Tag Archives: the inspirations

The Inspirations: Chris Guillebeau & The Art of Non-Conformity

While in New York last month, I was lucky enough to meet author and entrepreneur Chris Guillebeau through our mutual friend Megan. From our brief encounter I was enthralled by his story of traveling the world, writing books and – without wanting to sound like a big cliché- living the dream! Then, when I got home, I had an email from Chris saying how lovely it was so meet me and how great he thought my business was! Holy cow…

Hi Chris, thank you so much for taking time to speak to us today! Can you introduce yourself to my readers?

Thanks for having me! I’m a writer, traveler, and entrepreneur. I’m on a quest to visit every country in the world (185 down, 8 to go). I’m fortunate to spend most of my time working with fun people who connect through my blog and offline community.

I also drink a lot of coffee.

What an amazing and enviable job! Have you ever worked for someone else and was there a defining moment when you thought “That’s it! I’m done!”? Was being your own boss something you always wanted?

I’m a terrible employee, so much that I’m essentially unemployable. I’m just not very good at doing what I’m told or bringing my own motivation to someone else’s project. I walked out of my last job at age 20 (I’m 34 now) and never went back.

What is The Art of Non-Conformity? Who is it for and what’s the overriding message?

The central message of AONC is “You don’t have to live your life the way other people expect you to.” Our community includes all kinds of people from all ages and backgrounds. There are students, entrepreneurs, artists, travelers, and more. What unites us is an interest in doing unconventional, remarkable things.

Your ethos has gained quite the cult following. So much so that your first book, The Art of Non-Conformity sold over 50,000 copies in it’s first year! Can you tell us about writing it. How did it all come about?

I had returned to the U.S. from four years in West Africa. I started the AONC blog and began writing about my adventure to visit every country in the world. The readership grew, and I got serious about writing a book.

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The Inspirations: Elsie Larson of A Beautiful Mess/Red Velvet

Following on from chatting to one of my favourite bloggers last week, I thought I’d follow suit with this edition of The Inspirations and speak to another incredibly inspiring blogger. Although calling Elsie Larson mearly a ‘blogger’ is doing her a huge disservice and is an understatement of epic proportions! She is a multifaceted business woman with mad skills. A master of multi-tasking she, alongside her sister and business partner Emma, runs a hugely successful blog (which current gets over 170,000 views a day!), owns a vintage clothing boutique, an online shop (where they sell their own line of dresses!)..oh she’s also currently writing her first book! Way to make us feel lazy superwoman.

It was really interesting to rummage around in the mind of Elsie. I hope you enjoy reading our chat as well.

Hi Elsie, I’m so excited to have you in the Green Room today! Could you introduce yourself?

I’m Elsie from A Beautiful Mess. My sister, Emma, and I own a local vintage boutique and run our blog as our full time job. I also design dress lines a few times each year… never a dull moment!

I started my blog five years ago with no particular aspirations, except to share the random photos I was taking each day. If I could go back in time and give myself a little advice I’d say to keep an open mind and try anything once! Currently, I’m wrapping up work on the very first A Beautiful Mess book, due out in 2013.

Your blog is only one part of your business but its exceptionally popular. How do you feel it compliments the other areas of your business and do you have any tips or advice for people with businesses that want to use blogging and social media to enhance their brand?

Great question! I really believe that blogging has to come from it’s own creative place. Blogs that are based solely on promoting a business can be one dimensional and often lack a strong voice. My advice for business owners who want to start a blog is to explore all your options. Just because you want to promote your business doesn’t mean that’s all you can do. Try anything that interests you! For example I follow the brand Fossil’s blog and it is a fun read. They blog about so much more than just their own products and I think that’s something that I enjoy in any brand’s blog.

What do you think are the biggest mistakes business owners who blog make and how would you encourage them to remedy this?

