February 12, 2018

Business Q&A with Carrie

Enjoy our second Q&A with Carrie...

Business Q&A with Carrie

Happy Monday, guys! We’re going to get right into it because we have lots of great questions that you submitted for Carrie, all pertaining to business. Enjoy!

Business background

Can you tell us more about your educational and professional background (before blogging)?

Well, I attended the University of Texas at Austin and received my bachelor’s degree (with highest honors – top of my class) in petroleum engineering. After graduating, I worked at a large, publicly-traded energy company for five years. Then I accepted a position at a private energy company that, at the time, was a lot smaller.

That company provided the framework for the majority of my ideals about entrepreneurship and business. I was privileged to be a part of the company’s phenomenal growth and success over time. While at that company, which was perennially voted one of the best places to work in America, I went back to school to get my MBA. During my twelve-year tenure at this energy company, I held management positions in both engineering and finance / investor relations. I had the opportunity to see and do so many incredible things during my time there. It was an amazing learning experience!

Long story short, while I am forever appreciative of that experience, I was just ready for a completely new professional challenge. While I knew that I loved business, I was just burnt out on the corporate work environment. The place where I worked was pretty intense and rather inflexible schedule wise. It was just time.

When did you start your blog?

Side note: I rarely use the word “blogger” to describe myself or “blog” to describe my website. I actually don’t consider myself a blogger! When asked what I do, I say something along these lines:

I run an online platform aimed at empowering women to live, think, and dress with more color. We write about all sorts of colorful topics including fashion, food, lifestyle, entertaining, travel, and more!

Anyway, I started my fashion “blog” in very late 2014, as a way to dip my toes in the online business waters, so to speak. I knew from the beginning that I ultimately wanted it to be a business. But I also knew that this was an entirely new industry to me, so I had to ease in to the sector, start to establish my style and perspective, and slowly build things up from there.

At the beginning of 2016 is when I left my corporate job and started working full-time on my business. Then of course, in late 2017, we rebranded and re-launched the website.

The business of blogging

How do you make money?

You know, it’s funny… For some reason, money is kind of a taboo topic, it seems. Particularly in the world of blogging, no one really talks about the business side of it. Well, I’m here to pull the curtain back on how things work around here!

I’ll keep this somewhat simple / brief this time (as this post is getting long!), but I’m happy to dive into it more another time if you’re interested.

These are the primary ways we make money around here:

1. Sponsored content

2. Product sales

3. Affiliate links

4. Advertising

Sponsored content: That’s when companies pay us to, in essence, craft a marketing campaign, tailored for our audience. Examples of that around here include companies like Chobani, Uber, and many more.

Product sales: Now that we have our own store, we make money by you all buying our products. Thank you! (Note: be on the look out for a refresh of the store soon!)

Affiliate links: Here’s how that works… When you click on a link I share, if you buy that product (or any product from that site) within a preset period of time (one week, two weeks, etc.), we make a small commission. Emphasis on the word small for us.

Advertising: You might have noticed a few ads interjected in our content here. Hopefully they are not too overbearing, and hopefully they are relevant. When you click through on these adds, we make a little money.

What might surprise you is which of these revenue streams is the largest for us. Any guesses?

It’s sponsored content!

I believe that is due largely to the fact that we have established that we, as a team, can develop high-quality on-brand content for brands. Now, please note that I am extremely picky with what brands we partner with! However, you must also understand that it costs quite a bit of money to run this site. That’s kind of another subject, but just know it costs a pretty penny to run this business.

On the other hand, most bloggers would likely report that affiliate linking earns them the most money. It’s different for us. I don’t consider us a “shopping” blog. That is, we are not going to continually force link after link on you! Buy this, buy that, this is on sale, you need this, you need that. Obviously, there will always be an element of that here, by nature of what we do. But it is certainly not the focus of this business.

What do you do with all the clothes you wear here? Do you pay for all of them? Are they free? Do you have to send them back? Do you donate some? Do you sell some?

