In December 2015, Emma Cavanagh launched beauty, style and marketing blog The Em Mark. It’s a visual masterpiece filled with on-brand photos complete with complimentary colour schemes and design patterns. The content is product focused with splashes of personal experience, celebrating Emma’s journey through school and work, while also honouring her late father in the most symbolic of ways.
I met Emma during my undergrad. It was the late summer of 2008 and we bonded over really awful drink choices, like Vex and Mike’s Hard Lemonade (ick). We lived on the same floor in residence – actually just a few doors down from one another. I have this vivid memory of admiring Emma’s selection of scarves, neatly organized on a hanging rack, any time we would hang out. They were bright in colour but also so simple. Our rooms were extremely tiny – barely big enough for a twin sized bed and a long, skinny desk plastered to one of four walls. However, this scarf rack didn’t seem out of place – Emma made it work and it looked like it was part of the room.
Over the last year, I’ve watched The Em Mark share its story and just like I was in awe at Emma’s selection of stylish scarves, somehow perfectly placed in a room no more than 100 square feet, I continue to feel inspired by her journey with this online venture – something Emma has dedicated herself to, even though she spends hours and hours every day fulfilling other responsibilities.
Emma says her family would describe her as driven, spontaneous and stylish, while her friends would say she is fun and very unconventional. I think these five qualities are what make The Em Mark come more to life with each post.
For more about The Em Mark and Emma’s journey to blogging and fashion success, read our interview below.
- You love fashion, writing, photography, design, style… If there’s one thing I remember from studying with you during our undergrad, it’s that I was very envious of your room on residence because you somehow made even the smallest of spaces look amazing (as noted in my intro above). You have so many passions and are so good at creating beautiful spaces and beautiful content – how did you zone in, focus and ultimately create The Em Mark?
The Em Mark was a blog I thought about creating for over five years before I actually wrote my first post. Needless to say, it took a while and it wasn’t until blogging had become more popular that I realized it was now or never. The more blogs I came across, the more my passion grew, and I knew this feeling wasn’t going away. So one day, when I was in my second year of university and that feeling was roaring, I sat down and purchased a domain. Next came the blog design, and so on. It happened quite quickly because I had been thinking about it for so long.
Once the initial step was taken, everything else fell into place. It became a creative outlet outside of assignments, tests and the usual stresses of education. I worked on The Em Mark every night as a reward, and it sort of became part of my daily routine.
- How did you come up with the name, The Em Mark?
When it came to giving the blog a name, I thought about what I wanted it to represent. I wanted it to be my take on style, fashion and marketing. I wanted to make an impact and leave an impression on the blogging world. Using my nickname along with ‘mark,” which translates into impression, was the perfect name that incorporated everything I was aiming to accomplish.
- If there’s anything I’ve learned over the last few years working with A Quarter Young, it’s that collaboration is key. Who, or what, has helped you throughout your journey with The Em Mark?
Since its launch, The Em Mark has collaborated with Urban Planet, Sarah’s Soaps, the Spot app and has been featured by Reitmans and Cape Robbin. I am currently working with MediaNexus as well as Toronto based photographer Ally Chadwick. Stay tuned for more collabs in 2017!
- What, or who, has been your biggest method of motivation and inspiration since you started The Em Mark brand?
Three female bloggers are my biggest inspirations.
I have been following Frassy since 2008 and she was my initial inspiration for starting a blog. Her photography and writing inspire me every day.
Not Your Standard is my go-to local blogger; she has amazing style and is always on top of her game.
Thrifts and Threads I turn to for social media and marketing tips. She and her husband are amazing entrepreneurs.
These three bloggers inspire me every single day to improve The Em Mark, they have become my mentors and they don’t even know it!
My biggest motivation are my readers – having an audience to connect with provides purpose and gives me a reason to continue building my brand.
- In terms of creating content and working with brands to share tips, tricks and content pieces, are you doing all of this solo?
Besides the photography for style posts, I do all of my tips, tricks and content pieces solo. I have a background in fashion and beauty, therefore I feel more comfortable working alone, as I want these content pieces to be a direct reflection of my personal taste. When shooting style posts, I give my photographer complete creative control of the photos, but beauty photography is done by me.
- What’s the best part about getting to own and operate your brand?
The best part about owning and operating The Em Mark is the ability to consistently teach myself. I am always learning: what content works, what doesn’t work, what I need to do next and what needs to be improved. There is so much work behind the scenes of a blog, and learning along the way is the most rewarding feeling. It never gets boring and it’s never the same.
- What would you say is the most challenging aspect?
The most challenging aspect is balancing the blog with other responsibilities. During weeks where work and school are heavy, it becomes difficult to create content on a regular basis. The challenge can sometimes be met by making more time on the weekend for the blog, but this is not always possible.
- With blogging, comes a lot of writing – and sometimes, it’s easy to lose motivation. What is one thing you do, or maybe one thing you tell yourself, when you’re in need of some inspo?
