My Retail Predictions for 2021 (Part II)

My retail rundown.

Part two, here we go! Last Friday we talked about experiential moving online, video tutorials, brick and mortar closures, supporting small business, and the end of scheduled collection releases. This week, I am bringing you five more retail predictions to look out for in 2021! A few parting words- make sure to support local businesses, research the companies that you buy your products from, and be bold with your purchases! That feather dress and glittery bowtie is all you!

Online Retail Consulting 

9 TIPS PARA PASAR LA CUARENTENA

Because we aren’t able to have in-person shopping consultations, these experiences are moving online to help shoppers get that personal touch from the comfort of their own homes. The well-known Korean skincare company innisfree is one retailer that offers free one-on-one skincare consultations with one of their Korean skincare experts. I foresee many businesses providing similar services in the future, whether it be personal shopping consultations or virtual product walk-throughs. These virtual experiences are being explored now for definite utilization in the future. 

Global Online Discovery and Purchasing

Screen Shot 2021-02-15 at 3.13.02 PMAs a result of more people shopping online than in store, consumers will have a greater likelihood of discovering international brands with an e-commerce presence than ever before. Popular brands such as Australian e-commerce swimsuit retailer TRIANGL and France’s first online-only retailer Sézane, allow you to import the fashions and trends you love from across the globe. Opportunities to purchase clothing from niche retailers abroad has also allowed for less regionalization and more globalization when it comes to fashion, yet another example of how our world is becoming increasingly interconnected. 

 

Blurred Lines Between Social Media and Buying 

Instagram has done it with their shopping feature, Pinterest has done the same with the way in which you can purchase items tagged in photos, so what’s next? Shopping and media often go hand-in-hand, which is why it is my opinion that other platforms such as TikTok and Youtube- who knows maybe even Twitter- will soon be integrating certain buying features in their technology. When Gen Z-ers see something that they really like, they instantly need to know where to find it and how to buy it. Keeping this in mind, in addition to the fact that social media platforms thrive on ad revenue, it’s hard to see how this won’t be the future. 

Increased Reliance on Consumer Reviews

Screen Shot 2021-02-15 at 3.35.39 PM

Lately, I’ve seen an increase reliance on consumer reviews, reviews done by unbiased third parties such as Consumer Reports, or even unpaid promotions by social media influencers for customers to get a better idea of what they are purchasing. Buying a product, testing it out, and then having to return it can be a big hassle for some, who often buy online just to reduce said hassle. These hyper specific reviews and comments can be an extreme benefit to companies too, who have a loyal and engaged following that is willing to evangelize to others of their excitement for products. Glossier is one company that has thrived because of its consumer reviews and has a detailed approach as to how they capture review data that is worth taking a look at if you, yourself are looking to sell products online.  

Sustainable, Ethical, and Value Driven Brands

Screen Shot 2021-02-15 at 3.54.09 PM

Although this trend has been coming down the pipeline for some time now, ethical and value driven brands will never go out of style in the U.S., as sustainability and the environment have become an increasing concern within the fashion industry. Brands such as Everlane, Parade, and Biossance have all sought a niche place within their market on the basis of being more sustainable than their competitors. Sustainability reports are even becoming more popular for brands to disclose, a write up on their sustainability efforts and performance. Companies that are reporting on this are only putting more pressure on others to conform to higher ethical and environmental standards. Let’s keep it up retail!

My Retail Predictions for 2021 (Part I)

My retail rundown.

Retail is an ever-changing game. One day, critics say that shopping malls are dead, the next they are saying that in-person shopping experiences are paramount of importance, the next that consignment is the new method of purchase. There are a million opinions about what the future of retail will look like. This year, I thought I would take a stab at some trends that I see blossoming over the course of this year. Don’t forget to sign up for my weekly newsletter that comes out every Sunday to stay updated for when Part II comes out next week!

Experiential Moving Online

Screen Shot 2021-02-07 at 2.21.20 PM

I think that everyone would agree that shopping is meant to be all about the experience. Touching the clothes, wearing the clothes, interacting with the sales people, and purchasing the items- maybe even doing a little twirl in the dressing room? But, when company’s retail storefronts are forced to close down, much of the experience that consumers get purchasing, has gone away. Consequently, companies have been striving to find innovative methods to recreate unique experiences for customers. Some ways that retailers have started to do so is through augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) technologies. AR is one compelling way that furniture retailer Wayfair, for example, has been engaging it customers through almost exclusive e-commerce selling. Through AR, Wayfair app users have been able to see what Wayfair items would look like in their house, whether it be couches, rugs, or anything in between. This is a truly innovative solution that the company is exploring in order to further engage the consumer and allow them to explore different opportunities with the touch of a button. It also allows purchasers to feel more comfortable with their buying decisions, given that they have already had the opportunity to “try out” the items in their own home. Similarly, AR and VR company Obsess has been building these tech experiences for companies such as Tommy Hilfiger, Christian Dior, Coach, Ulta Beauty, and Ralph Lauren. Obsess has created virtual stores and buying experiences for 5 years, increasing the return on investment for retail stores by setting up a virtual sales channel. This is truly the wave of the future.

