Speaking with Cydney Mar was a wonderful reminder of how the path of entrepreneurship can be full of the unexpected! During this Spotlight on Success, Cydney opened up about how her journey was both unpredictable and unconventional. Today, she uses her unique experiences and background to mentor and coach entrepreneurs all over the world, while she continues to grow her own businesses in health and wellness.
Cydney Mar was six years old the first time she set foot on the ice. After trying out skating on a family vacation in Toronto, her parents enrolled her in a local club. That was where it became obvious she had a natural aptitude for the sport.
Her teachers promptly realized that her abilities were developing at a rapid pace. She advanced from one level to the next and worked with the highest caliber coaches available. Skating became Cydney’s most favorite thing in the world.
Over time, she learned to not just be technically great, but also to embrace the performance side of the sport. As her skating career continued, she began to think about what her future would look like. She knew that whatever she did, it would have to provide her with a creative outlet where she could express herself.
As Cydney explains, “I wanted to do some shows but I didn’t want to book because I wanted to create my own company. I didn’t want to be like Disney on Ice or anything similar because I felt there were very interesting things that we could express, more in the way of Cirque du Soleil. That was my passion — the combination of being expressive fortified by the ability to pretty much do anything physically.”
At 18, she was preparing for the national competition, and there were high expectations. She should win the title and then move on to international competitions. During one practice, another skater on the ice attempted an element that led to devastating results to Cydney. Her leg was nearly severed and her skating career ground to a halt.
A Dream Redefined
They rushed her to the hospital with the intentions of saving her leg. Cydney Mar had a long road to recovery ahead and extensive physiotherapy began. Her recovery did not progress as quickly as anyone anticipated. They decided to bring in doctors from the U.S. to operate, hoping they would not have to amputate her leg. They considered the surgery a success. For Cydney, the next significant challenge was switching gears from competitive skater to normal teen.
“The more I healed, the more painful my leg became. I ‘d gone from being an overactive child who skated six days a week, up to eight hours a day. And now I was having to wake my mom up in the middle of the night because my leg was cramping.”
Cydney eventually went back to school and knew she needed something else to focus her energy on. She had attended modeling school and dabbled in sewing her own costumes for years. It seemed only natural to throw herself into fashion, and sewing offered her a creative outlet during a tumultuous time. Through a local fashion merchandising school and programs within her high school, she was able to start building an entirely new set of skills.
“I learned flat pattern making, as well as how to do all of the bound buttonholes, how to do stitched collars with horsehair and couture techniques. By the time I got out of high school, I already had a lot of skills. I redirected my energy into something that I could really love and enjoy. When my friends would call me and ask if I wanted to go to a club, I’d go into my little workroom and I’d whip up a dress.”
Cydney Mar continued her fashion education and went on to win awards in NYC in design and merchandising as well as fashion illustration. However, there was something hanging over her head — an ongoing lawsuit with the skating club.
It was her dad who made a suggestion about how to move forward that really made an impact.
“My dad asked me, ‘Why don’t we put a little bit of money into your future instead of investing it in these lawyers and a community that doesn’t seem to care?’ We both knew he was right, so instead, we spent money on making an investment in launching my new career. My dad and I built a tiny studio in the family basement. We put in subfloors, painted, and added mirrors and hanged racks. I worked with the government to hire new immigrants. I started in couture and these women could sew anything.”
Moving in a New Direction
Now that Cydney had immersed herself in the world of fashion, she quickly proceeded to build her brand. She networked with people she knew from the skating world and in her community. Before she knew it, her garments were hanging in high-end boutiques next to names like Armani and Ralph Lauren. Her work was being featured in fashion magazines and newspapers. She was getting a reputation as one of the hottest new designers in Canada.
Cydney Mar loved her business and was able to apply many of the strengths she’d developed throughout life and career. There was still something that was playing on Cydney’s mind.
“What I didn’t love was that the pieces were so expensive. I thought I now needed to learn how to do mass production. If I brought my level of taste to something like blouses, for instance, then how could I make more instead of just one-off even though I had a collection? I decided to go and work in the trade where they were making multiples. So, I answered an ad in the paper and got hired as a pattern maker.”
At the end of her first week at her new job, a salesman recognized her. Cydney Mar already had a very well-known brand and was becoming a household name in Canadian fashion. He immediately alerted the owner of the business. He told the owner to triple her salary, make her the designer, and put her on a plane to New York. Which is exactly what he did.
“I started building their collections and it was really fun. Because I had access to the factory I had everything at hand. I had my pattern maker in the pattern making room, my sewing team for sample making and production, and the cutting room, so I could go and check anything.”
After Cydney made the most of her time in New York, she moved on to another company in Toronto, and then onto another in Montreal who recruited her. However, she once again ended up on her own again, running her own design studio.
