Babba Canales is a force. Listed in Forbes 30 Under 30 for her work partnering Uber with rag and bone, where she highlighted the democratizing private driver experience that Uber provides by giving away coveted seats at New York Fashion Week to the public through the Uber app, the woman knows how to make a buzz. You’ve undoubtedly heard of Away Luggage. Yep, that is also the work of Babba. She represents global clients with her new creative agency, By Babba, has lived an international life, and draws endless inspiration from each country she had lived in (four, to be exact). This marketing leader celebrates radical vulnerability and invites you to do the same.
The NuWa team was invited to Spring Place to hear about Babba’s latest adventures in creative marketing, and boy, are they creative. Learn about her cultural background, what email she HATES to see in her inbox, and how many Away suitcases she actually has.
Where are you from originally?
I am from Sweden.
Does that inform your cultural background?
If you’re asking why I’m brown, it’s not from Sweden. It’s from Chile. Both of my parents are from Chile in South America. I was born and raised in Sweden and moved here, to New York, three years ago.
Can you give us a brief synopsis of your marketing journey?
I studied International Sales and Marketing. I soon moved to Berlin to work with my favorite eyewear brand, Mykita. Bonacle, my first blog about eyewear, was my big passion originally. Glasses are so underrepresented in fashion, and licensed brands dominate editorials. These are all made in the same factory and smacked with a logo. After my studying, I took a trainee position with the brand in Berlin but learned that I didn’t like the German work culture, as it is very hierarchical. Sweden has a flat hierarchy, so I moved back to start my own data-driven PR agency. Instead, Uber contacted me wanting to build a local marketing team to launch in Sweden.
How did Uber find you?
It’s so funny, everyone always says, “Oh my gosh, how did Uber find you?”, and I always say, “Calm down. It was 2012. Uber was not what it is today. It was not a big deal getting that email.” I went to their website and it was awful. But because I was starting my own agency, I was opportunistic. I went to a meeting thinking I would pitch them to join my agency, but during the meeting, I completely shifted gears. Instead, I said, “Oh my gosh, can I join this rocketship like, yesterday?” It was such a great school for me. I developed so much career-wise in that period.
Fantastic! What happened next?
Well, we’d made a real name for Uber in Sweden, but felt that I wasn’t learning from work anymore. I wanted to go through the journey again of taking on too much work and learning a lot on the way. So, I asked for a relocation to the New York marketing team. I took on fashion partnerships, merging my background in fashion with my passion for Uber!
How did that go?
It was a big task at hand for someone who knew zero people in New York and speaks broken English. I love doing things I’ve never done before, and when things are hard and you’re on the line of failing to turn around into a success story. I was an hour late for my first fashion meeting with Opening Ceremony! We got a ton of fashion partnerships. It was very entrepreneurial, in the way that I got to decide what would happen instead of someone telling me what to do.
Then what happened?
I wanted a new learning journey again. I’d been at Uber for 4 years. I was at a point in my career that I didn’t feel like I had to compromise. Though super thankful for everything, Away, the luggage brand approached me. I’m not sure if you’ve heard of them?
Actually, I own two.
Good! I have, like, five. This seemed like a great opportunity. They were early on, but venture-backed with runway to grow and needed someone to take a leadership role in marketing. No one was on the brand marketing side of things. I joined, built the team, and got to define what brand marketing meant for Away. We built a bit of an in-house agency, with departments focused on different categories like social media, influencer, experiential, and retail marketing. I felt like I’d built a baby company within a company!
Amazing! Is this where By Babba was formed?
Yes. I didn’t know what I would start. It could’ve been a brand, a startup in tech or fashion, something. The agile team we built at Away would be great to bring to multiple clients. It started with just me at the helm of every department, and now we’re six people.
Who are you serving with By Babba? Who are your ideal clients?
It’s about the project and the opportunity of impact. I love seeing the potential and then helping brands be the best versions of themselves. It’s about the impact. We truly are a creative team, working a lot with direct to consumer brands.
You know our friend Amy at sundays studio! We featured her on The NuWa.
Yes, we’re helping her with brand strategy through social channels.
What is Her USA?
Her is a community of women that started as a dinner. We wanted to create a space where women could collaborate and be supportive of each other. It grew into a network of hundreds of women hosting events. When I moved to New York, I brought the concept here and launched it in the US, finding an amazing female partner at one of our events who has complementary skills to mine. We’ve grown Her into a safe space for women to come and be vulnerable. Radical vulnerability is our motto.
That sounds awesome. Explain!
It’s pretty rare today, right? I haven’t ever been to events where people actually say, “You know what? I’m struggling with this.” Because in New York, everyone presents the curated version of themselves; their business is going so well, and everything is so great, but not everything is great all the time! We all need support in some aspect of our lives. It’s all about who you can help, about giving, and about being vulnerable.
Can we join?
We have an application form on the website with a link for how to join. We love welcoming new members.
Now, for classic The NuWa questions: How many countries have you lived in?
Four countries. Not that many.
That’s a few! Have these places influenced the way you work?
Every place impacts you. Living in Berlin gives you a sense of creativity. People gather around art and music. And in Stockholm, I learned about efficiencies and logistics. Getting both of that has shaped me to be goal oriented, but creative and spiritual. Also, New York is so hectic. If you don’t answer your email within an hour.
For instance, people are always saying, “Hey, just following up here.” and I’m like, “Yeah, keep following up. Because I am out here living a life!”
I’m starting to realize that it’s cooler to be mindful of how you spend your energy. Give my inbox a break! Not everything needs to be answered today. Just because someone forced their way into my inbox doesn’t give them priority over my family or my husband. Unsolicited emails can’t get priority. They decided they wanted to email me, I didn’t ask for it!
Yes! We so agree!
Also, the work will never be done. You’re never done. Emails get a response, and then another response, and so on. You have to decide where your boundaries are to be finished for the day.
Do you speak any other languages?
Swedish, Spanish and English, clearly.
Be on the lookout for Babba’s next exciting campaigns with Petite Studio, celebrating smaller, shorter women. She’s not the target group at a towering 5’11”, but is striving to tell the story of underrepresented females. This is how she rolls, launching brands from nothing into a global phenomenon. After all, Babba is a globetrotter to track.
Photography Via Rachel Kuzma