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Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

SXSW: Cupcakes and Cashmere's Emily Schuman On The Business Of Blogging

Katie Lemon |
March 15, 2012 | 8:02 a.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

When Emily Schuman typed the first blog entry of “Cupcakes and Cashmere” in 2008, she had no culinary background whatsoever.

Emily Schuman, creator of blog "Cupcakes and Cashmere" (Katie Lemon/Neon Tommy)
Emily Schuman, creator of blog "Cupcakes and Cashmere" (Katie Lemon/Neon Tommy)

In fact, she says she could barely boil water. Little did she know in four years she would go from clueless to queen - of food, fashion and design. At SXSW Interactive, Schuman revealed how she turned blogging into a successful, lucrative business. 

After graduating from Scripps College, Schuman held various day jobs at AOL and magazines such as Conde Nast, Domino and Teen Vogue.

Through the post-grad work, she learned about online metrics, creating content and advertising.

The years of working a day job finally paid off as she noticed a shift from print to digital, which sparked an idea.

“I saw an opportunity,” she said.

Enter “Cupcakes and Cashmere,” a sophisticated, feminine blog painted with clever posts and beautiful photography. But the famous blog did not become wildly popular overnight; it took years of hard work.

Schuman believed she did not have to be an expert to gain an online audience, so she focused on developing her own voice and point of view.

Through trial and error, she figured out what she wanted the blog to be and what she did not want it to be. She did not want to create a daily journal, but rather the focus would be on the inspirational parts of her life – tasty food, classy outfits, unique interior decorating.

Instead of using images online, Schuman began taking her own photos of food, clothes and interior designs. The “Cupcakes and Cashmere” brand would include every girl in a Martha Stewart meets Carrie Bradshaw way. The brand evolved from repetition – everything carefully reinforced how to live an elevated lifestyle.

“I work really hard on every aspect of my brand,” said Schuman. “It comes off seamlessly, but it is carefully curated.”

Schuman attributes her current success to timing and luck. Back in 2008, blogs were, for the most part, unchartered territories.

Schuman claimed she wasn’t sure she wanted to put herself out there, yet blogging appeared exciting because it forced her out of her comfort zone. Writing, posting, observing and photographing constantly became part of her daily routine. The turning point arrived when Coach, hoping to appeal to a younger demographic, asked Schuman to collaborate with them in designing a fresh, new handbag.

Although she had no design experience whatsoever, Schuman boarded the plane to New York for fashion week. The experience taught her the importance of networking and maintaining relationships, as she sent handwritten notes to each person she met thanking them for the experience and expressing her interest to work together in the future. 

Social media also had a huge impact on Schuman’s blogging career.

Although resistant to Twitter at first, she eventually used it as a platform to offer glimpses into her daily life. Facebook proved a useful forum to connect with her fans, answer questions and post additional content.

Of all social media, Pinterest has had the biggest impact on gaining traffic to her blog. The use of her content across other people’s boards whose interests and sophistication aligned with hers helped her further define her brand.

As for growing an audience and making money, there are no shortcuts or simple answers. Since blogging isn’t generally a money making business, Schuman’s philosophy is to start with a passion for creating meaningful content, which will be rewarding in itself.

Schuman offered some helpful tips for current and aspiring bloggers:

1.     Write often so readers can count on consistent content.

2.     Post concise entries, since people are busy and tend to read on the go.

3.     Edit… a lot – from photos to the writing. The goal is to elicit a reaction from the reader.

4.     Know what not to post. All content must serve to coincide with the atmosphere and tone you want to create.

5.     Have a clean design.

6.     Find your voice. This took Schuman a long time to perfect, but she said having a genuine voice helps readers see your authenticity.

Email Katie here. Follow Katie on Twitter.



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