From Blogs to Riches: 3 Famous Entrepreneurs Who Started Out As Bloggers
Blog-to-riches is the digital-age version of the traditional success story: A scrappy and determined person starts a small blog and then writes, podcasts, or shoots their way to fame and fortune.
The reality check is that in 2016 there were more than six million active “traditional” blogs and twice that number of people blogging via social media channels like Instagram, YouTube, and Facebook.
How can you make your blog stand out from the crowd, build a loyal following, and maybe grow into a profitable business? Here are three very different blogs-to-riches success stories to teach us by example.
Blogger-Turned-Entrepreneur #1: Ree Drummond of The Pioneer Woman
Ree Drummond has been on the cover of People magazine, her fifth cookbook comes out in October, and her Food Network show, Pioneer Woman, is in its seventh season. Drummond also has a housewares brand, a magazine, a restaurant, and a hotel under construction. She’s built this lifestyle enterprise in just eleven years.
Her success grew out of her personal blog—also called The Pioneer Woman—about her raising and homeschooling four kids with her rancher husband in rural Oklahoma. Today, the blog is still the cornerstone of Drummond’s business, where she regularly shares recipes, project updates, pictures of her town, and stories about her family and friends. Somehow, in the middle of all of this work and raising teenagers, she also blogs for Land O’Lakes, too.
What new bloggers can learn from Ree Drummond:
Find your voice and use it to describe things you love. Perhaps more than any other star “mom blogger,” Drummond writes in a clear voice and uses it to help her readers fall in love with her way of life.
Her blog today feels just as folksy and friendly (and funny) as it did a decade ago, and readers feel they have a window into her world: one that’s focused on family, food, farm life, and getting to know and care about the neighbors.
While she’s a skilled writer, Drummond didn’t create a persona to serve a target market – she just started writing about her rural way of life and nurturing a community of readers who wanted to know more. Her authenticity shines through. Yours can, too.
Vlogger-Turned-Entrepreneur #2: Casey Neistat of Beme/CNN
If you’re under 35 and own a smartphone, you probably already know who Casey Neistat is.
For the rest of us, Casey Neistat is a vlogger-entrepreneur who—among other things—is building digital video tools for CNN to help them reach Millennials. It’s a role he took on after selling his social-media video app, Beme, to the news network for $25 million. Neistat also invests in startups, represents Samsung, and speaks at conferences to encourage other creatives to do the work they want to do. He still makes time to shoot, produce, and share videos about his global travels, product reviews, and his wife Candice Pool Neistat’s fashion company, Billy.
Neistat has accomplished a lot for a self-described “old man” of 36, and his career arc is even more impressive considering where he started. The Denver Post’s recent profile of Neistat sums up his backstory this way: “By age 17… the high-school dropout found himself living in a trailer park, washing dishes for a living and raising his infant son.”
With no film-making education, not much free time, and a long history of hearing people tell him he couldn’t succeed, Neistat went to work. He moved to New York, worked on his craft of telling stories through video, and had a viral hit about NYC bike-lane safety that drew the attention of city officials and YouTube viewers alike.
What new vloggers can learn from Casey Neistat:
Do what you want, and use the gear you have to get started. Neistat says all you need to begin is a phone, an internet connection, and a good idea.
Do What You Can’t, Neistat’s 4-minute video autobiography, lists things authority figures told Neistat he couldn’t do – alongside video of Neistat accomplishing all of those goals and more.
Influencer-Turned-Entrepreneur #3: Chiara Ferragni of The Blonde Salad
Fashion watchers know Chiara Ferragni means business. The Italian designer and blogger, who now lives in Beverly Hills, brings in at least $9 million a year from her shoe and clothing lines, modeling, endorsements, and partnerships with major fashion houses.
Forbes recognized Ferragni as the Top Fashion Influencer of 2017 for leading the way in the emerging fashion/social media influencer industry. Ferragni’s was the first fashion influencer business to be featured in a Harvard Business Review case study—and that was before she began opening retail stores in Italy and China. While doing all of that, she’s also graced the covers of dozens of international fashion magazines and earned a special edition Barbie made in her likeness.
Before she was a fashion icon and tycoon, Ferragni was a law student in Italy with a personal blog called The Blonde Salad. She told Forbes that her diary-style posts and photos drew lots of questions about her wardrobe, so she took the blog in that direction.
She also used Instagram to expand her sphere of influence. Today, Ferragni has more than 10 million Instagram followers, and The Blonde Salad is a digital fashion magazine and online store with a team of twenty staffers.
What new bloggers can learn from Chiara Ferragni:
Share the love. Like Drummond, Ferragni blogs about what she loves—fashion, friends, and travel. Ferragni is also, like Neistat, a natural collaborator, as her work with Gucci, Chanel, and other fashion houses shows. Ferragni’s enthusiasm for fashion is contagious. Her work with others in the industry has raised her brand’s visibility to the point where she’s the acknowledged “It Girl” and has earned her fans—and customers—from Los Angeles to Shanghai.
The takeaway for new bloggers is to use social media to amplify your blog’s reach and to reach out to others in your niche for new projects, cross-promotion, and creative cross-pollination.
Ready to start your journey from blogger to entrepreneur? HostGator has WordPress plans that make it easy to design your site, manage your content, and start posting.
Casey Kelly-Barton is an Austin-based freelancer who enjoys writing about business development and marketing, e-commerce payments and fraud prevention, and travel.