The first time I met Nicki Laborie was at a blogger brunch that our mutual friend Valerie Stachurski had organized in Toronto. I was impressed by how smart she was and how clear her vision was on what it was she was trying to accomplish with her vlog, View the Vibe. Since that initial brunch, Nicki Laborie has gone on to expand her site into Vancouver and has grown her vlog into a full-on lifestyle website.
Here’s how she did it and how she got her start! Meet Nicki Laborie!
How did you end up starting your website and video guide, View the Vibe?
I was new to Toronto in June 2007 and found myself using restaurant search engines and review sites to find restaurants. Then I’d go to the restaurant and be disappointed as the reviews and pictures were not always accurate.
As someone who has been working in both the restaurant and marketing/PR industries for 20 years, I often feel these restaurant guides and review sites do not truly reflect the essence of what a restaurant is truly about. A few years ago, I saw a video made for a restaurant in Europe and thought that this was a great way to showcase a restaurant – not a TV commercial but a glimpse into what the establishment is about when it’s busy.
Nowadays, people choose a restaurant based on their mood or date for the evening – a video can properly showcase everything from the food, to the decor, to the type of clientele, to the overall “vibe”. Hence, this is how View the Vibe was born.
I did research across North America to see what other sites were producing videos and while I found some, nobody was creating the high quality “movie trailer” style video that I was envisioning. That was in August 2010 – I wrote a business plan and less than 2 months later incorporated the company.
The vision/execution for the videos is very important to me – my videographers follow a style that we aim to keep unique to View the Vibe. We also film while a restaurant is busy with no actors or extra lighting – the videos truly reflect the actual vibe. At this point, we have grown into a full service video marketing company and while filming a beautiful high quality video is great, if the video is not marketed, then it’s useless!
How did you gain so much video experience? Is this something you studied?
Funny enough, I have never worked in video… but I have always been a visionary so this allowed me to translate my vision to the videographers that I’ve worked with. After six months of working with a few different people, I found two that I still work with today and who always strive to produce a product that is true to our client’s brands. All I do is direct them – but I believe you need to let people do what they’re good at so while they have guidelines, they are the ones creating the beautiful videos.
I noticed that you attended the Fashion Institute of Technology! What drew you from a career in fashion and into a career in food?
Ah yes – my two loves: fashion and food. To be perfectly honest, I ended up at the Fashion Institute of Technology after doing 3 years in culinary/restaurant management. The Montreal school I attended (LaSalle College) also had a fashion program and I was always being pulled towards it. Then my good friend Desia Brill (of Brill Communications) moved to NYC to finish her fashion degree and when I visited I knew I wanted to live there. I moved two months later and transferred to FIT. After graduating, I worked in a luxury lifestyle PR firm mainly on fashion clients – and enjoyed it. However, one day I was given a restaurant account working with top chef Charlie Palmer and it was then that I knew I really loved the restaurant world. At that point my career just naturally followed in that direction.
What did you learn about building an audience when it came to your website?
When I launched the site, I knew nothing about promoting an online entity – and it’s not an easy thing to do! Over the years I have learned a lot, but mostly to develop your audience you need to be present and you need to stand out. Twitter became a full time job as did attending events and posting on my blog. I stood out from everyone else because instead of doing a write-up with photos, I video documented the event in a more “reality TV” style. People thought I was crazy…. Standing at events talking to myself on a flip cam certainly doesn’t do much for your pride, but it did make people notice me!
Eventually the blog took on an entity of its own which is why now we’ve turned it into a full online lifestyle magazine, still documenting a lot of our stories via video. I also focus on the quality of content and keep a close eye on what articles do well and which ones don’t. I am very focused on having an audience that comes back regularly because they love reading/watching our content.
Nicki Laborie (right) with friend
What’s a typical day like in the life of Nicki Laborie?
Everyday is different and lately it’s been nuts because we recently expanded into Vancouver. My “ideal” day is getting up at 6am, enjoying a quiet hour with coffee while checking emails and news, then working out and getting to the office by 10am. Depending on the day, I am in and out of meetings with potential clients, current clients, potential partners etc and then usually attending events at night. Once a week I schedule “date night” with my better half otherwise we simply don’t see each other!
What is the single most important non-negotiable thing for you when designing your lifestyle and career?
Happiness. If I am not happy, I have to contemplate what I’m doing. So far, View the Vibe makes me very happy even though it’s hard work. I also try to keep a balanced lifestyle, which is an important factor to my overall happiness.
What do you do to de-stress?
Drink wine and hot yoga…. Again, balance is key 😉
Best piece of life advice to share?
Do what you love for a living and don’t settle for anything less. Don’t be afraid to take risks, as it’s those risks that may get you there.