WHO: Ashley Kane
WHERE: Sextant Coffee in San Francisco, CA
From LiveJournal & MySpace to Blogging
Finding That Aha Moment
Be Consistent, Diversify and Build Community
10 years total / 4 years for Brunch on Chestnut
OCCUPATION: Lifestyle Blogger
Back when Collectively was just getting off the ground, we had the pleasure of hiring Ashley as an intern at our first (very small) office in Potrero Hill. Three years later, we're excited to see how much she's grown and developed as a content creator. We've watched her journey from part-time blogger to full time digital influencer and can attest to her hard work and dedication. A few months a ago, right when she took the plunge to full-time, we sat down to catch up and hear more about how she made it happen. We learned a thing or two and we're excited to share her story with you!
When you started Brunch on Chestnut in 2012, was your goal or intention to build a business that could provide a consistent revenue stream?
Not even slightly! Since high school (and LiveJournal days), creating content has been a consistent outlet for me. Even MySpace (yep, I said it), I would spend hours tweaking code to make my layout colors, fonts, (and song choice, obviously.) all align aesthetically. The day I launched Brunch on Chestnut stands out to me, though – I remember I wanted to take blogging to a new level. I spent weeks coming up with the name, the theme, and the inspiration behind it all. I had a couple of blogs before that I only shared with my close friends, but remember thinking that I wanted to do more with this new space when it went live.
Before being a full time blogger, what industry did you work in?
I worked in marketing on the other side of the business – I actually interned at Collectively earlier on as one of the first two employees! Rewinding a bit, I started out more on the fashion side, I was an online curator for Google’s Boutiques.com and did freelance styling. I remember looking on Craigslist when I was feeling like I needed change and discovered Collectively, which opened my eye wider to working with influencers and brands.
I was so passionate about the space already, so I wanted to immerse myself deeper and learn more. That path led me to work for another digital media agency, and right before I left the corporate world, I was a digital brand manager for a luxury skincare company, handling all social media and strategy. Each job navigated me closer and closer to my a-ha moment...
When did you realize that Brunch on Chestnut could potentially be a source of sustained income?
The idea of leaving my 9-5 job started last summer. I began working with more brand partners, and my audience was growing steadily before my eyes. I didn’t want to let the momentum pass me by, so I went with my gut and planned a full-time blog start date.
You were recently able to quit your day job and dedicate yourself solely to the blog - how has that transition been?
SO many thoughts! Liberating, exciting, rewarding, challenging – It’s been three months, and I am still getting the hang of it! I think one thing that has been unique for me is before while I had a 9-5, my goal was to be consistent with my posts. Now that I have all the time in the world each day to focus on Brunch on Chestnut – there're so many things I can do to better my content, so I’m always daunted by the to-do list piling up in my mind. I’ve quickly learned to create a few tasks per day, so I don’t feel overwhelmed. Overall, I feel incredibly lucky to be able to focus on something I love; it’s an on-going learning experience being my own boss.
What advice would you offer to other influencers who would like to someday quit their day jobs and focus solely on their blog or content medium?
Be consistent. If you’re passionate about creating content and want to take your blog, etc. Full-time you 100% can do so, but it takes a lot of work and consistency. Also, put yourself out there. Reach out to influencers who you admire, invest in resources that can help better your work, attend events – if you feel wholehearted about what you’re doing, it will be easy to immerse yourself into the space and learn!
A lot of creators talk about diversifying their content strategy to increase their revenue. what are the various ways in which you have expanded your site/content to support increased revenue?
One thing that I’ve introduced more over this past year is travel, which is one of the most fun aspects of my job now. I also recently started a newsletter list, which goes out every other week. I share exclusive content, updates, and behind the scenes – which is already making a difference.
THE INTENTION BEHIND BRUNCH ON CHESTNUT IS TO EMULATE FEEL GOOD MOMENTS AND SERVE AS A SOURCE OF INSPIRATION. DOES RUNNING THE BLOG AS A BUSINESS EVER PRESENT A CONFLICT WITH ITS CORE MISSION?
Totally. Since this has become my sole focus, there are times where I can sense that I’m putting pressure on myself to create amazing content, better than ever, because I feel like I have no excuse not to now! Creativity does not work well when forced. So at times, yes, it can be difficult. The amazing thing about working for myself, though, is when I’m feeling this way I can give myself a digital detox. Step outside my comfort zone, take a long walk – I’ve learned that it’s important for me to go with how I feel so that my content remains genuine. If I’m not feeling creative, I will try and focus on admin things/get organized. I go with the flow, and that seems to be working for me.
What’s your POV on how the industry has changed since 2012 when you started BOC?
Content is better than ever – obviously, we have much more resources now that help brings content to life in such beautiful ways – what was life before Pinterest, VSCO, and Instagram!? I do think the space is more saturated now, and it’s not as easy to get discovered, but I look at that as a way to always be thinking about how I can diversify myself.
What challenges do you think new influencers, who are just getting started today, Are faced with? Is it easier to monetize or more competitive?
If you are creating compelling content and are strategic with your site and social media posts, things will work in your favor if you stay consistent! Stay true to why you started your blog, your own voice and aesthetic. Engage with other bloggers and with your readers – community is key! One thing that has changed and certainly makes it harder to get discovered is the space has become quite saturated. This is great motivation though to keep your eyes on the road and continue to pour your heart into your site. I don’t think the space is competitive, I’ve met many friends through Instagram, who I’m close with now – in my experience, we’re all in this together, and there’s no reason not to lift each other up.
If you had to start all, would you do anything differently?
I wouldn’t! I believe that every step I took was right for me at the time. I’ve learned so much, from both good and bad experiences, and am grateful for where it all led me.
If you’d like to schedule a coffee chat in NY, LA or SF, send us an email to Community@CollectivelyInc.com…we can’t wait to meet you!
The Collectively Team