Wearing the Hat w/ Marketing Manager Melany Mihai

by Bella Taylor May 07, 2024 13 min read

“Wearing the Hat” is a series where staff writer Bella Taylor showcases the incredible people in the Isla Vista community and all the “hats” they choose to wear as they bring their passions to life.

Melany Mihai is a junior from the Bay Area at the University of California, Santa Barbara, double majoring in Communication and Global Studies. At the young age of just 21 years old, she holds the honorable “Marketing Manager” title for our very own cherished brand, Island View Outfitters. Meeting Melany and learning all about what she does to help keep us running was especially moving as she opened up about her journey to get to where she is today. 



Melany wearing the UCSB Mom Ball Cap

Our conversation began with our usual icebreakers below:

What is one item on your bucket list? 

MM: I’ve always really wanted to go to Bali. You know those Microsoft background pictures? I want to be in that background. I want to do that. 

What do you truly value about yourself? 

MM: I genuinely value how authentic I carry myself, especially when meeting new people all the time. In the industry I'm in, a lot of people pretend to be fake, but take me for who I am at face value. If I’m pretending to be anyone else than myself, then you’re just kidding yourself. You might as well just be 100% yourself and if they don't like you, then screw them. 

What is a day or moment in your life that you’d like to relive?

MM: The day I got my L'Oreal offer 1000%. That’s an easy answer. That has to be one of the best days of my life. When I got that offer, I cried, I sobbed. My recruiter let me call my mom and it was like the American Dream because my mom is an immigrant. She cried, I cried, it felt like we won the lottery. It was the best day ever so I’d love to relive that again. 

Go-to Freebird’s order? 

MM: Cucas is better, however, I just get a regular chicken burrito. I tell them to make it as spicy as possible. I think the spicier, the better, and they have the red hot sauce which is the best one. 

Next, we entered the world of marketing and how Melany got her foot in the door: 

When did you find that you were passionate about marketing?

MM: I figured out I really liked marketing because I’m equally as left-brained as I am right-brained and with marketing, you’re looking at analytics all the time or you’re doing something creative like looking at a story or coming up with marketing campaigns but it’s still numbers-driven. So I feel like no matter what you're doing, the marketing comes with it. That’s how I found out I really liked it because I still did the math and the analytical part but it still allowed me to be creative. Pretty much every industry needs marketing and it gave me the freedom to move around which I definitely need. 

How did you get your start with Island View Outfitters?

MM: Crazy enough, I had only been to the store once before working here. They had sent out an email in October and I was just in my Spanish class, not paying attention, and I opened up the email. I was like, “I do marketing, this could be fun,” and I like their clothes so I just applied. Then, I had an interview with the owner and the manager and that was how I ended up working there. It's been really cool honestly, I didn’t think I’d end up working for them and doing what I do now, so take every shot you get, I guess, and every email you get, open it. 

What responsibilities do you hold as IVO’s Marketing Manager?

MM: I do a lot of the social media. I post a lot of the things you see on TikTok and Instagram. I also started the creative crew, which is the people that do this right now and so they are a group of interns that write, do short videos, and help with on-the-ground marketing. So I work with them, and manage their schedules, and then I manage any marketing campaigns when we have new drops in the store. For the varsity collection drop, we did that cute vintage video of the UCSB sports so I was doing stuff like that to carry out marketing campaigns and that’s a lot of what I do, just getting our name out there in general. 

Melany explains more about her contribution to the varsity collection drop on social media: 

“It was a group collective but I put the music behind it and then all 3 of us, Noah (Graphic Designer), Garrett (Founder), and I looked for videos. Noah ended up finding this really cool one. So he took it and edited it and I put the music behind it and it ended up looking really cool. It was really sick to see the final product.” 

What is your favorite part about working for Island View Outfitters?

MM: I definitely love seeing people on campus wearing our merch, even while tabling on-campus and seeing people wear the stuff that I’m advertising is just so cool. The support that people have for the store is so nice and genuine. It’s really interesting to walk into the store and immediately feel at home. Garrett says this all the time, he’s like, “Remember when you thought you wouldn’t fit in?” And it’s so true because I really just thought it’d be like every other job where you go and you don’t fit in but we’re just like a huge family and I really value everything about the people I get to work with.

What other roles have you held related to business and marketing?

MM: I’m the incoming co-president with Lena Chen for Women in Business, so we’re going to be co-presidents together. Before that, I was actually doing marketing for WIB, which is the current role that I’m finishing up now. I was basically handling our presence on and off campus and marketing our club to students. I also was the head of graphic design and website design so I designed our website and gave it a facelift when I went into the role. I did a lot of the graphics but it was mostly the website that I handled. 