Product Pages with Videos and Tutorials

Private GIF (1)

As a result of in-person buying being put on hold due to the pandemic, more companies have and will start incorporating videos reviews and tutorials into their product pages in order for the consumer to get a better idea of what they are purchasing. Because buyers aren’t able to touch, try on, and experience products in stores, online retailers should be more motivated to put up dynamic content in order to best inform the consumer on the products they are interested in. ASOS does a good job of including videos of models in the clothing that they sell, giving the consumer a better idea of the fit, movement, and texture of the clothing- aspects that they might not be able to detect from just a photo. Beauty products are especially difficult for consumers to buy online because they tend to require testing within the consumer journey. Customers buying an eyeshadow, for instance, in stores, would often be able to test a sample to examine many aspects of the product- texture, color, contrast with skin tone, and scent. Understanding this obstacle, Sephora has begun to incorporate short videos and tutorials into their product pages, such as this one, which showcases what the product looks like on a range of skin tones as well as a brief glimpse of how the application works. The more information that buyers have, the more equipped to make a purchase. Dynamic content remains king. 

Brick and Mortar Closures, Except for Big Box

Café Congreso in the Phillipines - inspired by Wes Anderson films

This comes as a shock to no one, but it appears that more brick and mortar closures are in the cards for small to medium size businesses. The return on your investment for retail storefronts, especially during the pandemic, have become smaller and smaller, as consumers have found online shopping more popular and safe than venturing into brick and mortar shops. E-commerce companies, who can leverage online marketing to their advantage, can see profits well above their counterparts, who are spending thousands of dollars on shops to gain recognition and hopefully pull some passersby in off the street. I can definitely foresee popular online retailers opening up shop in the future, but only after having establishing intense brand loyalty and a steady stream of sales. I also imagine pop up stores becoming more popular, as retailers are able to test the market on whether or not there is a consistent customer base in a specific location as a proof of concept.

The End of Scheduled Collection Releases

Private GIF

There was once a time, long, long ago, when designers showed their latest collections during Fashion Week. Due to the setbacks of the COVID-19 pandemic, many designers have had to reschedule or even cancel shows. However, this has allowed for fashion houses to reevaluate their participation in such prescribed events. Michael Kors even moved his Spring 2021 presentation from September to October 15th in 2020. “I have for a long time thought that the fashion calendar needs to change,” he said in a statement. “It’s exciting for me to see the open dialogue within the fashion community about the calendar—from Giorgio Armani to Dries Van Noten to Gucci to YSL to major retailers around the globe—about ways in which we can slow down the process and improve the way we work,” Kors comments. The pandemic has allowed for designers to rethink many aspects of tradition within the industry, set seasons being one that has created more cohesion for some and stress for others. In the future, I see designers favoring their own pace over industry convention. 

Supporting Small Business 

Why Kamala Harris's Outfit Made a Striking Statement at the InaugurationSmall business owners will continue to challenge major players in the retail space this year, including everyone from trendy Esty candle and acrylic coaster makers to young, emerging fashion designers. We saw it at the presidential inauguration and will be seeing it a lot more in 2021. Vice President Kamala Harris chose to wear a purple coat and dress designed by up and coming African American designer Christopher John Rogers, a Louisiana native. Similarly, First Lady Jill Biden wore a blue ensemble by emerging designer Alexandra O’Neill, who is originally from rural Colorado. Although outfits worn during this prestigious event are traditionally made by U.S. companies, both women went out of their way this year to support individuals lesser known in the industry.

Likewise, there has been a continual push for consumers to eat and shop more locally, supporting businesses that have been hit hard due to the pandemic. Buying from American owned businesses has also become a priority in attempting to boost the local economy as opposed to purchasing products from abroad. This movement has shown a heavy spotlight on new faces within the industry- a true breath of fresh air. I have also witnessed social media, such as TikTok, play a large role in increasing exposure for small businesses, like instant acrylic nail company Klaw Beauty, sustainable clothing company STAN, and candle company ember candles, to name a few.

The way that we shop in 2021 is shifting and I hope and pray it is here to stay!


Want to know when Part II comes out?

Sign up for my Sunday newsletter and never miss a beat!

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

Jenna Sweeney on Tips for Branding your Business

Go brand yourself!

Brand (/brand/). Definition: The marketing practice of creating a name, symbol or design that identifies and differentiates a product from other products. For some businesses brand identity can make or break a company. It can be the difference between recognizing a company from another and forgetting it altogether. Some brands take years to find their distinctive voice, others naturally pick up a tone during a company’s inception. Brands can be tricky to handle and can be easily tarnished, which is why many businesses spend a significant amount of money on retaining a good brand image. Jenna Sweeney is someone who is passionate about brands and their connection to our society and culture, which is why she is the perfect person to give us her tips on branding your business. Jenna, the floor is yours!