I’ll attempt to answer this as succinctly as I can. Trust me – this topic is a whole process in and of itself!

Acquiring clothes: how does that work?

As you have probably seen on the unboxing videos that many influencers post on social media (side note: I’m not a fan of unboxing videos. Kind of tacky in my opinion. What’s your opinion?), bloggers do receive a lot of goods in the mail. These are free of charge – “courtesy of” as you’ll often hear or “c/o” as you’ll often see.

However, early on, I removed myself from many of these lists. I didn’t want to post the same thing that every other blogger was posting. It was important to me to retain my unique perspective and style and voice.

So, I still purchase many things myself. Yes, this is another business expense, if you will. But I hope it lends an authenticity to what I recommend to you, as I put my money where my mouth is.

When I do receive items for free, you’ll see that I note them as “c/o” as mentioned above. Just as we are required to disclose sponsored content, we also fastidiously disclose when items are gifted.

Back to the subject of product gifting, there are two types of gifting: (1) mass mailings in which many bloggers are sent the same item(s), (2) targeted gifting. Type one is what I largely forego. Now, type 2 is when I approach a company or a company approaches me for gifting. This happens when both the brand and we see synergies together.

Getting rid of clothes: how does that work?

As much as I believe in quality over quantity, by nature of what I do, I do have to feature new, currently available items. Perhaps surprisingly, I am the opposite of a pack rat. So, when the time comes to get rid of stuff, I have no problem doing so!

First, I offer items to my family and friends.

Secondly, I donate. We have several wonderful women’s based charities here that I love to support.

Thirdly, I sell some of my designer goods on TheRealReal. Furthermore, I am currently in the process of setting up a Poshmark site to sell some of my everyday items. Many of the items are barely worn, so be on the look out for some good deals!

One final note on this: I will never sell any item that has been gifted to me. In my book, that is unethical.

Business advice

What is the number one thing to think about when starting a business?

What value are you bringing to the world?

The world is littered with businesses – some of which fail, some of which succeed. Spoiler alert: more fail than succeed. Particularly in crowded spaces (like blogging), before starting your business, ask yourself:

What am I going to do that is new / better / different to stand out? What am I going to do to differentiate myself from all the others out there?

Why does the world need your business idea? Think about this long and hard. The secret to succeeding isn’t doing what everyone else is. The key is to do something better or different from everyone else. And make sure there is demand for it. Make sure people want what you’re selling!

What is the best advice you can give a woman who is looking to start her own business?

1. You have to do the work.

I know, I know… that’s not flashy or “sexy” so to speak. But the truth is – you gotta be willing to do the work! That’s all there is to it. Believe in yourself and your business passionately – and then be willing to do whatever it takes to succeed.

What is the saying? “The road to hell is paved with good intentions” they say. Well, the road to business failure is also paved with good intentions, I’d venture to say. It’s not enough to just want to be successful. It’s not enough to just have great ideas. You have to execute on those ideas!

It’s not always glamorous. But you have to be willing to dig in, get your hands dirty, put in the hours, and do the work.

Can I give you a second piece of advice? Okay – thanks for indulging me. Here goes…

2. Know your numbers!

I don’t care whether your business is creative or artist in nature, you still need to know your numbers! At the end of the day, we are all in business to make money. Hopefully, we turn around and use that money to better our lives and the lives of others. But quite bluntly, we have to make money to stay in business, right?

So you have to know your numbers! Website traffic, revenue, expenses, margins, profit, etc.

Are you familiar with the idea of SMART goal setting? SMART is a mnemonic acronym that stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-based. So, if your goal setting is supposed to be specific and measurable, then you better know how to measure your results!

Oh heck – let’s just go for a third piece of advice, shall we?

3. Surround yourself with a great team!

I can’t emphasize this enough. There is only so much of you to go around. Your time is finite. Besides that, your skills – however great they may be – are also limited. You aren’t great at everything! Sorry if that is news to you. Ha.