You’ll be spending the summer in New York City, can you give us a rundown of what your internship with L’Oreal might consist of? 

MM: I actually am going into it so blind. L’Oreal has multiple companies that they own under them so I still have to find out the company that I’m assigned to. Fingers crossed I’m hoping for a lux brand like YSL, Armani, and Prada. I’m hoping to get one of those but I’ll be cool with a little NYX moment, you know, can’t hate on the drugstore brands. They’ll put me on a team and it really depends on what team I’m on for what I’ll be doing but I’ll be doing marketing for them, whether that’s looking at analytics or looking at what we’ll be doing on a bigger scale. 

Loyal to California, Melany has never been to the opposite side of the country. Although nervous, she feels that she has the “attitude of somebody from the East Coast,” laughing about the “chill vibe” that Santa Barbara is known for and that Melany can run short of. She admires the “hustle and grind culture” in order to get to where she wants to be and in turn, feels that New York for a summer will encourage that spark in her success-driven personality. 

How do you manage your schedule so well with everything you have going on? 

MM: Google Calendar. If I could meet the CEO of that calendar and tell him that I love him then that’s what I would do. My life is on that calendar by the minute. I have to schedule a time to eat, go to the gym, call my mom. If it’s not on the schedule, it’s not happening. My friends will ask to hang out and I’ll be like, “Send me a Google calendar invite, let’s see if I could fit it in.” It sounds so bad, especially because I’m a college student and I feel like I should be enjoying the life here and sometimes I do think about that but, I don’t know. I think that I need to fill my schedule up because if not now, then when?

I feel like now is the time to set myself up for the rest of my life. The life that we live out here is really nice, and yeah, we go to the beach and stuff, but I don’t come from a family with really big opportunities, so I need to create those opportunities for myself. You need that tradeoff of finding that balance which I’m still working on, as you can see, but fingers crossed that we’ll get there. 

As a typical student in college whose to-do list seems never-ending, Melany shares the relatable experience of feeling the need to be in two places at once: “I definitely do struggle with balance. There are times when my mom will want to keep talking on the phone, and I’ll have to be like, “I’m so sorry, I really have to go,” and I hate that because I really want to try and make time for everyone in my life more. I think it’s all about work-life balance. I’m not like a hermit either, I still make time to go out and see my friends. It’s really just a matter of prioritizing what’s important to you and when.” 

What has been one of the greatest or most helpful lessons you’ve learned from your experiences in marketing and business? 

MM: Your network is genuinely everything. I also think how you carry yourself is super important because you never know who you're going to meet and who you’re going to see. People talk, so just have a positive attitude. If you're miserable all the time, people are going to sense that, even if you’re faking the smile. You just have to be authentic because it’s going to come off that you don’t want to be there, or that you don't want to talk to them, because in marketing, everyone is so personable. Everybody that I’ve met in this field is so kind and has such a positive and creative outlook on life so I definitely think keeping that same mindset is very important if you’re going to be in this career for sure. 

What achievement in your marketing journey are you proudest of?

MM: I would say that I’m the most proud of the Island View Creative Crew honestly. When we came up with the idea for the Creative Crew, Garrett was like, “5 people,” and then I was like, “25 people,” and then he was like, “10 people,” and then we were settled on 15 for a little while. Just managing everybody and seeing the work that everybody put out was so, so cool. I’m just so proud that we were able to help other people put something out there, and put their names on it, and associate it with our company, and to be able to help people professionally develop from what we do is a really cool experience, and I’m happy we’re still doing it. 

While I believe that Mihai is already successful in her strive to build Rome in a day, she sees differently: 

“I honestly would not consider myself a successful young woman, I feel like I’ve still got a ways to go. I feel like this is just the start, even this interview right now is something that I feel like I should be doing 10 years from now because I don’t feel like I’ve made it yet.” 

Maybe 10 years from now, we’ll have to invite Melany back for another moment in front of the camera. ;) 

Melany’s college upbringing differs from many others in the way that she is the first in her family to attend a university. She shares more about her journey here: 

“You know, there was a freshman who came up to me today with her mom and she was like, “What advice do you have?” and I was like, “Oh my God, everybody’s experience is so different,” but I think for myself, and a lot of other first-gen students, it’s not going to be easy, it’s not going to be a walk in the park, especially if you come from a high school that didn’t have a lot of AP classes or didn't have a lot of support.