Tell us a little bit about yourself Jenna!

Screen Shot 2021-02-04 at 10.57.24 AM

I’m a recent graduate of Babson College who’s fascinated by the ways brands connect with their audience and as a result, influence culture. I’ve been working with eco-conscious start-ups in Los Angeles, CA since July under my brand strategy consultancy, Freedom Machine. I feel so grateful to be working towards a better Earth while exploring new markets and collaborating on exciting projects—getting to flex different creative muscles— it’s really my dream come true! 

In your opinion, what makes a good brand?

What makes a good brand to me is a distinct perspective. Brands which have a unique look, feel, and voice that all work together to tell a compelling story are typically the brands that rise to the top. I like to think that every brand has its own personality in what they value and how they show up. Every sale is a social interaction first and foremost, even within e-commerce. 

What are the most common challenges that the companies you help face?

Nowadays, in every sector, there are brands with an outstanding visual identity, stellar product, and great intentions. I think the most common challenge is finding a way to creatively compel your audience and distinguish your company from the inevitable competition while following best practices. 

What are some steps that companies can take in order to begin to develop their own brand strategy? 

I think asking yourself or your team how the brand would show up in the world as a person is a great exercise to reimagine the way your brand functions. Looking beyond target customer, to ask:

Who is your brand? What do they stand for? How do they treat their competition, customers, and team?

I think bringing attention to those traits of the business can really help to hone in on the nuance that helps a brand to resonate with its audience. 

Screen Shot 2021-02-04 at 10.57.02 AM

From a marketing perspective, what are some suggestions you would give to companies that have struggled during the pandemic?

My advice would be to get creative! Systems in our world are being rebuilt and part of that process is making way for a new mode of commerce to emerge. I see a lot of great, new companies finding a niche demand that is more unique to this moment in history. In America, most people have been spending most time at home in this past year– but that has made space for subscription-based goods and services to come back in style, for example. I think it’s just about recognizing the opportunities in enhancing our new ways of living. 

If a company wants to branch out into utilizing social media, what is some advice you would give them to figure out which platforms would be best for their business?

I’d say it definitely depends on what the product is– A B2B for example may only need a landing page and a LinkedIn, whereas direct-to consumer would want to be active on Instagram first, then Facebook, TikTok, Twitter, YouTube, etc. as they’re applicable. The best way to find your audience is to start creating on different platforms and prioritize the platform where you get the most user/audience interaction. 

What are some company brands that you admire? 

I’m loving Seed, Ghia, Topo Chico, The Elder Statesman, Paloma Wool, Bode, Suprstructur, and Older Brother

What excites you about the future of the marketing and branding space?

I’m excited about new perspectives in the marketing field that will change how an audience resonates with a brand’s content and challenge existing social norms. I’m also excited by the market’s high standards for companies to use sustainable practices and conscientious employee relations. Quality of life and product is more important now than ever. 

How can someone looking for your services get in contact with you?!

www.freedommachine.space 

Or send me an email at jenna.sweeney3@gmail.com

CEO Sit Down: Sara Ferrer on Zoey Koko

Inspiring girls everywhere to prioritize self-care with whimsical body products.

Sara Ferrer always knew that entrepreneurship was her destiny. Going to Babson further instilled in Sara an eagerness to build something of her own that embodied her true passion. Nearing graduation, however, Sara had encountered a fork in the road. She wanted to explore her entrepreneurial bug, but also needed real-world job experience. Sara decided to start a job at TJX as an analyst. The long days behind a computer screen, coupled with a lack of passion, made her realize that after 2 years, the corporate grind simply wasn’t for her.

Screen Shot 2021-01-01 at 8.46.24 PMSara had always loved makeup, skincare, and beauty. She researched the spa industry and found a local 1200 hour esthetics program that would allow her to pursue her dream of becoming a medical esthetician. Sara’s day went from desk work at TJX to performing chemical peels, facials and waxing in a more social and dynamic atmosphere. When making the career change, Sara looked to her mom for inspiration. At 49 years old, her mom had transitioned from her 25 year corporate career to her dream job of becoming a high school Spanish teacher. Sara felt that her career change was a similar leap into the unknown and her mom’s journey was motivation to push forward.  

As a medical esthetician, Sara felt that she had fully tapped into her desire to make people feel good with her treatments. However, as time progressed, Sara noticed an alarming trend in the industry.  As beauty treatments promised faster and more dramatic results, women were fed media messages that created a “quick fix” beauty culture.  This, in turn, created rampant negative self-talk amongst her female clients. Sara started to question her role in providing help for these women, asking herself questions like “am I creating more goodness or darkness in the world by doing these procedures?” and “where is the point at which women go from feeling unstoppable to being incredibly insecure?” More importantly, Sara noted that many of her clients were mothers to young girls who were also starting to experience self-doubt and insecurities. This vicious cycle worried Sara.

Screen_Shot_2021-01-01_at_8.54.22_PM-removebg-preview (1)

Sara was then thrust towards another fork in the road. She could either continue to develop professionally and expand her medical skin treatment offerings or she could venture into the unknown once again. 

