The first rule* of the Blogger Adventure feature is that I must have met the person I interview. I have however never met Brianne Garcia, fashion entrepreneur, content marketing manager and the force behind the Brianne Garcia blog, one of the frankest blogs on the difficulties of starting your own company and of looking for a job.
She’s not a total stranger though: we had a long Skype conversation a few months back when she was gathering data for her startup Parceld, a venture with the promising mission statement of taking “the hassle out of the hunt by giving you a direct path to products that match your style inspiration”.
Although the company didn’t succeed, it resulted in some inspiring posts on entrepreneurship. I asked Brianne about the link between blogging and entrepreneurship, sharing your professional life online and the meaning of blogging on Tumblr.
Quite a few of your posts, including your most recent ones related to your job search, are very personal. What’s the limit for you with online sharing?
I think the line between personal and public has become increasingly difficult to distinguish in the past few years, which has made me cherish and keep close the parts of my life that are very personal to me. I ban sharing anything about my relationships, my mood, and any animus feelings whatsoever. The problem with treating social media like a diary is that so much of what we feel is actually transient and self-centered, and sharing these feelings doesn’t bring value to anyone but ourselves.
If I want to let off steam, I go get a drink with a friend or write about it in my always-open Google doc titled “Thoughts”. My approach is: if the end result of an experience can end up on LinkedIn – landing a job, raising money, going through an incubator program, networking – I’m willing to share my experiences, being as honest and real as I can.
You’re as open about your successes as you are about your failures, whereas some bloggers try to project a success-only image of themselves. Why do you think that is?
Hackers and coders have resources like GitHub to help inform their process and craft, but I think there should be an open source place for founders to find experiences and advice for all the other parts of building a company like fundraising, recruiting, finding a lawyer, growing/expanding and/or failing, so we can use them to inform our own decisions and ideas.
When I shared the extreme ups and downs of trying to start a company, failing at it, and then looking for a job, I did so because I couldn’t find honest or realistic material anywhere, and I knew, with all the startups launching around me, that 99% of these people were struggling. Everything I seemed to find – and trust me, I went deep-sea diving in Google – was either a successful entrepreneur recounting his/her journey, or condescending lists made up of pieces of advice from people at the top. I wanted to read how people in their early 20s were struggling with their careers, what they were doing about it, and how they were staying sane.
A lot of entrepreneurs don’t mind talking about failure, but only when failure is a memory. I couldn’t find anyone writing about their own struggles and failure in real-time. It seemed like these same people who claim they love to take risks were not willing to risk tarnishing their image. They only discuss failure from afar. But I think that once time has passed, re-telling
stories only serves as a carbon copy of the real, raw feelings we go through at the time. So when I read about how hard and difficult raising money was, I understood it, but it didn’t resonate because it was a memory for the people writing about it.
I would love to see more people shed some ego and write about how nervous, terrified and excited they are in real time. Startup stories and career stories should be human stories, because although the focus is around business and technology, people are the ones who beat the odds, create the apps, recruit a team, raise money, materialize new ideas, and fail or succeed.
This brings to mind a conversation with one of my friend who confessed she wanted to approach a guy she likes, but didn’t know how to start the conversation. I said I’d just go up to him and say “Hi. I see you all the time, but we haven’t met. I’m Brianne.” And then my friend told me I just have no shame.
At first I was offended, but then I realized she was right. I think I really grew into the person I am when I stopped caring about being cool, and stopped worrying about how others perceive me. I’m young and I’m still trying to figure it all out. I know other people feel just as scared and curious about their own futures as I do. I want to read more about it, but since I couldn’t find what I was looking for, I created it myself.
Your blog contains quite a bit of content featured on other websites - what are your criteria for picking this content?
I’m actually trying to get a little better at this and establish some sort of process. I currently have about 25 drafts saved with links, quotes and tidbits of ideas. When I post something that someone else wrote or created, it added value to my life in some way, whether an illustration that makes me laugh, a quote that speaks to my current state of mind or attitude, or a link to an article that I think is worth reading again. Looking at my own archives, it seems a little scattered, but everything I share usually speaks to my current situation. I’ll definitely continue to share links and thoughts on digital commerce an fashion, because I will always be interested in this space. But now, with my new job, I’ll probably start sharing a lot more about content marketing and the changing landscape of advertising.
