A passion for inspiring, helping others

Call it an entrepreneurial spirit or the “it” factor. Karla Perez-Islas was seemingly born with it. The rest – a drive for independence and a devoted student of life – has empowered her along the way.

As a child, she sold trending toys to classmates, and in high school, she marketed and sold skincare products. During a university class project in her home country of Mexico, Perez-Islas started her own business selling customized T-shirts, mugs and laptop bags.

And while her long-term goal is to open her own business, for now, her passion lies in helping current companies flourish. In her role as a business research assistant with Research & Innovation’s Business & Commercialization Solutions (BCS) team, the Niagara College student gets to do just that.

“I honestly see myself doing both. Since I started working as a research assistant, I became more passionate about helping businesses from different industries thrive.”

“I feel very happy when I’m walking down grocery store aisles and see products from the brands I’ve worked for or whenever they post an exciting announcement on their social media channel.”

In her capacity with BCS, Perez-Islas works with industry partners – mainly small- and medium-sized businesses – to solve problems related to operations management, sales and marketing. Projects include market research, competitive analysis, marketing plans and target market identification.

“I feel very happy when I’m walking down grocery store aisles and see products from the brands I’ve worked for or whenever they post an exciting announcement on their social media channel.”

Wanting to broaden her horizons and improve her language skills, Perez-Islas moved to Canada at age 19. Less than a year later, she completed NC’s English for Academic Preparation program. Today, she’s in her third and final year of the Business Administration-Marketing program.

Working on real-world projects with BCS, Perez-Islas puts into practice what she’s learning in her class studies.

“Most importantly, I get to help businesses achieve their goals, make an impact and learn valuable lessons from my research leads who have an amazing work ethic and are very knowledgeable.”

Perez-Islas says she was grateful for the opportunity to work remotely during the pandemic since joining the BCS team in March 2021. In fact, she completed her first research project while in hotel quarantine after returning to Canada from a six-month stay visiting family in Mexico last year. 

“The work we do at the Business & Commercialization Solutions department is so impactful because we are helping brands grow.”

“This first project will always have a special place in my heart because I realized that the work we do at the Business & Commercialization Solutions department is so impactful because we are helping brands grow,” says Perez-Islas, describing the project as an environmental scan, competitive and target market analysis and creating the pricing and promotions strategies for a pasta sauce brand.

Following that project, Perez-Islas worked on market research for a notable Canadian chef looking to start a root vegetable chips brand.

“What I liked about this project was the chef’s passion for connecting with consumers from various communities such as Caribbean, African, Latino, and Asian through her brand image, flavours and marketing messages,” she says. “As a person who loves cultural diversity, this was an exciting and valuable project.” 

She also describes herself as someone who is easily bored, so learning from different areas in a field like business and marketing is a perfect fit for her curious nature.

“I like how this field allows you to explore your creativity while putting into practice a set of multiple skills,” she notes. “You learn a little bit of everything, from accounting, business law, international commerce, marketing and even psychology because you have to understand consumer patterns and behaviours.

“All the skills I am acquiring can later be transformed into something big like a brand or product.”

Her appetite for learning new things was evident at her previous employment with a local Japanese restaurant. The company has what they call a “roll test” in which the server would learn the ingredients used to make 82 different sushi rolls – among other things – on the menu. 

After acing the quiz, Perez-Islas then wanted to learn about the marketing side of the restaurant. She contacted the human resources manager and asked if she could join the marketing team as an apprentice.

“I knew they were not hiring, but I did not care about the pay; I genuinely wanted to learn more about my program,” notes Perez-Islas. “When the marketing director saw my passion, he decided to give me a chance.” 

“I like how this field allows you to explore your creativity while putting into practice a set of multiple skills.”

As a marketing apprentice, she learned customer data management, market mapping and how to create promotional materials. Although she left that job to accept her current position at BCS, Perez-Islas is now learning the Japanese language online in her spare time.

Reflecting on the past few years, Pere-Islas says she was not expecting to stay in Canada after her English course was completed, although “deep down,” she always wanted to pursue a career here to have a better quality of life and gain her independence.

“I didn’t have the chance to be as independent as I am now because of the lack of opportunities,” she says. “And with the level of violence, primarily in my city, I couldn’t even go out by myself – which is something everyone should be able to do without fear.”

Looking to future goals, Perez-Islas vows to help empower other women, particularly those living in her home country.

“Although Mexico is a beautiful country, there is a surge in violence against women and gender inequality. There is so much talent that has been overshadowed by the lack of opportunities for women,” she adds.

“I want to inspire them to fight for their happiness, to believe that they can achieve anything, and to take the reins of their life.”

A passion for inspiring, helping others was last modified: July 20th, 2021 by cms007ad