In thinking more about the root cause of the insecurities that she and her clients experienced, Sara realized that developing a positive self-image starts at a young age. During the tween years and younger, girls experience lighting fast social, emotional, mental, and physical changes. This can be a vulnerable time where self doubt starts to creep in. This is also a time when girls are introduced to the concept of self-care. Sara observed through her research that “For a girl, self-care is about social bonding, sleepovers with giggles, smelling lotions, and testing out nail colors- figuring out your own tastes, preferences, and uniqueness”. Sara noticed that there were exciting products for this age range on the market, but they had horrible, synthetic ingredients. She paired her knowledge of skincare chemistry with her passion for the healthy social and emotional development of girls and decided to start her own company, Zoey Koko.  Her business would specialize in tween bath and body products that are made in the USA, formulated with clean ingredients for sensitive skin, fun to use and featured uplifting messaging on all of their packaging. Who wouldn’t want to buy a body lotion for their daughter that is “infused with girl power” or a bio-glitter sparkle gel that is “infused with imagination”, as the label states?

Sara tested her products with hundreds of girls, showing her products at gymnastics events and girl scout spa events. Wherever she could get a trusted girl’s or mother’s opinion, Sara found the opportunity to refine and perfect her products. With a tried and tested product line, Sara had the confidence to drive to 50 retail stores around the Boston area to pitch her products, bringing her best selling unicorn body butter and a positive attitude. Can’t believe it? Sara did all of this, while still working full-time at the spa. 

From there, Sara continued to grow Zoey Koko by hosting mobile spa birthday parties for girls ages  6 to 12 year olds that centered around  spa day activities, such as facials, manicures, pedicures and a DIY craft. Sara’s mission was to sell her products, but also to provide an opportunity for young girls to foster happy memories around beauty, self-care and bonding. 

 

image__4_-removebg-preview

Although she has not been able to host any product parties due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Sara is optimistic in her business surviving great adversity, as she has surmounted great obstacles in every year of her business. 

“My first year of business was all about figuring out what I was doing. My second year was about honing in on my pitch and getting my products into retail stores. This year, my third year, has been all about expanding my e-commerce business,” Sara mentions. 

Just this past year, Sara has hired a new website designer to streamline the ZoeyKoko.com user experience, continued to test the market for future product releases, and looked to expand her products into more retail stores with the help of a toy sales group. And all of this hard work has paid off, as Zoey Koko landed a new deal with luxury children’s boutique Maisonette, and  tripled holiday sales projections. Add on to this the partnership opportunity Zoey Koko has with the e-commerce platform CityHome, as well as the cult following her shop has on Etsy and things are running full steam ahead. Her company has also made a significant impact in their contribution to the Big Sister Associate of Greater Boston, as a  percentage of the company’s profits are donated to this charity that Sara is incredibly passionate about.

For Zoey Koko, the future looks glittery, whimsy, and bright. And for the future of young girls? Things look optimistic, as Zoey Koko inspires imagination, confidence and positivity through the whimsical self-care products they provide. The brand’s mission of having girls everywhere “feel smiley in their skin” has only just begun.  

Chris St Jean on Building a Live-in Van and Life on the Road

Nomadic living at its finest.

If you have ever thought that living off the grid, driving cross country, and waking up with the sun was for you, then you have just met your best friend Chris St Jean. After retrofitting a van and heading out West, Chris gives us the skinny on what it is like to live life on his own terms- minimalism and adventure at the forefront of everything. Reading all about his journey has, personally, given me a lot of perspective on my own way of life. We are often told who to be and how to act, but what if we had the breathing room to decide that for ourselves, just like Chris has? What if we imagined life led by our own ambitions, desires, and passions? If that sounds enticing, keep reading…

Chris! Tell the blog a little bit about yourself!

Screen Shot 2021-01-23 at 10.49.25 AM

Hey everyone! I’m Chris (obviously), and I’m currently living full-time out of a Ford Transit cargo van, because isn’t it everyone’s goal to live out of a vehicle after college? I’m originally from Francestown, New Hampshire, which is a tiny little town in south-central New Hampshire with about 1,500 people. Currently, I’m writing this in Flagstaff, Arizona, which is my temporary home for the next 2 weeks. 

A little bit of background about me, I grew up in the woods, which definitely was a driving factor for my love of the outdoors. Basically, ever since I can remember, my dad was taking me hiking, biking, or climbing in the White Mountains. However, it wasn’t really until high school that I found cross country running, which I believe had a profound impact on how I regard life and ultimately led to me becoming a van bum. 

A lot of what I do, including living in a van, comes from a desire to live a life that I will look back on in 50 years and be happy about living. I believe keeping perspective on what matters is incredibly important, and what I have always found to be the most profound memories in my life are the ones filled with amazing people and new, unpredictable experiences. It just so happens that that has led me to be probably the most hippy person you’ve met: living in a vehicle, running ultramarathons, and eating nothing but plants. Sounds like a great life, right?