Why did you choose Tumblr as a blogging platform?
Three major reasons: it’s so easy to use, I really like the community of people who use it, and because I’m using it strictly for personal reasons (i.e, not interested in making money, having ads, etc).
I kept up a fashion blog on Wordpress for 3 years, and I loved it. But that was when I created dynamic posts with sound, photos and long written pieces all combined into one piece. With Tumblr, I like feeling like if I see something I like on Twitter or elsewhere on the Internet, I can create and post in 10 seconds.
I wish Tumblr would let me create lists of bloggers, like Twitter lets you create lists. I’d love to break down the blogs I follow into categories so I could post on topics more easily: UX and design, fashion, business, advertising, music, etc. I tried to start a feed for this, but got lazy and quit updating it.
Your blog post on Hacking the job hunt was reproduced in its entirety in a recent Skillcrush newsletter - why did you decide to do it and did it have any impact on the people reaching out to you/reading your blog?
I went through an incubator program with Skillcrush founder Adda Birnir. Before the job hunt post, she actually asked to re-purpose my “Lessons Learned” post, written when I was at the major deciding moment to either continue with my startup or go get a job. That post did pretty well, and I had also just written my Open Cover Letter post too, which proved very successful for me. She and I were G-chatting, and she asked how the job hunt was coming along. I told her I had just gotten my second offer, and she came up with the idea to write a post on how I hacked the job hunt. The post was her idea, I just happened to post it on my blog first. So I give her full credit here.
The response has really surprised me. Even though I knew I wanted to read more honest content about startup and career experiences, I had no idea how many other people – and not just women! – found value and/or related to my experiences. I remember watching as dozens of people shared the link to the post and also reached out to me on Twitter to thank me for writing it. I definitely gained some Tumblr followers, which is great, because a lot of their blogs are really inspiring or informative. I think the response is proof that people relate to real, human stories. It makes me happy just knowing there are other curious, excited people out there, and hopefully more people start to keep it real when sharing in their successes and failures.
In its early days back in May, your Tumblr seemed to be less personal and more content curation. Was this a conscious decision and why the change?
I don’t think I made a conscious decision to start sharing, I started to share because May was when I graduated the incubator program and had to actually start doing. I started building Parceld with a team in early June, and at the same time, was going through the experience of fundraising both here in NY and back home in St. Louis. This was when I turned to the Internet to find other people’s advice and experience to guide me. I found a few posts that were helpful, but like I said, I was hungry to read about the stuff I was going through, like working with a team who all had full time jobs, or fundraising for the first time. When I didn’t find what I needed, I think I just opened my laptop and started blogging. The first post where I really put myself out there was the night before my first friends and family pitch. After that, it just felt natural to share these experiences.
Are there things you learnt on blogging that you think could be helpful if you were to launch another startup?
Definitely. First, I can’t stress how important being honest and human is, and this goes for companies as much as individuals, especially small startups just getting started on shaping their branding and voice. One of the reasons I love Of A Kind so much is because their newsletters and blog posts make me feel like I’m sitting in a room with Erica and Claire, talking about the designer or the edition. Same goes for Fred Wilson’s blog posts. Aside from his status as VIP investor, he also writes the way he talks – like a normal person – and this makes it easy for everyone to understand and discuss (in length, if you go through any of the comment threads).
Blogging is also time-consuming. I have to set aside time to blog, if I want to write something meaningful. Pulling quotes and links takes less time, but if I want to continue sharing my experiences, I have to make the time to digest my feelings, write and then edit.
Last, and this is something I’m just now realizing, it really is all about the community. If I write something and no one reads it, then it is just like a diary. I make sure to try and read and comment on posts other people write, and share their posts too. Feedback is like a big loop, and you have to contribute along the way to get something back.
Photo courtesy of Brianne Garcia, taken by Laura
* The second rule is that I edit the interviews very little. So yes, there’s a lot of American spelling in here.