Reaching the Masses
“One of my friends in the fashion business wanted to introduce me to another woman that he thought I could perhaps form a partnership with. She happened to be selling on The Shopping Channel. So I spent a year with her and helped build her company from $9 million that year to $16 million. I was in the background working with the buyers and the team on the floor to make sure things were going out as needed. And I was making deals with other shopping channels. At the end of the year, instead of formalizing the partnership, I decided that I’d had enough. I took a step back to figure out what I’m going to do. But then the buyers from QVC loved working with me so much, they asked what else I could design and develop.”
From there, the Canadian shopping channel picked up her designs. Then she started branching out further and was soon selling in eight different countries. These experiences provided her with so much more knowledge than she was ever expecting.
“These shopping channels are really a machine. From what they expect the sell-throughs to be, what the return rate should be, to how they allocate your time. They’re on top of everything. You know how the flow-through of merchandise happens, and how people build wardrobes. How you can help them wear something in more than one way. There’s third party testing and all these standards that have to be met for size and fit and for washability. It’s easy to be proud of what we do with companies like TV shopping channels because you know what’s going out the door has already been vetted and checked. You can be satisfied with what you’re doing and there’s really great value in what I learned.”
Hitting the Reset Button…Again
It was after years of working with QVC that Cydney had what she refers to as her second near-death experience. After being constantly on the run doing TV fashion shows all over the world, something crashed her immune system.
She landed in the hospital after being so weak she couldn’t stand and having massive stomach pain. Within 24 hours, she was on life support. After emergency surgery, she spent another two months in the hospital.
The business world waits for nobody. With her business still running full throttle, Cydney continued to work, launching QVC Italia from her hospital bed.
Upon her release, she was still struggling with medical issues, so she started winding down her company. With a renewed focus on her health, she began to explore more natural options for treating her issues.
“I had such a massive inflammation in my body, that it resulted in massive hair loss. I didn’t want a lot more pharma meds. My naturopath was kind enough to suggest a particular formulation I could try. When my hair started growing back like crazy, I knew we were onto something. I wanted to make it more available to other people. I started developing and putting together what I thought was a comprehensive vitamin collection that was for your bones, muscles, brain, and detoxing support for your liver.”
Cydney Mar Wellness was unintentionally born.
When Cydney began selling her wellness products on her website, she wasn’t particularly concerned about marketing. Her primary focus was on making things available to anyone who wanted them.
But, as is often the case, something unexpected happened.
When people started visiting her website, they immediately noticed Cydney Mar was no longer producing her fashion collections. They began contacting her, asking if she would help them develop their own collections. She started getting clients and doing work on a case-by-case basis. It quickly became apparent that there was interest in hiring someone with her experience. To assist with that need, she built a website that focused on coaching.
“I now coach people all over the world and help them with everything from their own garment designs to jewelry design. I helped someone who was in the chocolate business who’s getting ready to go to QVC. Now I can finally put aside my own design work and help people bring their dreams to life. When you go through ups and downs, you have to learn new things all over again. I’m enabling people to build their own product lines because not everybody has the weird background that I have.”
COVID-19 hit and she noticed a demand for face masks. She began making videos to show people how to make no-sew face masks. She was also frustrated with seeing prints that weren’t very nice and masks not very well fitted. This pushed her to think about better options and once again, a new business was born.
“I ended up developing Face Mask Love, which is my website where it’s fashionable face masks and face mask alternatives. There’s really fine scarves that you can pull up over your head that you can convert into a mask. I ended up being a vendor to the city of Montreal because they needed some. Then we had to convert some of them so that they could be worn at the Children’s Day camps that are going to be happening very soon. So we fixed those ones and now I’m working on a federal tender.”
Cydney Mar: Reflecting on the Journey
While Cydney’s entrepreneurial journey has had many stops along the way, she’s now relishing her time as a coach with others walking the same path.
“It’s so much more fun to take an idea and break it down into actionable steps. As a coach or consultant, my job is to enable my clients, not to do it for them. I show them the way, and all of a sudden things start clicking. I’m not going to be there forever and they don’t want to pay me forever. I want to help them get clear on their idea.”
As a seasoned entrepreneur, it’s easy to look back on the years you’ve spent building a business (or four!) with incredible hindsight. Towards the end of our chat, I asked Cydney Mar what advice she’d pass along to someone just starting out in the world of business, and this is what she had to say:
“For all of my years in business, I traded on my talent. I wish that I went a bit slower in some ways to learn more about the foundational things in terms of setting up companies, accounting, auditing, and so on. If you do, you’ll be on much more solid footing.”
One of the most difficult parts about running a business for first-time entrepreneurs is often not knowing what they don’t know. Finding somebody to help reveal those things is invaluable. You need honesty and grounding to keep things on the straight and narrow and help shape your perspective of what you can accomplish.
Resources from Cydney:
Reboot Your Radiance: These are Cydney’s 7 keys to radiant health & beauty. It includes two downloads and 7 days of email guidance around each key to one’s health.
Complimentary Discovery Call: This is Cydney’s consulting company discovery call where she chats with clients to discuss their ideas, their potential, feasibility, and how they may be developed & launched.
Resources from Ashley:
Are you looking for support with your business plan or pitch strategy? Reach out and our team would be glad to help!