What was the inspiration behind “revamping” your van and taking it on the road?

I don’t think there is a single moment I can point to and say “That’s when.” I knew I wanted to live an unconventional lifestyle probably since high school, when I decided some time around Junior year that a life of 9 to 5 work on a computer just wasn’t for me. I love moving too much, which is probably a product of falling in love with running.

Although we did a lot of exploration around the Northeast, and the occasional family vacation, I wouldn’t call myself a travel-minded person until relatively recently. Up until the fall of 2019, when I took off across the country in a pick-up truck- which I will talk about later-, I hadn’t really been on a solo trip before, let alone one that didn’t involve hotels and tourist traps. However, I started getting the itch to go explore when I started meeting tons of new people at Babson (including you Ursula), and I realized there are so many amazing people and places even just in this country, let alone the world.

Around Junior year of college, I knew I could take a semester off, and it was kind of on a whim that I decided to take a 3 month road trip of the country, living out of the back of a pick-up truck. It was that experience that really let me know I wanted to do this. Seeing places and landscapes I’ve never seen before, having a couple scary encounters- including one with a bison that was probably the most terrified I’ve ever been in my life- definitely pushed me towards this, but mostly it was the people. There were so many generous, kind, unique people, that I never would have met without getting out of the back woods Northeast bubble, and that’s what set it in stone that I had to keep meeting people and experiencing new things in my life.

How long did it take you to make your van livable and what were some challenges you encountered along the way?

I bought the van back in May, and I officially finished it up on December 31st. Now, that is a timeline that is very specific to my circumstances; i.e. working full time, marathon training, and the slight inconvenience of a global pandemic. Someone who was working less, had more time, and who wasn’t trying to ship everything to the middle of nowhere would be able to do that much faster. The one huge advantage I had were my parents, and I really don’t want to undervalue how lucky I am to have such a supportive family. Having access to their building tools, their knowledge, and just having a second and third pair of hands around occasionally was invaluable to this process.

Honestly, I think the biggest challenge I faced was just simple monotony and loneliness. It was, and still is, a rough time to graduate, and to then take on a monumental project like this was much more mentally challenging than I ever expected. But in terms of the actual building process, it sounds odd, but I think the cabinets were the most difficult piece of that process. You don’t really think about cabinets having so many different pieces, or so much surface area to paint, but jeez, it’s a LOT.

What are some of your favorite features on the van and what is your perspective on minimalistic, nomadic living? Why did you feel it was right for you?

Screen Shot 2021-01-23 at 10.49.51 AM

So, in terms of my favorite features, number one has gotta be the solar panels and off-grid living. It’s just so freeing, and I think it’s really cool to think that all of the light, water pumps, fridge, everything, is just powered from the sun. Basically I’m just trying to be as much like a plant as I can.

In terms of the minimalist lifestyle, the word that leaps foremost to mind is appreciation. When you just don’t have a lot of stuff, you have the ability to appreciate what you do have. At the risk of sounding too philosophical- which is a line I probably already crossed multiple times-, I believe we appreciate the things that we are aware of having. The quickest fix to be aware of something we have is to buy something new. Suddenly, it commands our attention because it’s different than we’re used to. Eventually, however, the newness wears off, and then we get something even newer to get that same feeling of appreciation. What I find in living this lifestyle is that I’m aware of the things around me much more, because there’s simply less of it around. As a bonus, living in a van is incredibly cost efficient, which means I just don’t have to work as many hours, so I can spend that time meeting people, moving around, or just generally not being stressed to be constantly doing something.

That leads into the second piece of the lifestyle that I truly love, which is nomadism. I am such a sucker for landscapes, be it mountains, deserts, forests, oceans, you name it. Living out of the van not only allows for the ability to get to these places, but that there’s nowhere else I really need to be. There’s no home base, so I can stay for as long as I choose, to explore, get to know people, or leave because it’s getting too cold or hot for a guy in a vehicle.

Anything you miss about living in a home?

Screen Shot 2021-01-23 at 10.49.59 AM

Toilets. For sure. Van living is really glamorous a lot of the time, but most people don’t really see the unglamorous sides of it. Shockingly, pooping in a plastic bag is not the most comfortable thing ever. But on a more serious note, I would say having regular people around. One thing that really got old in the truck in 2019 was that there was this pattern of meeting really awesome people, and then basically leaving immediately and knowing you’re never going to see them again. Having friends and family around regularly, especially at school, was something I really didn’t appreciate enough.

What are some destinations you hope to hit over the next few months?

Screen Shot 2021-01-23 at 10.50.06 AM

Right now, I’m in Flagstaff, Arizona, which I will be at for the next week and a half. After that, I’m planning on heading to Southern California, to visit some friends. But after January 31st, the plan is to have no plan! The spontaneous exploration is something I absolutely love doing, so I know I will be on the West Coast, but that’s about as specific as it gets. I love climbing, running, and (of course) landscapes, so Yosemite is an obvious place to go. Other than that, it’s going to be a process of bouncing around places that I know I have people to visit, in California, Nevada, Washington, and Montana, until trekking back east in late May to graduate. And after that, there really is no plan for the foreseeable future, which is both exhilarating and a little scary, if I’m going to be honest.

