Windy City Cosmo Wins Award for Female Entrepreneurship Coverage

I’m very excited to announce that after two years of interviewing Chicago female entrepreneurs, Windy City Cosmo joined the stage with Chicago publications and Chicago entrepreneurs that were recognized by liftUplift for being champions of women’s power.

LiftUplift launched in September 2015, and everyday acts as a catalyst that empowers female makers and entrepreneurs. Corielle Heath Laaspere, Founder of liftUplift, orchestrated this special evening on Saturday, April 29, 2017, at Catalyst Ranch in the West Loop.

Chicago female entrepreneurs, from female publications to graphic designers and fashion designers as well as tech startups and venture capitalists, were all recognized with a liftUplift Ally Award.

All of the women awarded were interviewed prior to the black tie event.

During my interview,  I was asked, what inspired you to become a champion of Women Power?

“Women, like men, are amazing and driven individuals. I think it’s important that we have a community where we can specifically address our needs as female bosses and also simply help each other succeed, much like what liftUPlife does,” I answered. You can read the full interview here.

Chicago Female Entrepreneurs Recognized for Championing Women Power:

One of the awardees was Katy Lynch, Co-Founder of Codeverse. She was also recently nominated for two awards at the Moxies –  ‘Best New Startup’ and ‘Best Social Impact Startup’ (which you can vote for here).

Another awardee was Silvana Favaretto of The Tulle Project. Favaretto is a graphic designer (and she graciously designed the program for the award ceremony) who was looking for a project to inspire her creativity and take her art to the next level. She decided to wear tulle skirts for 100 days (see her whole story here) and that’s how the business started.

She wore a black tulle skirt that she made herself. Earlier that day, she was at Chicago’s annual show “One of a Kind.” P.S. you should check out her “Mommy and Me” collection for Mother’s Day.

Photo: The Tulle Project

Make sure to grab a copy of Chicago Woman magazine to read all of the profiles of the women who received Ally Awards.

liftUplift’s Story:

A smiling blonde, Laaspere, draws you in with her contagious charismatic personality, her spark for supporting women and her business acumen to turn her passion into a full-fledged tech startup. I first interviewed her in 2016 and you can read her whole story here. 

“I was born to do this,” are the first words Laaspere tells me.

“I never really worry about failure. I do in the way that everyone does with day to day anxiety. But, so much of liftUplift comes out of myself. I don’t worry that that will be taken away from me.”

In the past few weeks, she’s been to Russia and shares a bit of her journey to meet Danara Buvayeva the founder of IconicDress.ru, a fashion rental platform like Rent the Runway for Russia.

Last October, American Councils for International Education and WorldChicago placed her as an Intern/Fellow with liftUPlift for 3-weeks, as part of an international business leaders exchange program. Danara was inspired by how well women entrepreneurs are organized and supporting one another in Chicago. When we had the opportunity to propose a reciprocal exchange project for Danara and I to carry out in Moscow, we pitched a 2-day conference for connecting and empowering women entrepreneurs in the US and Russia. And THAT’S how the #W4W Conference was born!

This April, while in Moscow for the conference, I got to visit the Iconic аренда вечерних платьев -прокатshowroom and learn a little more about Danara’s business model. 

liftUplift’s Ally Awards sponsors included: Catalyst Ranch, Lime Red Studio, RISE Movement, and The Tulle Project!

Are you a Chicago female entrepreneur? Share your story with Windy City Cosmo by emailing Amanda at windycitycosmo.com.

Follow:

Chicago Instagrammers Who Rock as Brand Ambassadors and How To Become One

You know those people who promote Hello Fresh? Yeah, those (especially from The Bachelor franchise) are brand ambassadors.

You can read tips on how to create good content to be a brand ambassador from a Chicago Instagrammer, who just worked with Edelman and Kellogg’s here. 

Brand ambassadors provide positive feedback and promotional videos, photos, Instagram posts or blog posts about a certain brand to their audience. So, naturally to become brand ambassadors you need a) an audience. Just so you know, you don’t need 1 million followers to be an Instagram brand ambassador, you can have as little as 100.

And b) influence (preferably, measurable and identifiable) like 20-30 somethings who live in LA and go to a happy hour 2-3 times per week. That audience is marketable. And guess what? Some will measure your influence by assigning you an affiliate link code so they can see how many people you bring to their site.

