This is story 8 of the Real Style Project. To learn more about the Real Style Project and what it's all about, click here.
Whether you need a listening ear,
a cheerleader, or a swift (yet kind) kick in the butt,
Mandy Balak is your girl!
Born and raised in Vancouver, Mandy has called Calgary home for the last 10 years and just celebrated her 32nd birthday this past May (her birthday and her finace James' birthday are just days apart). Whether her name is familiar to you or not, Mandy has an incredible list of of businesses & experience under her belt: Ace Class ("Our vision is to create a world where women can thrive together" - from theaceclass.com), Rise (an annual conference-style event for women to create connection, community and empowerment), Date Night, Best of Calgary, Branded Magazine, spin class Motivator, Mandy's podcast with Ace Talks and the Mandy Balak website that includes her unique & motivational blogs about life, self-love, and lessons learned.
Now, I don't know about you, but just looking at that list is equal parts overwhelming and inspiring, but I am also in awe of Mandy for all that she has done, accomplished and learned. While some of those businesses have been put to bed, Mandy talks about each venture with honesty, humility and an intense fondness. Mandy always recognizes the value of putting yourself out there and views every failed attempt as an incredible opportunity - one of her well-known, and incredibly life-giving quotes speaks directly to that : "failure doesn't happen to you failure happens for you" And an extension of that, I have heard Mandy say it, and you'll find it in many of her interviews, she strives to continuously "level up".
What we do for work and all of our business-related successes & failures play an integral role in who, and how, we are. These pieces of our lives are major contributors to shaping us, but they aren't the only pieces.
There is no question that Mandy Balak has an impressive amount of business experience, but she is so much more than her resume. Mandy is down-to-earth and loves relaxing at home with her man, going bowling, meeting friends for drinks, travelling the world, coffee, and let's not even start on how much she loves toast. Mandy is a champion at fusing her everyday passions together with her entrepreneurial passions and creating something that is beautiful & unique.
To round-out Mandy's style story and to give you a greater sense of who she is and what she stands for, I asked her a series of questions. Read my interview with Mandy Balak below.
How would you describe your style?
Laid back and approachable. I would say I'm a jeans and converse kind of gal.
What are some items that you seem to always wear?
Moto jackets and sneakers. I always feel polished and put together when I have a badass jacket on, plus, I like to rock white sneakers whenever possible.
What is style to you?
I love the saying "Be your brand" and I often get dressed thinking "Is this on brand for me?" I think it's so important to just own your signature look, whatever that may be. Style should be comfortable and feel authentic.
In a room full of people, what do you think other people see?
I'm an introvert who's often confused as an extrovert.
What do you love about yourself?
My smile and my ability to connect people.
Your personal mantra:
If it's not a f*ck yes, it's a no.
What are some of your personal core values or guiding principles?
Ambition, growth, connection, freedom and real-ness. These are my guiding lights for decision making in my life and are the foundation within both of my businesses.
As a little girl, what did you dream about doing/being when you grew up?
I wanted to be a CEO, an artist, and a fashion designer. I remember having an idea for a cosmetic brand where I wanted to name all the lipsticks after my friends.
Toughest part of being a 30-something woman?
Saying No. I have burnt myself out endless times over the past few years trying to please everyone and taking on endless things just because. The older I get, the wiser I get to the idea that no matter what, I'll never make everyone happy, but at the end of the day I have to take care of my own priorities and the people who matter most, and learn to say no to everything else.
What advice would you give your younger self?
It's all going to be ok.
Why do you think it is so important that women find their tribe/community?
Having a community is EVERYTHING! It means that you have people that you can be real with, that will be there to support you, and you will likely feel less alone because you have women that "get it".
I moved to Calgary from Vancouver 10 years ago and knew no one in this city. I have spent my entire professional and entrepreneurial career invested in building community because I struggled with feeling alone. I felt alone when I knew no one here, alone when I was starting my first business off my living room floor, alone when I failed and had to shut something down that was so attached to my identity, and alone when I was stepping into my true self- building ACE.
Having people in my community that I trust and that can not only hold me up, but hold me accountable, makes me feel a little less crazy and a lot less alone. Community can be anything - a Facebook group, a friend to go to a fitness class with, your neighbor, a group, a committee... You really don't need much, BUT connection and belonging is the birthplace of happiness (quoted by the incredible Brene Brown). So if you feel disconnected, where can you lean in?
What are three key factors to consider when looking for your community?
Can you be yourself without judgement?
Do they inspire you to shine bright?
Have they shown up when the chips are down?
Mandy's style is uncomplicated with both
classic and contemporary tones and always
has that understated sexy edge.
She was immediately drawn to the Northern Star Necklace because she said the North Star is a symbol that holds personal significance. I don't know Mandy well, but I from what I do know, I thought the Sono Necklace with "To thine own self be true" engraved on it would resonate well with who she is and what she stands for. When I showed Mandy this particular Sono piece, she loved not only the inscription but also the anchor image on the pendant.
There is no question that Mandy Balak is a warrior and a champion- when she believes in something, or wants something, she goes for it. The path may not be straight and narrow, but she doesn't shy away from pushing through, yet she also has the wisdom to accept when something has reached its final round. I believe that for Mandy, this is applicable in all areas of her life, and it's something that we can all learn from. I don't want to make her out to be some God (even though she is a Goddess...but then again, aren't we all?!)- Mandy is like every single one of us and there are parts of her story that we can all relate to.
From Mandy's Style Story there is one specific thing that really struck a chord with me. It's when she shared the quote from Brene Brown :
Connection and belonging is the birthplace of happiness.
Let that sit with you for a minute.
Let it settle.
This really sinks in and gives me that Oprah Winfrey "aha moment" where the only thing that comes to mind is a resounding "yes!
What do you take away from Mandy's Style Story?
The photography for Mandy Balak's Style Story was captured by the amazing Melanie from Grey Lily Photography.