I think that blogging about their own goods too much is the biggest mistake I see. Any business is wise to create a lifestyle resource that their target customers can enjoy, not just a feed of new products. There are so many ways to educate customers about your products without just “selling” them. For example, each time we launch a dress collection I spend a couple weeks creating “3 Ways To Wear It” features for each dress. These features work because they do sell my designs, but readers who aren’t interested in buying can enjoy them still while learning little styling tips!

What do you think makes a good blogger? Do you see any emerging trends in what makes some bloggers phenomenally well read and successful while others struggle to attract readers? What do you think separates the successes from the mediocre?

I think being original is really important. I could talk all day about that but the bottom line is that blogs that imitate other blogs are really only selling themselves short.

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The Inspirations: Naomi Davis of Love Taza

Photography Credit: Carissa Gallo

I discovered Naomi’s blog, Love Taza, in early 2009, when she published her wedding photographs. I immediately fell in love with her and her husband Josh’s effortless style and achingly cool attitude. I loved the way they shared cute little stories about their life as newlyweds – getting married, setting up home, moving from New York to DC, getting their dog Kingsley, having their first child, Eleanor… It was all very unpretentious and honest and I felt connected with them instantly.

So I thought Naomi would be the perfect person to interview today. If you have a blog and you worry about what to share about yourself, then Naomi and her family are the perfect role models to inspire you.

Hi Naomi, I’ve followed your blog for years and I’m so excited to have you in the Green Room today. For those readers that might not know who you are, could you briefly introduce yourself?

I’m Naomi (also known as Taza in the blogging world) and I live in Washington DC with my husband, Josh, and 16 month old baby girl, Eleanor. In 2 or 3 weeks, we’ll be adding a new member to the family as I’m due with our second child, a boy, in early June! We also have an English bulldog named Kingsley who is sort of our world.  We love him dearly.

My husband and I met while attending school in New York City (him, Columbia, me, Juilliard). We were married in NYC and lived there for a few years before making our way to DC about 3 years ago.  I started our little blog shortly after we were married as a way to share our wedding photos with family and friends. After I posted our wedding photos, I continued to update here and there about our newly wed lives in NYC and it sort of just took on a life of its own from there.  I never started my blog with the intention or desire to gain a large following or make money from it. We never advertised our blog or pushed it out there… I remember when we first started receiving comments from people we didn’t know… It made me terribly nervous and I almost made it private. But it’s been a wonderful experience (for the most part, ha!) and I’m thankful for it.  I’ve met some of my best friends through blogging, find constant inspiration and support from fellow bloggers and feel fortunate for the opportunities and experiences that have come our way because of it.

Is your blog your full time job and what role does your husband Josh play in the business?

I got my BFA in dance at Juilliard and was teaching up until Eleanor’s birth.  At the moment, I find motherhood to be my full time job. Although I’ll admit that our blog could definitely be considered a full time gig if we allowed it.

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Ask me Anything…#1

Photography Credit: Made U Look Photography (being shot in New York – more on the blog soon!)

I’m not calling today’s interview an Inspirations interview because just the thought of me doing that make me die a little inside (!) However on returning from The States on Monday I realised I didn’t have an interview lined up this week (whoops!) and on such a short lead time the only person I could turn to to get the answers back to me on time was…well…me. Thank you to everyone on twitter & facebook who helped this be a less cringe-worthy experience by submitting questions. If you have a burning question that I haven’t covered then leave it in the comments and if I get enough I’ll do another round of them soon!

How did you get started? When did you realise it was a full-time-oh-my-God-this-is-a-massive-success jobby?? (Giddy Weddings via twitter)

My story isn’t that remarkable or different to that of many people who get into the wedding industry. I started my blog when I was planning my own wedding to Gareth in 2007. At the time I didn’t even consider this could become a career, I simply wanted a place to collate all my wedding ideas and inspiration. Throughout my planning I discovered American wedding blogs. I loved the instant nature of blogging – how you could comment and feel part of a community and I wanted to join in!

