A Penn State Marketing and International Business graduate, Kaitlin Derkach is a partner at The Promotion Factory. It is the role and work of such agencies to develop brand storytelling. Kaitlin is one of the industry’s unsung heroes who conscientiously and passionately works behind the scenes to share her clients stories in watchmaking.
(Photograph by Liam O’Donnell)
1. Describe briefly your childhood.
I grew up in a small beach town on the Jersey Shore. When I say small, I mean small. I graduated from high school with 80 something kids and the town itself was literally a square mile. Not that that’s a bad thing. It was actually a really lovely place to grow up. Although everyone knew your business, somehow that ended up being a good thing. You felt safe and now that I’m older, I can appreciate that.
2. As a child did you have any driving ambition?
I never knew exactly what I wanted to do, but I knew I wanted to work. My birthday falls during the summer and I remember as summer approached, everyone already having their first jobs secured now that they were the legal age to work and me waiting impatiently for July to come. When I finally turned the legal age, all the “good” jobs were taken. As I got older, I eventually wanted to be in advertising, but then when college came, it was either marketing or supply chain for me. I obviously took the marketing route, although I do wonder every now and then how supply chain would have worked out. It still very much intrigues me.
3. What is your first significant memory as a child?
Playing at my aunt’s house with my cousins who were like my brothers growing up. My aunt had this large property and we used to play manhunt in the woods and climb the forts my uncle built for us in the trees. It was like our own fantasyland.
4. Have you ever had another profession?
I’ve always been in Public Relations, but when I started it was for high fashion RTW clients working on their communications strategy, but focusing heavily on the organization of their seasonal press presentations and runway shows during NYFW and globally.
5. What made you decide to go in the direction you are currently in?
Honestly, it started with me telling myself that I needed to be more open and willing to new opportunities and become aware enough to recognize those that were in front of me for the taking. As I continued to work, one thing after another kept coming and I kept going. I just so happened to end up at an agency that works in all areas of marketing so for me I hit the lottery and was able to develop my talents in other areas outside the scope of traditional PR.
6. What’s the worst job you’ve had to do?
I worked in fashion retail for a short time in college and it was very mind numbing to me. Maybe it was the location of the store, but the lack of foot traffic and overwhelming need to board fold clothes was not something that stimulated my creativity.
7. What’s been the hardest moment in your life so far, and how did you overcome it?
The hardest moment in my life was watching my mom suffer through kidney failure and go through dialysis for over five years. My mother is the strongest person I know and it was hard to watch her suffer. As an only child I think it was a bit more surreal for me because she was and still is my best friend; the thought of possibly losing her not only as my mother, was hard, especially over such a long of a period of time. Thankfully and I mean THANKFULLY, we survived.
8. Who has had the strongest influence on you?
My mentors, Dennis and Estella Foy, definitely had the strongest influence on me. I started working for them when I was sixteen, managing their restaurants and running front of house. It was during this experience where I learned my most valuable social skills, problem solving and critical thinking. I was faced with many different situations and I am so grateful for both Dennis and Estella for not only putting me in front of those situations, but trusting me in them. They were a huge part of my growth as an individual and part of the reason for who I am today. They both challenged me, but supported me and still do to this very day. I am very lucky that our paths crossed. One other person who has had a strong influence on me is President of The Promotion Factory, Venanzio Ciampa. His experience, passion, loyalty and personality are one of a kind. He has worked with some of the top brands in the watch industry and as a former journalist himself, really has a lot of insight and guidance to provide when it comes to marketing communications. Not only this, but he truly believes in his co-workers and that makes a world of difference these days.
9. What are you most proud of?
I’m most proud of where I am today. I feel like I have come a long way, experienced a ton of amazing things and worked on a lot of interesting projects and with great clients both domestically and abroad. At 30 years old, I am partner of an agency and I think that’s a great start for my 30s.
10. What advice would you give to a 20 something someone thinking of taking a similar path as you?
Work with honor and always try to do your best in everything you do. If you’re always putting forth your hardest effort and your best foot forward, then even if you fail at what you’re doing, you at least know you tried.
11. Name three things on your bucket list.
1. Live on the West Coast
2. Have a large garden
3. Continue my education
12. Where do you think the industry is going to be in 10 years time.
I hope the industry will be much more advanced in creating an “experience” for the consumer rather than just presenting another product with a story around it. From the content brands are creating, the platforms they are choosing to leverage that content across, to how retailers reimagine their presentation of brands both via e-commerce and in brick-and-mortar, it all needs to be more unique. It will be up to all parties to work together in creating more of an immersive landscape for the consumer, one that can really make the younger generations say, “Wow. Look at this. I want this and I want to know more.” We need to better engage the curiosity in people!
To learn more about Kaitlin Derkach