How do you figure out where you should travel to next?

Screen Shot 2021-01-23 at 10.50.13 AM

A really big driver (pun intended) of where I’m going to go is where I can visit people. A lot of times, I know I have somewhere I want to visit someone, and I’ll go explore places in between where I am now and where I’m ultimately going to see someone. For example, I left home in the van December 31st, and I have a good friend in Santa Barbara that I know I want to visit. But there’s a very significant amount of land in between, basically the entire country. So I now have a reason to go to Vermont, New York, Ohio, and every other state in between New Hampshire and California, which is how I ended up in Arizona right now. 

Other than that, I have a map of North America on my door in the van, with push pins on certain places. They’re color coded, so blue is where I have friends to go visit, green is a place I’ve been to that I want to go back to, yellow is a place I don’t know anyone and I want to go explore, and orange is where I had a very memorable experience (such as staring down a bear in a hailstorm on the Olympic Peninsula or royally pissing off a bison during a run in North Dakota). 

What does a typical day look like for you?

Honestly, day-to-day life is pretty average. Those big experiences or amazing landscapes are definitely not the standard. One big thing is that I tend to get up and go to bed with the sun, because a lot of time is spent outside and when there’s no sun, there’s just not a lot to do. On days that I’m not driving somewhere, usually I wake up around 5am, have some breakfast and coffee, drive to somewhere with WiFi and do some work, go for a run, do some more work or van chores, and maybe go climb or do something to meet new people. Each day is very much dictated by just what needs to be done that day, so days that I need to get to a new state look very different than days where I’m in a place I’ll be in for a bit. What I really enjoy about this lifestyle is that you have full control over where you are and what you do. Again, your house is your car, so wherever that car is, your entire life is.

What are some pieces of advice you have for people looking to do something similar to what you have done?

Screen Shot 2021-01-23 at 10.50.20 AM

Do it. Don’t hesitate. There will always be a thousand reasons not to, and it’s impossible to predict and account for every piece of your life that will change. Decide to do it, begin the process, and figure things out when you get there. With that said, I definitely have some tips. 

  • Keep track of receipts! Not only will this help with budgeting, but even more so with insurance. Insurance companies tend to be a little hesitant to insure self-built vans, so knowing exactly how much it costs helps a lot.
  • There are amazing resources online, utilize them. I’m a business major who codes websites, I have zero education in how to build a house. But I am far from the first to do this, and lots of people have documented their stories online. Check out www.faroutride.com for an extremely comprehensive build journal, outlining insulation, electrical systems, water systems, and general building advice, from people who also do not have a background in carpentry or anything like that.
  • It’s a huge project, way bigger than I thought it would be when I started. Be careful not to get overwhelmed. Take it one step at a time, just focus on the next piece to get done. 
  • Have fun with it! Get some friends to come help, and to provide new ideas on how to accomplish certain things. Getting ideas from other people was incredibly helpful, there is no way I would have been able to do this on my own. That being said, this is your house, so keep that in mind as you consider different options
  • Take. Your. Time. Everything will go more slowly than you think. I originally thought I would be done by mid October. There will be things that don’t work as planned, or just take way longer than you think they would. Don’t get stressed trying to get everything done fast, because that leads to sloppy work or trying to take shortcuts that will come back and bite you later. If you have a choice between speed and quality, always go with quality, even if it is tediously and frustratingly slow.

How has this experience changed your perspective on life?

Honestly, I think this has actually done the exact opposite. It has helped me keep my perspective on life, and not let it get changed by things that seem important in the short term, but don’t really matter much when you get right down to it. As a business student, I saw the allure of flashy titles, bigger salaries, and the social status competition of working more, sleeping less, cutting more out of your life to be able to work more and more. I had this tugging voice in the back of my mind whenever I took part in that, that just kept saying,

“This isn’t worth it. You know what makes you happy, this isn’t it.”

What the road trip in 2019, and this process of building and moving into the van, has taught me is that that voice was, for the most part, right. I don’t want to pretend that money, jobs, and hard work are meaningless, they are very necessary to life, as frustrating as it can be sometimes. But I see them as a means to an end, not an end in themselves. And this is a lesson that can be applied to many things that don’t involve becoming a nomad. I wouldn’t be able to run and climb if I didn’t have the means to support that. I wouldn’t be able to visit friends, make memories. There was a lot of hard, tedious, and if I’m going to be honest, really lonely work involved with getting to be able to do this. It’s important to keep perspective, and realize that your work should be a means of achieving the lifestyle you want to live, and not let work become the lifestyle itself.

What excites you about the future?