After our wedding was over I didn’t want to give up weddings or blogging so I decided to morph my blog into a place for alternative wedding inspiration – i.e sharing other people’s weddings and not just my own. Although I loved the wedding blogs I’d found throughout my plans, none of them catered to the specific kind of bride or style of wedding that I had really wanted to find – the alternative, the offbeat and the Rock n Roll. I also noticed that none of these blogs I was reading were from the UK and so that probably meant that most UK brides were only having wedding magazines as their point of inspiration. I loved reading magazines throughout my planning (although in all honestly probably just because I felt like I was finally ‘allowed’ too!) but although gorgeous and beautiful, they were not showing the kinds of weddings I found inspiring at all. I think if a blog like mine had been around in 2007/2008 our wedding would have turned out very differently indeed!

It still blows my mind to think about where my blog has got me today. Every day (literally!) I’m shocked, surprised and honoured by the things I’m able to do because of it. I guess the very first event that made me think “oh crap maybe this could actually be a thing” would have been back in the summer of 2008 when I was still working as a producer of a shopping channel. I’d been running the blog as a secret hobby since late 2007 and one of my managers at work somehow found it and called me into his office. I thought I was in trouble for sure! However he told me that he loved the concept and the idea and that he was sure I could make something more of it. He took me to a few meetings and the like, and although nothing really came of them, his confidence in me and the brand really gave me a kick in the right direction. More solidly, it felt pretty good when I was finally earning enough to quit my job to blog full time!

I always recognize you by your hair! I was wondering if you feel that it’s a part of your brand and if you’d ever change it up? (Catherine Guidry via facebook)

Hum…yes…no…maybe. This is actually a really hard question and something I have thought about a lot recently! I love having pink hair, it feels very natural to me like it was the colour I was supposed to always have. As a teenager I flirted with every colour under the sun but I always came back to pink. These days I do like how it makes me stand out in a crowd (attention whore, me?!) and that when people see me at events or whatever they always know it’s me… but sometimes I do think that maybe it defines me too much you know? It’s kinda scary to think that without the pink hair people might not know who I was.

It actually makes me feel quite vulnerable thinking I might one day be without it. I definitely think my hair is very strongly associated with my brand and so I do wonder, would I fade into the background without it?! Who knows…I don’t think I’d ever go back to having ‘normal’ hair but maybe I will change up the shade one day. Let’s put it this way, I’m looking forward to being a granny with a purple rinse!

Photography Credit: Joanna Brown Photography (‘Desperate Housewife’ editorial)

How do you decide what weddings or shoots to feature? (Lucy Carter via facebook)

It’s basically all down to my own personal taste. I started the blog with no other agenda than to share the kinds of weddings I loved but didn’t see represented in the wedding media. Even though the blog has grown exponentially that hasn’t changed at all. The most important things I look out for are:

♥ A unique idea or theme. I want to share weddings to inspire my readers and make them think “wow, I would have never thought of that.” I do not want to share weddings that you’d see on every other wedding blog. I admire what many of the other blogs do and feature but it’s just not for me. I want to show new, different and exciting ideas.

♥ Details. First and foremost a wedding is all about a couple in love and dedicating their lives to each other. However a wedding blog is primarily there to inspire other brides and grooms for their own weddings and so generally I want them to be full of lots of cool ‘stuff’ and ideas. Clear and clean photographs of things like stationery, clothing, accessories, flowers, cakes, props etc are really important.

However I have featured many weddings that could be described as detail-light. Sometimes the most simple wedding can be really inspiring, just in a different way. Maybe the vibe or the couple and their love really stands out, or maybe the photographs are truly epic. My readers tend to have very similar tastes to me so if I love something often my readers will too!

♥ Great Photography. It makes me really sad when I’m submitted an awesome looking wedding but the photography is naff or just darn right awful and doesn’t show the wedding in the best way. Sure, I understand not everyone has the budget for a wedding photographer, but if getting your wedding featured on my blog is something you’d like to be able to do then professional photography is nearly always a requirement. I have featured weddings where there was no pro photographer but these are few and far between.

