Living & Blogging Well with Grace Atwood of The Stripe
Let's be real: at first glance, bloggers are living their best lives. The beautifully curated Instagrams of pristine spaces. The gorgeous wardrobe that influences global shopping habits. And who can forget about the breathtaking getaways? But living well takes much more than that, and Grace Atwood of the lifestyle blog, The Stripe, knows how to give her readers the instruction manual. The Bentley University graduate kicked off her career in Boston at Filene's in buying, then moving to New York City where she eventually scored the role of Social Media Manager at jewelry startup, BaubleBar. In fact, it was her blog that earned her the opportunity to amplify BaubleBar's digital voice and as The Stripe rose to popularity, she said goodbye to the social media team she played a major role in building and took her role as lifestyle blogger full time. We got the chance to ask the blogger behind living well what it actually takes to build a blog, career, and life you love.
All About Grace
Name: Grace Atwood
Location: New York, NY
Education: BS Finance, Bentley University
Current job: Founder of the lifestyle blog, The Stripe...sometimes freelance writer + social media/marketing consultant
After going to Bentley University, you began your career in Boston. What was your first job like?
I was an assistant buyer for a department store chain and absolutely loved my first job. I was just talking about it to someone–if I could have stayed forever, I probably would (sadly the department store - Filene's - that I was working for was acquired by Macy's so my role was eliminated). It was such a great place to work–so many young people, and so many opportunities to move up. It was also incredibly social. There was always a happy hour, in the summer we had our own softball league...we had FUN. That being said, we worked really hard and I remember a lot of annoying stuff (I spent hours every Monday faxing reports out to our vendors - it was so tedious!) It's fun to think how much easier technology has made our lives. Ten, fifteen years ago, you'd be photocopying, faxing...now you can just make a quick PDF and send an email!
Three years later you moved to New York. What made you decide to explore jobs in another city?
I was sort of forced to. There weren't any jobs quite like the one I had in Boston left, and I knew I wanted to stay in fashion + beauty. I was terrified, but I didn't really have much of a choice...I knew I'd be bored/unhappy if I didn't move. Through my job at Filene's I had made some great contacts in the beauty industry, and I was lucky enough to land a role in marketing at P&G.
How did you get started blogging?
I wasn't very happy in my corporate job and wanted to have a creative outlet. In the beginning, it really was just a place for me to catalog the things I liked and a way to unplug from the long hours I was working. I had this nightmare boss and was incredibly unhappy - the job should have been fun (part of my job involved naming nail polishes) but it was terrible and I felt very stifled. Having a place where I could go and be creative really helped me. I never thought my blog could actually become my day job!
What made you choose to call your blog The Stripe?
Well, it started as Stripe & Sequins. 5 years later, I was 33 and wasn't wearing sequins very often. I was attending events with editors from big magazines and my blog name felt silly and frivolous. I wanted a change and The Stripe felt very fresh and fitting for the content I was already creating. I wrote more about all of that here.
Has your experience with blogging helped you with your career?
Well, blogging is my career now. In the earlier days, I didn't take it quite as seriously but now that it's my full time gig, I take it incredibly seriously. Between creating content, leveraging social media, working with brands, responding to my readers and all the behind the scenes stuff (legal, accounting, contracts, and all of the emails), I easily work 60+ hours a week. I think that on the surface, blogging looks very easy and there certainly are huge perks (setting your own schedule, being location flexible) but a lot of that is smoke & mirrors...it's part of our job to make our lives look easy and beautiful. To run a successful blog you don't necessarily need to work as many hours as I do (for years I worked 60 hours a week at my day job and really only had 20 or so hours to work on my own site) but as you grow and start working with brands, the time commitment really grows!
In the early days though, blogging helped me land my day job! I was working in beauty marketing for a CPG company (and as I mentioned, not very happy). I wrote about BaubleBar, one thing led to another, and I ended up landing my dream job...running their social media! At the time I didn't have any social experience, but my blog + the following I'd built spoke for itself. It was my favorite day job. I always say that your blog is a resume.
What did your job at BaubleBar look like?
Every day was different. In the early days, I was doing everything! There were six of us, sitting around six desks that we pushed together to form a table-like work space. We brainstormed constantly, and each of us had our hands in everything. In addition to running social, I'd also be writing thank you notes to customers, helping to pick and pack orders, even helping to resolve customer service inquiries. As the company grew, I was slowly able to build out a team. By the time I left, I was really just overseeing the social strategy (my team handled the day to day execution) and running our influencer marketing as that part of the job was the part I enjoyed most. I still had my hands in everything though, I loved being as involved as possible.
How did you manage to stay on top of your blog while having a full time job?
To be honest, it was really hard. I didn't have much of a life. I mentioned the hours earlier, but I didn't have much time for anything besides work. That's no way to live life! I have a much better balance now. I miss my day job at BaubleBar a lot (mostly, I miss the people, the community, getting dressed up to go into an office every morning), but I wouldn't trade the flexibility and more manageable schedule I have now for anything.
What is your advice for securing a job in social media?
Start a blog. Get on Twitter, on Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram. Produce great content. Read sites like Mashable every day. Prove that you can build a following. Your blog, Twitter feed, and Facebook page will speak for you and communicate your abilities better than any other resume. Email brands you love. Don’t ever ask for anything. Your efforts should be focused on building a relationship with them. You never know what will happen next.
Between your job at BaubleBar and your experience with The Stripe, what are your top tips for having an authentic voice online?
This is tricky for me as it's more of an art than a science. For both "voices," I tried to talk to my readers/fans/followers like I would a friend. I think it's best to keep things casual and chatty and informal... I always go for as approachable of a tone as possible.
The Stripe is clearly a top blog destination for so many young women, and your job at BaubleBar was perfect for you. How did you go about creating both a career and blog you are passionate about?
I followed my gut. For every big decision in my life (there have been 3: moving to New York, leaving my corporate job for BaubleBar, and then leaving BaubleBar to blog), and all three times, that little voice inside my head was screaming that I needed to do that thing. I think so many times we silence that inner voice. I listen to mine, very closely!
How do you ensure you have time for other elements of your life other than The Stripe?
Blogging can take over your life if you aren't careful. There's always something to do, whether it's managing your social media, responding to emails, etc. I could sit in front of my desk for 24 hours! I am always sure to take breaks, I schedule in dates with friends and workouts like I would meetings, and I try to stay off email when I am not working.
I think so many times we silence that inner voice. I listen to mine, very closely!
What advice do you have for young women who want to create a blog while having a full time job?
Work hard and be persistent. Be prepared to sacrifice time, it is a lot more work than it appears! And don't start a blog for the money. It takes an incredibly long time to build up a following (and monetize a site). You'll be disappointed if you start it for the money. Also, treat your blog like a business from day one.
Behind The Scenes
Favorite place in New York?
That's so hard to say! I would say the Hudson River - I love being by the water. Also the West Village. And The Strand bookstore. I also love the new Whitney Museum.
Favorite blog to read?
Oh there are so many! I love Honestly WTF for fun inspiration... for style, I love reading Atlantic-Pacific, With Love From Kat, Sequins & Stripes, Look Linger Love, and A Piece of Toast... and my favorite beauty blog is She's in the Glow.
Favorite people or brand to follow on Instagram?
I love @lostncheeseland (her Paris pics are to die for), and a few of my close girlfriends have great accounts that I love following: @jessannkirby, @lemonstripes, @lizadams, @looklingerlove and @kattanita.
"Be so good they can't ignore you" - Steve Martin
All photography by Lydia Hudgens.