The Bronx Entrepreneurs Series: Perspectives on Creative Industry.
The blogosphere is bursting at the seams. At the rate that blogs are started and abandoned, it’s hard to pin down the number; but some sources say hundreds of millions of blogs exist. That’s a massive jump from the eight million Technorati reported in 2010. The blog index turned advertising tech company said that seven years ago bloggers were writing roughly 12,000 blog posts daily. In 2017, bloggers around the world are writing millions of posts every day. Worldometer’s daily counter uses Technorati’s formula to calculate the number of blog posts produced worldwide.
Today’s blog buffet features everything from food to parenting tips to LEGO Bricks. It’s no surprise that successful bloggers have an angle and a marketing strategy. Business savvy bloggers pursuing an ever-increasing reach are implementing campaigns that crisscross their social media platforms and collaborating with other influencers is no longer an afterthought.
According to Hubspot, a top social media marketing analytics firm, blog content creation was the number two priority for businesses in 2016; followed by their goals of expanding their search engine optimization (SEO) and building an organic presence to engage consumers. In 2015, Hubspot reported that blogs had been rated the 5th most trusted source for accurate online information. Today, companies and individual bloggers alike are aiming to drive sales by creating relevant content that connects with readers on issues and products they care about. Like Christina Akomea, a style enthusiast who’s building a following through a shared passion for affordable fashion.
Corporate professional and fashion blogger Christina Akomea of Just Missed the Runway (JMTR) is forging her path in the industry. But she isn’t a newcomer to entrepreneurial endeavors. She went from selling fruit snacks during Cardinal Spellman high school track meets to partnering with companies like Chinese-based clothing retailer, Romwe, and “afri-glam” brand Fingercomber. Drawing inspiration for her signature tailored silhouettes from NYC architecture, the Northeast Bronx native is cultivating a resource for women who seek classy corporate looks.
This month marks the three-year anniversary of JMTR’s launch.
With more than 8k social media followers and 2k unique visitors each month, the lifestyle brand is tapping into a unique space by blending fashion and modesty. On JMTR “more is more.” But more is not boring. JMTR has been featured on popular fashion sites like Fashion Bomb Daily and Style Blazer. In 2017 the blog will also feature health and fitness content.
Here’s Christina’s take on being a fashion blogger:
What’s the idea behind your blog name?
I have to give credit to my friend Janelle…I was trying to figure out who I was and the audience I was trying to reach… I’m like alright, I’m this 5’3 girl, I’m not big but according to society’s standards I’m not really a model. But I can dress like a model on the runway. But I really can’t make it on the runway. So I was like I just missed the runway I guess. [Janelle] said that’s it: Just Missed the Runway!
How did you learn about getting into fashion blogging?
For the first two years I really just enjoyed shooting and posting pictures…. It may be vain, but I really just enjoyed doing it. I had a career, but that’s what I looked forward to doing on the weekend…Maybe I came across a website or an article talking about how to monetize your blog …There’s a plethora of research on how to monetize your blog.
On partnering with Fingercomber:
I was at conference and I saw a girl with natural hair… I complimented her and she’s like “Oh, it’s a wig.” And she gave me the website. I bought the wig and I bought it for my mother. I was wearing it all the time… The amount of times people stopped me and asked about [the wig] and I gave them the website, I thought I’m making [the company] a lot of money… I sent them an email and I asked if there were any opportunities for us to collaborate. I think at the time I was just looking for free wigs…They sent me an [affiliate] agreement. It had the numbers on there. Because I’m a business person ... I negotiated for more and they gave it to me. And the good thing about that is I’m not just selling something. I actually believe in the company and I wear the [wig] all the time…People know that even before I had the agreement…I purchased the wig with my own money.
How has your educational background shaped your vision as business woman?
In undergrad I studied risk management and insurance…I felt I had a really narrow background because my education is so focused on this career path and every job I worked after graduation was in the insurance industry…I always knew I wanted other opportunities…I thought it was a great idea to get an MBA.…My MBA is what allowed me to really broaden my opportunities with blogging…I had to do a bunch of consulting work and a whole bunch of cool projects.
How do you balance a 9-5 and blogging?
I think passion helps because if you’re not passionate about it it will be difficult. Not only do I have a 9-5, I also work at Banana Republic part-time. I really work 70 hours a week…I work part-time at Banana Republic only because I need the fashion experience. I’ve never worked in retail. And I have aspirations to start my own clothing line…I’m learning so much about clothes that I’ve never known. But juggling is really hard. If you look at my car I have 8 billion things in the back because after this I have to shoot. I don’t shoot everyday like most bloggers… Sometimes I’ll do six to eight looks within two hours. In the winter time it’s freezing outside! It’s really a serious commitment, but because I’m passionate about it I can overlook weather and time.
Are you a risk taker in business?
