25 Jul #Selfiebration Interview With BlogHer Co-Founder Elisa Camahort Page
Blogher 2014 kicks off officially today. This year’s theme is “Selfiebration” and as co-founder Elisa Camahort Page shared in our one-on-one interview this week, the theme is very fitting. For BlogHer 2013, over 20,000 photos were tracked. WOW.
That’s just one small indication as to how BlogHer continuously breaks industry barriers and records time and time again.Each month, BlogHer Inc. reaches 100 million women via bloggers and social media leaders who are passionately committed to quality content. The conferences began in 2005 when Jori, Lisa, and Elisa, who were not friends prior, decided to host and plan a blogging conference for women. And they did it in just 120 days. Three hundred attendees joined the first year along with tech sponsors like Google, Inc. and Yahoo. In year two, 600 attendees gathered and the rest becomes blogging history. This year, 4,000 attendees are expected.
In our interview with Elisa, she shares a behind the scenes as to how the BlogHer conferences and digital ad network began. Read on for valuable insight for those of us in the building stages of our businesses as Elisa speaks candidly on hiring attorneys, preparing for growth, and accidental profit the conference turned. We also chatted about what attendees can expect during BlogHer’s 10th Anniversary Selfiebration and how those of us at home can connect virtually with attendees.
BlogHer Co-Founder, Elisa Camahort Page
Niche Parent: How has the social media landscape changed since the first BlogHer in 2005?
Elisa: In 2005 when we started BlogHer, there were blogs but there weren’t really online communities for woman. Today, blogging has changed lives for many women including how we express ourselves and the number of communities that exist for women today. Blogging the way to express yourself has changed greatly and
NP: What were some of the early steps that you, Lisa, and Jori took to launch the conference in just 120 days?Elisa: Many people don’t really know that prior to the conference, [the three of us] weren’t friends or colleagues. I met Lisa because of a mutual friend and we decided to have lunch. There was a lot of chatter about where are the women and mainstream had started to pick up on the chatter. Lisa said to me. “what if we had a conference where all the topics that are covered at these tech conferences with men are covered at our event.” Lisa, Jori, and I weren’t the most prominent bloggers but we asked 15 prominent bloggers to join us as an advisory board and they said yes. They were the creme de la creme of female bloggers and we made sure they they were very diverse.
NP: What about setting up the business to start the conference? Did you have a formal business structure or hire legal counsel to set things up?
Elisa: We did the first conference and without a formal business structure. I had a business account from a prior business and we decided to use that to handle our transactions. We made just enough money on that conference to pay the taxes. Those first four months we weren’t formally structured and we didn’t know this would not be a one-off. We took post conference surveys and we were amazed by the passion of the community. They wanted more to do and more events, more ways to connect. Right away we knew there was something here and we wanted to pursue it. I firmly believe in getting expert help and it’s worth the money to do it early. We did hire a book keeper, a lawyer, formed an LLC.
After BlogHer 2006, we decided to phase out our own clients from our consultancy work and prepared to pursue this full-time.
NP: What sort of growth did you see between the first and second year?
Elisa: We doubled attendance at the second conference. And if you ask people who have been going since the early days, they will tell you that those were the good days. After each conference there were these parties that formed around the hotel pool and everyone just had fun. In our second year, the parenting bloggers were very motivated and a force to be reckoned with. The first year they were really organized, they had their own panels and agenda, etc. They showed up in great numbers in the second year and so did many consumer brands as sponsors.
NP: How did you, Jori, and Lisa prepare for and manage growth from 10 years ago?
Elisa: Even in the 2nd conference it was just the 3 of us and many volunteers. But 2006 nearly killed us and our volunteers. After 2006 we hired an event manager that was on contract, we didn’t have full-time employees yet. After 2006 we got our first round of funding which allowed us to hire people on salary and even draw a salary ourselves. We didn’t draw salaries the first two years ourselves. Having resources makes it easier to scale for growth otherwise it’s a huge risk.
NP: Moving on to plans for this year, what are your some of your favorite events or activations planned for the 10th anniversary? I always think the centerpiece of the conference is Voices of The Year. We end up with 100 voices and 12 of them are chosen. This year we added the photos of year. The posts and photos are really beautiful and some will make you laugh, and cry.
NP: Each year BlogHer has such a diverse group of keynotes, this year we see Kerry Washington to Guy Kawasaki. What goes into selecting your keynotes? Do you contact them or do they contact you?
Elisa: Great question! I would love to say that these awesome people contact us but most of the time we reach out to them. Kerry was on our radar early, Scandal is the number 1 socially watched television show where the actors actually participate during the show. And Kerry is such a tremendous activist. She has done a lot of political work and activism. Not to mention she’s a style icon, just became a mom for the first time. Arianna, we’ve kept in touch with over the years since she spoke at the 2006 conference.
NP: Let’s chat and learn a little more about [you]! I understand that you author seven blogs. How do you find the time?
Elisa: Ah, yes, they are all a little inactive. I write when I write and when I want to. I don’t watch my stats or track my followers. I just do it when I want to.
NP: What’s a typical day for you? When do you start your day and when does your day end?
Elisa: I typically get up between 5:30 am to 6 am. I spend at least an hour in bed checking email, our internal back chatter, Twitter, and do some reading with my iPad. I also read the headlines. Then I get up and work at home on the days that I go to the office by 9 am. I work at the office three days a week and spend two hours in the car where I try to be productive. I get home between 5-6. I work some more at night. My significant other gets home very late up. So I usually go to bed at 10pm, with my iPad. A big part of my job is interacting with the community and using tools to do that and although I’m in bed, I am definitely engaging with others.
NP: Is there anything I haven’t asked about that you’d like to share with our readers?
Elisa: Just that if there are any locals that want to come we can sell tickets on site. Also, we’ll be posting all the live blogs on BlogHer.com. The live blogs go up every day. And, what’s amazing is that in 2006 we said this was the conference the community built and we still consider it the conference the community built by always being willing to share the ideas.
There’s no doubt BlogHer has been instrumental in shaping what blogging means and is today for women that blog. Speaking with Elisa and hearing how much passion she continues to have 10 years later is refreshing. Thanks so much Elisa for your time and sharing with our community!