Calin Yablonski finally has a career with top-drawer clients; his socks can rest easy at home.
Calin Yablonski figured once he left Lethbridge College with a Communication Arts diploma to wrap around his considerable talents, the advertising world would drop dead at his feet. At 22, the young alumnus had earned top grades in his studies, won the admiration of his instructors, and was well-prepared to meet the challenge head on as he saddled up his career and rode into Calgary astride a string of successes.
I figured I’d be welcomed with open arms,” says Yablonski, who graduated in 2007 from the program’s Advertising/Public Relations major. “That wasn’t the case.”
Oh, he found work, all right, and it was in his field. But the advertising business in Cowtown, if it wasn’t already under attack, was about to get creamed by the recession. Layoffs were a-comin’ and, in 2009, he became an unemployment casualty, losing his job as a graphic designer.
“Layoffs were happening left and right,” says Yablonski. “I figured I’d either have to find a job or go it on my own. When I was laid off, I was in an intermediate position and with all the senior people in the marketplace, I knew my chances weren’t great at finding a job. I never want anyone to have that much control over my life again.”
So, he started freelancing his graphic design skills. While once he managed five major brands for a Calgary home building centre, Yablonski was now picking up $60 cheques from stay-at-home moms who required branding for their home businesses.
“I was feeding on the scraps,” he says now. “So I went to SAIT and earned a webmaster’s design certificate, taking classes four nights a week while I freelanced during the day. I saw it as an opportunity to get into the web-design field.”
Newfound success forced him to move his base of operations to more spacious surroundings.
“I moved out of my bedroom and into the kitchen. That was a big step for me.”
With his empire now spread across the kitchen table, Yablonski took on a friend as a co-employee and scored his first major client, his hometown of Wadena, Sask. The town required a website, a task right in his wheelhouse. Then along came George Canyon, Canadian country music star and another website score.
“That was massive for us, landing a high-profile entertainer” says Yablonski. “It allowed me to move from my kitchen to a second bedroom.”
His portfolio was expanding. Industrial companies started calling wanting to pump up their web presences, and so did other agencies who fed him contract work. He did the branding for a Suncor internal education package after the firm’s merger with Petro-Canada, helped rebrand Suncor, and worked on the campaign concept for the Atlanta Thrashers of the National Hockey League.
By the fall of 2010, Yablonski could concentrate on website design and online marketing. With 10 solid clients on which he could count monthly, he decided to find an office that didn’t include a waffle iron or dirty socks. Now in a proper office two blocks from Chinook Centre mall, Yablonski has formed a partnership with a strategic public relations planner; Calin Daniel (calindaniel.com) is now a full-service agency.