Camille Styles: Founder & Editor-in-Chief of Camille Styles

Episode 283

What’s it like to create and build a ridiculously beautiful, and successful, leading lifestyle publication? Camille Styles, Founder and Editor in Chief of Camille Styles knows. On this terrific episode we hear more about her founding story, just how hard it is to build a publication that has over 50 million impressions each month, and so much more including building, scaling and leading. You really won’t want to miss this inspiring discussion straight from someone who has been in the trenches! On this episode of #TheKaraGoldinShow.

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Kara Goldin 0:00
I am unwilling to give up that I will start over from scratch as many times as it takes to get where I want to be I want to be, you just want to make sure you will get knocked down but just make sure you don’t get knocked down knocked out. So your only choice should be go focus on what you can control control control. Hi, everyone and welcome to the Kara Goldin show. Join me each week for inspiring conversations with some of the world’s greatest leaders. We’ll talk with founders, entrepreneurs, CEOs, and really some of the most interesting people of our time. Can’t wait to get started. Let’s go. Let’s go. Hi, everyone. We’re here on the Kara Goldin show. And so thrilled to have my next guest Camille Styles here, let’s just get right into it. Camille Styles is a badass as you will, we’re gonna get going at the beginning. But we’d also like to get a picture of what this grit muscle is that she talks about later in life that she sees as founding her company, Camille smiles can’t wait for you to hear this. Let me hear first a little bit about your beginnings. I always like to go back to get a picture of Camila as a kid and like, who were you like, talk to me a little bit about who you were what inspired you Who inspired you and what you thought you ultimately would end up doing?

Camille Styles 1:30
Wow. So I think Camille, the kid, in some ways is a lot like Camille, the adults. When I think back, she was very creative. She really had certain things that she really wanted to spend her time doing, like drawing and making collages. And wandering around outside. My mom was a huge nature lover, and I think really ignited a love of nature in me. It’s funny thinking back, I decorated my bedroom and a beach theme and continued to be so passionate about the ocean to this day. So I can see a lot of those little threads from my early beginnings. But when I was eight, my family moved from Texas to Missouri, and we moved out into the country to a really small town. And then when I was a junior in high school, my family moved again to a larger city in Missouri, where I went to the largest high school in the States. And I think that those big moves at very pivotal ages, you know, I was eight and then 15 When we moved the second time, I do think that those really, in some ways defined who I became, it enabled me to step into a new situation where I didn’t know anyone and where I felt very, very uncomfortable, and have to find a way to get comfortable quickly and have to kind of carve out a place for myself. And I think that those experiences were the beginning of developing that grit and resiliency that has been a pattern throughout so much of my life and my career. I went to college at Mizzou, University of Missouri, I majored in journalism. And you know, again, I think that when I went to college, it kind of felt like a walk in the park because I was so used to being in these new situations where I didn’t know anyone I adapted really easily. And at that point in time, I dreamed of being a magazine editor. So I majored in journalism really kind of honed my craft and writing and, and developed that aspects of myself, but also really loved food and design and all these other things that I dreamed of being able to write about. So it is funny how I never became that Vogue magazine editor. But in a way I have achieved my goals of becoming an editor in chief in a way that at that time in 2006, when I graduated I could never have dreamed would be possible.

Kara Goldin 3:52
So you have shared a little bit about your backstory, thinking about being a magazine editor and actually starting your own publication. Was it even in your thinking like in college, like maybe I’ll go and start my own thing, or this will be my focus? I mean, how did you think about that?

Camille Styles 4:14
No, there was definitely no master plan. I didn’t even know what blogging was at the time. You know, I think my career has really been about following the things that I’m passionate about, and really trying to just do the things that I love and find a way to make it into a quote unquote job and really kind of organically letting that career unfold. So the way that it happened is I ended up at the very end of my college experience. So when I was getting my final credits to graduate, I moved to New York for a few months and got what I thought was my dream internship at a fashion PR firm and quickly learned that not only did I not want to work in the fashion industry, but I also did not want to live in New York. So it was definitely one of those experiences where you, you know, it’s it’s valuable to learn about the things you don’t want to do as the things that you do want to do. But the one thing that really piqued my interest during that internship experience was the world of event planning. The PR firm that I was working for did a lot of red carpet events. And I was just entranced by this field that I really didn’t even know existed before that experience, you know, event planning combined food and design and bringing people together in meaningful ways. And it really was all the things that I loved. So I decided to move from New York to Austin, and got a job kind of randomly at an event planning company, and completely fell in love with that industry, worked there for a couple of years after college, and then decided to start my own event planning company called Camille styles events. So I was 24, I was embarking on this entrepreneurial journey that I had no idea what’s in the cards for me, but I just kind of had this gut feeling that, you know, I know I love doing this, I think that I have what it takes to plan an event from start to finish. And I really just had this gut instinct that I wanted to take a leaf and go for it. So I started my event planning business. And it was a time when people were just starting to do blogs on the side for fun. And I thought it seemed like a good creative outlet and a good way to kind of market my event planning business and a way to exercise my writer’s muscle. So I launched my blog with my event planning business in 2008. And had no idea it would become the focus of my career for the next 13 years. But lucky to say that has.

