Shelby Walsh, 26
President, Trend Hunter
“The first ad campaign that impressed me was… the Bill Cosby Jello commercials of the ’90s. As a kid, these were the best!”
Sometimes 140 characters is all it takes to catapult a career. Shelby Walsh learned that firsthand when Ashton Kutcher tweeted a story she wrote in 2009 about the website ThisIsPhotobomb.com. At the time, Kutcher was the most-followed Twitterer and his nod helped Walsh get more than 430,000 views in a couple of days.
At the time, Walsh was an intern writing for Trend Hunter, an online community that publishes daily crowd-sourced content on trends gaining traction around the world. It covers topics from business (“11 Child-Targeted Retail Stores”) to fashion (“Sassy-Chic Skull Bracelets”), and quirkier stories in the “Bizarre” vertical (think “Animal-Shaped Coffee Marshmallows” and “Body Hair-Infused Coats”). But big-time marketers – like Panasonic, Intel, Crayola and Nestle to name a few – pay for the Toronto-based company’s advisory services to tap into what Walsh calls “six stadiums full of experts hunting for ideas and a monthly consumer focus group with 100 stadiums full of people.”
Since that 2009 article, Walsh has risen up the ranks at Trend Hunter and recently became the company’s president. Over that time the site’s traffic has surpassed 1.5 billion pageviews and it has established a worldwide network of 120,000 “trend hunters” that Walsh says are constantly on the lookout for “the next big thing.”
Advisory services, one of Trend Hunter’s main revenue sources, are something Walsh has been instrumental in growing. As part of this service, Trend Hunter produces curated reports that include insights on “what is bubbling to the surface when it comes to what consumers are interested in,” says Walsh.
By tapping into its community of contributors – not to mention the 40 million monthly views the site gets – Walsh says Trend Hunter is able to cut through the noise on the web and steer marketing teams towards what’s becoming popular in specific categories.
Walsh also helped develop Trend Hunter Academy, a full-time four-month program that teaches students and recent graduates real-world social media skills and “Journalism 2.0,” as Walsh calls it. The students are also given career training through things like resume and interview workshops.
Before she joined Trend Hunter, Walsh was a legal secretary, but says she yearned to get into something more entrepreneurial, creative and, well, exciting. “Trend Hunter gave me all that and a lot more,” she says. The “a lot more” includes connecting with her future husband. Walsh recently got engaged to Jeremy Gutsche, the company’s founder and CEO. They first met when Walsh interviewed, at which time the company had only three employees.
Walsh also sits on an advisory committee that helps shape the curriculum for Seneca College’s advertising program. She gives guest lectures to share her insights on how important trends are to all industries, whether it be music or design. “Advertising has crossed well out of just being about selling stuff,” says Anthony Kalamut, professor and program coordinator for Seneca’s creative advertising program. “It’s about creating cultural icons and trends, and she really helps the students understand how to find a trend, jump on… and when you should jump off.”
Kalamut admires Walsh’s drive, as do the Seneca students that have interned at Trend Hunter. “What they’ve learned from her is you can’t be passive, you can’t just cruise – you have to want,” says Kalamut. “It’s that passion she delivers.” That, and millions of readers.
Photography: Mike Ford
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