Christal Agostino knew that marketing for the luxury segment was a highly competitive field — so she gave herself an edge by including international luxury brand management studies in her MBA. She’s been climbing in her career ever since.
By Hailey Eisen
Bisha Hotel & Residences, a luxury and lifestyle brand that includes a 96-room flagship hotel and a collection of condominium suites, has been generating excitement in the travel and tourism world. And, as Director of Marketing, Christal Agostino can take credit for much of that.
“When I began, we were walking around in hard hats, riding up the construction elevator on the exterior of the building,” she recalls. “I had the opportunity to work on the whole brand from A to Z — from re-designing the logo, to establishing identity and voice, to PR and advertising strategy, to discussing design and amenity selections for each room. An opportunity to start a new brand like this is once-in-a-lifetime, it doesn’t happen very often anywhere, let alone in Toronto.”
Located at 80 Blue Jays Way, in the heart of Toronto’s entertainment district, the Studio Munge-designed, 44-storey Bisha Hotel & Residences has an edgy, artsy feel and, as Christal explains, is geared toward the new luxury consumer who’s searching for something that will surprise, challenge, and inspire them. An entire floor was designed by Lenny Kravitz and his firm Kravitz Design, there are 2,000 pieces of art displayed on site, a rooftop bar and infinity pool, and four distinct eateries — including a restaurant on the 44th floor with views of the city and Lake Ontario.
The unique opportunity to get on the ground floor of this new development came to Christal thanks to a LinkedIn recommendation. She notes that each career opportunity she’s had since completing her Queen’s MBA — including a stint with Bell Mobility and a brand development and global partnership role with Fairmont Hotels’ head office — has come about thanks to her extensive network, her wonderful mentors and her ability to listen to her gut. “Your network should be your top priority,” she says. “That and your personal brand.”
“You need to know who you are and what you bring to the table.”
Christal began to grow her network and personal brand during her one-year MBA studies at Smith School of Business, which included a three-month international exchange at ESSEC Business School where her study focus was international luxury brand management.
“With Paris as our playground, we were able to do some amazing field research,” says Christal, noting that she chose the specialization because she was looking to get an edge on other Canadian marketing professionals in the highly competitive luxury segment.
Her business acumen combined with the knowledge she gained from first-hand exposure to major industry players covering everything from designer footwear to high-end hotels and travel, allowed Christal to break into and thrive in the luxury sector.
“I always say it’s not about one piece of information that I learned in my MBA — although there were hundreds — it was the fact that you do all these cases and projects and presentations so, when you’re sitting in a boardroom and you’re faced with a problem or challenge, that muscle memory kicks in and you’re able to jump in ten steps ahead of everyone else, with analysis and recommendations and no fear of a blank page,” she says. “Studying at Queen’s was like challenge boot camp and I don’t know anywhere else you can get that, other than from years and years of work experience.”
Now, six months after the launch of Bisha Hotel & Residences, Christal’s network has brought her yet another opportunity. Later this month, she will take on the role of Executive Vice President of Air Canada Media with Bookmark, a global content and communications agency. Christal worked for Bookmark (formerly Spafax) from 2014 to 2016 as a senior strategist, and when the company reached out to her about this new opportunity, she couldn’t turn it down.
When starting out, not everyone will have a network like Christal’s, which is why she highly recommends getting comfortable in the role of brand manager — of your own personal brand. “You need to know who you are and what you bring to the table,” she says, “your value, perspective, and edge, and how to tell your story in an interview, no matter what questions are being asked of you.”
The Queen’s MBA at Smith School of Business is the only one-year MBA program in Canada that offers the opportunity of an international exchange at one of 30 international business school partners around the world. Learn more about this and other ways to personalize your MBA experience at queensmba.ca.