Kara Goldin 6:48
So transitioning your blogging into a publication, I’m sure was no easy task, like how did you decide that you could be more than just a blog.

Camille Styles 7:02
So it was definitely a process. And like you said, it definitely did not happen overnight. For a couple of years, I was doing really full time event planning and full time blogging, but I found myself wanting to pour more and more of my time and energy into the site because it was so fun. And I just loved having this place to create content and share with an audience. And back in those days, the early days of blogging, it really was a time when you could just create great content, and people would find you on the internet, it wasn’t nearly as hard to kind of get discovered this space wasn’t nearly as crowded as it is now. So it really felt like this fun community to start creating. And, you know, speaking and getting to know like minded people online, I went to a couple of blogger conferences. And I think that was the first time that I really saw people doing that professionally. And realize that a website was a way that you could make money and something that could actually become a career if you grew it. So I really started focusing on audience growth. And I remember at I think the second year that I went to this blogger conference, I sold my first banner ad, it was so small, it was like $300 for a month to be on the site. But that was a huge pivotal moment for me, because I realized, like I can actually make money from doing this thing that I love. So I went home from the water conference, I figured out how to upload their banner ad and then I made the decision to start transitioning to full time blogging and see if I can make it work.

Kara Goldin 8:35
That’s why I’ll so you talk about figuring out how to monetize you know, your business. What were sort of the first steps when you started to really think about that. And did you see other people doing it? You know, how did you learn about that?

Camille Styles 8:51
Yeah, it really was a lot of learning by doing, I’m sure that there were probably easier and less painful ways to learn it. But for me, it was about just, you know, really talking to as many people as I could both people in the blogging space and also just entrepreneurs, I have learned so much just from asking questions and being curious and, and really just getting to know as many people who are doing it and doing their own thing as I can. I also really invested my time in the early days in partnerships, like any ways that I could partner with brands or other bloggers or publishers or really anyone I did it. And it’s funny because now at this point in my career, learning to say no to things is a huge priority for me, you know, really learning to prioritize and whittle it down to the most essential, but during that time, I said yes to everything. And I think at that point in my career, it was the time to hustle and it was time it was a season in my life when it was time to just say yes, and do as many things as I could partner with as many people as They could. And over time, those partnerships in those relationships just really start to expand reach. When you’re in media, you can’t ignore just the importance of the quality of the content as well. You can have all the partnerships and all the exposure in the world. But if people don’t feel like there’s real value being added to their lives, when they come to your site or your channel, they’re not going to stick around or come back. So I think that I’ve always been very, very focused on creating the highest quality content that I can, and doing it in a way that really speaks into our audience’s pain points and provides real value for their lives.

Kara Goldin 10:36
And how can you find those pain points? I mean, are you listening to? Are you getting feedback from consumers all the time? I mean, the famous saying that Steve Jobs had was like, You can’t ask consumers what to do you have to tell them Do you feel like that’s true as as well, or what, what’s sort of the mix of that, because I can imagine, it probably is some sort of mix,

Camille Styles 11:01
it doesn’t mix. And that’s so interesting that you bring up that quote, because one thing that my team has really been talking about lately, in our marketing meetings, is talking about surveys, and how valuable our surveys do, they really work. And I have a lot of survey like skepticism, I have to admit, because I don’t think that people are always able to describe what type of content they want. But I think they show it through their actions. And so a couple ways that I think I listen and really lean into the pain points of our audience are number one, I think I have a lot of empathy for my audience, I really try to put myself in their shoes. And you know, I do think our audience has, in a way grown up with me, I started fighting the site when I was in my mid 20s. So as I’ve gone through these different seasons of life, I think my audience has as well. But now we have a much larger audience that encompasses a lot of different demographics. And I’m always talking to my friends. And I really try to surround myself with a diversity of people across ages, races, cultures, backgrounds, it’s really important to me that I’m not living in a bubble, and that I have true real relationships with people that are not like me, with people that are like many of our readers. And with that I’m always trying to listen and these real life relationships, because I think that’s really where like the truth comes out when you’re really getting to know someone and hearing about what’s important to them. I also read every comment, I read every email that comes in from my newsletter. And then I look at the data. When we send out an email newsletter I’m looking at what are people clicking on? How much time are they spending on a story, and I’m filing all that information. And my team is really taking that in and allowing those things to inform what we’re writing more or less of.

