Singing happy birthday to a blog feels odd. Psychotic, almost. Mostly because a blog is just a series of thoughts/words typed on a piece of technology so aggressively that 6 of the keyboard letters are visually unrecognizable. But I did sing, because she is all grown up and deserves that song. Ten years ago my MIL told me that she couldn’t read my blog because she doesn’t have a blog – that’s how little we knew about blogs back then.
I started my blog “The Brass Petal” on January 4, 2010, which I didn’t realize was such a great ‘START’ date (January 1st was a Thursday so you’d have to be a monster to not wait til the Monday). I liked “brass” before the gold rush of the 20-teens, and flowers more than most at the time… or now. Thus the name “Brass Petal.”
10 years in the insane wild west of digital media is more like 70 years in a normal business – dog years, really. The level of pride that I feel is only matched by my level of shock that this is my life, then trumped by my level of gratefulness for you. You have made this all worth it.
So here we are. Just me and you.
Do you know what celebrating 10 years means? I get the excuse to tell those of you who are into it, all of it. The older one gets the more one has this need to reflect on their beginnings, how they’ve changed for the good *and bad*, and figure out where they are going – what is next? Add in the fact that I’m an external processor and generally need to talk about those things…
The quick recap:
“Born and raised Oregonian, young Emily was 30 years old when she moved from New York to LA. A former dog-walker, piano teacher, and bartender she shed her provincial life to become a prop stylist for magazines and advertisers before hosting her own TV show and becoming a “design influencer.”
Writing your own obituary is highly entertaining. By the way, I literally walked dogs for one year and yet I insist on it making my resume to ensure I look grounded despite my success – A secret apology. She picked up literal sh*t for a year – she must be normal…
In 2010 I started a blog, got bored, auditioned for HGTV’s DesignStar, won, hosted my show “Secrets From A Stylist,” had zero kids (at the time), two cats (RIP), and a then-rocky marriage to my best friend (super solid now).
Going back to the beginning…
How did this blog start????
As I said, 10 years ago today(ish), I wrote my first blog post on The Brass Petal. The first post was a true masterpiece of information and inspiration and deserves a reprise.
Here you go:
Same me, just more offensive and with fewer capital letters. I wasn’t “woke” yet, because obviously I would write “healthy and fulfilled in my career” now. I was obviously being hyperbolic for comedic intent, but perhaps that’s not funny anymore. But the “ah 2010, here you are, I figured this would happen” bit still kinda cracks me up. Note the use of not my photo, with no crediting or referencing. I think I probably took a screenshot, or worse, took a photo of a magazine and uploaded it onto my Blogspot. These were the dark ages.
It was before Pinterest. Before Instagram. This was meant to be a journal – a creative outlet that I could reference and you could possibly share.
The intent was clearly not to have a business. I was 30, working as a stylist, living freelance-paycheck to freelance-paycheck. The internet was a baby and social media was barely in its womb. Oh, I do hope I keep having birthing analogies throughout this post…
So I started writing the blog, but then it became how to get followers. Here was my “strategy.”
I did it the old fashioned way – the sandwich board of marketing – an annoying mass email to literally every single email address in my contact list. Select all, copy, paste. I spared no one from receiving the following:
Such bravery. I was one day in, ONE DAY, and I emailed it to everyone I knew. I guess I felt that I was going to stick to it.
I didn’t stop there…
I also emailed all the bloggers that I followed with custom emails – this one was to Anne Sage – but Joy (OhJoy!), Coco Kelley, Apt 34, Oh Happy Day and many more that I’m still friends with were included.
So I got a mini following, which at the time was huge.
Other titles would include: “art that I want to make sweet love to” or “blue bells.” It was irreverent without being offensive. Happy, yet rebellious. I wrote every day, without an editorial calendar or nary an assistant. I didn’t need it. It was fun and easy.
Three months later I auditioned for DesignStar out of sheer desperation to shake myself out of my new-to-LA depression. The blog helped me get on the show. “Bloggers” and “stylists” were just becoming buzzwords so it was good timing, not without hard work, but yes very good timing.
Winning a reality show on HGTV (which was huge at the time) changed my life forever – in an absolutely positive way. After I won and began “Secrets From a Stylist” the blog exploded… or what felt like an explosion. I literally had no idea how many people read because that wasn’t the motivation. There were always a ton of comments. I couldn’t wait to write every night (which isn’t that different from now, depending on the post).
It’s hard to talk about the growth of the blog without including “Secrets From a Stylist” – my TV show. It had an almost cult following thanks to you guys, until HGTV decided to move to “real estate and renovate” format and canceled most design/decorate shows.
The show/work was so fun, full of mostly vintage and mass-market (but this was before 2-day shipping – we had to plan and shop IN PERSON). When your style is mostly vintage and thrift, it’s automatically super eclectic – SO feast your eyes on these.
