BlogHer Keynote Luncheon with Elisa Camahort Page and Jory Des Jardins
Elisa Camahort Page
Jory Des Jardins
Could you introduce yourself and tell us about how you started?
In February 2005, BlogHer founders Lisa Stone, Elisa Camahort Page and Jory De Jardins launched a conference for women who blog. That conference has grown into an amazing network of women.
Before BlogHer, Elisa worked in the high-tech marketing industry. After years of successfully climbing the corporate ladder, she found herself discouraged with her situation. “In a period where the company I worked for was laying off employees, I found that I was a bit depressed…Depressed that I wasn’t laid off.”
Elisa decided to take a break from her career to regroup and figure out what she wanted to do. It was then that she started a blog where she talked about a little of everything. Restaurant reviews, movies, politics and just her opinion in general.
After starting her blog, Elisa sent a copy of a restaurant review over to a couple of her former co-workers. When visiting the restaurant later on, she encountered about a dozen of her co-workers -- they had all read the post and decided to check things out!
“It was at that point I realized that there was something more to blogging. It would be a great marketing tool,” she said.
BlogHer happened for me because I was willing to take a risk and trust that everything would work out. Well, that and perhaps a little serendipity.
Around the same time Elisa’s journey to BlogHer was taking place, Jory was also working in the corporate sector -- in the publishing industry.
“I enjoyed starting a blog,” Jory said. “It was my opportunity to be the writer I always wanted to be and I didn’t have to convince anyone to pick up my work.”
What was the first six months of BlogHer like?
Elisa explained that in the early days, BlogHer wasn’t actually a company. “We weren’t actually incorporated when we did the first conference. We all pitched in a little bit of everything -- sponsors, planning logistics, speakers.”
It was after the success of the first conference that the women realized that there really was something to this business now called BlogHer.
It’s a success now, but it was 18 months before we quit our jobs and transitioned to full-time work on BlogHer.
“There’s a different sort of energy and intensity when you are relying on a business to cover your bills,” Elisa said.
The group also had to decide if they wanted to run the show as a small lifestyle business or infuse it with capital, which is the direction they took in the end.
The group hired a lawyer, drew up papers and planned for the long term in an effort to take things seriously and present things seriously.
“We planned to take this seriously,” Jory said. “So it made sense for us to set things in motion and plan for our success.”
How does BlogHer function? What does it mean when you go to someone’s blog and you see a BlogHer button?
BlogHer isn’t just a conference; today it’s a flourishing business that runs advertising, pro-active campaigns, custom events and brand ambassadorships.
The organization reviews and selects blogs based upon their categories and the advertisers they are working with. It’s also proactive to make sure it’s a mutually beneficial relationship.
Bloggers, in part, determine the types of advertising that will be showcased on their own blog. For instance, Elisa is a vegan and doesn’t have children. There are a number of ads that just wouldn’t be a positive fit for her site. She has the ability to proactively determine what products and/or brands she would prefer not to have associated with her writing.
Do you find that you are advising the advertiser?
At this point, advising clients is a part of doing the business. “We find it to simply be a step in our process,” Jory said.
When did you find yourselves ready for outside financing?
We started looking at investors and capital when we had a network of about 150 bloggers and approximately one million unique hits.
The decision was in large part, market driven. “No one had been paying attention to women who blog. It was hard to get traction initially, but we found that people were happy to meet with us and provide advice and even a little money,” Jory said.
The women have learned that if you want money, ask for advice. If you want advice, ask for money.
In 2006 people really started to pay attention and realize that there was money to be made in this area.
The women needed to move forward. They knew it would be detrimental to everything they had worked for if they allowed someone else to pick up and run away with the idea of working with female bloggers.
“We needed to be able to relax and focus on the business and stop people from jumping over us. That’s what really sent us into full-time work,” Elisa said.
The women had a plan and they moved forward. To this day they advise entrepreneurs to have a written plan and develop a believable story.
The business has grown and so have the tools. Today, BlogHer encompasses more than just blogging.
Elisa shared that a writer’s social media presence is like a solar system and the blog is their sun. “You don’t have to be on every platform. You should use the ones that work best for you, but be aware of the rest.”
Often we hear about best business practices. What are the worst practices that you’ve encountered?
The biggest mistake an entrepreneur can make is not treating your business like a business.
How do you ask for what you’re worth?
Research has shown that women hate to talk about money. They would rather talk about sex on their blogs than money.
One way to determine worth is to go ask someone else. Women are very willing to share and give advice.