Before writing a blog post, I spend a few minutes browsing Pinterest for quotes, read a page from one of my favourite books or a short poem. This gives me inspiration, clears my mind and creates the positivity I need to begin writing. I do this every time, and it always works.
- Web design is also something that comes with owning and operating a brand – a skill that’s sometimes really hard!! What have you learned about the art of web design since your journey with The Em Mark began?
Web design is very hard! I purchased my blog design off Etsy from a lovely web designer and chose to install it myself. The instillation alone taught me a lot about how a website works and what changes you can make to one in order to really make it your own. Since [the theme’s] installation, I have tweaked it a bit, and have learned that the intricacy and difficulty of web design is best suited for professionals. I will be hiring one for my next blog redesign!
- Where do you think your drive to create and craft came from? (A family member? A story? An experience?)
My Dad was an avid photographer; he would spend hours outside taking wildlife photos and even more time editing them. After he died, I wanted to continue his love of photography while incorporating my passions. This drove me to create and I think he would have loved what I have created using his old Canon.
- When did you realize you wanted to start your own brand?
I realized in 2008 that I wanted to start my own brand, but I had no idea where to begin. Fast forward to 2015 and there were so many resources available to help make this a reality. I couldn’t wait any longer.
- What do you do when you’re not working on The Em Mark?
When I’m not working on The Em Mark, you can find me either in class, working on assignments, making copious amounts of coffee or spending time with my boyfriend and friends. I really love scoping out new restaurants, cafes and travelling whenever I have a few free days. I am actually the Queen of finding the best places to eat, drink and take pictures.
- You’re currently in school – what are you taking? How do you manage The Em Mark and a course load?
I am currently in my third year of Business Communications. I manage schoolwork with the blog by figuring out weeks in advance what I want to feature, and by shooting on the weekends. I edit photos and write posts at night, and if I’m really lucky, I’ll save a few drafts and publish them during busy school weeks. Sometimes managing the two is a challenge, but when you plan in advance, it makes it a lot easier.
- When do you hope to finish this educational chapter? Do you have additional academic goals in mind?
I will be finishing my degree in April 2018 and will officially be done school forever. I had thought about applying for my MBA, but right now, my blog is what is driving me.
- You have experience interning at Canadian Living and ELLE Canada. What lessons did you learn here that you’ve brought with you to The Em Mark?
My internships with Canadian Living and Elle Canada taught me that forming good relationships with brands and people you look up to is very important. People within the fashion and beauty industry look out for one another, so it’s important to stay in touch and let contacts know you value your relationship with them. The same goes for blogging – form good relationships and constantly support your fellow bloggers, in turn they will support you in succeeding.
- For other students potentially looking to land an internship at a major publication, or another major organization, like the ones mentioned above, what tips would you share that might help them get the gig?
I could probably write an entire blog post on this question. The first thing that comes to mind is to start a blog! When I landed my internship, I didn’t have one, and it’s something they asked for. A blog can work as an online resume to show organizations what you can do, and who you are. It’s also important to stay on top of what’s going on in the world – editors look to hire well-rounded individuals with a good understanding of [events and news] outside of school.
Pro tip: take a fact-checking course, or buy a fact-checking book. It’s not enough to have good style and know this and that about beauty products; you need to be able to write. I was given a pre-interview test that required quite a bit of writing and editing (hence the fact checking book). I had previously taken a fact-checking night course at Ryerson University, which helped.
Finally, this might sound cliché but – be yourself, seriously. Interning is an amazing experience, and editors want you to have fun and get the most out of it, so try not to be super serious during the interview. I know [the process is] nerve racking, but your unique personality has a lot to do with their decision in hiring you, and you don’t want to hide your fun side by being too serious.
- You seem to have a lot of volunteer experience under your belt – would you say volunteering is vital to overall success? Why?
Yes, of course! Volunteering is the gateway to networking and these days, networking is everything. While a lot of people never volunteer, it’s a great way to learn what you like, and what you don’t like, without giving a long-term commitment. It also provides you with experience you can add to your resume. Volunteer with a PR agency or a designer for fashion week and you will meet so many people. [This can] potentially land [you] an internship opportunity while creating important relationships within the industry.
- What’s next for you and your brand?
I have a lot planned for The Em Mark in 2017. I am currently in the process of moving overseas to Sweden for six months; as a result of this move, my blog will be shifting and [will develop] a Scandinavian feel. I will be blogging about Scandinavian style, beauty, design, food, culture and travel. Although I am not 100 per cent sure how style posts will be created with my current photographer in Canada, there will be a lot of unique and exciting content to come!
- Is there anything else you want our readers to know about your brand?
I want A Quarter Young readers to know that The Em Mark is a brand that really encourages everyone to leave their mark, no matter what they are pursuing. Be creative, be fearless and be unique.
Safe travels to Sweden, Em! We can’t wait to see what’s next for you.