Kara Goldin 12:55
So you’ve now founded the company and scale the company. What are a couple of the big things you’ve learned that you didn’t realize, when you were first getting started? I mean, it sounds great to go start your own company. But as I know, from knowing many founders and being a founder myself, there are definitely things that happen in the journey that you’re like, oh my god, I had no idea whether it’s how to get subscribers or the fact that, you know, you have to keep subscribers, or you have to raise money, or you have to deal with employees as you grow. It’s not just about getting employees, and it’s also about keeping employees, all of those, you know, things that go on. But I’d love to hear your two cents, a couple of like big lessons that you’ve learned.

Camille Styles 13:47
I think one of the biggest lessons is just the importance of being authentically yourself. I remember in the very early days of starting my site, people would ask me if I was if my site was kind of like the next Martha Stewart because we were writing about a lot of the same topics entertaining and food and home design. And so at the time, I think that I almost had this feeling that I needed to walk in the footsteps of someone like that, who was an expert in their field and who really, like knew how to create great content. And if that was working for them, then that would probably work for me too. And I think there’s like a real temptation early on in your career to like, necessarily, like follow in the footsteps or emulate what you see working for someone else. And as I’ve progressed in my career, I really see that that doesn’t work. And that the times when you’re really able to move the needle and make an impact are those times when you’re actually leaning into the things that no one else is doing like you and doing things differently than what you may have seen others doing. The one thing that we can bring to the table in a way that nobody else can is Our unique perspective, our own experience, you know, our ability to truly, like communicate that in a way where it can set you apart in a way where it breaks out of all of the noise in a very noisy space. So I think just being yourself and not being afraid to do things differently is number one. I think the other thing that I didn’t expect when I was starting my company that has become such a theme in my life now is just the importance of staying very focused on what you do best and not trying to be good at everything. When I came out of college and started my career, I definitely leaned towards perfectionism. And it’s something I’ve really had to work at, because trying to be good at everything, whether it’s every social media platform, or everything that you could be doing as a business owner. It’s like a recipe for disaster because it spreads out your energy and your focus in a way where you’re really not great at anything, you’re just kind of good at a lot of things. And so the last few years, I’ve been very focused on setting priorities, and really deciding like, where my zone of genius is, and leaning fully into that, and not being afraid to let some things go. I think social media is actually a great example of that. Because as we all know, you could literally spend your entire day morning tonight, doing all the things you’re supposed to do on social media and supposed to is like in quotes, between Instagram and YouTube and Tiktok, and Twitter and Facebook. I mean, it’s truly endless. And when you hear the recommendations on how much you should be posting to each platform, it is truly impossible for one human to do that. And so I get a lot of questions from other business owners about how I sort of navigate the world of social media, knowing that my focus is really my website, and my newsletter and these other ways of communicating with my audience. And I think it’s really important to kind of choose your lane. So for my company, we we focus on Instagram, and we create Instagram reels. And, you know, really, it’s a great way to connect with our audience and new audience members. But we’ve also chosen to keep our focus on Camille And what we’re creating there, and really creating high quality content for our email subscribers. And those are things that go a little against the grain, as our culture right now is very obsessed with social media. But for us, it’s really been a way to create a hyper loyal audience and continue creating content on a platform where we feel like we can tell the richest stories and share beautiful imagery, and it’s just the place that really lights us up. So making that decision, though, has to be something really conscious. And it has to be a very intentional choice to decide where you’re going to focus your attention.