So after 10 years, I’ve been asking myself a lot of WHYS?
Why did people read this blog or watch that show?
It was very specific. I wasn’t a great journalist nor did I have any authority or design credentials. I’ve thought about this a lot recently to help me figure out why I’m here and what is next. Here’s what I came up with:
I think there was a hole in the design world that I somehow filled. The “thrift-store, girl next door” if you will. I can’t explain it any other way, and frankly, it’s accurate.
I had a little budget but mostly so much time to search, thrift, and DIY. I had no design skills but a strange amount of bravery. I also had no shame or embarrassment in failing and then telling everyone about it. There has always been a hole in the market for honesty amongst the elitist interior design world. I knew that I liked vintage things that were weird and old and when I put them together it looked like a thrift store, but an attainable, approachable one full of personality. It was full of color, pattern, risks, and no embarrassment.
How did I “manage” both the blog and TV show?
It was a lot. I worked 70 – 80 hours a week. We shot 7 am-7 pm, six days a week. I wrote the blog while in hair and makeup and when I got home at night. Orlando and I shopped flea markets on Sundays for the next week’s reveal. The blog was a random, stream of consciousness babble, full of endless grammatical mistakes due to speed and haste (can you even imagine how much worser it were, Boomers?).
There was no rhythm or predictability to it, barely any linking to products, I didn’t format photos correctly or label any images properly so that Google would know what they were. A photo of a room from “Secrets From a Stylist” would literally be labeled “img.679” or whatever my DIGITAL camera called it. Some photos were wide and some were small. It was so ugly. I had no analytics or idea of traffic. I just wrote, pressed publish, and chatted with you in the comments.
In 2010 I had no employees, the blog made zero money, and I had almost zero anxiety. Just excitement.
Back then I wasn’t trying to grow my audience. I just wanted to hang out with you. When you come up to me and tell me that you feel like you know me, the truth is you do. Omg, this post is becoming highly emotional for me, the flight attendant is certainly concerned why I’m crying… and I just started. We have 9 years to go…
At first, when I wrote this post I thought I would go year by year with the highs and lows, traffic numbers, where the revenue shifted, employee growth, lessons/mistakes, etc. But the series would be so long and for those not closely following it would seem boring (if not highly self-indulgent). So I’d love to know what you guys would like to know.
Here is what I’m thinking:
- HINDSIGHT IS 2020 ADVICE: The real steps that I took, either on purpose or accident, that I can now see led to growth and success.
- EMPLOYEES: How I went about hiring, paying, and growing a team of freelancers and employees and what lessons I’ve learned (spoiler – so much).
- FINANCES: How I initially grew the business, financially, how I knew what to charge and when (and for what), and how we make money now. No one understands how bloggers or “influencers” make money – but it’s actually pretty simple (in a complicated and totally fascinating way).
- BIGGEST MISTAKES: This will likely be peppered into the other “finances” and “employees” categories, but don’t worry I have way more in every category of life. And no these aren’t of the design variety.
- NEXT STEPS: What do I see happening next? Where do I want this to go? Why don’t I have residential clients anymore and will I ever pursue a furniture/accessory line?? What is the future?
All of those will be full of advice – not what you should do necessarily, because different personalities will make different decisions. But insight. Mine. I just don’t want to be too self-indulgent, so tell me what you’d like to know and then if they don’t fit into a post I’ll do them on Instastory (or save for the podcast).
I can’t leave this post without a massive THANK YOU. To all of you who have been here from the beginning, I wish I could throw you a party. Some of you just arrived, and many of you it’s been 3, 5, 7, 10 years and regardless that’s a lot of YOUR life spent here. And so many changes. And so many “I’m back” posts… You’ve seen me grow up so much and change so much. For all the times those of you who are truly loyal have defended me in the comments, I thank you so so so so much. I’m trying, just like you, to bridge the gap between the person I am and the person that I want to be. Sometimes I fall in and lose myself. It’s all normal and I’m not too hard on myself, or maybe I am, but that’s just my nature. If self-awareness were an Olympic sport I’d want to train to compete. People have no idea how it feels to have feedback on their lives every single day – both positive and negative. It’s truly enlightening and has made me such a better person – or maybe a less worse person. Readers, you complete me 🙂 THANK YOU for all your positive comments and even your constructive criticism – I’m serious. Both are an absolute gift and I know how lucky I am to have you.
THANK YOU. To those of you who have been around since the start – Happy anniversary TO YOU. xx
p.s. Don’t forget to weigh in on the post subjects above, and if you have an extra 5 minutes PLEASE fill out our reader survey, which helps us plan content for the year based on what you really need, want, and enjoy. This will be the last time I ask, I promise.