Screen Shot 2021-01-23 at 10.50.28 AM

Honestly, the fact that I don’t know what excites me about the future is what excites me most. There’s so much possibility, things to do, places to see, people to meet, that just the raw openness of it all is the most exciting thing. It’s a lot like when you graduate middle school, and then high school, but it’s so much more poignant now. To think about it all at once is somewhat futile, like to think about everything I could possibly be doing a year, or two, or five, from now is just impossible because there are so many variables. It’s a feeling that’s not that well suited for words, but it’s something I wish everyone could experience. 

However, if I were to name one thing in specific, it is to meet people that live totally differently than I’m used to living. I’ve lived in New Hampshire my entire life, except when I went to college in Massachusetts, which is not that much different. New Hampshire is not known to be the cultural hub of the Northern Hemisphere, and to be able to experience different ways of living, even just in the United States, is just an incredible opportunity that I hope I never take for granted. And eating new foods. Because food is great.

10 Things I Learned from Starting a Blog and Writing 100 Blog Posts

Eat some cake! It’s time to celebrate!

Wow! We have come a long way haven’t we? Although I wanted to 100 things I learned from starting my blog- trust me that could easily be done- I decided to spare everyone the lengthy reading and narrowed it down to my most significant 10 learning points from this experience. Starting my blog was undoubtably one of the highlights of 2020 for me and I am so glad to have had the opportunity to share it with you all. I thought that this milestone was something to celebrate and I cannot wait for the next 100 articles. But for now, here is what I have learned.


1. The importance of starting and committing 

I had the idea of starting a blog for a while, yet it was a professional mentor of mine who encouraged me to create an online profile for prospective employers to look at. Yes, that is the reason that my blog has a resume and I decided that, even though I have a job now, it still might be interesting for people to know a little bit about my journey. In such a tough job market, I was motivated to do anything that would help me stand out as an applicant and widen my reach to employers. I created not one, but two websites in the process and posted a few articles about my life experiences and professional takeaways. Little did I know that I would become so incredibly passionate about writing and sharing that we would still be here 7 months later! And employed! The reality is, however, I could have kept thinking about starting a blog, had it not been for one night that I took the leap to purchase a domain, roll up my sleeves, and start building the site. There is something incredibly important in committing to an idea and starting, no matter how much you think you know. If the interest is there, just go for it. You have nothing to lose and so much invaluable knowledge to gain. 

2. Learning to continue regardless of readership or engagement 

Cora_II-removebg-previewWhen I started the blog, just having one reader meant so much to me, I would think to myself  “I can’t believe people are invested and engage in what I write!” It felt incredible. However, as time progresses, you naturally expect to see an increase in engagement, readers, followers, subscribers- whatever it may be. You begin to expect more, which can be crushing at times, especially when you have spent 5 hours on an article that you can read in 5 minutes, read by only 5 people. In summation, the process can become increasingly discouraging if you don’t see any progress. This taught me a couple of things. Firstly, to celebrate the little wins and sharing those milestones with others so that they can celebrate with you. I love to post on my Instagram about the interesting places that my readers are reading from- the best by far has been the Seychelles- or how many email subscribers the blog has reached. If you take the time to be grateful for every achievement- like this one!- it will make the process much more enjoyable and encouraging. Another takeaway for me was to reflect on why I was blogging in the first place. Although it started out with professional motives, it has become personally motivated, as I have come to learn how much I have a passion for writing, interviewing, sharing, making collages, and learning. If I remember that I am continuing on with my blog because of how much I love it, I am reminded that I do this for me, first and foremost, not for other’s approval or interest. If someone feels motivated or inspired by my writing, that is the cherry on top. 

3. A plethora of new skills

Ok, when I said you would learn a lot by trying something new, I wasn’t kidding. Here are a few skills that I have honed or learned for the first time in creating my baby- I mean blog. 

  1. Google Analytics and Google Search EnginePeony_52-removebg-preview
  2. Writing with style and voice 
  3. Social media marketing 
  4. Creating a newsletter
  5. Networking
  6. Researching the best website hosts and softwares
  7. Photo editing
  8. Branding
  9. Web design
  10. Phone interviewing
  11. Proofreading and grammar
  12. WordPress software
  13. Search engine optimization (SEO) 
  14. Collaborating with companies to form partnerships
  15. Creating formal deck presentations
  16. Succinct interview note-taking
  17. Crafting my personal elevator pitch 
  18. Coding 
  19. I am sure that I am missing a few here…

4. Human connection is central to my life

Without sounding too dramatic here, this blog has really saved my life. In late July, when I first started the blog, I was completely burnt out. I had spent everyday for two months applying for jobs and having networking calls. I was still mourning the loss of the last two months of my senior year and not being able to graduate on stage with my classmates. Most of all, I missed my friends and my professors. I missed my social job at the library, interacting with friends, acquaintances, and strangers everyday. I felt as though I had no purpose and no one to share my life with anymore. This blog changed that. I was able to motivate myself everyday to work on something that I could call my own and take ownership of. And, most importantly, I was able to interact with people again, from every walk of my life. On my blog, I have had the chance to feature friends that I have only just met, never even in person, to friends from my middle school and everyone in between. Whether it be phone interviews, through social media, or chatting online, it was such a pleasure to connect again in so many different ways. Sharing that on this platform has made it all the better.  