Really, though, investing in a great team is the best investment you can make in your business, when the time is right.

When you do hire, choose wisely! Choose people whose skill sets are complementary to yours. You don’t need another you! You need someone to fill in the skills gaps.

When you were working in the corporate world in a very male-dominated industry, did you ever feel insecure or self-conscious? Any advice for how to handle these feelings in my career?

Good question! Goodness – could my world have been any more male-dominated? Oil & gas engineering. Quite often, when I would be in the board room or in a meeting, I would be the only female.

Now, I have to say, though, I somewhat was used to it. Not that the absence of females in corporate leadership roles is acceptable, but I’m just saying that it was something I had encountered all through my life. When I was in high school, I worked at the local golf course in the pro shop. The vast majority of the golfers were male. When I was in college, I studied petroleum engineering. Again, the vast majority of my colleagues were male. When I interned during college, one summer, I worked out in the actual oilfield. In that case, no doubt all my co-workers were male! So, by the time I graduated from college and entered the work force, I was more or less used to it.

One thing that I did early on: try to blend in. Literally and figuratively. And I have seen many women take this approach. It’s the mindset that, in order to succeed, I need to act and look and be like those in positions of power. That plays itself out in many ways – how women dress in the workplace, how we talk in meetings, how we behave amongst our coworkers, and so on and so forth.

But eventually, I gained enough confidence to just be myself – and that was so freeing. As with any scenario in life, when you aren’t being authentic, it can be exhausting. So, yes, I started wearing more colorful stylish clothes (yet still work appropriate of course) to my conservative, neutral-loving work environment. And I started being myself personality wise.

The great thing is that when you are living authentically people will naturally gravitate towards you and what you’re doing!

More Questions

Do you have more questions for Carrie? You seemed to really love this last time we did it, so I’m sure you loved this one, too! Lots of interesting ground covered here. If you do have more questions, feel free to leave them in the comments below, message Carrie on Instagram (@carriec), or email [email protected] We’ll be doing these Q&As monthly. If you missed the first, you can check it out here.

Have a great day!

20 comments

  1. Jenn Lake says:

    Such a great post, Carrie!

    1. Thanks a bunch for saying that, friend!

  2. Sheri says:

    Great post. Especially about revenue and where your clothes go. Can’t wait to see your Poshmark closet.

    1. Thanks so much, Sheri! Both for your comment and your questions! 😀

      More color please,
      Carrie

  3. Erin says:

    Loved this Q&A , Carrie! Thanks for sharing! Looking forward to checking out your Poshmark items for sale, too! 😘🌈❤️

    1. I’m so glad you liked it, Erin! I’ll be sure to share when the Poshmark launches.

  4. Emily S says:

    So happy for you and all the cool stuff you’re doing! xo

    1. Thank you so much for saying that, Emily! So grateful to still be connected with you after all these years and changes in life. 🙂

  5. Kim says:

    Very nice, Carrie. Good advice on being yourself in the workplace. Hard to go wrong. Keep it up! Also, just FYI, I am wearing that pink sweater, today…

    1. Thanks so very much for chiming in! I appreciate your encouragement.

      Ah, cool! I love hearing that. 🙂

  6. Carolyn says:

    love your honesty and depth of knowledge!

    http://heyprettything.com

    1. Thanks so very much for saying that, Carolyn! I appreciate it.

  7. What a great article, Carrie! Keep up the awesome work!

    1. Thank you so very much for saying that, Chandra! I hope you’re doing well. Let’s catch up sometime.

    1. Thank you for saying that, Jennifer! Hope you and M are doing well. 🙂

  8. Shiri says:

    Great post and amazing advice!

    1. Big thanks, Shiri! You are a bunsiness inspiration.

  9. Abi says:

    This is an AWESOME post!!! It answered a lot of questions and shed quite a bit of light on a number of things for me. Thanks so much for the time you put into this.

    1. Oh thanks so much for saying that, Abi! If you ever have any other questions, just let me know.

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