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RapidChat: Sara Visser on blogging in Beer City, what it takes to be a successful writer & more

Inspired by the colorful fashion and delectable food that surrounded her, Sara Visser first got her start blogging while living in the windy city of Chicago. After realizing the influence her personal brand had on her community, and the networking opportunities that came along with so-called "hobby," she carried this passion of hers back to her home state of Michigan with The GR Guide.
Sara Visser

Inspired by the colorful fashion and delectable food that surrounded her, Sara Visser first got her start blogging while living in the windy city of Chicago. After realizing the influence her personal brand had on her community, and the networking opportunities that came along with so-called "hobby," she carried this passion of hers back to her home state of Michigan with The GR Guide.
Rapid Growth: How did you first get your start blogging?
 
Sara Visser: When I first moved to Chicago I started following a ton of local bloggers. I was really inspired by the fashion and the content in their blogs, so I thought it would be really fun to have a blog on my own. It was on the day that Chicago had a snowpocalypse, back in 2011, and I was locked in my apartment. That is when I started my very first blog - Project Soiree.

The idea behind Project Soiree was that it was an ongoing project that celebrated all the things going on in my life. It was a mix of fashion, recipes, and all things Chicago. I then began to connect with the Windy City Blogger Collective, who promotes "inclusion and encouragement across the blogosphere" - specifically in Chicago. it was a great thing to be a part of, having the opportunity to network with other individuals that were doing similar things.
 
RG: So networking is a big part of the blogosphere?
 
SV: Yes. With the Windy City Blogger Collective, there were always monthly happy hours. A lot of different businesses and brands would hold events for us to promote their product (or a product), as well. It was a cool way to get involved with brands that I really love and get to know other local people. I remember my very first opportunity was with Nike. I also did something with the Chicago Marathon.
 
RG: What's in it for businesses to host these sorts of events?

SV: I think it's becoming more apparent to businesses that bloggers have an influence; social media is a big driving power behind that. The engagement on Facebook really plays a role in promoting businesses. With small businesses it’s difficult to start your own special media network. Bloggers have a really cool way of reaching out to these different people and reaching a greater audience. 
 
I did a lot of events in Chicago and it’s a lot about your sphere of influence. If your audience sees that you are doing an event, they are going to want to meet you and see what you pick out.
 
RG: Do you remember what your very first post was about?
 
SV: It had to do with champagne and introducing what I kind of wanted to do with the blog. I started off with an A to Z series of what I loved. At the time I was working in fashion, so I had a lot of influence in that sense. Even living in Chicago I saw a lot of people on the street who had really great style. Also, food has always been something I loved, so I incorporated that later on.
 
RG: What inspired you to make the switch from fashion (Project Soiree) to lifestyle blogging (The GR Guide)
 
SV: After living in Chicago for 5 years I realized that Grand Rapids had grown so much since I was last here, and I didn’t feel like anyone was covering all the cool things GR has to offer. I wanted to hone into what people were doing to make a difference and give people some local insight to experience a fun event that they may not have known about on their own. This city’s growth ties into where I want to go.
 
The GR Guide debuted in August, and the traffic has been crazy -  increasing by the month. What I love the most is that I get Instagram messages and emails from people thanking me for promoting their businesses. They want me to help them plan events, give them inside scoop, and so forth. To have people say “thank you for doing this, I check the 411 every Monday”, it makes me happy to continue to do what I am doing.
 
Grand Rapids has so many cool things, you don’t need to go with what’s familiar. 
 
RG: So in a nutshell… what does it take to be a successful blogger?
 
SV: What I mentioned before, is that there has to be passion behind it. If you are really passionate about what you are wearing, you need to have a sense of yourself in the blog for brands to understand that it is something beneficial for them to be a part of. Or with any topic you are interested in, for that matter.

I knew a girl that was a blogger, midsize, and she would send out hundreds of emails to brands that they want to work with. If you have a blog and want to work with someone, just email them – it’s a mutually beneficial thing. The worse that can happen is someone says no. You can find someone else, another brand, and so forth. A lot of what this industry is about taking a chance. 

RG: Do you have any words of wisdom for anyone who is looking to start their own lifestyle blog?
 
SV: If you are looking…we all have an individual voice. If you compare yourself with others, you aren’t going to do well. Don’t make it into something that you think people want to hear or see. if you write genuinely about things you do or love, you will be a successful blogger. It’s as simple as that. 

Jenna Morton is the RapidChat correspondent for Rapid Growth Media.
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