You really have to pave that way for yourself and figure a lot of things out on your own. Shoutout to the Educational Opportunity Program, I love Brenda Curiel, that woman is the best and without her, I don’t think I would still be at UCSB. When I was going through it, she was the only person who told me to stick it out and keep going and so many other people in the EOP, when they said “equal opportunity” they meant that. They genuinely lit such a spark in me to keep going and keep trying new things on this campus. I came in as a Psych and Brain Sciences major and then I did Econ and then I was triple majoring for a second.

I really didn't know what I was doing and I feel like as a first-generation student, I know, at least with my family, it’s like, pick one thing and stick with it, but that’s just not how it is out here. You have to try other new things and get involved and really find your niche because you’re going to be doing it for the rest of your life. You don’t want to be miserable, so you have to figure out what you like. I feel like, as a first-gen student, to my family, it’s really meant a lot. My mom wears that UCSB Mom crewneck like it’s nobody’s business, she’s my biggest supporter and me coming here is such a flex for her, and me as well. I think it’s such a huge opportunity that I recognize I’m blessed to have and a lot of people don't get to have, so it’s been really awesome to do.” 

What is your ultimate goal career-wise after graduation? 

MM: Run the world. My family always says that I could run for president but it’s just so messy, I just don’t want those problems. I definitely want to be in the creative space whether that’s in entertainment or in fashion or in beauty, that’s the kind of realm that I want to be in. My ultimate goal is to be a vice president of marketing or a person who holds board positions or creative directing. Some type of director role that oversees everything because as much as I like being creative, I think the management of all the moving pieces and getting to move around a lot is ultimately where I want to be. And with a big house and a cute dog, preferably. 

How do you think Isla Vista has shaped you into who you are today?

MM: I don’t give Isla Vista credit for shaping me into who I am, but I think the people that I’ve met here have really forced me to have an open mind. I definitely feel like I would’ve shut out a lot of the people here. Just the way that my personality is, is a bit different than some of the people that I’ve met here. They embrace that college lifestyle, and I think that’s super great and it’s really forced me to not be a workaholic. I think IV really helps you realize that you’re young and youthful and going to Thriftopia and going to do things forces you to remember that you’re young. I feel like that youthful spirit lives on in IV, whether we’re gone or not. It’s just the way that we're all so carefree at some point in time. There’s a point in time where we feel liberated to be where we are now and I think it’s really cool that we get to live here. 

Favorite spot in IV? 

MM: You know I don’t leave my house much to know the best spots, I don’t even live in a house. I live in a very small apartment. You know what though, we don’t have a balcony, but we got a table and we put it by the window and it’s like my makeshift balcony, but that’s not even my favorite place. I’ve never lived in this dorm but Lena lives in Manzi and there’s this study room where you could see the beach and oh my god, literally so gorgeous.

I was so spoiled as a freshman. I lived on the 8th floor of San Nic, with a view of the beach and the lake. I was in my dorm a lot because it was so beautiful. I get the flashbacks and I’m like, “Wow, I was living the good life back there.” So anywhere that there’s a big view on campus is my favorite, and then the Gnome building. It has the circle windows, and it’s orange, and it’s covered in flowers and it has the benches with a view of the beach. It’s the nicest building, I love that building, definitely recommend. 

Do you have any other hobbies, interests, or ways you spend your time?

MM: If I’m not doing something with makeup, because I love makeup, I really like to paint. I got into Paint by Numbers recently, but who was going to tell me they take so long? The commitment issues I have with this painting, during spring break, I was like, “Oh I’m going to crank out 4 Paint by Numbers,” and I think I’ve done half of one, which is generous, to say the least. So hopefully I can actually finish one soon. 

What is something that you can’t wait to do in the future? 

MM: I really can’t wait to be a mom and have a family. Most of my family is in Romania and most of the time, it’s just been me and my mom. I have very few family members out here in the US. I just can’t wait to give my kids what I never had. I want the big 30-person house for Christmas and to invite all my friends over. As big of a bummer as it is to grow old, I’m honestly really excited to go hang out with my friends and do trips together and put our kids in the same daycare. I’m really looking forward to that and creating my own little family. 

Melany preaches to us her final thoughts as our conversation comes to a close:

“Don't let your parents scare you out of doing something creative. Just because it doesn't pay well now, doesn't mean it won't pay well later. Follow your dreams kids, and also, shop Island View Outfitters.” 

From the outside looking in, Melany Mihai is one of the most hard-working people I know. Without her involvement, I would not be sitting here at my college desk with my computer, typing up interview questions and pursuing my own dream of connecting people with their passions for Island View Outfitters. Her ambition to be the best that she can be is meritorious and speaking on behalf of the IVO Creative Crew, I think we can all say how lucky we are to get to call her a friend and a “boss.”

Thank you, Melany.

Bella Taylor
Bella Taylor

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