If the way Alle Fister snagged her career-launching job right out of school is any indication — by boldly pitching her skills through… wait for it… Shopbop’s customer comments section — founding her own public relations agency was pretty much kismet. “I was just really thinking about the ‘other.’ I was thinking about what would benefit the business. I was thinking about what I could bring to the table based upon their goals,” she recalls. That same gumptious spirit took her from Shopbop stylist to the growing company’s first-ever PR director and spokesperson after she noticed the site needed much more media attention.
Fister eventually stepped out on her own to start a public relations agency with Shopbop as her first client and herself as her only employee. Nine years later, Bollare Communications is a full-service lifestyle, beauty and fashion public relations agency that has 65 staff members and more than 150 clients, most of whom are what Fister describes as “cool kid, contemporary brands,” including Vans, Reformation, the shopping app Spring and Lumo BodyTech. “If I wasn’t doing this for a living I’d probably be doing some of these things socially or as a point of passion anyway. I’m a natural connector. If you tell me that you’re going somewhere, I want to tell you what to eat, sleep, drink and do. So it doesn’t feel like ‘work,'” she says.
Here, Fister reflects on how she built her career and her company, and shares some tips on maintaining work-life balance.
Name: Alle Fister
Position: Founder and principal, Bollare Communications
Resume: Started her career at women’s online retailer Shopbop in 2004 as a founding member and stylist. Went on to become Shopbop’s first PR director, often appearing in the media as Shopbop’s style expert on more than 400 television shows, including the Today show and MTV’s Total Request Live. Has also contributed her style expertise to publications such as Allure, Lucky and Glamour. Started Bollare Communications in 2006 with Shopbop as her first client and has since grown the company from a team of one in her apartment to 65 team members in three offices: LA, New York and London.
Birthday: December 1, 1981
Hometown: Atherton, CA
Education: Bachelor’s in communications and marketing from Pepperdine University
Marital status: Married
Media mentors: Katherine Power and Hillary Kerr of Clique Media,”I really, really look up to their voice and what they’ve created, from an entrepreneurial standpoint.”
Best career advice received: “‘The harder you work, the luckier you seem to get.’ That was initially told to me by my grandpa.”
Guilty pleasure: Bravo
Last book read: How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
Twitter handle: @AlleFister
You pitched Shopbop’s founder Bob Lamey via the site’s comments section. Were you confident that would work?
One of my traits is that I am very tenacious and I really look for that in my team members as well. I think if you really think something through then the odds of it working the way you want it to are high. So I’m very thoughtful before I do something, but when I do it I’m quite confident that I’ll get the results I want because I know that I’ve done the due diligence to make sure that it’s going to go in the direction that we need it to go.
When you were at Shopbop, you wore many hats. What is your advice for people who have roles that require them to do a little bit of everything?
I cannot tell you what a gift it was for me. Be very clear [about] your goals, and your goals then will shape your asset requests and needs. Be very thoughtful about those things and see everything as an opportunity to learn. Be a sponge. I think when you graduate college or even after you’ve worked for a few years you don’t even know all the ways you can make a living. If someone told me this would be my job, I would have been like, ‘Oh my God, no way.’ And [this] wouldn’t have been my job if I wasn’t constantly learning from all those around me and then being smarter and smarter about how I took [work] on each day thereafter.
What were some of the highest highs and some of the lowest lows you experienced while building up Bollare?
When I got my first commercial space [that] was one of the highest highs. Signing that lease was also one of the scariest moments. I styled it all up. I spent all the money I had earned on really cool wallpaper, and I got these light fixtures that had to be hand strung, and to save money I strung them myself with my dad. And I built all the desks from Ikea and I made 12 workstations. I was like, if I build it they will come. I believed in it so much. And that’s such a fond memory for me. And then opening our New York office. And then our second New York office. And our big LA office. And our London office. All of those benchmarks to me are just so cool. Low lows? It sucks to lose a client you really love, or I hate it when I have team members transition who I think the world of — even if I know maybe it’s good for their own journey. I become quite attached to the team and to the brands that we foster here. Those are hard days for me.
How does your personality or your attitude seep into Bollare’s ethos?
A lot. I tell people there are three things you need to be a great Bollare team member. The first one is an entrepreneurial spirit. You have to constantly be self-reflective for the agency, for your clients and for your coworkers on how to always do things faster, smarter, cooler and more cost-effectively — constantly thinking about the bottom line. Second thing is a sense of team. I know I’m a better person for meeting all the people on my team and I want people around me who love that team spirit and love helping somebody else out. And the third thing is a nimble energy. We didn’t go from one person to 60 people in nine years and, working out of my house to three offices, without some good days and some hard days. You have to be able to bounce through those rides.
What are some of the best lessons you’ve learned from your team?
From Kassidy [Babcock], who is my director of brand strategies, I have learned and cemented the value of relationships, done with a warm heart and a friendly spirit. With Sara Flores, who I just moved over to run my London operation, I have learned hard work and persistence. From Aileen [Ablaza], who runs my LA office, I have learned the importance of having a transparent relationship with team members and really fostering the sense of team. I really learn something from everybody who works here, no matter if they run an office or they do front-of-house. It’s something I really enjoy, getting to know each of them.
Why was London the next city you wanted your company to expand to?
We want to continuously look at the types of brands that we want to have on our roster. Where are they based? What do they need? And how can we fulfill that for them? [There are] big, behemoth brand partners out of the UK that we want to make sure we continue to remain close to, from Tangle Teezer to Fornasetti. We also see London as a great natural bridge between Western Europe and the States for brands that want to either come over here or do further business over in Western Europe, and that bridge is somewhere we want to be.
What are your tips for people living a bi-coastal professional lifestyle, though yours is more than bi-coastal at this point?
It sounds more glamorous on the Internet than it really is. You don’t Instagram the 1 a.m. email [or] the worry that comes along with success. And I think so many times people just look at the glossy stuff. You Instagram the moment you got to sneak away and go check out the Eiffel Tower. We call it work for a reason. Identify the things that are important for you and schedule them in like anything else. Time with my husband’s very important. Time to call my mom each day or my dad is something that’s very important to me. I love a good workout. Decide what’s important to you and really prioritize those things because what makes you successful typically is that you think of yourself last and that you work very hard. But what’s going to allow you to sustain [it] is that you can continue to have some of those things that keep you happy and healthy as a person.
What’s next for you and Bollare?
I want the business to be as big as it takes to have the coolest brands we feel really passionate about [and] that helps employ a rad team that is super committed to doing a great job. And that could be a 10-person team or a 100-person team. As long as we continue to have magnetic brand partners and magnetic team members, we’ll continue to grow.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.