It left her feeling underwhelmed and uninspired, but it led her to realizing that she might be able to provide a solution to soon-to-be brides and homemakers who were in a similar boat as her. She had always had an affinity for decor and Southern lifestyle, and applied those things to her mission in compiling a list of black-owned vendors. After compiling her list, the creative with an entrepreneurial spirit decided to take things a step further and become a resource to women like her by launching her website, Black Southern Belle.
The site and its content grew quickly as the demand for Southern-inspired lifestyle tips and aesthetic became more prominent. Black Southern Belle was the remedy to a look and style that seemed to be scarce online. As the site's visitation grew, so did the monetization of the platform with, racking in over $50,000 within a short four-month period. The lifestyle branding expert and Founder and EIC of Black Southern Belle shares how her 9 to 5 helped her launch her platform and raise the funds to expand her programming:
Finding her niche
Perry fell into this niche on accident. “Most of my friends are Southern with an affinity for good food, black art, quality merchandise, home decor, and slow living. I didn’t see anything that really targeted us. So I started Black Southern Belle, which creates positive images and highlights of African-American families and individuals with a Southern connection, “ she explained. There’s several lifestyle brands in the market, but not everyone is able to gain the type of sponsorship that Perry achieved in such a quick time frame.
“I didn’t worry about Black Southern Belle’s performance in the lifestyle market. I knew I was bringing something different. It also helps that I’m a consumer of my brand. Everything I feature on my blog is a reflection of my background. While growing Black Southern Belle, I wanted to convince brands that my demographic is an engaging consumer and deserved ad dollars,” Perry shared. “Whether in the South or in another part of the country, there are Black Southern Belles and we were spending money on not only fashion but home decor, food and entertaining and I made it my mission to find brands both large and small that understand the Black Southern Belle customer.”
Using her 9-to-5 to help jumpstart her brand
Many people don’t realized that the skills they learn at their company can be essential tools in helping them pursue their entrepreneurial endeavors. “I worked for a fashion startup in Washington, D.C., and I gained so many skills from that experience. My previous boss was an accountant turned serial fashion entrepreneur, so I was inspired by her business success and passion. I learned about marketing with a small budget and how to develop a true lifestyle brand. From packaging to type fonts for a website, she made sure it worked well and looked stylish. I brought this experience to Black Southern Belle,” Perry shared. Learn as much as you can about the business side of managing a company before you put in that two-week notice. “I learned a lot about fundraising. I learned that growing a brand takes time and key metrics are needed to get funding. This allowed me to focus on growing one to two social media platforms instead of trying to tackle multiple at once,” Perry added.
Find a way to monetize
It might be easy to produce content as a creative, but how do you find ways to monetize your projects? Perry decided to monetize by expanding the BSB brand into events. “My strategy was to use ads to increase consumer growth, brand awareness and eventually develop an event extension to the growing online digital platform, which has now become a reality. In my role as an event planner and relationship manager for Google, I learned about event management and sponsorship. It’s important to have online consumers meet in person and engage with the brand. Not only is this value added for the brand, but it shows the consumer that we’re more than just an online brand,” she explained. Her goal was to make sure that her engagement existed offline and that followers of BSB and like-minded Southern tastemakers could meet each other, network and collaborate at her branded events. “Curated events will distinguish us from another brand and create loyalty among our target audience,” she added.
Outsourcing talent to reach her goals
Black Southern Belle had two Southern Tastemaker Summits (Atlanta and Charlotte), but after spending too much time planning, she decided to outsource for the expertise she needed to reach your business goals. Perry did just that when preparing for her conference in November, held in Charleston, S.C., featuring 100+ top Southern-based vendors. “I was adamant about outsourcing my event planning to a planner. This move allowed me to spend more time seeking sponsorships while utilizing their network of vendors, specifically for in-kind sponsorships. By being in the South I was able to connect with the brands and influencers who fit my demographic more directly and also gain inspiration for partnerships that I would never have been able to if I weren’t living in the South. No matter how much technology connects us, there is nothing that can replace an in-person meeting, especially in the South,” Perry explained
Her tips for success
Now that it’s been over a year since Black Southern Belle launched, Perry has learned a thing or two about keeping the business afloat. “Increase your metrics with at least one asset. Whether it's website views, Instagram or Facebook followers, increase your "numbers" in at least area. Also, be strategic about partnerships. Think of the unpaid partnerships you can do that will impress the people you want to pay you. The money won’t come overnight, but be very strategic about the unpaid opportunities; brands will take notice. Don’t be afraid to use LinkedIn and paid resources to make both near term and long-term connections. Treat your lifestyle brand as a business and invest in it the same way,” Perry said.
Photo: Courtesy of Michiel Perry