats can be hard to resist.
While Suter estimates that typically she’ll split her time 50-50 between the two businesses, “lately it’s been more like 80-20” in favour of the new endeavour. That often consists of communicating with suppliers, testing prototypes or working with her India-based manufacturer.
The latter represents one of the bigger lessons she learned from her first foray into fashion entrepreneurship a few years ago. “As much as people love the made-local thing, it’s just not feasible,” Suter says about a line of silk skirts that got into a couple of boutiques. After about six months, she realized the venture wasn’t working.
She thinks Huha’s anti-bacteria, anti-odour underwear will be different. “I just felt there was such a space in the market for this,” Suter says. “All my friends I talked to felt the same way. By the time I got to a place of doing more research, I was convinced it could work.”
This October night is a big one for Suter as she launches the Kickstarter campaign for Huha. She’s holding the launch party at her apartment downtown.
Early returns are good. Within a week of starting the campaign, Huha had raised more than double its $10,000 goal. Still, as Suter moves around the packed room and chats with friends and fashion industry pros, she can’t help but feel a tad anxious.
“It’s one of those things that until you actually ask people to give you their money, you can never be sure,” she admits. “As much as I’ve had so much support and so much attention on Instagram and people telling me they want it, I don’t know if I believe it until I see those dollars, right?”