Once you have an audience (see your page views and visits, your social media following), and you have influence (see your Instagram stories views, your comment section, your reposts on Twitter), you can start to find out who to partner with as a brand ambassador.

To become a brand ambassador, you first want to target certain brands that fit with your own brand and image. For instance, a vegan yogi wouldn’t partner with Keifer yogurt. However, that yogi might partner with Freshii, or a Chicago yogi would partner with The Hancock for the 360 Sky Series, which includes weekly Saturday – Thursday programming such as yoga, art in the sky, CAF tours, craft beer specials, a DJ as well as magicians and storytelling for the little ones.

Brand ambassadors can get paid per post, or they are compensated for travel or products. The goal, of course, is so that the brand can attract new clients. So, you don’t have to have the exact following as the brand that you’re endorsing, but something similar. For instance, Kylie Jenner is a brand ambassador for Puma. But, she doesn’t have the same audience as Puma.

You probably see people promoting things all the time – that doesn’t mean they are a brand ambassador. Some people may just like Mac lipstick – they weren’t paid by Mac, and they weren’t given any free products. You may notice an official brand partnership like Khloe Kardashian as the brand ambassador for Protein World, but you can also be a brand ambassador for one Instagram post or one blog post.

So, who in Chicago is doing this well? Let’s take a look.

Chicago Brand Ambassadors You Should Know:

There are so many brand ambassadors in Chicago. And, I kind of love them. Remember, not every post you see is a brand endorsement – and even though someone is recommending something to you on social media, doesn’t mean they were incentivized to do so. Also, just because someone is given free products, doesn’t mean they will promote them. They might not like them – I learned this from the Chicago food blogger from the Instagram account 312food, who is very authentic with the content she posts. But also remember, creating content takes a lot of time, and creating good content takes longer and more promotional skills. So, I invite you to learn from some of my favorite Chicago brand ambassadors.

Once Upon a Dollhouse: (@OnceUponaDollhouse)

Instagram Followers: 7,005

Have you ever not seen the dolls look fashionable from head to toe? The dolls are one of the premiere Chicago bloggers known for their work-ethic, their yogi zen, and their beauty tips. They are usually perfectly styled from a shop in Wicker Park called Fabrik, which really does have trendy and fresh looks.

They have had partnerships with multiple brands including this Thanksgiving dinner, and yoga apparel brands to most recently, wine trips in California.

Get to know the dollhouse – it’s a pretty place to be.

Adam Soko: (@adamsoko)

Instagram Followers: 34.7K

Adam Soko is the Chicago Food Dude. He has eaten his way into our Instagram pages and SnapChats. Whenever I went to a Chicago Food Blog event, someone would be looking at his SnapChat. I was lucky to meet him at a few Chicago blogger events, like this one at Violet Hour, but he always chooses his events wisely. Soko has traveled everywhere from Dubai to your Chicago neighborhood, and he always produces beautiful food photography with a little bit of humor (see below).

Windy City Cosmo: (@windycitycosmo)

Instagram Followers: 1.2K

Yes, I’m adding myself. Deal. Windy City Cosmo invites you to explore Chicago in a chic, business-savvy, and sometimes flirty way. I’ve been invited to the runways of Paris Fashion Week, to that charming authentic Italian restaurant in Lincoln Park and tried make-up from a celebrity fashion line (and you should, too).

Below, I took a photo of a torta at Big Star in Wicker Park. I wasn’t paid to eat there. I just was excited to check out this Chicago neighborhood taco restaurant.

Side Note: Sp

Before starting out as a brand ambassador, it’s important to read the FTC guide. The FTC wants to make sure that there is truth in advertising, so when someone is swayed to say something is great, is it really that great?

Think about when you view a celebrity endorsing a product. Do you think Jennifer Aniston likes Smart Water? Do you think that Kylie Jenner was given Khloe’s Good American jeans for free (well, we know that’s true because she showed that on her SnapChat)?

So, when you do get things for free, brand ambassadors usually put “#sp” on their posts. A lot of people don’t, and the FTC even says it’s “generally not” monitoring bloggers. But, if you’re making a business plan from affiliate links and brand endorsements, it’s important to understand the law.

