It’s early 2010: Chiara Ferragni has begun dabbling in fashion blogging under the name the Blonde Salad, you’ve never heard of Instagram, and a 22-year-old Amber Venz Box (née Amber Venz) just launched her website, VenzEdits.com.
Today, Ferragni’s one of the highest-paid bloggers on the planet, Instagram’s a multibillion dollar company, and Venz is the cofounder of a fashion startup that’s transformed online shopping: Reward Style and LiketoKnow.it. Things have come a long way in the past five years, particularly for Venz, who now runs a company of nearly 150 staffers across four offices and three countries. Last year, her company was responsible for a whopping $500 million in global retail sales, and raised $15 million from investors. She’s also a new mom and wife—and our inspiration to never complain about being too busy, ever again.
“My site [Venz Edits] was initially developed as a marketing tool and portfolio for my offline businesses: a wholesale and online jewelry company and offline personal shopping/styling service. I launched my blog with a clear business plan, posting three times daily, working with a professional photographer and investing significant resources into the development and production of my site,” she said.
Then, after a local newspaper ran a full-page story about her blog, Venz started getting some serious attention from followers. However, she noticed that she wasn’t landing any new clients, and existing styling customers were simply shopping off her blog instead of booking styling appointments.
“My clients would text and email me, telling me how they purchased the dress that I wore on the blog, or how they loved the shoes that I featured. Historically, I would have earned a commission from the vending boutiques for driving these sales, but since they were all happening online, I was not compensated,” Venz said.
Keen to earn a piece of the pie, Venz launched Reward Style with her husband, unknowingly starting down a path that would change the way women everywhere would shop online: “I wanted to be able to earn money online in the same manner that I had offline with my personal shopping business: If I drove a sale for a retailer, I would get paid a commission on that sale. We decided on a very literal name for the business, Reward Style, and purchased the domain.”
A major shift changed everything in 2013: Instagram became the dominant social media platform, particularly for style bloggers—and Venz and her team noticed.
“Our creators began to create more frequent content there [on Instagram] than on their primary domain, their followers were dramatically more engaged on Instagram and the platform provided their fastest growing, most visible audience.”
Since Instagram didn’t (and still doesn’t) allow bloggers to link their followers to product, this provided an entirely new opportunity for Reward Style.
“We needed to create a tool that empowered our publishers to provide the same high level of service on Instagram that they were able to provide on their primary domain and other social platforms: linked product information that made their content actionable and therefore more valuable to readers and followers.” Almost inevitably, LIKEtoKNOW.it was born—and swiftly took over your entire Instagram feed.
You’re probably already very familiar with the service, but any time a user registers with LIKEtoKNOW.it and likes an enabled photo, they receive an email to their inbox with that image and the relevant product links, so you can easily shop the blogger’s outfit.
“Users are given the choice to receive these emails ASAP, daily, or weekly, and 95 percent choose to receive the emails as soon as possible,” explained Venz. In just a couple of years, more than 75 million of these emails have been delivered to shoppers worldwide.
This year presents a different bundle of opportunities and challenges for Venz. In November, she gave birth to her first child, a girl, Birdie, who Venz says has already changed her life.
“I am now a patient, calm person with very little anxiety,” she said of her new role as a mom. “I don’t sweat the small stuff, and I am enjoying much more peace in my life.”