Year FIVE! I said this last year, but once again – what a year of transformation! Last June, we spent a lot of time prepping big projects, went off to enjoy wedding season and then were finally greeted with the news of expecting our first! Since then, we focused on all the preparation – both mentally and on the home front. We accomplished SO much and while there is still way more to go – it’s been fun to reflect on how we got to today. I recently wrote about the first year in our home here and a full list of the rest of what we’d like to accomplish in 2023 can be found here!
As it relates to MLCO, I often need to remind myself where I started. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve said “it feels like I can’t get anything done” over the last few months…this house would be fully renovated by now! But then, I snap back into it and give myself grace and credit. I started this thing by posting horrible photos on Instagram, figuring out my home style and having fun along the way. Quickly, it became a future-proof outlet that I could lean on and make something of myself for my family. I spent nearly all my free time planning, creating content or brainstorming the future of this business and here we are today. In most ways, I know I don’t have it figured out and there is SO much more I want to do and share. But, speaking transparently, I could have quit my full time job two years ago if I wanted and it is so freeing to know that I stuck with a passion and am giving myself a choice.
I share this story every year in case you’re new here – I never understand how I got to this place considering I don’t love attention and generally need to recharge by being alone. However, I reflect on how I created a LiveJournal (basically a blog) in middle school – sharing my interests, music, style and thoughts with total strangers – and laugh to myself. Partly because I’m sure it was embarrassing as hell, but also that I somehow can’t help but be a sharer, and have been my entire life. Often oversharing, or boasting as soon as I find a good show or deal, it’s my second nature to inspire and make other people happy, and that’s the simple core of what MLCO is intended to do.
Below, I’m sharing a little bit about how this all started, what I’ve learned, and the future of my brand. Most importantly, I wanted to write this post to say thank YOU for following along! Whether you’re a 2018 OG, or finding yourself here for the first time today, you absolutely make this what it is today.
How This Came To Be
Since the days of teachers asking to jot down what I wanted to be when I grew up, I’ve always had something creative listed and bounced back and forth between interior design and graphic design. I’ve always been intrigued by visuals and how things come together to create something beautiful. Fast forward to when I purchased my home in 2016, where I began to develop my style and quickly became a HomeGoods addict. Friends were always complementing spaces of the house (thanks, ya’ll) and asking where to get the best deals. On the other hand, I have always been obsessed with capturing photos and social media. Shortly after moving in, I had created an account for my late Golden Retriever, Hudson that had just hit 10k and had an itch for more. The two passions naturally went hand in hand, and in 2017 I started an Instagram: ourcitynest. After playing around with random posts, I started a blog in 2018 which evolved to a rebranding in 2020 to introduce formal content creation, brand partnerships and brand + interior styling services to help you create a happy home. In 2022, we sold our rowhome and moved to our dream neighborhood – sharing our total renovation home!
What I’ve Learned
Find Your Passion, and RUN with it.
When I started the Instagram account, I had no intentions of being an influencer. I just loved challenging myself while furnishing our home, mixing up decor for the seasons, and hosting get togethers. I had tossed the idea around in my mind but had no idea where to start. G and I decided that I should give it a go – I’d casually post photos here and there to test the waters, with zero expectations of gaining a following. More of like my own digital flip book that no one knew about. It is such a tough game that requires a lot of time and effort, and if you go into this just wanting to have a title of influencer or are just looking for a way to make some extra cash, you’re in it for the wrong reasons. Sharing things that I love is what makes this so fun and easy for me.
At a larger scale, I’ve been able to meld my two passions – graphic/brand design and interior design and for that, I’m forever grateful for. If I never just jumped into it and let the worry of random opinions get in the way, I’d never be in the financial position to be writing from my new home at this moment! Thanks to the platforms I’ve created, I have connected with so many fellow creators, companies and followers looking to create beautiful and impactful brands and spaces. I am still manifesting a single client that I do both their brand, website AND style a space in their home – any takers?
Giving you a bit of my story below, but boy is growth a draining topic over the last year!
Going into this, I knew a good bit about the platform through my FT industry and my personal accounts, but not in a manner that enabled me to monetize my efforts. To gain exposure and engagement, I used typical strategy tactics of hashtagging, follow for follow, features, follow trains, engagement pods – you name it. I don’t mean to sh*t on those that do this, but after a few months of trying to keep up with it, I realized 90% of it is forced and inorganic, and really forced me to question whether or not this was for me. I thought it was the only way to reach a certain number of a following – 5k, 10k to be considered worthwhile. More on that later.
In 2018, I had took a short break and decided to pick back up after learning that taking my efforts beyond Instagram would get me far. If you don’t know, I am a brand and web designer, so I knew a fair amount about the ins and outs of WordPress but had never built my own site. After about a month of planning, building the site, and writing out my content strategy – I decided to launch and not look back! This led me to learn more about carving my own niche, interacting organically and more to form a bigger brand that merged all of my design passions.