It Should Feel Good Being a Brand Ambassador:

Power is influence and knowledge is power. If you’re going to spend so much time on social media, it doesn’t hurt to create content that will help brands and will help your audience at the same time. For instance, I know my readers are usually active on social media, and they like to go to events – mostly cultural, career-focused events where they can enjoy a good cocktail. So, of course, I would like to work with brands to help them and my audience. It should feel like a good thing to be a brand ambassador. You put a lot of time into your Instagram feed – why not get the most out of the experience?

 

 

 

 

Follow:

10 Blogging Tips: What I Have Learned From One Year as a Chicago Blogger

Windy City Cosmo turned one this January! Thank you for reading this blog and for walking through city life with me.

It’s been quite a journey, but a fabulous one filled with dinner parties, faking French, cosmos, new friends, boy next door’s, and more opinions.

Looking back on this past year of blogging, I want to share with you special blog tips. Some of my readers are fellow bloggers or in the digital marketing realm, so these blog tips are for you.

If you’re curious about

  • content creation
  • building your personal brand
  • networking

these blog tips will keep you in the know!

  1. Get on the (Mailing) List:

One of the most important blogging tips is to have a constant stream of content. It’s fun to come up with your own content through events in the city and your own social calendar, but being on the list, the PR list, is crucial.

PR contacts are your friends. They have insider information, they can hook you up with party invites, and they have beautiful photography, so you can focus on the experience and the marketing. They have the research. As a journalist, you should still do your own research, but PR media kits, interviews, and connections make it a lot easier to get a story that is not only relevant, but has a subject matter expert.

One of my favorite articles,“CDM Media Moves into Google’s Previous Chicago Office and Seeks Rock Stars” was through a PR connection at CDM Media in River North. It was an article that would have only happened by being on the right mailing list. I got on one of the biggest lists simply by buying my domain name: windycitycosmo.com. Before it was a wordpress.com site URL.

2. Build Community With Fellow Bloggers:

Another important blog tip is to build community! You may have your own blog or business (congrats!), but you will need to build community to succeed. You need other bloggers and readers to help you a) promote your blog b) support your blog c) help you find contacts and story ideas.

A) Promote Your Blog

Promoting your blog is hard work. You don’t want to only promote your own content. You want others to share your content, as well. And, you want your social media channel to include more perspectives and content than yours (unless you are Mashable or The New York Times).

I learned a little blog tip at my first event, that other bloggers were tagging bloggers and promoting their content as well. It’s not as much as a competition as a mission for everyone to succeed. It’s a win win.

B) Support Your Blog

Having someone support you means everything. In the beginning, growing your following may seem impossible. When I reached my first 100 followers on Instagram I felt famous, and even this weekend, having other bloggers congratulate me on my one year of blogging felt amazing.

C) Help You Find Contacts And Story Ideas

While PR people are awesome, you want to have story ideas from different sources.

There are a few awesome blogging communities in Chicago. One of the most popular ones Windy City Blogger Collective, is run by Kit Graham and Erin Bassett. In this one membership blogging community, you have access to hundreds of bloggers and can meetup with them at monthly and weekly events hosted by the group. My good friend and fellow blogger, who I met on Twitter, Maddy Osman of ChicagoCheapAss.com, highly recommends it.

Membership is $70/year (that’s less than your Netflix subscription) and includes:

  • Profile on WindyCityBloggers.com & Access to the Members Only Forum
  • Free copy of our ebook “WCBC’s Tips for (almost) Everything Blogging!” (a $35 value)
  • Opportunity to contribute content to WindyCityBloggers.com
  • Opportunity to take over the @WindyCityBlogCo Instagram account
  • Invitations to exclusive member events
  • Early access to register for educational workshops and conferences
  • Inclusion in the weekly email sent to members covering events and exclusive opportunities
  • Consideration for sponsored content campaigns with WCBC brand partners
  • Access to the group Pinterest boards
  • Meet The Member post to the @WindyCityBlogCo Instagram Account
  • WCBC Widget for your sidebar!

Full Disclosure, I have not committed to joining Windy City Blogger Collective, but I have benefited from this group through their Monday night Twitter chats and Chicago events, where I have met their members, such as at Social Media Week Chicago.