Kara Goldin 17:48
Yeah, and I think you touched on this as well, making sure that it’s quality, because I think if you do one platform super right, you’re doing a lot better job than doing other ones halfway. And I think that that is so true with what I see you guys doing all your reels are amazing. And really, you get the feel for what you do. And then you want to go over and subscribe to read a lot more in your publication. So I think you guys do such a great job. So you’re a lifestyle publication, what trends do you see for the way people are choosing to live now. So we’re, you know, two years into this absolutely nutty time. I mean, if somebody would have told me that, you know, the world would change in the way that it has. And I think about this every day. It’s not just minuses, I think there’s pluses, but I have to believe that there must be real obvious things that you’re seeing in terms of how people are choosing to live, maybe moving outside of cities, having, you know, more indoor outdoor space, whatever that is, but I’d love to hear it from you.

Camille Styles 19:00
Yeah, it’s been really cool to see that some of those things that I think we first learned it, the beginning of the pandemic, we really have carried with us. And I think they’re lessons that will hopefully stay with us forever. I think one of them is just more of a sense of slowing down and in ways that really add value and bring peace and joy to our lives. I do not think that people are interested as they once were in a hustle culture. In fact, I think there’s very much like an anti hustle culture. That’s about creating a career that supports your life, and not one that takes over your whole life. And that’s something that I’m hearing a lot from our audience and that we’re really creating content around because people want a career that does bring them joy and that supports them and their family and the way that they want to live but also have that balance where it’s not everything and it’s not their whole life and they still want to be able to define these other areas of their life for themselves. So I think that that’s that sense of slowing down. And really deciding how you want to spend the time outside your working hours is, is really important. And it’s allowed people to invest in new hobbies and try new things and travel and explore and, and carve out space in their lives for things that they may have always wanted to do, but hadn’t had the time to do before. I think another big trend that I’m seeing is just such a heightened focus on home and creating a space that you love. And that’s really always been, in a way, the mission of my site is empowering our audience to really create a life at home that they love, from cooking a dinner that brings joy to their family, and is nourishing to their body to decorating their space in a way that that makes them feel more like themselves and is a form of self expression. And we’re just seeing, from our audience, a whole new level of obsession with creating a space at home that they love.

Kara Goldin 21:02
What about offices? Obviously, there’s still people working at home or have created a big chunk Do you think people are creating spaces for if they’re not fully going back into the office? Are they starting to create these spaces for their office? So it’s outside of their home? Do you see that more and more?

Camille Styles 21:21
Absolutely, I mean, anything home office design related is, is still on an upward trend. And I think we’ll really see that heading into the fall as people come back from summer vacations and get ready to tackle their, you know, their new goals for the coming year. I think also, you know, the the great resignation, for lack of a better term, people continue to start businesses and side hustles and new projects where they need spaces at home to work. So it’s funny because my husband and I are actually rent renovating a house right now. That will be a vacation home for our family. And we are very focused on carving out just a small private place to work because I think even during the times when we are in more of a slowdown, vacation retreat space, like headspace, we know that there will still be times when we need to focus on whatever projects we’re working on. And I think we’ve all realized from maybe some of us are a little scarred from those, you know, work in school at home days of early pandemic, where we know that to really be able to focus, we need to be able to get away and have even a very small space of our own.

Kara Goldin 22:35
So I read something about a new product launch that you are getting ready to do. Can you share a little bit more about that even if you cannot share the name of the project? I’d love to hear a little bit more about that.

Camille Styles 22:48
Yeah, we’re so excited about it. This is something that in a way, it’s been a long time coming because I’ve always thought and dreamed for the last couple of years about doing something in the product space. But I knew that I didn’t want to dive into that space until I was confident that I could bring something to the market in a way that was different and better than what was currently out there. And I knew it had to be something that was uniquely tied to my areas of expertise. So let those be some strong teasers. I’m not able to share too too much yet, but it is in the home decor space. And it’s something that I’m really passionate about. And we’re hoping to launch in the fall. It’s been a really fun adventure so far to just after all these years of working in media and working in the digital space to really push myself to do something completely new, and really have to take on a beginner’s mindset to just get curious and Google hundreds of things and talk to so many different entrepreneurs who I respect in the space and just try to learn as much as I can. And knowing that there’s a lot that I still don’t know, it’s been a really fun adventure already.