What I’ve learned is to not put all of your eggs in one basket. Instagram sucks most of the time – I’ll be the first to say it. You can create an image or a photo that is just as good, if not better than your last post, and for no reason it will only be shown to 500 people instead of 50,000+ the last day. Since it is out of my control, diversifying where I put my time is key. I share through many platforms, have digital products, offer design services and more that make my time impactful.
Just. Say. Yes. and Be Genuine with it.
Since launching in 2018, driving traffic between Instagram, the Blog, and Pinterest has proven results. I then thought I may have a chance at this and decided to casually look into rewardStyle not thinking I was anywhere close to being eligible. At this point, I had 1,000 followers and had been blogging for a few months. I got approved after two attempts and just said go. There is so much I could write about with that process, and perhaps will in the future, but the main takeaway here was my mindset.
I’ve had always been one to care about what others think, seek to please, and get approval. I don’t really know what clicked, but in 2020, one day I really stopped caring about who would talk shit about what I’m doing, laugh at my posts, how many likes I didn’t get, etc. I decided to stop all of the fake engagement. I decided to not focus on the number. I decided to post what felt right and run with it. I realized I’d rather have 1,000 genuine followers that I interact with, than 60,000 and feel like crap because only 100 like my posts. Since then, I have connected with so many more of you in a genuine way, and in turn, have seen high success on the monetization front YOY. I would stay at my current audience size as I am truly happy with the interactions and outcomes vs. focusing on a number and being over-consumed by sharing – but of course have plans for growth, which doesn’t always mean more!
I posted this advice back in March of 2019, but wanted to share again here as it still holds true and is a great reminder, even to myself:
If you’ve been wanting to start or accomplish something but are held back by fear of judgement and comparison, just DO it.
When I decided to start this, I was hindered by what I didn’t know & what opinions would come of it. Once I put all of that aside and focused on those that empower me, I saw a clear vision for not only this community, but myself. Now, I have an amazing creative outlet & more importantly, a community that I’d never have had I not just said “start”. On the flip side, I challenge you to empower women that are out there doing their thing. Too much critique and comparison exists that is the thief of our joy. Be happy for others. I promise that in turn, it will make you a happier person. I know that this is more than achievable, as each day, you all empower and give me hope in this harsh world. As it relates to IG, our follower count does not reflect our importance and success. Focus on who & what you have, and the rest will follow.
What’s To Come
Now, for the fun part! What to expect from me in the next year.
I have really evolved in this aspect of my business over the past two years, but before then have only shown glimpses. I created a new Instagram account, and separate website for those services in May 2023! View the Instagram here and the website here. This is indented to really focus on my design strategy + approach, and share the work in an intentional way without confusing the blog. From large corporations, to starting your small business, to helping you create a blog and styling your home – I’m so lucky to organically get in contact with so many of you.
Obviously the new home renovations and projects have been and are going to continue to be the freshest content moving forward! We have SO SO much in store and I just can’t wait to watch it all unfold, allowing you to do the same! Again – catch up on the updated projects list here.
In terms of home content, you can expect the same frequency and content construction in terms of tips, how-to’s, decor finds and brand partnerships. I love to weave in my design thinking, approaches and simple style to give you insight into how to take those tools to go out and feel better about the decisions you’re making in a home.
On top of sharing within my own home, I plan to continue to share design boards, inspiration, and other accounts that I’m loving to also help foster growth for the entire community. There’s room for all of us and everyone brings something else to the table!
I love sharing my style with you and I will always focus on versatile pieces that bring longevity and a timeless look. At the core, I will still focus on affordable, yet quality pieces while mixing in items that are worth the splurge that I know and love – but sharing in the mindset that you don’t need a new outfit for every single occasion. I want to be a source of something fun for you to add to cart, too!
I’ve definitely shared a more about overall lifestyle products and hacks via my At the Moment series, and plan to do more of that! Through my brand partnerships and organic exploration, I plan to grow in this facet by sharing brands and products that simply make life easier and give you time back to do what you love. This includes household items, beauty, food – you name it. All with the same focus on finding cleaner products and brands you can trust. I’m no chef or health nut and plan to keep it real with you guys on all fronts, inspiring you to learn with me as I begin my 30s.
I’m intentionally private on all of my MLCO accounts to keep it to creating content for you vs. consuming my personal life. This is a creative outlet, not something that I want to become sharing every waking moment – it’s just not for me. On that note though, I have the same goal as last year of being really focused on inserting more of my personality moving forward, for you to get a better feel of the girl behind it all. I’m funny, quick-witted and very honest and want more of that to come through as you look to me for advice and inspiration.
We are really just trying to continue to enjoy our time in our new-ish home with all of our favorite people. Most recently, of course, adjusting to life as a new parent. We are truly overjoyed with how each day gets better, cuter, and fuller of smiles and love. It’s been amazing thus far, and can truly save we have not looked back from the day we moved in – we feel so at-home. I will not be sharing my son on my page other than a few distant static photos – just a choice to protect him and don’t judge people either way! However, want to note that we appreciate all of your support and checking in on us.
Again, whether you’ve been here since the start, or this is your first day – just reading, liking, commenting makes all the difference. I can’t wait to see what the next year brings. I’d love to hear any thoughts, feedback, or even a hello in the comments below!