I’m in the middle between being risk averse and being a risk taker. I’m trying to become a risk taker but it’s kind of hard. I think that my [corporate] career has made me very comfortable. I feel like if I was a risk taker I would get to where I want to be so much faster. I’d be pressured to figure it out and work harder. To send more emails trying to get more collaborations…I’m trying to get there bit by bit. But it’s really hard.
How did you get into the “modest fashion” niche?
I think with growth it happened. When I first started I wanted to do any and everything… Every time I tried to do something that contradicted my identity it just wasn’t successful. If I tried to wear a Bodycon – not knocking Bodycon – either the pictures would come out wrong or people didn’t receive it the way I thought they would. Growing spiritually has helped me kind of figure out what I want to do and how I want to present myself. I’ve learned that I wanted to be more modest… I think that you should never feel bad about not attracting everyone. Part of the reason people are successful is because they realize what their niche is and they know how to connect. I get more feedback now that I focus on modesty.
What’s your view on shooting in the Bronx?
Just for the aesthetic of blogging… from what I’ve seen Manhattan appears to have cleaner places, cleaner structures, better buildings than the Bronx… A lot of the NYC fashion bloggers who have 800k followers and who have made this a business…They always shoot in certain areas. Most times it’s in Brooklyn and Manhattan.
My struggle is partly because I don’t know a lot of places in the Bronx… But the building structures are not conducive to the aesthetic I’m going for. I have to think deeper than just my blog pictures. A lot of people don’t realize that Instagram and the layout of your Instagram are so important. I just can’t post any picture. It’s just going to throw off my whole aesthetic. I’ll say that because I haven’t done that much research looking for places in the Bronx, I kind of just go with places I know, which is the city.
On shooting in Manhattan v. shooting in the Bronx:
People in Manhattan are more receptive to creative people. Shooting summer looks in the winter is acceptable when you’re in Manhattan. Shooting that in the Bronx…people take out their phones or they just start watching, men do inappropriate things. It’s just really uncomfortable. You have to be around places where they allow you to be creative and just do what you do.
How would you advise new bloggers who want to collaborate with companies?
The simplest advice I can give is get your followers up. Nobody cares about who you are unless you have followers…If you don’t have followers nobody’s going to want to collaborate with you. Nobody feels the need to…partner with you if they feel you don’t have a reach. The wig company was great, but before that I got 8000 “Noes.” I’ve been denied so many times. Also, in 2017, if you want to be a blogger, first you have to step your blog or your website pictures up. The market is too saturated. There are too many talented people…too many great pictures out there for somebody to focus on your blurry pictures.
What about people who feel the need to buy followers?
That’s the bad part about trying to get followers. Are you even sincere? Are you passionate about it?...If you’re trying to go into it because you realize there is money to be made you’re going to burn out. You may make it there. But you’re going to burn out. Most of the people in the vlogging/blogging industry have started not trying to make money. They were passionate about it and the passion showed. And they’ve gotten opportunities from it.
On building relationships in the industry:
…I’m not interested in Fashion Week. I’m not interested in runway shows. I have received so many invitations and I always deny all of them. I don’t really pull inspiration from runway fashion. Strangely enough, my name is Just Missed the Runway. I don’t care what [high end designers] think the new trends are. Of course I’m influenced in some way. Even if I don’t go on Tommy Hilfiger or Prada’s new collection I’m looking at a blogger who may have been inspired by Prada, but I just never really cared to even sit in the back at a fashion show…But I realize that I have to kind of foster those relationships because the people that foster those relationships get better opportunities…I also haven’t even decided that I want to really make my footprint in the mainstream commercial fashion industry…I feel like I kind of want to start my own thing.
Is your family supportive?
Now they are. My parents are African. They are really traditional. Now that they see the packages coming. All the free clothes. When they see the checks coming in the mail. They’re like “You can actually do something with this.” Now they’re cheering me on. Now my dad is like “ok I’m going to iron your clothes for you. I’ll help you pack your car.”… It was a different narrative before. Before it was “You need to focus on work. You need to focus on school.”… Now they’re excited.
Do you have any words for aspiring fashion Bronx Bloggers?
You just have to research. Invest in a good camera. Have a very clean website. Be very consistent with posting. Some people are going to say that you’re annoying. But annoying people get more partnerships and collaborations. You have to be on a schedule. Your readers should expect to see something from you.
Anything else you want to share?
Specifically for Bronx bloggers there is a need for someone who’s going to highlight the Bronx well. We have 8 million Manhattan bloggers. When you say NYC fashion blogger if you click on the hashtag [on Instagram], it’s referring to Manhattan bloggers…We don’t have anyone that’s really focusing on only shooting in the Bronx. It’s probably a market that you can tap into. You have to find a way to be very creative and stand out…I may even take that advice myself.