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Fabian Wester

Babba Canales

Meet the brand-marketing extraordinaire who’s striking out on her own

Babba Canales was in her early 20s, living in Stockholm and preparing to open her own agency when she got the job opportunity of a lifetime: to join the Uber team and launch the company’s presence in Sweden. “In a lot of ways, I had no idea what I was doing,” she says. “I didn’t have a boss or a real budget, but I had a goal to increase business 20 percent week over week. That’s an aggressive growth goal, but I was naïve and thought nothing was impossible, so jumped at the chance to take it on.”

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Babba succeeded—and eventually made her way to New York, where she became marketing manager for the ride-sharing brand (and executed a number of fashion and lifestyle partnerships) before leaving to join the team at luggage label Away as its director of brand marketing. Now she’s returning to her original plan: starting her very own brand-marketing agency called By Babba. “I felt like I was ready to do something on my own,” she says. “This is the agency I always wanted to create. The focus will be on the fashion and wellness space and we’ll be optimized to work as an extension to a start-up's marketing department, but one that really understands the needs of a company and how to get things done.”

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On her work ethic. “I grew up in Sweden and my parents are from South America. They were immigrants who raised me with this mentality that we’ve come all the way to Sweden to get a better future, so that you can do anything. As a result, I started working when I was 14 years old because I had a huge passion for fashion. By 16, I had three jobs while also going to school and was ambitious enough to feel like I could take on anything, even if I didn’t know how to do it. In fact, I love doing things I’ve never done before. It’s what gets me up in the morning.”

On her perfect weekend in New York. “I would start by going to my boxing gym Work Train Fight, which offers boxing combined with military training. Then, I would go to the dog run at Tompkins Square Park with Blue, my Boston terrier. Last, I would hit up Chillhouse. It’s a new place that combines coffee and nail art and you can also get a massage there. It feels like you’re in Tulum, it’s so beautifully designed. I love going there and tackling some weekend work. It’s just so cozy.”

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On her work uniform. “I’m a huge fan of two-piece sets. Basically, I call it the ‘modern suit.’ Sometimes it is a suit. For example, I have a kimono blazer that’s white and matching white pants that I pair with it. But I also love to do a two-piece that’s a blouse and pants in the same pattern and material. Or a T-shirt and a skirt in a matching color and material. The two-piece is an easy work uniform because it looks proper, but it’s fun and fashionable, too.”

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On saying no to high heels. “I’m a very comfortable person, so I will never run around in a high heel. I do a lot of sneakers instead. I also love boots because a boot is pretty dressed up. If I wear heels, it’s very medium or short heels. I love Gray Matters. They have the perfect heel size.”

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On the best part of being a puppy parent. “Back in the day, coming home from a really fun trip would always be a little bit depressing. Now, there’s never a dull moment because the second you come home and that little furry thing who you have missed the whole time rushes at you, it feels better to be home than on the trip you just enjoyed so much.”

On something no one knows about her. “I’m a big baker. My friends actually used to call my apartment in Stockholm Babba’s Bakery because I was always baking cookies for people. It started when I was a student and had a lot of time while I was studying at home. I didn’t have a ton of money either, so I just started baking a lot and inviting friends over for fika, which is a Swedish word for coffee and pastries. One Christmas, my fiancé created a logo for Babba’s Bakery and ordered takeaway cups and boxes. With the proper packaging, it was official!”