‘The startup hustle’
Emily Vilcsak is travelling the world, inspiring students
and manifesting her dreams – two projects at a time
By Cole Buhler
EMILY VILCSAK WAS EATING BRUNCH with her brother Andrew, a tech entrepreneur and former app developer for Airbnb, when it happened.
They were at Plow, a farm-to-table restaurant in the sleepy San Francisco neighbourhood of Potrero Hill, and her dreams were about to begin the journey to reality – or, as Emily calls it, manifestation.
“My perfect position is full-time, completely remote, with an international tech startup,” she told Andrew.
He knew just the person to contact: his friend Madelin Woods, the CEO and “powerhouse startup founder” of Walden, a private coaching company in New York. Walden works remotely with entrepreneurs and creative designers to help them develop products, raise funds, write content and improve branding.
Woods had interviewed around 50 people for the head of communications position at Walden, but none felt “right to her,” Emily said.
She emailed Woods, set up a Zoom meeting for the following week, and “the rest was history.” Woods flew Emily to New York to help launch Walden’s website.
“Flying a 21-year-old down to New York to manage a website launch was a bold move on her part,” Emily said. “But it’s exactly what helped me grow. Collaboration, creativity, and growth … she made sure that happened.
“She put a lot of trust in me.”
Walden was Emily’s breakthrough
in the tech industry
Emily helped manage Walden’s team of engineers and designers to ensure that the website was free of bugs – on a deadline of five days – while working as many as 16 hours per day. The Walden gig was Emily’s breakthrough in the tech industry, and offered her a chance to continue doing what she loves most: travelling.
A central focus of Emily’s career outlook, and a perspective that she has long advocated for students, is that everyone should find the time to travel. She travelled to six countries and 32 cities in 2019, including Bogota, Geneva, and Antigua, Guatemala – all while studying full-time at MacEwan University, and freelancing as a communications consultant.
When she was travelling, Emily would find hostels with co-working spaces, where she could continue her relationship with Walden remotely.
“My favourite co-working space is the Casa Pepe hostel in Mexico City,” she said, “a rooftop restaurant and bar with a naturally lit area …
“The reason I stay in hostels while I travel and work is an automatic sense of community.”
To encourage students to travel, Emily has created a six-week, free workshop titled: “Don’t Wait Until You Graduate.” She says “university students have 46 days off during the year” not including weekends.
“If you’re working full time in an office there is no way you’re going to get that much time off.”
Emily proposes that students should use this time to travel – even if it is just four to five days.
The workshop was scheduled to be up and running May 12, 2020, and interested students can contact Emily through social media or via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Don’t Wait Until You Graduate” is reflective of Emily’s community driven mindset. It is an evolution of the youth empowerment program Mission I’mPossible, which she started in 2013, when she was in Grade 10 at St. Albert Catholic High School. The program is set to be rebranded under EVE Communications as EVE Empowerment, a “community impact piece” that will enable Emily to continue working with students.
It was through public speaking that Emily found her calling in professional communication – although, initially, there were some hurdles.
While Emily was in high school, the self-styled “theatre kid” went to see a career counsellor about applying for the Bachelor of Communication Studies program at MacEwan. Because Emily was an honours student in math and science, the counsellor said, taking communication would be like “throwing away your marks.”
So she applied to and was accepted by the neuroscience program at the University of Alberta.
When she was going through attending the orientation, she recalled, “I didn’t smile once; it didn’t feel right.”
She left the orientation and applied to MacEwan.
“The day that I got my acceptance letter,” Emily said, “a switch flipped.
“I went into communications and I honestly think it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my entire life.”
Emily’s passion for community engagement followed her to University. She was a MacEwan ambassador for two years, and a member of the Spanish club. For the past two years, she has been a volunteer with the Office of Human Rights as a Champion of Diversity and Equity (CODE), described on office website as a “training initiative (that) focuses on creating a space and culture for dialogue, learning, reflection and action on human rights.”
“I was doing communications and I loved it. But I was also really involved at MacEwan.
“I don’t stop really.”
‘We’re taking the small-boutique,
A lot of doors opened for Emily at MacEwan. It was where she developed the idea for EVE Communications. She said she developed her plans for a subscription-based client service because she believes the model is the future of professional communication – and her team of specialists offers clients that personal touch.
Also, she’s “tired of seeing smaller clients get out-priced by big corporations.”
“Some of the larger agencies that deal with larger clients … are operationalized and impersonal,” Emily said. “So we’re taking the small-boutique, personal approach.”
As for the future of subscription services after COVID-19, as Tien Tzuo, CEO and founder of the software firm Zuora writes: “In an analysis of hundreds of subscription-based companies, more than half have not seen an impact on their subscriber growth, while one quarter are actually seeing subscriber acquisition rates accelerate even faster than before. And, of the remaining companies who are seeing their growth slow, half of those are still growing.”
About EVE Communications in the time of COVID, Emily said: “I’m absolutely living in a vortex because I’m working so much … People are resting, rejuvenating and recharging, and I’m just working through it.
“So it doesn’t feel like much has changed in my life.”
If the pandemic has changed anything, it’s Emily’s jet-set lifestyle. Still, when borders reopen, she hopes to move to Mexico City – and continue her remote communication work.
Emily is the systems programmer for Fresh Routes and vice president of marketing and communication for Leftovers, two “tech-enabled social enterprise startups” that are community-centric and aim to help marginalized people in need.
“That’s where my niche is – the startup hustle.”