Sweaters, mugs, and wall hooks. These are not products one typically associates with bloggers. In fact, blogging and hawking wares does not seem like a natural fit, exactly.
But bloggers often feel the desire to move beyond the two-dimensional landscape of their websites and create physical products. Take John and Sherry Petersik of Young House Love who designed quirky wall hooks sold by Target, Kendi Skeen of Kendi Everyday, who set up her own brick and mortar boutique or lifestyle blog The Everygirl, which creates tumblers and mugs emblazoned with inspirational quotes. (Oh, and let’s not forget Gwyneth Paltrow’s foray into selling overpriced sweaters on her blog, Goop.) It seems easy enough to jump from editorial to creating real life products, but is it?
“I never thought making products was going to be easy,” says Emily Weiss, founder of hugely popular beauty blog Into the Gloss, who just launched a line of beauty products called Glossier. A year ago, when the idea for the product line popped into her head, she immediately starting mapping out the areas of expertise she did not have. Weiss pulls out the photo of a dry-erase board where she carried out her first brainstorm, rattling off what she needed to tackle before sending a single bottle of face cream out into the world: “Formulas, vendors, trademark, packaging, graphics, content strategy, marketing, testing, production, shipping, warehousing, customer service, and launch.”
Weiss understood her limitations as a blogger and this has been one of the keys to getting Glossier off the ground. “I totally know what I don’t know–and that’s a lot,” she says. “I lean in to that. I love to have inspirational coffees to ask for advice. I’ve built an incredibly awesome team that brings much more expertise to the table than I do.”
To fill in the gaps in her knowledge, Weiss hired the best people in the business: she poached a product manager from MAC Cosmetics and an operations manager from Google Shopping Express. She considers hiring her biggest responsibilities as founding CEO. While experience is important, Weiss says she is more concerned with whether these new hires really get the spirit of Into the Gloss and it’s physical manifestation, Glossier. “They were people who believe in thinking about beauty in a different way and nurturing a community of smart, awesome women,” she says. “I can’t say that I’ve figured out a formula to hiring, but when I meet someone with a real spark and drive, I want them on my team. What we’re building is only as big as the sum of its parts.”
Into the Gloss is a profitable blog and generates a revenue stream that helps to fund Glossier, but Weiss quickly discovered that if she wanted the new line to make a splash in the crowded beauty market, she would need capital. Last fall, she received $2 million in seed funding after a summer of meetings with possible investors–another experience that was entirely new to Weiss.
Weiss summarizes the major differences between editorial and product development in two words: time and people. “When you’re writing for the Internet you can have an entire feedback loop in a matter of minutes. Meanwhile, it’s taken me longer to create Glossier than it does to have an actual physical baby,” says Weiss. “Also, it’s possible to launch a successful blog on your own, picking up the skills you need as you go. I can’t tell you how many people have been involved in helping to make these new products a reality.”
So is it worth all the effort? Most definitely, Weiss tells me. As someone who has spent four years crafting a blog, she had an itch to create something that existed in the real world, rather than just the digital realm. And today, she’s doing just that. Between editorial meetings, she spends her days testing out shea and cocoa butters or problem solving when her supplier in India has to delay a shipment. “Glossier is the physical embodiment of all the ideas we write about in Into the Gloss,” Weiss says with a laugh. “You can absorb it literally, not just in your brain.”