It took Christie Lohr all of two weeks to decide she was going to quit her stable fashion recruitment job in pursuit of her own business. Goodbye, secure income; hello, uncertainty.
Except she was never uncertain.
Lohr was so sure that her idea—a Canadian fashion job board—would succeed that she never even made a plan B.
She started Style Nine to Five, a Vancouver-based site that connects qualified fashion work seekers with potential employers, six years ago. In the first two years, it was tough, and profits were small. But she wasn’t ready to stop making a go at it, and good thing, too, because now she has a thriving business that is the only one of its kind in the country. “I knew it was going to work,” she says over coffee at Kafka’s. “I’m stubborn like that. When I have an idea, I just don’t give up.” Having worked in the business for years as a store manager, buyer, and recruiter, Lohr knew there was a Style Nine to Five-shaped hole in the market. Using the big-name job boards wasn’t producing the kind of results she needed: applicants were unqualified, industries were not focused, and posting prices were high. In comparison, Style Nine to Five is exclusively for jobs in the fashion industry; it’s a place where searchers know they can go to find the best available positions across the country, and similarly, it’s a trusted place that brands and stores needing employees know they can go to find the right fit.
Lohr smartly made herself the face of the company; the beautiful 36-year-old has strong social media clout, with over 11,000 Instagram followers and a slew of television appearances. Girls aspire to be like her, and companies love to work with her. “I want them to fill the job with me—I don’t want them to have to go and try another job board,” she says of her clients. “I’ll do anything. I’ll spend two hours on a Saturday doing some sourcing myself for that role.” Customer service is a huge part of her business model, as well, and every buyer receives a personal thank-you card just for working with her. “I like that personal connection,” she explains. “I think that makes a difference. People love that they can email me and I respond right away. ‘Oh my gosh, the founder’s responding to me?’ ‘Yeah!’ That differentiates the business.” Employers pay Lohr for a 30-day posting—her personal guarantee is that if a job isn’t filled in that time, she will re-post it for free. Each job also gets promoted on Style Nine to Five’s social media accounts, and for an extra fee, employers can access the site’s resume database of vetted candidates.
Every decision Lohr has made for the business has been decided on her own, based on her personal judgement. “I don’t have a business partner,” she says. “I have no one else to ask but myself. So I’ve had to learn to trust my intuition and my expertise.” In the early days, she had to do a lot of “pounding the pavement” to get people using the site, and often spent time personally recruiting contenders to apply for certain positions. Now with 2,500 hits per day Style Nine to Five can work its own magic, but Lohr still retains that personal touch. “Every day I go in the backend and see who’s applying to what: how many applicants and how many page views per job,” she says. “Some of the ones, like the buyers, get way more than the store managers. But I’m trying to get the store manager ones just as successful, so then I might focus more on promoting the store manager job than the stylist job. One job was only up for a week, it got 172 applications; LinkedIn, just to compare, gets around the same amount of applications. [Mine] had 1,100 page views on that one job.” Take the posting down: the words, which indicate another happy patron, are music to her ears.
Lohr has trademarked the Nine to Five name, and has already expanded into other markets: Beauty Nine to Five for cosmetics jobs in Canada and Style Nine to Five New York for fashion work in Manhattan, with Los Angeles coming up next; Bev Nine to Five, for Vancouver’s beverage industry, has just launched, as well. The Canadian beauty site has been around for three years, and though it is working, it hasn’t been as successful as Lohr had imagined. “Beauty Nine to Five, I don’t know why it hasn’t grasped as much,” she admits. “I’m trying to figure that out still.” She continues, “Maybe I took on too much. I don’t know.” She raises a pointer finger. “But I’m not giving up.”
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