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Be One. Inspire One: ‘Stand up for what you believe in’

The best advice anyone ever gave Erika Fox is ‘The harder you work, the luckier you get’

Making the move from Kerry to Manhattan isn't the biggest move Erika Fox has ever made. She also made the leap from marketing other people's products and services, to marketing herself. And she has succeeded with style. Today her fashion and lifestyle brand Retro Flame is a social media sensation, with more than 100,000 followers worldwide.

Fox has been nominated one of IrishCentral’s Top 40 US Digital Influencers and one of New York’s top 20 style bloggers.

Retro Flame documents her work, travels, outfits and inspirations across YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat. Her blogging, which started out addressing an audience comprised mainly of family and friends, soon turned into a passport to work with global brands such as Michael Kors, Vera Wang and Ted Baker, shooting Fox into the pages of international publications from Teen Vogue to Seventeen.

It has been a stellar rise for a woman who started out studying commerce at NUI Galway, specialising in marketing. Showing global ambition even as a student, she spent her summers interning with public relations companies and brands in New York, including Refinery29, Whitney Port and Olivia Palermo, typically working for free.


That enabled her to move to Manhattan on a graduate visa. "I got a full-time job working as a social media manager with Vince Camuto and after a year there, I was able to secure a visa in the US to work on Retro Flame full time, collaborating with brands through my social media, blog and Youtube channel both in the US and back home in Europe, " says Fox.

Not bad for an endeavour that started out as a hobby. “I never imagined in a million years it would become my full-time job. I’m pretty sure my friends and family thought I was crazy at the time but I just wanted somewhere that I could share my outfits and inspirations. I worked hard – and for free – for years and then eventually, I began making an income from it through working with brands. I believe you know you love what you’re doing when your job stems from a passion you were willing to do for free for years.”

Passion certainly takes a lot of the pain out of the hard work of growing a business. “You definitely need a lot of patience to do this but I think my situation was a little different (to other start-ups) mainly because I never started Retro Flame in a bid to make money or grow it into something as big as it is now. I did it because I was passionate and I think that really stood to me and helped me grow it without even realising.”

If she was starting out again she’d do some things differently however. “I would definitely have expanded my team earlier. Sometimes you just have to do things before you’re ready. I currently have one person on the Retro Flame team. I didn’t expand earlier because I felt I wasn’t ready financially, but taking on someone has made a huge difference to my business – I can produce so much more content and I believe delegation is key to succeeding.”

Her other top tip is to stay grounded. “I always say if you work hard and be a nice person, it will get you places. Those are two attributes which are so important in my industry,” says Fox. “I’m genuinely so inspired by fellow bloggers. It’s an industry we crafted from nothing and it’s so inspiring to see other bloggers go on and build huge brands outside of their blogs.”

Her primary inspiration is closer to home. “Definitely my mom. She always taught me to think big, work hard and never give up. She also definitely passed down her perfectionism to me.”

She in turn is keen to be a good role model for younger women looking to follow in her footsteps. “What I have learned – in life and business – is the importance of always being true to yourself. Trying to be anything else will always come back to bite you. Stand up for what you believe in, always, and you’ll attract the right people and opportunities.”

Fox’s proudest moment was taking her entrepreneurial leap. “Being able to quit my job and work for myself full time in New York was a dream of mine for years, so being able to do that was amazing.”

With every step she takes, her aim is to make her next step even better. “I’m more competitive with myself than anyone else so I’m always trying to be better than I was yesterday. That’s my motivation,” says Fox. “My readers and followers motivate me too – I never want them to get bored.”

Though the commercial success of her business is a measure of its success, for Fox, true success is happiness. “Whether it’s in business or in relationships, once I’m truly happy, I know I’m doing things right,” she says.

Central to that happiness is finding a good work-life balance. “It’s definitely important to me,” says Fox, “although I do find it a little bit difficult, I won’t lie! I find it especially hard to achieve that balance here in New York as it’s a city where everyone is always switched to ‘on’. But as time goes by, I’m finding specific things that help – at weekends, I love to stroll around Central Park and during the week, the gym is my saviour.”

She needs that downtime, because always, at the back of her mind is the phrase she cites as the best advice anyone ever gave her – “The harder you work, the luckier you get.”

Stories of successful Irish women

Be One. Inspire One, sponsored by Ulster Bank, is a series that tells the stories of successful Irish women and what it is that inspires them.

The series is being supported by Ulster Bank, which understands the need for flexible solutions for busy professionals. "Ulster Bank Private Banking allows you the flexibility you need by saving you time and helping you to manage your personal banking from wherever you are, whenever you want, leaving you free to focus on the things that really matter in your life," says Sandra O'Rourke, relationship manager with Ulster Bank Private Banking.

For more, see ulsterbank.ie