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Tag Archives: RewardStyle
Here is a selection of snapshots from the many events that took place during the second annual SMU Fashion Week April 1-5 — from the Monday launch party to lectures by fashion professionals to the Retail Club fashion show on Friday. Hope you all enjoyed it as much as we did!! — The editors
Listen up, fashionistas: Have a great idea for a fashion media-related app, but don’t have the technological know-how to create it yourself? Check out the latest from Dallas-based rewardStyle — a ”hackathon” the weekend of April 5-7 will pair stylish entrepreneurs with tech gurus to create new apps for the fashion industry.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past year, most of you probably know or have heard of SMU alum Amber Venz and her innovative fashion-monetization company rewardStyle. The rewardStyle hackathon will continue all weekend until Sunday when the winner is announced.
Now, I know I’m not the most tech-savvy person, but this idea really caught my eye. So what exactly is the rewardStyle hackathon? To find out, I spoke with another SMU alum — Meg Jones, a rewardStyle account strategist.
“It [the hackathon] is an opportunity for developers, designers and entrepreneurs to spend the weekend teaming up to build amazing apps for the fashion industry,” Jones says. “The challenge is to take a fresh idea and build out a prototype in one weekend. The team who executes their idea the best will take home the grand prize.”
FYI, that would be $3,000 in cash.
Jason LeBlanc, rewardStyle lead designer, says the team collaborated late last fall and the concept of the hackathon was born. “We released our API [application programming interface] in late 2012 for other companies to integrate with our platform. At this hackathon we wanted to release our API to local talent for them to do the same.
Or, in non-technical language, as Dallas continues to progress as a fashion-forward city, rewardStyle will stay true to their roots and continue to foster local talent. Now that you know exactly what the hackathon is, let’s get to the juicy stuff:
In addition to the cash prize, the winning team will have the chance to present their app at the rewardStyle conference on April 19, an event that will be attended by some of the world’s top fashion bloggers.
I spoke with one of the lead panel judges, Forrest Jordan, who described the prospects this will provide for the winning team.
“This opportunity will provide the winners the chance to pitch their newly built application to an audience capable of turning their weekend hack into a profitable venture,” Jorday says. “This is their target audience so it makes this time extremely valuable.”
So what will the judges be looking for? Jordan described some of the qualities judges would be looking for in the apps. “The value created by the application is most important. The app should provide publishers a more convenient way of accomplishing some task or provide them with the ability to do something that previously was not possible with existing tools. There are numerous ways to accomplish both goals.”
In the fashion and technology industry, where time and convenience is of the essence, it’s crucial to provide publishers with the most innovative and efficient tools to manage their business.
rewardStyle, being the ideal combination of fashion and technology is the perfect business platform for the hackathon. They have the experience, the tools and of course, the fashion. We cannot wait to see what the hackathon weekend will produce!
By Alessandra Neason
All right fashionistas! Now that fashion week is over in New York, it’s time to focus on our very own fashion week taking place on campus. The second annual SMU Fashion Week—scheduled this year for the first week in April–is right around the corner, and I am going to give you a quick rundown of what to expect.
The week will kick off with a launch party located at Mockingbird Station on Monday April 1, starting at 5:30 p.m. This will be the only off campus event, and SMU will be taking over the station with sponsors from the local restaurants and boutiques within Mockingbird Station. There will be tons of surprises at the launch party, guest hosts, an outdoor film screening, and much more.
Julia Eggleston, a senior at SMU and one of the Creative Directors for Fashion Week 2013, states that Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday consist of panels, and the main goal for the week is to expose students to multiple aspects of the fashion industry. She describes the week as a fun and interactive experience as well as a learning tool to gain knowledge into the fashion world.
Kelsey Reynolds, a junior at SMU, is also part of the executive team for Fashion Week 2013. She says that the team plans to hone in on a particular brand/company each night of the week. For example, Tuesday evening will focus on Neiman Marcus and its role in Dallas fashion. The Dallas-based fashion blogging platform rewardStyle will be featured on Wednesday, as will fashion historian Myra Walker on Thursday.
As in 2012, the Retail Club fashion show will top off the week. The show will be held Friday at 5 p.m. on Bishop Boulevard. Students will wear fashions from Tootsies, a high-end women’s boutique, for the event. Be sure to look out for your peers struttin’ it on the runway!