To join Windy City Blogger Collective click here. 

If you are low on budget, it helps to create your own small group of bloggers. There is a private Facebook group called “Girl Bosses of Chicago” that is meant for Chicago bloggers and business owners to share advice and meet fellow bloggers in the city.

Having fellow bloggers comrade is critical to your success.

3. Join an Accountability Group or Get a Mentor:

Having a group of fellow bloggers is great. But, it’s also important to have someone or a group help you develop skills and check-in on your goals and progress. That’s why my third blogging tip is to have an accountability group.  SheSays Chicago, an international organization aimed to help women grow and become leaders in creative fields, started a mentorship program last year and multiple accountability groups. I led one of the accountability groups in Uptown. There were only four people in our group and we met bi-weekly or monthly depending on everyone’s schedule. We all had different projects, but each of us helped one another make goals and actually reach them by providing specific advice.

4. Learn SEO and Google Analytics:

Knowing your audience is the most important part about being a blogger and growing your brand. So, my fourth blogging tip is that you want to use the right tools to understand your target market and what they are searching for. Google Analytics will give you key insights on gender and age, but will also help you plan a better content strategy. Google Analytics teaches you valuable information like who is coming to your blog, if they are coming back and how long they stayed. If you have ever done retail management, you had to track this every night to tell corporate how your store performed.

While good content is important, good content cannot be found if you don’t lace it with the right keywords. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) helps you do that. To get started, check out SEO Moz for articles about link building, getting started and other specialties.

Side note: Make sure you are tagging your photos and every article for maximum reach.

What do you think my keywords were in this article? (Answer in the comments).

5. Be Interesting, But Be Interested:

Being on social media is about conversations and connections. While the Buffer App and Hootsuite can help you generate scheduled tweets, remember that the purpose of social media is to be social. This means that we should use it to support people and businesses, share good content from others, and share updates. It’s easy to post updates as a one-way conversation, but it’s truly beneficial when you use it to connect with others.

We all can’t be like Beyonce and follow no one on Instagram and yet have millions of followers.

Some of my greatest growth for Windy City Cosmo came through social media because I was interested AND interesting.

I will share with you two stories.

Celebrity Retweet:

The first is that Giuliana Rancic, the host for E! News, retweeted a tweet, and my blog almost tripled it’s traffic and since then, has kept growing. In all fairness, I wrote an article,”Fresh Thyme Farmer’s Market Opens in Bucktown with a Donation to FAB-U-WISH and Breast Cancer Research,” about a non-profit organization that she founded, FAB-U-WISH. By tagging her in the tweet and using the campaign hashtag, I was able to grab her attention and gain a lot of awareness about my blog.

Commenting on Instagram:

While going through my Instagram feed, 312Food, a predominant Chicago foodie with 22k followers on Instagram and one of the most widely used Chicago food hashtags #312food with 15+k posts tagged, posted a picture with chocolates and I nonchalantly made a comment that I wanted some. To my surprise, she private messaged me and told me I could meetup with her in Lakeview to have some of the photographed chocolates. Due to scheduling conflicts (because we are basically celebrities jk) we didn’t meetup for chocolate. But, I did invite her to a cocktail mixer that I was invited to. We met up and now she is one of my favorite people and a huge supporter for my blog.

 

6. Edit:

I consider myself a writer. I have been actively writing since 2008, when I joined my college newspaper. Since then, I have interned or worked for digital marketing agencies, PR firms, magazines, online publications, etc. While I have written business proposals and RFPs, newsletters, cover stories, blog posts, speeches and product descriptions, I am still trying to improve my vocabulary, grammar, and editing/proofing skills. (Sorry to all of my English teachers.) And, blogging helps you be a better writer.

As good as your writing is, if the grammar is terrible and words are misspelled, you lose credibility. Below are some tools that I use to help me improve my writing.

A) Vocabulary:

B) Grammar:

Confession, I have saved all of my grammar lessons from high school English class. I have been practicing grammar my whole life, and surprisingly learning to speak Spanish helped me learn English grammar. However, I still need guidance.

