The life of a lifestyle expert
The lifestyle industry is changing. What once consisted almost entirely of alternative, avant-garde businesses promoting the allure of the surf-and-sun subculture in Southern California, or the artisanal-hunting hipster movement of Brooklyn, has grown.
Now a mainstream, multi-billion dollar industry, lifestyle businesses promote anything and everything from health and wellness, makeup and beauty, runway and Main Street fashion, to furniture and home goods, travel—both local and exotic—and, of course, the quintessential foundations for a well-rounded life—art, music, literature, and food.
The reason why a fringe industry is now becoming an economic powerhouse in such a short period of time is simple: technology.
“There has never been a better time to be a creative person because there has never been so much access as there is right now,” said Carson Kressley ’91. Perhaps the College’s foremost lifestyle expert, the former Queer Eye for the Straight Guy host and author of the upcoming lifestyle guide Does This Book Make My Butt Look Big? argues that the explosion of technology has increased access—not just to these lifestyle businesses and experts, but to communities of people who identify with those brands, as well.
“If you are willing to put the work and time into it, there are opportunities for people that simply didn’t exist ten years ago,” Kressley stated. “However, with more opportunity comes more room for competition, so you have to differentiate yourself. You have to cut through a lot of the social media white noise or else you will get lost in the sea of lifestyle experts.”
Doing your homework
Gettysburgians are responding to the appeal of entrepreneurship in the lifestyle industry, but they are doing their homework first.
For Kirsty Bryant-Hassler ’12, that meant taking on a lot of temporary and part time work as she determined her career path.
“I’m always thankful that Gettysburg allowed me to forge my own path as a student,” Bryant-Hassler said. “I had the freedom to think and create and be who I wanted to be, and I knew I wanted my career to follow a similar path.”
The path she forged ran the gamut from fashion internships to boutique sales and copy writing. She’s covered New York Fashion week, helped design a Vogue China fashion shoot with Gisele Bündchen, and worked on a campaign for Tiffany’s. And those are just the highlights.
This wealth of experience in the fashion world got her thinking—if she could create looks for other companies, build campaigns, and even write about new trends, why couldn’t she do this for herself?
The result was Millennial Style Maven, a blog that focuses on empowering young working women through daily doses of fashion advice and lifestyle inspiration.
“Taking on so many jobs has really been a blessing. I’ve been able to find what I really want to do—I’ve been able to build my brand and turn that into a business.”
Maintaining a brand
When Katie Bogue Miller ’02 set out to build her fourth startup, focus groups helped her uncover the next evolution of her interests in fashion, makeup, and a healthier, more environmentally friendly lifestyle.
Katie Bogue Miller ’02, right, with her Love Goodly cofounder Justine Lassoff, left.
What she and her cofounder Justine Lassoff created is Love Goodly, a subscription box and e-commerce platform that focuses on eco-friendly, cruelty-free products that offer the high quality value consumers expect.
“My passion has always been in sustainability, in making more conscious decisions, in helping others be more aware of the products they are buying,” Bogue Miller said. “I also love fashion and shopping and beauty, and as the industry has become more mainstream, we’ve been able to sell really high end beauty products that also happen to be cruelty-free and eco-friendly, too.”
Having such a unique mission has helped Bogue Miller and her cofounder develop an equally distinct community of consumers. In fact, through social media, Bogue Miller has been able to create a devoted following of like-minded people—and they share more than products found through Love Goodly, too.
“Part of our brand is about building a more health conscious, community focused lifestyle,” Bogue Miller explained. “We all share a similar mission. It’s fun to be a part of that and to also foster that—it is a very positive community.”
What this means is that not all of their posts are about selling a product. Instead, they will post a really great vegan recipe, a picture of something—nature, art, music—that is inspiring them at the moment, or anything else that they know will resonant with their audience. This strategy has helped Bogue Miller maintain the authenticity of her brand, while also cutting through the “white noise” of social media experts, as Kressley described.
But the impact goes both ways.
“We see our community, we hear their positive comments—it really keeps us going,” Bogue Miller stated. “It is what inspires us to keep bringing out great products and to keep making a difference.”
Competing with yourself
Kayte Demont ’12 has always identified herself with the entrepreneurial spirit. She liked to create and found the idea of working for herself very appealing. However, when she founded Mass Musings shortly after graduation, it was more of an outlet to satisfy her interests in writing and fashion.
In fact, she held numerous jobs in communications, marketing, and technology before making the decision to turn the creative inspiration blog into a full time business venture in October 2015.
“I think I was a little bit scared of the non-traditional path when I graduated, even though I wasn’t a traditional student or learner,” Demont said. “It was a pleasant surprise when the journey with Mass Musings not only continued, but really took off, and I realized that this was something that I could do. It’s not easy, and I certainly have my work cut out for me, but I’m happy.”
Case in point—Demont has a devoted audience of nearly 13,000 followers. But she realizes she isn’t just competing with other lifestyle brands. Her success is dependent on not only standing out from the “saturated market,” but on standing out from herself, too.
“You have to constantly challenge yourself to push the envelope and build upon the foundation you have already laid out,” she stated. “Otherwise, your content—your creations—they start to feel stale.”
According to Kressley, authenticity is key. The most important thing a creative entrepreneur can do is to constantly ask themselves, “Is this on brand?”
“Details matter,” the celebrity stylist and fashion designer stated. “You can’t worry about popularity or what anyone else is doing; it’ll cause you to lose focus. Instead, focus on authenticity. Your audience will see it, and they’ll respond to it.”
Authenticity hinges on communications, though. Success in the lifestyle industry requires the ability to craft and maintain a story that resonates with the lifestyle one’s audience wishes to achieve.
“I hear this a lot, but the industry is all about story-telling. It’s showing people how they can get a piece of that life, and it all starts with communicating a story,” Kressley said. “Gettysburg does a great job of teaching its students how to be effective communicators—people who are articulate and confident and educated on a lot of different subjects. That’s why my education continues to pay dividends in my career now.”
Founded in 1832, Gettysburg College is a highly selective four-year residential college of liberal arts and sciences with a strong academic tradition. Alumni include Rhodes Scholars, a Nobel laureate, and other distinguished scholars. The college enrolls 2,600 undergraduate students and is located on a 200-acre campus adjacent to the Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania.
Contact: Kasey Varner, assistant director of communications, 717.337.6806
Posted: Wed, 9 Mar 2016
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