A professional photographer will shoot things in a way to show them clearly to people that weren’t at the wedding and that’s the kind of stuff I need to be sharing.

Photography Credit: Devlin Photos (‘Rock n Rainbow‘ editorial)

What made you decide to make the change from working and writing a blog to writing a blog full-time and what lessons did you learn about that transition? (SixteenEighteen via twitter)

I didn’t start my blog in order for it to become a business. However when I was earning enough money to supplement a portion of my income from my full-time job I decided to go part-time. I set myself (monetary) targets to reach before I did this and I certainly didn’t recklessly decide to just quit and see what happened (I probably would have done but Gareth was very strict!) Then, when I was earning as much from the blog as I was from my job we decided that it was time for me to quit completely. I was very lucky because my previous employer offered me the option of working for them on a freelance basis if I ever wanted or needed to, so I always had that added bit of security. Luckily I’ve never had to go back!

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The Inspirations: Bran Cook of Motherbrown PR

This week I chat to Bran Cook of Motherbrown PR, all about her fabulous life and career (and she is fabulous!) She also was kind enough to share some invaluable PR tips with us too, I know you’re gonna love this..

Hey Bran and welcome to the Green Room! For those of you unfamiliar with who you are, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Hey! My name is Bran (or Branwen if you want the full Monty, or Brannage or Branny. I’ve even been called Brian before now). I’m a 40 year-old, red-haired, working mum of two beautiful boys. I’m married to Chris, a self-employed creative designer (he does the pictures, I do the words) and I live in the heart of Worcestershire. I’ve worked in PR for about 17 years, rising through the ranks from general office dogsbody to running a small but successful business from the comfort of my home office.

After the birth of my first son, I soon realised that there was very little point in having a baby that you kept in child-minder storage for 12 hours a day, so with the help of a friend who owned a one-woman marketing company, I plucked up the courage to leave my job working as the PR for a large radio station (one of the best jobs of my life) and join her on a temporary contract to help her inject some PR into her business offering.

After a year, we parted company as planned and she was kind enough to hand over one of her clients that she was growing out of; a lively restaurant in Birmingham that was part of a big, national chain but whose owners preferred the personal touch of a local PR person rather than a large, faceless agency.

With years of experience in the consumer market, this was the perfect start for me. I loved the idea of working for companies that meant something to me.  If I was the target audience for their business, then surely I could give a much more honest, sincere and most importantly believable service.  This became my goal and so I made sure (when possible) I could work with brands I love – restaurants, bars, theatres, clothing, etc.

I met my first ‘wedding’ client a few years ago at a networking event and after a light-hearted, no-strings chat over coffee; Rachel Simpson Shoes started me on a journey into the wonderful world of weddings.  And that’s what I love about where I am now. The wedding industry is still growing rapidly but it’s been remarkably easy to forge incredible friendships through the events I’ve been to and through social media.  The rest, as they say is history.

So, why PR? What is it about it that you love about it?

Hmmm good question…It was never my dream to go into PR. I fell in love with it slowly and continue to do so even now. I tried my hand at all sorts of jobs growing up, purely to make enough money to be independent. I was bullied at school so decided against sixth form and opted instead for two years at Secretarial College, where I learned some basic PA skills and had the best time of my life! I then went on to have a smattering of jobs including years behind my local pub’s bar, which taught me so much about how to interact with people, how to read people and how to get the best from them.

My first bite of PR was when I worked for a company that makes shower enclosures. I was the marketing assistant in a busy office and the PR girl was this incredible, larger-than-life, energy-overdosed woman with manic hair and who spent most of the time I was there, rushing in and then rushing off again.  I knew then that this was what I wanted to do, it looked exciting!

I think I love PR because it has grown with me.  I’m conscious at how much it has changed and evolved over the years and that definitely helps keep the love alive. Don’t get me wrong, there are times when I want to hang up my hat and go and work behind a bar again, but I also know that whilst I never set out to be in PR, I think I was always meant to.

