We had the good fortune of connecting with Devon Gardner and we’ve shared our conversation below.
My story is a combination of “being in the right place at the right time” and jumping on the opportunity. When I was in college, a career as social media strategist didn’t exist. (This was around 2007: Facebook was big with college students, Twitter was still pretty “unknown”, and Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat and TikTok didn’t even exist.) I was studying public relations and was lucky that the places I interned at tasked me with managing the social media channels – because at that time, us “kids” had the most experience with social media. I realized that crafting messages for social media felt like such a fun & natural way for brands to communicate as humans first. So I took every social media management opportunity that came my way, and after years and different roles, I eventually became the Director of Social Media at a digital marketing agency.
After about 5 years working in a digital marketing agency running numerous social media campaigns for big brands, I was completely burned out and deflated. The value of social media (and my career) was constantly being questioned. Brands couldn’t quite grasp the ROI. But in my mind, it was so obvious that social media was a defining presence in people’s lives and how they learn about, evaluate, and buy from brands, join movements, or donate to nonprofits. I was feeling so defeated that I almost left the career for something more “stable”.
I’m fortunate that my father, with his greater life perspective, told me this was just the beginning for social media and it was too early for me to leave. I’m so grateful – because as it turned out, he was right, and social media hadn’t even truly “taken off” yet. Now today, nearly every business is on social media and the importance of it is a generally accepted fact.
I decided to “stay the course” and stick with social media. But to avoid further burnout, I knew I needed to work with brands I loved and have greater control over my working hours, salary, and the priorities in my life (vacation time, family, etc.) My mindset shifted and I realized I didn’t HAVE to remain an employee – I had options. And that I could make an impact in my life and others the way I wanted to, BUT I’d have to take the leap of faith to start my own business. So started ideating starting my own social media consulting business that worked with forward-thinking brands.
Now, in my social media business, Devon Victoria Consulting, Inc. “we work with clients that brands that believe as we do; in the value of personal touch, doing good, loving what you do, and improving others’ lives through your products or services. We work with brands that understand in today’s marketing world, what you give is what you get. We are here to help those brands succeed.”
I have been running my business for 5+ years and it’s never been “easy”. But it’s been the best decision I made for myself. Being a small business owner has made such a big impact on my life that my most recent goal is to provide professional mentorship & guidance to other current (and aspiring) service providing solopreneurs. I want others to know that being an employee isn’t the only option, and that being a “freelancer” or “consultant” isn’t just for a small side-hustle, it can be a salary-replacing option that will change their lives, too.
Do you disagree with some advice that is more or less universally accepted?
I don’t believe in “just follow your passion.” I have found myself in scenarios where that has been to my detriment, like accepting less pay for my services than I deserve, or becoming burnt out by turning a passion into a business. And being a parent adds another layer on that, because as a mother, every hour I work I have to weigh the cost-benefit to decide if what I’m doing is worth being away from my child, and the cost of childcare. So I’ve realized I can’t just follow the conventional advice of “just follow your passion” (with no regard to money).
At the end of the day, to follow my passion I have to be sustainable. To be sustainable I have to make money.
So there’s a balance to find – and I think it’s doing something you enjoy, where can make an impact, while still making an income you deserve.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I love hiking and escaping to special mountain towns. We’d do a cool morning hike in the foothills and then go grab a hot chocolate + lunch in Georgetown. I can’t get enough of walking around that town and soaking in the history, the beauty, and the refreshing air. I always meander and admire the old school house, the church along the river, the communal garden, the old museums, and the mainstreet.
On our way back into Denver, we’d stop by West Highlands and go Mondo Vino for a bottle of red, before popping into St. Kilian’s Cheese Shop & Market to grab some items to make our own cheese or charcuterie board.
We’d have dinner at Barcelona in RiNo, and then next morning we’d take that cheese/charcuterie board for a picnic in Wash Park.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Justine Barone is the Founder & CEO of Gearo – which is an outdoor gear marketplace that connects retailers with adventure seekers looking for gear to rent and buy. Not only is it a wonderful idea (especially here in Colorado) but I admire the way she is carving paths for women in both leadership positions and male-dominated industries. She is fun, clever, and making waves.
@stephaniemikuls and @kalenjessephotography