This week's Professional Blogger Spotlight is on Nicole Feliciano, the stylish blogger and business woman behind Momtrends. Nicole took her professional experience and love of fashion, wove it into her evolving life as a mother, and created a sustainable business out of her site. We caught up with her this week to find out a bit more about how she built her business, what makes her site so popular and what aspiring professional bloggers can do to grow and monetize their sites.
Tell us a little about how you started Momtrends?
A piece or my heart still remains on Madison Avenue. The seven years spent at Ralph Lauren were highlight of my fashion and retail career. But you know what comes with all the glamour and high heels? Long, crazy hours. When my maternal instincts kicked in, I knew I had to reinvent myself. When my first daughter was born in 2005, the seed of Momtrends was planted. I did a bit of freelance for traditional (paper!) magazines and newspapers, and then started getting a lot of work for online outlets and blogs.
I thought, “There just might be something here.” In 2007, I launched Momtrends. It started out as a lifestyle site for moms with a lot of reviews and mostly showcasing baby-centric and maternity items. But as I moved along the path of motherhood, I found my true voice—bringing fashion to style-starved moms.
Anyone can whip up a review site and wrack up big numbers hosting contests and featuring coupons. That wasn’t for me; I have a unique voice and style. As I grew the blog (really I think of it as a magazine now), I gave up the freelance work and focused on building my brand. Now I have three, full-time employees, a dozen freelancers and am on pace to generate $400,000 in sales this year.
How did you grow your site into the business it's become?
From the start I viewed Momtrends as a brand, not just a blog. I positioned myself as an authority on chic mom style. At every meeting I attended, I dressed sharp and presented myself as a style authority—first impressions count. And you know all those invites you get to brand-sponsored events? I went to everything for the first two years. I made hundreds of contacts with brands big and small. Not all of them became advertisers, but most became advocates and readers.
The most savvy business decision I made was bringing on a marketing manager. I am a horrible negotiator but a genius marketer. We all have our strengths. When you identify your weakness either fix it or hire around it! My sales have doubled every year since bringing on a professional to sell for me.
Do you have a content strategy that you use to direct your site's posts?
Everything has to pass my style filter. From there we try to balance our posts—about 65% for moms and 35% for kids. The majority of our posts will revolve around fashion, beauty and style. That’s our core mission. Then we sprinkle in contests (which are all revenue-generating opportunities). Sponsored content has to make sense to be integrated into the blog. It’s great to be in the position to turn away money. I want to stay true to our core reader—an affluent, stylish mom who wants to live her most fashionable and fabulous life.
How do you use social media? What channels have proved the most successful for you?
I use Facebook and Twitter to amplify my posts. By that I mean a feature on cool maxi dresses from Momtrends.com can find hundreds of new eyeballs when posted on these outlets. But I am careful to also provide exclusive content on Facebook and Twitter. I tend to post photo albums to Facebook and tag friends in fellow bloggers here. Twitter is great for talking about trends—like what the hot Hollywood moms are wearing on the red carpet. Twitter has been very, very good to me. From Twitter parties that can generate more than $5,000 an hour, to sponsored tweets that can bring in $50—it’s been a great way to monetize my following. Twitter is also a terrific spot to identify and promote trends.
Can you talk a little about how you sustain a full-time business from your blog? Where does most of your revenue come from?
I have three equally important revenue resources: Ad sales, events and media fees. First, there are ad sales. I lump banner ads, affiliate sales, and sponsored content in here. Next, there is our event series. This series was introduced in 2009. We bring bloggers bloggers together for themed events (such as our Refresh Beauty event held at Blow salon in NYC). Brands pay to be a part of this elite crowd of bloggers, and the bloggers love getting introductions to brands that are eager to form partnerships. Everyone is a winner. Finally, the last year has brought me a fair amount of work as a lifestyle expert. I appear in advertisements, on television and in videos. This is hands down my favorite work. (I love an audience!) I’m always looking for new opportunities—in fact I’m co-hosting my first blogging conference (fashionforwardconfernece.com) in September. The key to success is to never get complacent and never be boring.
What do you think it is about the online community of mothers that makes them so engaged and powerful in the digital space?
We love to share, have limited time and are always on the move. Smart phones and moms are a match made in heaven. Social media is the best way for moms to stay up on trends, be social and get informed. Moms are all too happy to spread the word when we find something terrific or Pinterest-worthy. Plus, let’s face it, we posses a lot of purchasing power. From cars to clothing to family vacations, mom's vote counts the most.
What advice would you give to aspiring bloggers who want to develop their site into a business?
Find an angle that isn’t being served and blog about it better than anyone else. Don’t be afraid of long hours. For me work and play have been blurred, I truly love what I do, so there is no watching the clock. If you can develop your blog into something like that you’re in a great spot. Take every meeting you can—especially the face-to-face ones. You never know where you’ll find your next reader or sponsor. And finally don’t forget to ask to get paid. It’s simple to say, “Your pitch falls into the category of sponsored content. I’d be happy to develop a customized post for $100.” You never know until you ask.
What do you hope to see (or predict to happen) in the blogging community in the next 5 years?
I think we’ve already garnered a lot of respect and amassed a lot of power. Enough of the unpaid internships. I’d like to see more job growth out of this sector. Digital media should be a viable career opportunity for young, fashion savvy entrepreneurs. And the only thing we can be sure of is change. Don’t ever get too comfortable.