By Catherine Stacke
When Meg Jones walked into her Fashion Journalism class in the spring of her senior year at SMU, she never imagined that the course would lead her to the woman who would jump-start her post-college career.
Amber Venz, rewardStyle CEO, founded the company shortly after graduating from SMU. Jones was immediately struck by Venz’ motivation to do something that few fashion bloggers had done before: turn her hobby into a lucrative business.
“I was so impressed that a young SMU grad had started her own company from the ground up just a few years after graduating. I loved that it was a full-service monetization solution for bloggers, run by bloggers,” says Jones.
Although Jones had visited Venz to interview her for her Fashion Journalism class, it was soon clear that this was the beginning of a significant business relationship. Soon after the profile was completed, Amber Venz hired Meg Jones as an intern and proceeded to offer her a job post-graduation.
“The SMU Fashion Media program has prepared me to wear many hats in my job as an account consultant at rewardStyle,” Jones says.
Jones says she’s been an avid follower of multiple fashion blogs for several years, and she credits rewardStyle with connecting her love of fashion and blogging to her career.
“It is fun working for a start-up company where everyone is willing and eager to work hard in a fast-paced environment,” she says. And a fast-paced environment it is indeed. Bloggers have certainly become an important complement to fashion publications over the past decade, and fashion brands everywhere are scrambling to profit from their increasing influence.
SMU’s William J. O’Neil Chair in Business Journalism Mark Vamos stresses the value of the direct connection bloggers have with readers: “It’s clear that companies, which once had to go through intermediaries like the media or advertising to reach customers, increasingly have direct access to consumers through multiple touch points,” Vamos says.
This more direct relationship between fashion bloggers and their readers is exactly the area that rewardStyle is capitalizing on — and with great success. The website allows bloggers to link their pages to the products they focus on, fostering a unique relationship between blogger and brand. Whenever a consumer purchases an item linked to a rewardStyle blogger’s page, she receives a commission equal to a percentage of the item’s cost.
The influence of fashion bloggers is significant, and the opportunities for them to cash in on that influence, endless. With a list of more than 300 retail clients – including ASOS, Shopbop and Neiman Marcus – rewardStyle offers an attractive option for up-and-coming fashion bloggers. The rise of social media has only upped the ante.
Yes, Amber Venz and rewardStyle have caught a very stylish wave — and should be riding high for some time to come.
SMU creates new generation of fashion bloggers
By Margaret Brown
When strolling the Boulevard on a typical school day at Southern Methodist University, it’s not uncommon to see girls adorned in designer labels such as Louis Vuitton, David Yurman and Chanel.
A strong fashion presence is hard to ignore on campus, and many stylish co-eds seem to have found that the world of fashion and lifestyle blogging is a genre that fits seamlessly into our collegiate landscape.
“I think what sets SMU apart from other schools is the quality of the blogs that are coming out of SMU,” says Meg Jones, SMU alum and creator of the blog Styled, Spotted, Snapped. “We are lucky to have an amazing Fashion Media program that helps shape the fundamentals of blogging.”
However, long before the Fashion Media program reached fruition, alumnae including Amber Venz creator of VenzEdits, Merritt Beck of The Style Scribe and Mary Summers of M.A.S. Fashion were making a name for themselves in the Dallas fashion world through their personal blogs. Now they are helping a new generation of SMU fashion bloggers create a path for themselves.
“Those girl have been so helpful in helping me start my own blog,” says Madison Eberenz, SMU alum and creator of the blog Fifth & Madison. “They’ve recommended graphic designers, shared what makes them so successful and helped us get off on the right foot.”
While getting advice from veterans can help, a young blogger may still face a challenge creating consistent content that is relevant, interesting and visually appealing. Young professionals or college students may also have trouble finding the time to maintain all facets of a blog while balancing it with a new career or schoolwork.
“I try and keep my blog fresh and exciting, but that is a constant battle,” says Allison Hollins, an SMU alum and creator of the blog Love You, Mean It. “A few months ago my blog went under a major re-design. I was so excited to give it a new look that was clean and pretty.
“The one thing people don’t understand is how long it takes to create one post. Blogging is very time consuming. It is hard to find the time to create fun, exciting new posts and still have a life.”
Brooke Reagan, an SMU junior journalism major and founder of the blog Brooke du Jour, says she uses her blog as a way to escape the demands of schoolwork and schedules time to blog into her day. However, Reagan realizes that her blog could one day be used not only as a creative outlet but also as a tool in acquiring an internship or job.
“I would really like to use it to get a great internship,” Reagan says. “Ultimately I would like to work at a fashion magazine. I would love to work at Marie Claire, Glamour or InStyle because I feel like my voice aligns with those publications. They’re all fun and flirty.”
Jones, who was the editor of the campus fashion and lifestyle blog, SMUStyle last year, is now an account consultant along with Hollins and Eberenz at rewardStyle, a company founded by Venz, which is designed to help fashion and lifestyle bloggers monetize their online content. Through her experience with other bloggers, Jones has gained insight and knowledge into the keys of a successful blog.
“Anyone who is looking for a creative outlet to showcase ideas should absolutely start a blog, but make sure you go into it with a game plan,” Jones says. “What are you going to post about? What is your voice? How frequently are you going to post? Having a blog is so much more than just a URL. It’s curating an entire digital brand.”
The new generation of SMU bloggers is coming into a market where the growth of social media platforms like Instagram and Twitter demands they become expert at utilizing many different social media outlets. In addition to maintaining their own site, bloggers have found that establishing a presence on these platforms can help them build a cohesive online brand.
“Social media is so important,” Eberenz says. “You might have a completely different audience on Pinterest than the audience that keeps up with your blog. I’ve found that Pinterest has been more successful for me. I think people are more apt to click through on a beautiful image than a link on someone’s Twitter.”
Thus, as the social media landscape changes due to technological advances and the creation of new platforms, so does the blogosphere. Even though Eberenz, Jones, Reagan and Hollins are relatively new to the fashion blogging scene, they realize that blogging will continue to mold and shift in the future.
“In the past five years, fashion blogging has transformed dramatically,” Hollins says. “Five years ago it was an untapped market and now it’s super saturated. In the next five years I think we will see even more changes in blogging.”
By Krystal Schlegel
Sitting down for a meeting with Amber Venz, founder of rewardStyle.com and fashion blogger at VenzEdits.com, in February 2011, I didn’t realize a 30-minute Starbucks conversation would change my blogging career forever.
I had started a blog after completing a two-week floral design program in Paris during the summer of 2010.
After being inspired by all of the fashion, floral and architectural photographs I had snapped in Paris, I decided to start a lifestyle and fashion blog of my own.
Heading into my junior year at Southern Methodist University, I became completely enthralled with blogging.
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I posted every day, not only to get visitors to come back daily, but because it was exactly what I wanted to work on when I had free time. Staying up until 1 every night (or morning) to work on my blog became something I looked forward to.
RewardStyle: Making my hobby profitable
Prior to meeting with Venz, an SMU alum, I had no profit or income from my blog.
I had thought about advertising, but had heard that pursuing advertisers or sponsors could easily become a full-time job. I also wanted to wait until I got my readership up before I tackled advertising.
At our meeting, Venz, dressed in a fur coat and 6-inch heels, told me about a new company she was starting called rewardStyle.com.
She described the company as a website where fashion bloggers could earn commissions for what they sold online. She wanted me to be a “product tester” to get the website started and to let her know what I liked and didn’t like about the site.
That meeting marked a turning point in my blogging career: Once I realized bloggers could earn commissions from building their blogs, I started looking into other websites that offered affiliate links. Most of them were insanely hard to figure out and use.
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I soon became obsessed with rewardStyle because the site was so user-friendly and convenient.
With rewardStyle, I simply linked my “outfit posts,” or the outfit I featured on my blog that day, to my favorite shopping websites and was pleasantly surprised by how many sales I was making.
As my commissions rose, so did my standing with the company since rewardStyle ranks its featured bloggers, who participate by invitation only, based on total sales. This is what landed me on the company’s Top 25 Blogger list, alongside my favorite bloggers, Jane Aldridge of SeaofShoes.com, Blair Eadie of Atlantic-Pacific.blogspot.com and Leandra Medine of ManRepeller.com.