I turned to the Grammarly app. It is a Google Chrome extension and provides you with weekly reports about how many words you wrote and how many grammar mistakes you made. Most importantly, it instantly edits your blog posts, your emails, your tweets, etc.

7. Create an Editorial Calendar:

One of the best parts about blogging is that it forces you to be accountable and to stop procrastinating. To do that you need a schedule. Developing story ideas and writing good content with good pictures is a lot of work. Editorial calendars will help you better manage your time and be more organized. Also, as you grow as a blogger, you will be working with more brands and you will want to easily see what your capacity is to write blog posts.

By creating an editorial calendar it will help you:

  • Produce Better Content
  • Find Better Pictures
  • Give You Time to Edit and Create Multiple Drafts
  • Give You Time to Plan your Promotions on Social Media
  • Be Consistent for You and Your Readers

Articles to read to help you get started with editorial calendars:

8. Be Social:

The best way to promote your blog is through:

  • Word of Mouth (Over Cocktails)
  • Social Media (newsletters, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, etc.)
  • Online Blogging Communities (Bloglovin)

This blogging tip is simple: make sure you have social media accounts where you can engage and grow your audience. The second part of the blogging tip is that you are actually producing content that will engage and grow your audience.

Note: Don’t be on every platform. You will find you are better at some social media platforms than others. For instance, food bloggers tend to prefer Instagram to Twitter.

9. Create Facebook Ads:

Ads are scary. They cost money. People think they are annoying, etc. But, by creating a targeted Facebook Ad, you can reach a whole new audience that you could not reach organically.

Let me put this in your language. Think about your friends. Do you think you are going to have more luck finding a guy through friends of friends or through a dating app?

For my 9th blogging tip, the secret to blogging is that you balance organic marketing with paid advertising.

I just recently discovered the power of paid advertising. One of my top posts on Facebook received about 500 organic views. For a separate post, Windy City Cosmo received more than four times the amount of views through paid advertising then through organic reach.

An article in Fortune Magazine,“How Vera Bradley’s Founder Bagged Success,” about Vera Bradley inspired me:

“A seamstress made the first bag, then we put an ad in the newspaper for people who wanted to sew in their homes.”

Vera Bradley was founded by two housewives and they started with $250 loans from their husbands, which they used to start their company AND take out a newspaper ad for employees.

10. Go For The Sponsored Post:

Blogging is about coordinating events and posts, promoting blog posts, writing good content, and building great contact mailing lists. Blogging is as much as a business as it is a hobby.

Getting paid for your work through affiliate links and sponsored posts can be intimidating. Legally, you have to indicate in your blog post that it is a paid/sponsored blog post. When we write this in our blog post, bloggers may feel like they may lose their audience because it appears that bloggers aren’t genuine or are doing it for the money. But there are awesome benefits to sponsored posts, like working with great brands and gaining more sponsored posts.

Not only will you gain credibility, but it’s an opportunity to make money for your blog to do things like pay for your blog’s domain name and buy advertising to promote blog posts and invest in new camera equipment, digital services and blogger courses.

DSC05368[1]

I hope this blog post helps you during your first year of blogging. Being a blogger gives you the opportunity to be an influencer, a responsible and informed member of your community, and it also can give you access to prominent and successful business leaders and fun events.

What is your favorite blog tip?

Follow:

Three Thoughts on Sustainable Blogging Resolutions

Blogging is like dancing, you have to find the beat and stay on it. But, in the beginning, and even in between, we may be too uptempo or feel that slow dancing leads to less traffic. Ben Huberman can help you make blogging resolutions that make sense, and most importantly, will help you set the beat and stick to it for 2016.

One of my favorite tips he has for keeping your New Year’s Resolutions is to put less emphasis on the numbers, and focus on the bigger picture. Writing a blog post everyday might seem impossible, but putting together an editorial calendar and lining up blog titles and interviews ahead of time, can help you plan ahead to produce more content.

Read Huberman’s article about how to set goals you’ll be more likely to keep. His tips can be applied to blogging, building relationships, organizing and other areas of your life.

Wishing you success in all of your goals for 2016 (to my blogger and non-blogger friends)!

Icons made by Freepik from www.flaticon.com is licensed by CC BY 3.0

Source: Three Thoughts on Sustainable Blogging Resolutions

Follow: