Please welcome Grace Atwood from The Stripe!
- Tell us a little about yourself. Where to begin! I grew up on Cape Cod. I love the beach. I’m happiest by the water, even if that means running along the East River at night. I’ve lived in New York for 10 years. I’m old by blogger standards (I’m 34!). My background is in retail (I started my career as an assistant buyer), branding (I worked in beauty marketing for six years), and social media (I was BaubleBar’s director of social media for four years). I love to travel, and I love living in New York. I would consider myself insatiably curious and am always out and about, visiting new museums, trying all of Manhattan’s many restaurants, and going to movies and concerts. When I’m not out, I’m at home with my cat, Tyrion. I love him, probably a bit too much.
- When did you start blogging, and what made you want to start a blog? I started my blog six years ago in January 2010. I just wanted a place to share all of the things that inspired me. I had this terrible boss at work, and my morale was pretty low . . . I needed an outlet! It was terrible. I made my graphics in Microsoft Paint so everything was distorted, and I had literally no idea what I was doing. Dark photos, bad lighting, colored fonts . . . I made every mistake.
- Besides blogging full-time, you also list social media at BaubleBar on your résumé! What’s that like? I worked at BaubleBar for four years. I was actually the brand’s fourth hire. It was a great place to work. I loved being able to make a real difference in the company’s strategy, and I also made some of my best friends while working there. In the early days, I had my hands in everything. Literally . . . I even packed orders! Working for a start-up is fun in that way. When you work at a start-up, you kind of never stop working, but you are so passionate about it and you have so much fun that you sort of forget that you are still working. We worked crazy hours in the beginning, but I loved every minute! Last February, I transitioned to two days a week, and then this past June, I left for good. It was a hard decision, but I’m glad I did it. It’s allowed me to shift my entire focus to my own site and channels . . . and also have a life. When I first started at BaubleBar, my blog was pretty small and relatively unknown. As it grew, it was really hard doing both. For those last two years, I didn’t have much of a life. I was either working on my blog or at my day job. There was no balance; it wasn’t sustainable! Now I see my friends, I go on dates, I travel and do interesting things.
- So many bloggers have set goals to blog full-time. How did you make the transition from the corporate world to blogging full-time? Haha, I held out for as long as I possibly could. I really did. I was always very adamant that I didn’t want to be a full-time blogger, which may seem silly (it seems silly to me now), but I always really got so much of my self-worth out of having a more conventional career. The thing is, once I started really treating my blog like its own brand, I realized that I had built my own career. It may be a bit more unconventional, but I am still learning and growing every day. That said, my BaubleBar days are some of my fondest memories, so I’m glad I stayed as long as I did. If your goal is to blog full-time, I would give the following advice. Take it with a grain of salt as I am a bit more conservative . . . but this is how I looked at it.
- Make sure that you have at least six months’ salary/living expenses banked, before you even think about leaving your day job. I may be overly cautious, but I saved up a LOT before I left.
- From there, take a really hard look at your income and expenses. I got to a point where I was earning more money from my blog than my day job two years before I quit, but I also hadn’t factored in all of the expenses (photography, equipment, and so on and so forth). Also keep in mind that you will need your own health insurance, and that freelancers are taxed at a much higher rate.
- Along those lines, diversify your revenue streams. I think what has happened with Pinterest and now Instagram has been a really big learning experience for a lot of influencers. You don’t have to rely on one channel or platform for all of your money. I have seven revenue streams: sponsored blog posts, sponsored social media posts, affiliate revenue, consulting services, banner ads, product collaborations, and event hosting. That being said (in my opinion, and again, I am conservative), the bulk of your revenue should be coming from your site/blog, as that is the one thing you can actually have some control over.
- Last but not least, have confidence in yourself! Like any freelance role, blogging can be feast or famine. You’ll have a million projects over the holidays and then a slow Q1. The month I gave my notice, I remember having very few projects and being scared. Then things picked up the following month, and I was fine.
- Get QuickBooks. I’m six years in and just did this. It has changed my life. It’s a huge pain but also the most amazing thing ever.
- Do tell us about the name. I see you tweaked it a bit after a big anniversary? Congrats, by the way! Thank you! I changed it a year ago, and I’m so glad I did.I’ve said this before, but Stripes & Sequins just started to feel a little young. I was at events with editors from big magazines and always felt a little frivolous saying my blog name. I wanted something that was one word that would just flow off my tongue when giving my elevator pitch. My best friend owns a PR agency, and we spent hours and hours brainstorming. On a whim, I looked up The Stripe, and surprisingly, it was for sale! I had to save for a bit to buy the domain, but it was worth it. At the end of the day, the name of the site and that URL are both pretty important. I love stripes, though; I’m almost always wearing something striped! Sequins, not so much these days, but I am still a little bit of a closet magpie.
- How do you stay true to yourself while continuing to evolve in the blogger community? I just try to be really thoughtful about all of my content. Is this something I would want to see? Is it helpful/useful? Is it a brand I truly love? I find that when I gut check all of my content with a simple “Would I want to read this?” I produce my best work.
- How has your style and blog evolved since starting your blog journey?I’ve grown up. I started blogging when I was 28. I would say my style has gotten a bit more polished, and I’ve adopted a quality over quantity mentality.
- We saw you in NYC for Fashion Week and at a few events — what is your favorite thing about Fashion Week, and how long have you been attending? Can I tell you a secret? I actually kind of hate Fashion Week. I don’t go to very many shows. I’ve been attending since I first moved to the city in 2006. I worked on a handful of fragrance brands so I would get to attend their shows. The runway shows are magical, and it’s so fun . . . there’s nothing quite like that moment when the lights go on and the music starts. That being said, I really hate the scene. Everything has changed so much, and I’m not comfortable with it. I also get a little bit claustrophobic and hate big crowds (gosh, I’m really making myself sound super cool, huh?!). I do go to a few shows every season to see a couple of my favorite designers, but I just don’t enjoy it the way I used to. So I will instead just say that my favorite thing about Fashion Week is that so many of my friends come to New York from out of town, and I get to hang out with them. Yummy dinners, fun parties and events at night . . . that’s more my thing.
- Speaking of events, you are such a great networker! How did you get to be so good at it, and do you have any advice for newer bloggers who aren’t so comfortable with it? Oh my gosh, that’s really flattering as I actually wouldn’t say that I’m a great networker. I have a large network because I’ve been doing this for so long (and living in New York for so long). I still have a lot of great contacts from my P&G and Coty days. I am not all that comfortable in large groups and tend to avoid events unless they’re being put on by a good friend. (Oddly, most of my close friends work in PR or fashion.) My favorite way to network is to meet up for a one-on-one coffee, a glass of wine, or a manicure. I’m all about forming a real relationship with someone (PR reps, other bloggers, etc). I will say that I am a relationships person. An old boss told me that my reputation was the most important thing, more important than my résumé and my experience. It didn’t make sense at first, but I get it now. Respond to emails promptly, return phone calls within 24 hours, and so on and so forth. I put my relationships first and foremost always, so maybe that is why. I also really love connecting people who I think will get along. For newer bloggers, my advice would be to reach out thoughtfully to bloggers and brands that you really respect. See if they’re free for a quick call or a coffee. And be respectful of their time. I would also try to find other bloggers with audiences similar in size to your own and collaborate! I would avoid doing Instagram loop giveaways, but find ways to cross-promote each other on your blogs and social media. Maybe a guest-post series. One thing that has really helped me build my relationships has been to do a weekend reading series, where I link to my favorite articles from the week. It’s helped me strengthen relationships with other bloggers and is a nice way to spread the love. It’s become one of my most popular posts every week.
- As an influential member of the blogging community, you are pretty well known, but do you have any fashion or lifestyle bloggers you admire and follow yourself? Oh, there are so many! I follow all of my girlfriends’ blogs (some of my good friends who also blog include A Piece of Toast, Cheetah Is the New Black, Honestly WTF, Look Linger Love, Sequins & Stripes, With Love From Kat, Lemon Stripes, This TimeTomorrow, My Style Pill, and House of Harper). I always hate listing out my friends because I always inevitably leave someone out. I also really admire what Gal Meets Glam and Damsel in Dior are doing. I think both of those girls have done an amazing job staying true to their style, innovating, and building something exceptional.
- Do you have any tips for bloggers starting out or bloggers looking to focus on a vertical like lifestyle/fashion?Think about how you can be different from what’s out there. The market has gotten pretty saturated, and I really don’t know if it’s possible to start a brand-new blog now and be successful unless you do something that’s different than the millions of fashion and lifestyle blogs that are already out there.
- Photography is a big deal for a fashion/lifestyle blogger. What kind of camera and lens do you shoot with? I have a Canon 5D and a Fuji X-T10. My photographer, Lydia, has a really great camera, but I’m not sure what she uses. We’re always playing around with different lenses. I love my Fuji. I bought it for travel, but now I use it more than my Canon!
- As a fashion blogger, you get to wear some incredible brands. Which are some of your favorites? Rebecca Taylor is my number one. I just love everything she makes. I also absolutely adore SEA and Ulla Johnson. Those are my top three. I also love J.Crew and Zara for basics, and I’m always discovering new favorites on Shopbop. I’m also really into supporting more independent designers. There’s an amazing line called Troubadour that’s based out of Charleston, SC, and I love all of Mi Golondrina’s embroidered blouses.
- What is a go-to look you’ll be wearing this Spring? Lots of dresses as always . . . and blue and white! I’m really into anything embroidered or off-the-shoulder right now. On my feet, lace-up wedges . . . I love a great espadrille!
- Where do you do most of your shopping? Online, in store, at boutiques, etc? Both! I shop at Nordstrom and Shopbop quite a bit, but I love shopping in stores, as I can try things on and see how they fit. Returns are such a pain. I also love smaller boutiques. In the city, Otte and Bird are both really great. And when I’m in Charleston, I always pop into Hampden, and I never leave empty-handed!
- What is the one thing most people would be surprised to know about you? I’m not sure, so I’ll share something embarrassing. I don’t have a driver’s license! I let it expire when I moved here, and now I have to take the test again. I’ve been putting it off.
- You share some pretty personal content (dating, being an introvert) on your blog. How do you determine how much to share with your audience? You know, I’m still learning! It’s very hard. I recently had an experience where someone was upset by something I’d written. I felt terrible. A good guideline is to not post anything that you wouldn’t be comfortable with the whole world seeing, but I am learning that it isn’t just about what you are comfortable with. I’m an open book, but some of my friends are pretty private people. Make sure your friends or anyone you talk about on your blog or social channels are OK with it.
- Favorite social media outlet? Your social media handles? Instagram and Snapchat. I take a lot of pride in my Instagram feed, but I love Snapchat, as it’s quick and fun and not so curated. I’m @graceatwood on Twitter and Instagram and grace.atwood on Snapchat. 😉 My Facebook page and Pinterest page are both linked.
- What do you love about ShopStyle Collective? The team! I really love my rep, Amy. Specifically, I really like the transparency and the data that she provides me with. I think analytics are so important, and I’ve been really happy with the level of detail I’ve been getting.
Thanks, so much, Grace- you are breath of fresh air and we loved interviewing you for this feature! If you’d like to be considered for the the Blogger Spotlight, or would like to nominate someone to be featured shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us why you or your friend should be featured on the Collective blog!