You're in for a special treat with today's Influencer of the month for our "Influencer Chat Series"! We'll be chatting with NYC based, Grace Atwood of The Stripe. I've followed and admired Grace for years now, and am beyond excited to be featuring her on the blog today. Grace has been in the Influencer Space for quite some time, having first launched her website back in 2010. (She's one of the original and first bloggers!) Grace currently does a little bit of everything. She shares everything from style posts, travel destinations, and beauty tutorials on her website as well as small glimpses inside her fun and exciting life in New York City. She's worked with a handful of reputable and well-known brands in the fashion industry, and recently launched a podcast where she dishes on everything from books she's currently reading, to her hilarious and personal experiences on navigating through life in New York. Grace has become a fresh and fun voice for the modern day gal trying to make it in the big city, and we're here for it! Read on to learn more about Grace, how she got started with The Stripe, and where she plans to take her website in the years to come.
I had a fairly long career before starting my blog (I was 28 when I started it, and I'm 37 now!) I began my career as an assistant buyer for Filene's Department Stores (now defunct and part of Macy's) in Boston. From there, I ended up moving to New York in 2006 to take a job for P&G where I became a brand manager for a portfolio of fragrance brands. And then I went to Coty where I was a marketing manager; first for Sally Hansen nail color and later on another portfolio of fragrance brands. It's funny – before turning thirty, I always assumed I would just climb the corporate ladder, eventually winding up as an SVP of Marketing for a big beauty company, or something like that. I never really loved the actual work, but I loved my coworkers and had a good work ethic, so I just kept going without thinking about it. The idea of truly loving your job felt frivolous – I couldn't really envision it. During my time at Coty, I launched the blog as a side project (blogs were totally just for fun back then, I never thought it would make money!) and the blog led me to leave Coty and go to BaubleBar to run their social media – I was their fourth employee! BaubleBar was the first job where I truly loved the work. I make that distinction between loving the job and loving the work as they're different – I loved my other jobs because of my coworkers, but I didn't actually love my job responsibilities. At BaubleBar I loved the team, and the company but also the work – my everyday job responsibilities (running their social media + influencer relationships) came naturally to me and felt fun. It was at that job where I realized I was more of a small company person and that I really thrive when I can be more creative and easily make a difference and influence the direction of the company. I think working at BaubleBar is what gave me the guts to go out on my own; though completely different from my blog I got to see something built from the ground up.
To be honest, I am not the greatest at celebrating the little things – I'm always thinking about what's next and what I can do better. No day is ever really the same, and that's something I absolutely love. I try to keep Mondays meeting free so that I can focus on getting as much work done for the week ahead. I post to my blog six days a week, so a lot of work goes into that with writing, researching post ideas, and creating the visuals. Once or twice a week I will work with my photographer to shoot for the blog. I am not a great photographer so have learned that this is something I need to outsource. We'll shoot outfits (usually stuff I wore that week), beauty stories, and the occasional flat lay/product shot. Also once or twice a week I will record the podcast with my co-host, Becca. We don't use a fancy studio or anything; we record at my apartment using equipment we bought on Amazon. And then our assistant edits it in Garageband. Most mornings I wake up around 8, make a (BIG) coffee and check social media/emails. I hate that I often go straight from bed to my desk, but that's one of the funnier parts of working for yourself I guess. The first order of business is always promoting that day's blog post. I post to Instagram (using PLANOLY of course), stories, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Then I'll go to both The Stripe + the Bad on Paper Facebook groups to check in on conversations happening there. Facebook groups are pretty reader sustained, but I always like to chime in on the conversations when I can. Then it's usually an hour of emails (and by emails I mean signing contracts, completing interviews like this one, etc.) and writing. At noon I like to go to yoga if I can – it's a nice break in the day, and I'm always more creative when I get back to my desk. Afternoons are always a wild card. At least one day a week is an afternoon shoot, and at least one day a week is spent recording the podcast. Monday afternoons I try to be at my desk writing and being productive, and the other days I'm usually in the city for meetings. I've been trying to be a better networker and take more meetings; be it with fellow content creators and influencers or the brands I work with. Then it's usually back to my desk for an hour or two. I also have a lot of evening events for the blog – dinners with brands, launch parties, etc. I am not a big events person, but it's an important part of the job – I usually just go for a little while, say hello, and then head home or meet up with friends! I am most creative at night so often find myself working when I get home – I know this isn't good for that whole "work-life balance" thing, but I enjoy it so.. oh well? So there is definitely no true "day in the life!" The things that help me most are staying organized (I have a very detailed editorial calendar that I live by), taking little breaks (like my mid-day yoga), and making sure that I have enough "me time" – I'm definitely an extroverted introvert so as much as I love being social, if I don't have time to myself I don't properly function!
I started blogging because I wanted to have a place to share the things I love. That was really it! It was a fun distraction when I was stressed out at work. I had always loved reading Lucky magazine and sharing my shopping finds with friends, so it just felt like a fun way to keep doing that. I truly had no idea anyone would ever read it! As for milestones... ! Obviously leaving my day job to pursue it full time was a big one. But before that even, a big one was leaving Coty for BaubleBar – I never would have gotten that job were it not for my blog. My blog and social channels served as a digital resume of sorts and got me to that job. The other one was a fun one – in 2013, I
collaborated with Matt Bernson. We designed a little line of ballet flats, which was cool! Lastly, launching the
podcast this past year was a big one. I have been a little bit shocked by how quickly it's grown. It's a great feeling to know that we have this little project where we are being fully, 100% our nerdy (book loving, self-care obsessed) selves and that it's resonated with so many people. We sold out our upcoming live show at Caroline's (April 1st), and that was an amazing feeling. And as for goals I want to continue to grow The Stripe (and all of its associated channels).
Everyone says that blogs are dying, but I think we will see that changing; I think people are craving more community and longer form content (as opposed to just a photo). I will always love and use Instagram, but I've actually switched my strategy back to using Instagram to tease what's on the blog. Everything I do is with the goal of getting more people to the site! And we're seeing so much growth with the podcast, so I think that there's a lot of opportunity there. More live shows, maybe a line of merchandise, and bringing on even more amazing guests!
I heard about PLANOLY from one of your founders, Brandy Pham! We had worked together at BaubleBar when she was designing jewelry. I use it every day. It makes posting and planning out the grid so much easier. I love seeing how things will look next to each other – every Sunday I will go in and tentatively plan out my feed for the week. I love using PLANOLY for story planning; and I like how easily I can transition between the mobile and desktop versions. I can upload everything in from my computer, write the captions there (I hate typing on my iPhone) and have them ready to go. I don't plan out my stories for every day but for sponsored campaigns find this to be so so helpful.
Oh my gosh, thanks! So, as background, I knew that I wanted to start a podcast (mostly because I try to keep on top of trends in media and saw an opportunity – blogging + Instagram is so saturated but with podcasting there's still such a huge opportunity to grow). That being said, I never wanted to do a podcast just to do it or because I "should." It had to have a point, be different and interesting from what else is already out there. And I knew I needed to do it with a friend – I wouldn't want to have to rely on talking into a microphone by myself (boring!) for an hour or having guests (stressful to book!) every week. As I thought about my existing audience, I knew I wanted to tie in books as my monthly reading lists on my blog are so popular. My friend Becca has always been one of my favorite reading friends, and she loved listening to podcasts as much as I did so it felt like she would be the perfect person. (Also, we have complementary skills – she's great with advertisers and a lot of the digital stuff; I had the reader base and the connections for guests). Creating content for the podcast is pretty straightforward – it's actually not a lot of work (relative to the blog, at least) especially now that we've started paying our assistant (my old intern) to edit the episodes for us. We have a google doc with our outline for the week – working on that usually takes about an hour a week I would say... and then we record! We bought a zoom recorder and microphones off of Amazon and then just upload and edit into Garageband. There was definitely a learning curve with both the equipment and Garageband, but we watched a LOT of youtube tutorials and figured it out! So right now the podcast is probably only about 5 hours a week though social media takes up a bit more – our Facebook group is constantly bustling! As we grow, it's starting to take a bit more time – writing the ads, working with brands, reaching out to guests, planning our live show, etc. But it's still mostly a "for fun" endeavor!
Starting a blog right now is going to be hard. While I totally believe that there is room for everyone on the Internet if you are looking to be successful and monetize I would say that you need to make sure you are doing something different or at least have some sort of an angle.
Besides that, I think it's important to a) always be yourself, b) invest in your visuals (a great site design and beautiful photography) and c) have fun with it and share personality. I find myself most drawn to accounts where they have a stronger voice and personality. If we are going to be honest though, I'd recommend starting a podcast instead – it's easier to grow there!
I think people are craving more than beautiful photography. They want a real connection, and to feel like they are a part of a community. Captions are becoming more and more important, people are craving longer-form content, and community is becoming king! I think we will see more Facebook groups and more personal content. Also a shift from professional photography to more iPhone photography. To see more from our Influencer Chat Series, follow us through the hashtag: #InfluencerChatSeries on Instagram.