What inspires you as a businesswoman and as a person?

As a businesswoman (that sounds really funny to say about me) I’m massively inspired by small, independent businesses, who work their arses off to give the very best of themselves to their customers. Those that are so incredibly clever and talented that they inspire me to be even better at what I do.  My offering is definitely more about building a relationship with my client and if I can’t do that I can’t be myself and ultimately I can’t provide a service I’m happy with. It’s not always about the money.

Personally, I love all things creative. An memorable meal, a classic G&T, a beautiful image, a well-written story, a random selection of music genres, the innocence of my boys and watching them turning slowly into men (which scares the crap out of me). I’m tactile and flirty and fill my life with beautiful, creative, happy people who regularly inspire me. Life is way too short to spend time with people you have nothing in common with.

If you could go back to the beginning of your PR career would you offer yourself any advice or change anything?

I’d tell myself to stop worrying about what other people think! I’m the world’s worst over-analyser and in my desperate need to be liked by everyone, I’ve probably been walked over one too many times and that’s not a great quality for a business owner.  I’m always amazed when people/companies/clients don’t pay for services they have asked for, yet the thought of getting all ‘solicitor’ on someone fills me with dread.

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The Inspirations: Miranda Eason, Editor of You & Your Wedding Magazine

This week I’m honoured to be speaking to Miranda Eason, editor at You & Your Wedding. Despite being a wedding blogger, I’m still (and probably always will be!) a huge fan of magazines and so it was really exciting for me that Miranda was able to fit our chat into her extremely busy schedule! If you’ve been wanting to get into writing or working for a magazine, or thinking about getting your wedding business featured in a wedding magazine then read on…

Photography Credit: Polly Alexandre Photography

Hi Miranda! Can you tell us who you are and what you do and a little bit about your journey from starting your career to becoming the editor of one of the biggest wedding magazines in the UK?

Hello! I’m Miranda Eason, and I head up the talented team that puts together You & Your Wedding, in print and online.

I was a total magazine junkie growing up, and it was kind of obvious to everyone who knew me that this was the area I would eventually work in. I did a degree in Media Studies and during my three years at university I did three stints of work experience: a month each at more!, Cosmopolitan and 19 magazines. I got on well with one of the other students doing work experience at more!, and when she got a job as a writer at a new launch she recommended me for the editorial assistant job.

I spent my early career working my way up the ranks on a variety of teen magazines, including Top of the Pops and CosmoGIRL! When the opportunity came up to do the maternity cover for the editor at Cosmopolitan Bride I went for it. A year after that the job came up for real. I basically didn’t sleep for a week to get the project work done for the interview. Luckily it paid off and I got the job. I had the support of a great publisher, who encouraged me to turn Cosmopolitan Bride into a magazine for brides who wanted to do things a little differently.

In January 2010 the decision was made to join the Cosmopolitan Bride and You & Your Wedding teams together, so my responsibilities grew to include the You & Your Wedding brand too. Sadly last year Cosmopolitan Bride closed, but the You & Your Wedding brand is going from strength to strength and we have exciting plans for the rest of the year.

If you could go back in time would you change anything you did on your career path?

No, I try not to look back and regret things I’ve done or decisions I made, but learn from them and move on.

What does your average day look like?

If I’m in the office, my day will be taken up with reading copy, approving layouts and meeting with the team or the publisher to plan future features, fashion stories and big projects. I spend a lot of time out of the office, meeting designers and suppliers and attending bridal shows and launches to see what’s new in the world of bridal and beyond. The balance suits my personality, I think.

What’s your favourite part of the job?

It’s impossible to pick just one. I love working with the passionate and talented You & Your Wedding team. It’s always exciting to see the results of a shoot that’s been months in the planning (fashion director Sally knows I’m always impatient to see the results of her shoots and emails me a contact sheet at the end of a day’s shoot, wherever she is in the world!)

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