I had first heard of Jessica Kaplan through a contact who mentioned that the Brand Director of Mendocino and M for Mendocino was a hip + urban girl in her late 20s. I'm always impressed by young and ambitious people carving a space out for themselves and thought Jessica would be perfect fit for this column.
How did Mendocino and M for Mendocino start?
My parents, Jan Kaplan and Norma Caron, were inspired to start Mendocino when they saw a void in Toronto's retail market and had the foresight to fill it. Fast forward 25 years, Mendocino is still at the forefront with eight boutiques across the GTA.
In 2009, we opened sister division, M for Mendocino, to cater to the growing demand for accessible style. At M, women can find quality, trend-driven fashion and it's not rare for our customers to walk out with complete outfits for under $100.
Tell us about your job!
As Brand Director for Mendocino and M for Mendocino, I’m responsible for ensuring that both brands are represented in the best way in all avenues of our business as well as in social and traditional media.
I oversee and work with my team on various aspects of marketing and PR – from all of our social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram for both Mendocino and M, and new this month, Tumblr for M!) and websites to in-store signage, packaging design, events and so much more.
Did you always want to work in the family business?
Mendocino has been more than a family business for me, it’s been my life! With parents that work together, I learned a lot about retail from a very young age.
Growing up, I always knew I wanted to work in Public Relations, to be one of the people behind the scenes. Back then, I thought of it more for the glitz and glamour seen in the media.
After working on the agency side of PR for a few years, I felt it was important to show the Mendocino management team the immediate impact that PR support would have on the business. I was able to sell in the importance of my position at Mendocino – and the rest, as they say, is history!
What is your typical day like?
One of the best parts of my day is that there’s no such thing as a typical day! Working in a small family business, it’s all hands on deck. Beyond the PR side of things, we all work together and support each other in different areas of the business to ensure that we have satisfied all of our customers across the GTA. I get to do what I love for a great company, and best of all, I get to share it with our devoted customer base.
Where does Mendocino go to do the buying for its stores?
We have two distinct and talented buying teams for Mendocino and M. Both teams work very hard to find the best up and coming brands to bring a unique mix into their division’s stores.
The Mendocino team is always at the forefront of fashion, bringing in of-the-moment brands and items from Toronto and Montreal (we LOVE Canadian designers), as well as fashionable international cities like New York, Los Angeles, Italy and Paris.
At M, the buyers are always travelling to Montreal, New York and Los Angeles, on the hunt for the latest on-trend items at unbelievable prices to bring home to Toronto’s ten boutiques (and counting).
Where did you go for college/university and what did you study?
I started my studies at University of Toronto and moved to complete my undergraduate degree at York University in Mass Communications. I knew I wanted to get into PR so I went straight from my bachelor’s degree into the Corporate Communications program at Seneca College.
Is there anything you would have done differently or advise others about?
While I’m so happy with my current position and the path I’ve taken to get here, I would have loved to explore more summer internships while in school – locally or in different cities. I was lucky enough to finish high school abroad, but internships are such invaluable experiences that you wouldn’t likely get otherwise.
What would you tell your 20 year-old self and what life advice would you share?
Don’t worry so much! Have some fun and do what you love, because everything always works out in the end.
On finding your career:
Do what you love and you will love what you do. It’s so important to look at your passions and explore the options that lie within them. Take a look through industry magazines to learn more about the area you want to work in, and I can’t speak highly enough about informational interviews. You can learn so much by just asking the right questions!
Learn more about Mendocino:
Learn more about M: