Getting your foot in the door of any industry can be very difficult without the right connections. Sarah Boyd finds this to be true in the styling and blogging industry. Sarah started her career in Fashion PR and, in 2012, started her own business and founded SIMPLY, a collective with one goal in mind – connecting. Dubbed as the “dot connector,” she is building connections for people through her platform. In this episode, she opens up about starting SIMPLY and how it supports her mission to bring together like-minded individuals in an environment that ensures constant growth, both personally and professionally, in the digital space.
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Sarah Boyd Talks About Starting SIMPLY + The Many Hats This Mama Wears
We have Sarah Boyd on this episode. Sarah, welcome to the show and I‘m so excited to have you here.
I’m going to give you a little backstory of how we met. We met at Giuliana Rancic’s skincare launch and we started chatting, started following each other on social media and here we are now. I had no idea she was the Founder of SIMPLY until she told me at Giuliana’s party. I had heard about the SIMPLY Conference from bloggers that I follow. Tell us all about SIMPLY and the amazing things that it offers.
I started it about several years ago. Prior to that, I did fashion PR. I did that for about eight to nine years after college. I learned all the tips and tricks of PR over those years. I made a lot of different relationships, but I was lucky I had a sister that helped me get my foot in the door of the industry. I met so many people over the years that didn’t have that connection or that person that trusted them and gave them that leg up. I wanted to create something. After that many years in PR, I was done with thankless clients. I wanted to wake up happy and feel like I was giving back every day. I quit my job working for my sister and gave myself three months to plan our first conference. I had this vision for SIMPLY. It was to create a kind place for people to connect in the industry.
I respect that the most because in our industry, in beauty and blogging, YouTube and all of that, sometimes it can get negative. I love that you bring these women together and you show people that this is what it’s all about. It’s all about connecting and connecting the dots.
That’s literally why I wanted to start it and I was like, “How can I do this? How can I build those connections for people?“ With these jobs in the industry, styling and blogging, you can’t go to school for it. You have to learn directly from that person.
It’s all trial and error.
What I did was I created our first conference here in LA and it was panels of fashion editors, stylists, makeup artists and all of these behind the scenes people that are making trends happen. They were super open. They talked about their path to success, their failures or successes. They got to meet everyone in the audience and a lot of amazing relationships happened out of that, whether it was someone who started interning for that person and now they’re a big stylist. They learned all these different tips and tricks. We had a whole brand area where brands could activate and meet all of these up and coming entrepreneurs and bloggers, but also meet the big people that were speaking. That was many years ago. We were the first of its kind in this industry, which was crazy.
There was nothing like this several years ago.
Now, there’s a lot which means that people want it.
People follow everyone through the screen and people look at us the same way. They think we’re unattainable or all of this but there’s so much more that we can offer. Something like conferences like this and online courses that you offer, it’s nice because they get a human connection. They are right in front of you. It’s their raw emotions. It’s a Q&A. They give you everything and most of these people, editors and stylists, they’re not bloggers. They don’t sit and write about their experience and all the things they had to go through and that’s important. That’s why people love it so much.
Many times, I’d be having drinks with a stylist and she’s like, “I need an assistant so bad,” but that connection wasn’t made yet. There are many girls out there that are dying to be a stylist but they don’t have that connection. The same with blogging and all of these jobs. That’s how we initially started a long time ago. A few years into it, we added our digital side of the business. We manage celebrities’ digital platforms. We do all of their brand partnerships. We do lots of events with them, but being their consultant and guide throughout this different digital landscape.
They have lots of followers, but they don’t know how to take that and monetize it or create different platforms with it. They all have their traditional agents and managers, but that’s for them as an actress or a musician. We focused on that blogging digital influencer space. That arm has grown in our business. We’ve got twenty celebrities on that roster. That’s been fun to see that grow. We do quarterly trips with them. We go to different places around the world and take them to connect them to because they have all different audiences. What I do is connecting with kindness in all aspects of my business and I respect that so much.
I’m always preaching, you can always be helpful and kind to people. It can’t hurt. Talk to us about the digital space and monetizing it. I get a lot of questions all the time about people who want to start a blog or who want to start Instagram. Eventually, they want to start monetizing. Talk to us about that.
The industry is very saturated at this point. My biggest suggestion would be to have your niche and stick to it. I know everyone says it everywhere, but being raw, authentic and being your true self, that’s the only way you’re going to succeed and have your customers/followers purchase from you because that’s how you’re going to sell things. That’s how you’re going to get brand deals. If people engage with your content and buy what you’re selling, you’re a spokesperson/salesperson.
They’re buying into you. When you connect with them by being raw, real and not phony, because I can sense it so quickly, I can tell they’re forcing to be enthusiastic. I can tell from the pitch of their voice, and maybe that’s just me because I’m in this space, but I feel that people can sniff it out. If you’re not going to be raw, authentic and real, if you’re not going to be honest and true to yourself, then don’t bother. People might follow you and love your styles, but eventually if you want to turn it into a business, it’s going to be hard to convert. Don’t you agree?
I agree and it is a saturated industry. There are way more avenues now that you can make money. You can do it through affiliate links. There’s rewardStyle and ShopStyle. Amazon has an affiliate program. Pretty much every company now has some affiliate program. If you put a spreadsheet together and go through every company that you love, I’m sure they have an affiliate program so you can organically talk about it and make money. I made money on ClassPass because they give you $40 off your membership if you refer a friend or my credit card. You can make money in so many different ways. That’s one avenue. Another avenue is sponsored content or native posts. That’s when a brand pays you a fee to naturally integrate their product, whether it’s into your Instagram Stories, YouTube or whatever your channel is. Tagging them, #ad and all of that. It’s probably what most people see online.
That’s the most popular way that my clients are getting deals. We’re seeing a lot of brand ambassadorships which is a six to twelve-month campaign where you’re constantly wearing the clothes or using the product and it’s a little more organic to everyday life. There’s a certain amount of posts you need to fulfill, but maybe you’re designing a capsule collection or maybe you’re integrating it into your life. If you’re doing Instagram Stories at home, you see the yogurt behind you on the counter. It’s very organic to your feed and to your lifestyle and that’s not so ROI–driven. ROI is return on your investment. For brands, they have different ways that they come at this. Sometimes they want awareness and they don’t care about sales. Some brands are so sales–driven that they only want people that can convert to sales. You have to weigh out what the brand’s initiatives are and what they’re looking to get out of the campaign. I always suggest hopping on a call with them and taking each proposal that comes to you and each inquiry on a case–by–case basis.
What if you don’t get these inquiries? What if someone out there is trying to hustle to get these campaigns and be brand ambassadors? What’s the best way to approach that? I know sometimes there are brands that I wanted to work with and I had to pitch to them. Sometimes it worked and sometimes they were like, “The budget doesn’t allow it.” I feel they say that because it’s not a great fit or whatever it may be. What do you think people can do if they’re trying to go out to find and get these brands and these sponsored contents or be brand ambassadors?
Brands are always looking for new brand ambassadors, new people to add to their network. Micro-influencers are a huge trend because they could learn so much. There are a few ways. One is tagging them organically on your stories, DM-ing them on Instagram. It’s usually the social media manager that’s managing that account so they see it directly. If they see you organically posting, a lot of brands look to that before they hire you. Number two is a lot of them do events in a bigger city. You can attend their events, meet the people putting the event on and give them a face to the name. That can go a long way. Number three is putting a media kit together and pitching yourself. Finding the contacts, we have it so easy now. When I did PR back in the day, we couldn’t find contacts. It didn’t exist. You had to open the magazine, figure it out and pay a ton of money.
Google has everybody now.
Do you know Clearbit?
[bctt tweet=”All you have to do is hustle and try a little bit and you can find any contact nowadays. It’s right at your fingertips.” username=””]
No, what is that?
It’s a Google Chrome extension that you add to your email and you type in any company and the contacts pop up. It’s amazing. It’s like a little nugget and it’s free. We use that all the time. There’s fashion monitor you have to pay for, but they have all the contacts of LinkedIn. Maybe DM someone. It’s right at your fingertips. All you have to do is hustle and try a little bit and you can find any contact nowadays.
It’s time–consuming so people are like, “Ugh,” but that’s the thing. Everything takes time and you need to put in the effort. You need to take time out of your day to go physically meet these people and make connections. Those are what’s going to help you in the end. That’s what’s going to be the most helpful. We were talking about this, but I was looking for editor emails for the product I’m launching. I wish I knew about Clearbit because it took me three full days and I have 101 editors. You can’t find emails. They don’t always link it.
Sometimes they save you. They have it and you can click it. Copy paste and put it in your spreadsheet as you said. There are a lot of behind the scenes work that goes into something being great and successful. People want the easy way and they see these people on social media and they think, “People are emailing them. This is so easy for them.” It’s not. I have a girlfriend who hustles all the time and every single campaign she gets, she’s pitching and makes an income out of this because she hustles. Eventually over time, you build rapport with these people and then they’ll come to you if they like your content. I completely agree I think it takes time. Strategizing and goal-setting are so important.
If you’re trying to spray the wall with everything, it’s overwhelming and then you’re like, “I quit.” I always suggest to put a target list together of ten or twenty dream brands that you would want to work with, that you love. You may categorize it like ten of your favorite beauty brands, favorite fashion and lifestyle or whatever content you create and that’s your vision board. That’s who you go after day in, day out, whether you’re organically posting on Stories, finding their events they have and going to them, reaching out and pitching yourself. That’s how you get things.
That’s so much smarter because I remember when I was doing this years ago when I wanted to full–time make this into a career, I would overwhelm myself because I would email so many people. I’d lose track and I couldn’t follow–up and I think a follow–up email is important.
They’re not ignoring you, they’re just busy.
Sometimes they forget and I know because sometimes I forget and I go, “I’m so glad they wrote to me again.”
People email me ten times and I’m not being mean, but finally I write back, “Yes, the timing is perfect now. Let’s do it.” I think that‘s the PR girl in me. It’s like, “Who cares how many times you have to follow–up? I just closed a deal. I’ve been following up for over a year.”
Yes, two in-person meetings, proposal and everything. She ghosted me. I emailed her six times and she finally wrote again and she’s like, “I’m so sorry. The management changed. This changed. I’m ready to move forward.” That’s how long these things can be in your pipeline.
You can’t give up especially when you want something bad enough. That’s the one thing, people are like, “They’re not interested. They don’t care.”
That’s how you get ahead of your competition. As soon as you’re ready to give up, everyone else gives up and you push ahead and you succeed.
We were talking about speaking on online platforms and stuff. She is a contributor to Forbes. Tell us about that.
It’s one of the many hats that I wear.
You do everything. You are such an inspiration. You’re a mom, wife and you have businesses. I’m so excited. Tell us about that.
I’ve been contributing to Forbes for many years now. I do fashion and beauty content. I do about five articles a month.
What’s that like to be a contributing editor?
I go into WordPress and upload it.
It’s content creation like blogs.
It’s like a blog but I talk about a lot of influencer stuff. I round up my favorite items and trends. I like it because I like to know everything happening on all ends of the spectrum of the industry. I’m getting fashion pitches and beauty pitches. I know all the Tequila days and all the things happening. It keeps me aware and it builds relationships for me and my business, but also for Forbes. It helps all around or I’ll work with a brand for Forbes and then maybe they want to do an event for SIMPLY or they want to work with one of our talents. They all work together and I get invited to a lot of events. I get to get out and meet people. I have a bit of an ADD so I like to always be doing something different every day. It helps with keeping things fresh and seeing what’s on the pulse.
Talk to us about pitching. How many pitches do you get a day?
[bctt tweet=”Doing something different every day helps with keeping things fresh and seeing what’s on the pulse. ” username=””]
Probably a hundred or more. I wish I could respond to everyone, but most of the time I’m just filing them or deleting them. It’s too much. That would be my full-time job and that’s a very small portion of what I do. What I would suggest if you’re pitching editors is keep it short under three sentences. Tell them what you want and what you’re looking for. Be upfront. If you want to meet with them, give them a short window of your availabilities. Attach things in small documents that have more information. Keep it short. If I get these long-winded emails, I can’t read it. I delete it. I don’t have ten minutes to read your email. I would say to keep it short and sweet and get their attention quickly.
Attach the things that would be useful for them.
What I have found success is people will DM me and say, “Can I grab your address? I want to send you something.” It’s way better on my own time for me to open it. Maybe I’m at home relaxed, not in the middle of a workday and then I can discover your product and read through materials. It gives me more time than in my inbox.
That’s some great tip. You are a mom and SIMPLY has so many branches and you’re a part of the whole day-to-day operations. Talk to us about being a mom and a businesswoman.
Every day is different. Every day is a struggle. Everyday day is a new challenge. My daughter is three and a half. I‘ve been in it for a minute now, the mom work-life balance. Before, I would literally work all the time and never turn it off. My daughter now is old enough to be like, “Mommy, put your phone down. I want to play doctor or nurse. I want to play with my dolls. I want to spend this time with you.” I only have a few minutes in the morning before I leave for work and then in the evening, I have maybe an hour or two and I have to shut it off. I have to put the phone and work away until after she’s in bed. On the weekends, I just cherish. I don’t do any work. I try to not do any work or events on weekends and be present, unless it’s an event that I can bring her to or have a fun experience with her.
My priorities have shifted a lot and having a job that’s flexible that I can work from home. We do summer Fridays. I get half a day on Friday to get all my things in that I need to do, my wax and my hair and all those things so then I’m not wasting my precious weekend time that I could be spending with my daughter and my family. I try to prioritize things. I say no to a lot. I used to go out all the time to every event. I’m always trying to build my relationships. I feel like now in this stage of life, in my late 30s, I’ve built a lot of relationships. I can call anyone and I’ve had that relationship for many years now. I don’t need to be out hustling and working as hard. Now, my focus is on family and that part of life.
Isn’t it crazy how everything changes once you have a kid?
Yeah, nothing matters except them.
Nothing, and you’re day-to-day, God forbid she’s sick. That’s it. We’re home. Meetings got to get canceled. It’s tough. Did you ever experience mom guilt?
Yeah, every day. I wish I could be with her and play with her all day long, but then I’m like, “If I did that, I might kill myself.”
It’s hard and I want to talk about that. It’s okay to say, “I want to kill myself a little being home with a toddler all day.” My nanny left me for two months to go to Russia and I lost my freaking mind. I went into a little bit of a depression and it’s extremely hard, especially when your business is new. I’m creating two businesses, the podcast and products simultaneously together and trying to have an online presence and being a wife and cooking and cleaning. I was losing it and then I felt how I felt when I first had him, which was overwhelming. I couldn’t balance anything and then you shut down. I feel that these past months, I’ve shut down. I’ve tried to save her the little energy that I’ve had to work. Imagine all day, you’re running after a toddler and then 9:00 PM, you just want to pass out but you need to work.
That’s when I do my other business.
What’s your other business?
It’s called Moms + Babes.
Yes, the subscription box. Do you sleep?
I do manage to sleep, but I’ve hired the right team finally. On the first six months, I was pulling my hair out because I was doing everything. I was customer service. We had a warehouse that was helping with shipping, but it was a full–time job that I was trying to do at midnight. I wasn’t sleeping. I was stressed. I wasn’t spending time with Ava. I felt guilty with every aspect of life. We did hire a couple of people now, but I still have to oversee things. We’re building a new website. All of these things that I have to approve, it happens between 10:00 and midnight at night.
You’re a hustler. I love that about you. Talk to us about that.
I wish I could turn it off sometimes.
I think that’s the hardest part is telling your brain to stop. Just chill. When you relax for a few days, don’t you feel so much better? Don’t you come back fresh-minded? Sometimes we need to learn to turn it off. It’s okay. It can wait. Tell us about the box.
The box is almost a year. I partnered with Jan Kramer on it. It’s a quarterly subscription box or you can buy a one-off box for moms and their kids. As moms, we all have the mom guilt and we don’t want to buy anything for ourselves. This is the work-around. You can get three different variations. There’s an infant mom, toddler and mom, or just mom. That comes with products for babe and products for you. You get this fun product that you can open with your babe or you can go all-in and get it for yourself. It’s relaxation items, beauty products, everything to pamper a mom and what you need as a mom that you never want to buy yourself because you feel guilty.
Sometimes when I go to Target, I’m in the baby section and then I’ll go home and I’m like, “That’s cute. I’m not going to use it. Three new Mustela products, let’s get them all,” but they’re babies. They don’t need that much and I’m slowly learning that. At first, I was buying everything under the moon, sun and stars from specific things that pull boogers out of their noses to the NoseFrida that they don’t even need.
[bctt tweet=”The number one thing that brands look at is how they can make money and how they can make it bigger.” username=””]
I have a whole closet of things she’s never worn because she goes through all these phases. She only wears dress and I’m like, “We have twenty pairs of pants that you haven’t worn.”
Does she like to dress herself?
I don’t have a say. You should see some of these outfits she’s put together. I’m like, “Go girl.”
My niece is like that. My sister-in-law will pick a shoe and she’s like, “I’m not wearing that.” She’s like, “What do you mean?” She goes, “No, I want those sparkly red shoes.” She goes, “You’re wearing a pink outfit. It doesn’t match.” She’s like, “I’m not wearing that, mom.” A fun fact before I became pregnant, I wanted to start a subscription box service. My idea was a little too much. I probably would need to get funding for it because it was a little bit more complex. I had this idea of doing categories and you would check off all the categories you’re interested in. Based on that, you would get a box and you would pay extra or not. If you have pets, you could put pet travel, beauty, fashion or babies. It was a little bit more complicated, but I had the idea of the subscription box. I even ordered a few sample boxes to see what they felt like and then I found out I’m pregnant. I put the whole thing on hold and went through four months of death.
I looked like death. I felt like death. It was horrible. I had horrible everyday sickness. I don’t even know why they call it morning sickness. It’s every second sickness. I didn’t eat for four months and after that, when I felt better, it was like a vacation the whole time which I loved. I wasn’t working at the time and so I was very Zen. I was reading and doing things I loved. That’s why Levon is so calm. He’s so Zen. He’s such a chill baby and I think pregnancy has so much to do with it. I wanted to start a subscription box and it’s not easy. It is starting to be so saturated. There are so many boxes out there and all of them are different, but this one is so cool. I love that. It’s not excluding the moms. It’s something where you can bond with your child. You can open it together. That’s so cute and fun.
A lot of people have been getting it as a gift for new moms or a baby shower. I remember when I had the baby, I got so many flowers, which are beautiful, but it’s such a waste of money. I would’ve much rather gotten this with all of these new infant products and products for me that I needed to relax. It’s like the gift that keeps giving.
Going back to SIMPLY, you also have online courses. Talk to us about that because I’m a huge online course girl.
We launched into online courses. It was something that came organically after our conferences and we did lots of workshops. We found so many people that couldn’t make it and they’re asking, “Can you do an online course?” It took a lot of time. It was launching a whole new business but I’m proud of it. This is our second online course. Our first one is How to Become a Stylist. We partnered with Anita Patrickson who’s the stylist to Julianne Hough and all these amazing people and she teaches that course. Our second one taught by me is How to Build and Sell a Business in 5 Years. You can take it even if you don’t want to sell your business, but I know a lot of people do want an exit. It’s just all of the tips that you need to learn that I made mistakes doing on all the aspects of business.
I have eight experts that are all female entrepreneurs from all different areas of the business that came in and did guest teaching on this course. We had Katie Rosen Kitchens of FabFitFun. She grew that subscription box from 2,000 people to over a million. Jana Kramer is on the course about social media. Jesse Draper of Halogen Ventures invests in so many amazing companies like Sugarfina. She’s a venture capitalist. She’s amazing. I have the cofounder of Coolhaus, the ice cream sandwiches. We have all these incredible entrepreneurs that weigh in and gave their expertise because I don’t know everything.
Every category is different. Every business requires something different.
You learn all the lingo. When you walk into these finance meetings, if you’re looking to raise money or sell your business, all of these terms that I had no idea, I looked like an idiot probably in all of these meetings. There is a cheat sheet. There are worksheets, handouts and all these templates that I wish I had and over ten hours of video content. It’s a step–by–step list on all things business.
What’s your biggest tip if you have a business and you want to sell your business?
The biggest thing that companies look for is scalability, how they can take your business and make it bigger. That’s the number one thing that brands look at is how they can make money and how they can make it bigger. If you’re a one-person show, how can you take that and make it 100-person show? That’s the biggest thing to look at if you want to sell.
When is your next SIMPLY Conference?
Our next one is going to be in September 14th and 15th in Orange County at Fashion Island. It’s free. Usually, our conference is $250 to $350 per tickets. Fashion Island is offering it for free to anyone, which is great.
Do we know who’s talking, who’s on a panel?
We’ve got good people. Fashion, beauty and digital marketing are the three topics.
Will you be there?
I’m going to make a trip out. I definitely want to come. I want to be in the audience. I want to consume all these amazing tips and advice people have. Hopefully, you guys can make it out if you’re in the LA area or Orange County or anywhere where you can drive to Orange County. Sarah, thank you so much for coming on the show. This was so helpful. Please make sure to follow her. What’s your Instagram handle and how can we follow you?
We’ll talk to you soon
- Sarah Boyd
- Moms + Babes
- How to Build and Sell a Business in 5 Years
- Halogen Ventures
- SIMPLY Conference
- @SarahPBoyd – Instagram
About Sarah Boyd
Sarah Boyd is the Founder and creative force behind SIMPLY, a collective with one goal in mind: connecting. Dubbed the “dot connector”, Sarah started her career in Fashion PR, the industry she called her own for 10 years. In 2012, she decided to channel her expert industry know-how, her extensive list of contacts and her countless amiable relationships into pursuing the most challenging endeavor of her career, starting her own business.
The SIMPLY conference is the first branch of the company and under this shingle, Sarah and her team produce the annual SIMPLY ‘Do What You Love’ Fashion and Beauty Conference in LA, NY, Chicago and Dubai. Individual conference attendance has exceeded 1000 participants since the first conference in 2012. In addition, SIMPLY hosts smaller monthly workshops in LA, where local influencers share their insights with groups of 30-50 attendees looking to gain a “cliff notes” style crash course on various industries. The company also curates a popular blog and several high engagement social media channels that cater to the stylish, career-oriented readership.