That was the moment when I realized, “Hey, I could make a career out of this.”
However, I think the reason my blog succeeded is that I absolutely love doing it every day.
Creating my next post or styling my next outfit is always on my mind.
Interested in starting your own?
I chatted with a few of my favorite fashion bloggers to get their top tips on how to start a blog.
and WordPressare the most user-friendly software packages for those starting out.
It is free, but I recommend hiring a blog designer to personalize yours. This can cost anywhere from $50 to $150 and is worth the small investment.
Amy Havins, a Dallas-based stylist, recently began blogging to offer tips about her favorite brands, trends and items – a great source for fashion-lovers who may not be in a position to pay for her styling services. Havins says she follows a set of ethical guidelines on her blog.
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“It is important to maintain your integrity when blogging by spotlighting only products that you would use or wear yourself,” she says. “I won’t showcase products just to earn a commission, and I think my readership appreciates that about me. They know they can trust my advice.”
Tina Craig is one of the best-known fashion bloggers in the industry today.
Six years ago, Craig partnered with friend Kelly Cook to write about one of their favorite things — handbags – and before long, BagSnob.com was born.
With more than 50,000 Twitter followers and millions of readers, Craig has seamlessly turned her full-time hobby into a full-time job. She now lives in the Dallas area with her family – and commutes frequently to New York and other fashion capitals.
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Venz explained that when she started her blog, she developed a business plan that outlined what she is good at and why readers would want to visit her site.
“I don’t post photos from the front row at Fashion Week because I know readers can go to Style.com for that,” she says.
Venz says she posts information or photos about fashion shows and industry events on social media venues like Twitter and Facebook.
On her blog, she instead focuses on more “evergreen” topics such as style tips. And she won’t post photos with friends or what she did the night before. This gives her blog, VenzEdits.com, a central theme and consistency.
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Both Craig and Venz shared their stories as part of a Fashion Journalism and Blogging panel on March 27 during SMU’s Fashion Week.
While Venz stressed the importance of planning for an up-and-coming blogger, Craig, who was blogging before blogging was cool, argued that persistence and motivation are just as critical.
In other words: Think twice if you are blogging just to grow your business or make a quick buck. “Be passionate about your subject, and let that passion come through in the writing,” Craig says. “If it doesn’t make you crazy like teenage love, don’t blog about it.”
Photos, photos, photos
Of course, both fashion bloggers and their readers love blogs that feature beautiful photographs. This may mean skipping the Iphone shots if you are serious about your work. Experienced bloggers agree that investing in a quality camera can make an important difference in the overall value of your blog.
“No cell phone pictures in a mirror,” Venz says.
“A good camera is huge, or have a boyfriend or friend take photos. I pay a photographer hourly to take my photos.” Investing in a quality camera makes an important difference in the over all value of your blog.
SMU senior Mary Holbrook likes to start her day reading fashion blogs.
“I go to blogs for style ideas, new things to try and inspiration. I like blogs that are updated frequently and have a theme or pattern. This gives me something to look forward to. I also love photo blogs. Great photography is key,” Holbrook says.
Get some traffic
RewardStyle.com is great to work with, but the company won’t allow bloggers to use the site if they don’t already have a social media following on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest or the like.
Newcomers should set all of these up in order to grow their social media presence and network with other bloggers.
All of these platforms grow a blogger’s site.
Another important topic to think about: searchability. A great tool to help people find your blog is Google.
You want to make sure your blog comes up when someone types in “red Celine bag.”
The best way to do this is to title your posts with the terms people will search for in Google.
How to monetize
Apart from joining rewardStyle to monetize your site, you can also use websites like Google ads and go directly to brands you want to work with.
Advertising and rewardStyle are options once you have established a following, so be sure to grow your readership through social media networks before reaching out to companies.
By Meg Jones
“I recently found this quote on Pinterest that said if your dreams
don’t scare you, you’re not doing something right.”
-Amber Venz, president of rewardStyle
I walked up the red brick steps and twisted an old-fashioned key to ring the door bell of a charming house on Boll Street in uptown, home to rewardStyle.