Kara Goldin 23:58
Well, we interview lots of founders and CEOs and entrepreneurs on this podcast and many people who have ventured from either software or digital into consumer products or physical products and there are definitely lots of learnings there for sure you should listen to a few of those podcasts because it’s super super interesting stuff we one of them that we just had that was on recently was yellow leaf the hammock company and that is fascinating. A lots of amazing and they have probably the most comfortable hammock that you could ever imagine. So anyway, you should definitely listen to those Yeah, really, really cool. But it just goes to show you too that you don’t have to do a lot of products. You don’t have to go into you know a lot of different categories either you can actually build a pretty significant business by focusing and and So there’s so many learnings along the way. But people always think that successful people have, it’s super easy. You being a founder and an editor in chief, I mean, you just snap your fingers. And you were lucky, you had a gift, all of those things. But I always find that talking to people who have created this, you know, amazing thing as you have that there’s challenges along the way, where you actually thought, I don’t know if this is going to all work out, I’d love to hear a story from you, where you had to pick yourself back up again and figure out how to make it happen.

Camille Styles 25:40
So many challenges, somebody struggles through the years, I mean, from losing key team members to that year that all of my employees went on maternity leave at the same time to, you know, just losing about big campaigns or opportunities that I thought at the time were career, you know, maker breakers. But if I had to choose one that I think was most defining it would actually be just before I launched my company, because I think that it actually informed a lot as my starting my company and not being afraid to take risks with my company later. And this is something that I really don’t ever talk about. I’m not because I don’t want to, but more because it’s just something that I, I never wanted to define me. But it’s important, and I so I’m excited to share this. So when I was 23, I was in a pretty devastating car accident, and was thrown from a car, you know, care flighted to a hospital where I spent the next three weeks being treated for broken vertebrae in my neck, and collapsed ones plural, and multiple broken ribs, I had intense stomach surgery. And it was something that was an experience like nothing else I’ve ever been through, I had never even broken a bone before that hadn’t ever been in a hospital. So it was pretty life changing. But it’s interesting how I think people respond to experiences like that really differently. And for me, it really ignited kind of a fire inside of me to just bounce back and away to come back to my normal life, I really was able to dig deep and find this new sense of resiliency and grit. And I think empathy for other people going through hard things. And by the end of that year of my recovery and wearing a very attractive plastic neck brace around for many months, not being able to drive and just all of the things that came with an accident like that I had developed this, like grit muscle that I don’t think I realized at the time, how instrumental it would be for me for the rest of my career and the rest of my life. But it started to develop this sense of confidence in me that I could do difficult things, and that something potentially tragic or devastating, or that seemed insurmountable, wasn’t necessarily insurmountable. And it gave me this inner confidence to try to overcome things that seemed really, really difficult. And I’m really grateful for that. Because I think that when those other struggles and challenges came up in my career, instead of thinking, I can’t do this, this is too big. This is too much. This is too hard. I went into problem solving mode and started thinking about how can I look at this from a different angle and approach it from a different perspective? And how can I overcome it?

Kara Goldin 28:42
That’s such a great example. I love the definition grit muscle. That is what I will think of when I’m reading the real styles with such you know, elegance, but also determination and I love hearing the founder stories behind the brand and you have really, really tied a bow around this for me for sure. So thank you so much for sharing that and thank you for letting us know a little bit more about the publication where can people sign up? You mentioned Instagram they can also follow the publication on their on all the cool reels that you’re doing, but also just more about you.

Camille Styles 29:26
While you can find our articles every day on Camille And if you go to Camille backslash subscribe, you can get our emails in your inbox, which I highly recommend. That’s where I do my most personal writing and share I think our very best content.

Kara Goldin 29:42
I love it. So it was such a pleasure to talk to you Camille, and thank you for the great insights and conversation. I appreciate you making the time to do this with us today too. Thanks, Camille. Thank you, Kara. Thanks all for listening to this episode. We hope you enjoyed it and I Want to thank all of our guests and our sponsors and finally, our listeners, keep the great comments coming in. And one final plug. If you have not read or listened to my book undaunted, please do so you will hear all about my journey, including founding, scaling and building the company that I found it hint we are here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Thanks everyone for listening and goodbye for now. Before we sign off, I want to talk to you about fear. People like to talk about fearless leaders. But achieving big goals isn’t about fearlessness. Successful leaders recognize their fears and decide to deal with them head on in order to move forward. This is where my new book undaunted comes in. This book is designed for anyone who wants to succeed in the face of fear, overcome doubts and live a little undaunted. Order your copy today at undaunted, the and learn how to look your doubts and doubters in the eye and achieve your dreams. For a limited time. You’ll also receive a free case of hint water. Do you have a question for me or want to nominate an innovator to spotlight send me a tweet at Kara Goldin and let me know. And if you liked what you heard, please leave me a review on Apple podcasts. You can also follow along with me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn at Kara Goldin. Thanks for listening