As I peeked in, I knew I was in the right place when I saw a backdrop with the rewardStyle and CurrentlyObsessed logos draped on the wall in the entrance.
I sat down with SMU alum Amber Venz, president of rewardStyle, and her boyfriend, Baxter Box, CEO, to get the inside scoop on the business they built together and how it has changed the landscape of fashion blogging.
After designing her own jewelry collection, dabbling as a buyer at Studio Sebastian, a stylist in Los Angeles, a global wholesale intern for fashion designer Thakoon and a fashion blogger, Venz had a purse-full of experience in the fashion industry.
And in the process, she had learned something: What she really loved was fashion blogging—the creativity of putting together outfits and sharing her work with readers.
The downside: Blogging was not a steady job.
While on a weekend trip, Venz and Box, who holds an SMU MBA, brainstormed about her dilemma and developed a plan to accomplish what branded media companies have been trying for years: a plan to monetize on-line content, in this case, fashion blogs. Before long, rewardStyle was born.
RewardStyle has proved to be a lucrative tool for everyone from established, old-school fashion bloggers to up-and-comers.
“RewardStyle really evens the playing field of bloggers,” says Venz. “It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been around or who your grandfather is, it’s pure numbers.”
The 3,000 members of rewardStyle use affiliate links to connect their readers with online retailers. They then earn a commission if items are purchased.
RewardStyle works with top-tier fashion bloggers with unique URLs who are consistently posting original content and have built a social network around their blogs.
The invitation-only exclusivity of rewardStyle comes down to that crucial question in fashion: Who is influencial? Based on rewardStyle’s standards, influence is measured by which bloggers bring in the most dollars, not by who has the most followers.
“Fashion is a business,” Venz says. “Bloggers have incredible style and taste. They are consistent, and they do a beautiful job on the creative side. But at the end of the day, we are looking at the numbers, and those numbers are turned into sales for advertisers.”
SMU senior and Fashion Media minor Katie Day applied for a position with rewardStyle last fall, when the company was growing so quickly that Venz found she needed a bigger team.
“After working with rewardStyle, I’m amazed at the influence of the blogging world on fashion,” says Day, now an account consultant with the company. “People are making careers out of their personal style blogs, and they’re really building a brand for themselves.”
One factor behind rewardStyle’s success is the relationship the company can create with its bloggers. Venz speaks the language of fashion bloggers and knows how they operate on a day-to-day basis.
“I am literally my own client, so if something is frustrating, I change it,” says Venz.
Since the launch of rewardStyle, Venz and Box have been building auxilary products around it, such as CurrentlyObsessed, a web tool that allows readers to stalk their favorite style bloggers and their obsessions.
Bloggers can opt in and create a cue of products to work with. Then CurrentlyObsessed syndicates their favorite items.
“It’s really a look into the mind of an editor,” says Venz.
According to Venz, 30 percent to 50 percent of the fashion blogging industry’s sales every day originate through , Facebook, Twitter or CurrentlyObsessed.
SMU senior Krystal Schlegel, the blogger behind Krystal Schlegel The Style Book, was recently honored as one of the 25 top-grossing bloggers at rewardStyle’s influencers dinner held during New York Fashion Week.
“It was like a community of bloggers who all had rewardStyle in common,” says Schlegel. “I have met so many people in the fashion and blogging industry through rewardStyle.”
Mary Summers, an SMU alum and fashion blogger, recently spoke to the SMU Retail Club about her personal style blog, M.A.S. Fashion, and her experience as an account consultant at rewardStyle.
Some important advice I took away from Summers for would-be bloggers: Be an entrepreneur and build a business around your blog.
“You’re not just a URL,” Summers says, “you’re a face on your blog and a face on social media.”
Schlegel adds that bloggers must make their site their own. She says she thinks about how she would describe an event or style choice to her best friend when writing for readers. She also tries to maintain a consistent “voice” across media – not just on her blog, but on Facebook and Twitter as well. Be a friend to readers, one with great fashion advice. A friend they visit often.
All Venz and Box’s media tools, from rewardStyle to CurrentlyObsessed, are designed to reward bloggers who succeed at this task—so a hobby can become a business.
“I think rewardStyle is very literal—reward your style,” says Venz. “If you’re a good styler, you’ll get paid.”