5. Discovering my personal brand and written voice

Starting the blog has allowed me to really reflect on who I see myself as and facilitated a lot of self-discovery. I began to ask myself a lot of questions like “what content would I find interesting? What interests me? What do I like to read about? What is my personal brand? How would I like to appear to others online?” I also began to think about my written voice and who I identified as, as a writer. This process is continually evolving, yet really made me consider, in every decision, how I am able to put my best foot forward and who I want to be.  

6. Pushing my boundaries of productivity, organization, curiosity, and creativity every day

Peony_47-removebg-previewWriting a blog post 3+ times a week has forced me to be incredibly organized in how I approach scheduling and writing my articles. This has led me to consider what days people engage with my posts the most, what my readers enjoy reading, and how I can consistently push the envelope in terms of content, whether it be in the writing style, photos, videos, music, and gifs that I incorporate into my articles. I am forced to constantly look for inspiration in everything and everyone that I meet. Every time that I begin to doubt my ability to come up with creative ideas for content, I look back on all of my articles and feel compelled to push forward no matter what. My friends have also been a support in helping to collaborate with me on articles to diversify the voices on the blog. I am forever grateful for everyone who has contributed in a big and small way!

7. Learning content strategy

In starting my blog, I learned how to constantly iterate and improve both my content, strategy, and processes. Here are some insights about my blog that I have gathered so far:

  1. Utilizing Google Analytics, Google Search Engine, and internal WordPress analytics, has helped me to decide what external platforms gain the most traffic to my site. Believe it or not, the majority of my readers come from LinkedIn! 
  2. Learning about search engine optimization has been incredibly beneficial to me. Over the past two months I have averaged 12% of my website views as coming from search engines. This month I am on track for even more web clicks!
  3. Looking at trends on when to post. Looks like Monday at 10:00 am is the most popular time for readers on my blog. 
  4. Looking at trends as to what content performs better than others, which, for my blog, tends to be business, entrepreneurship, and fashion related content. 
  5. I have also evaluated what social media posts work better than others. Trust me, photos of people always perform the best!

8. Learning should be a joy versus a task

Screen_Shot_2021-01-21_at_9.20.31_PM-removebg-previewIf you really love something, you are going to want to learn more about it and dive deeply into how to constantly improve and evolve. I find that this was a good learning experience that will help me for the future. If something feels like a chore, then it’s probably not a passion or intense interest. If you are someone who is looking to find a passion of your own, this is a good litmus test. 

9. Better understanding current and future industry landscapes 

Starting my blog and writing interesting content has forced me to be engaged in current trends, culture, news, and events. It has encouraged me to read more news, discover more insights, and speak with people that are industry experts to understand where the future is headed. Articles that have allowed me to take a deep dive into learning more about the complexity of our world have been some of my favorites, including this article on TikTok fame, this post about the future of modern luxury retail, and this piece on cryptocurrency banking. The world is a playground, so make sure to use the monkey bars!

10. I am capable of literally making something out of nothing

When the going gets tough, I just get tougher. I am able to create something of value out of the resources around me and that is pretty special. Just making lemonade out of lemons over here baby! Now you get out there too. 

 

“drivers license” – A Case Study on Why the Song Topped the Charts

A TikTok recipe for smashing records and achieving the #1 spot on Spotify’s Global Top 50

If you haven’t heard the song “drivers license” by Olivia Rodrigo you have probably been hiding under a rock somewhere. Since Rodrigo’s official debut single came out, the song has accumulated over 160 million streams in just 2 weeks. The love song even broke a Spotify record for the most streams in a day for a non-holiday song with over 17 million global plays. We might expect these record breaking streaming numbers from big stars in the industry such as Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran, or Ariana Grande, but it seems as though Rodrigo has sky rocketed out from obscurity, the majority of her prior releases being the soundtrack from Disney’s High School Musical: The Musical: The Series. So how did this happen exactly? My take on the matter- a story, melody, culture, rumor… and Tiktok.

“drivers license” is an intimate narrative that follows the journey of a young teen who grapples with getting her drivers license alone, rather than with her, now, ex-boyfriend. The ballad begins with the sound of an ignition starting that blends into an intense, steady beat. As Rodrigo describes her plans for their future being crushed by her love moving on, the song continues to build with a palpable energy and strong belting. The ballad reaches its pinnacle at the bridge with layered, breathy vocals which admit to still being in love with the one who has moved on. Undeniably artful, the song channels the lyrical mastery of Taylor Swift and the sound and production quality of Lorde. Without a purely beautiful song, there would seldom be a hit. 

However, there are over 50 million songs on Spotify– what makes this one chart topping? 

There are a few factors at play here, the first and foremost being the power of the increasingly popular video-sharing social media app TikTok. TikTok currently has over 1.5 billion total downloads, making it the seventh-most downloaded app of the 2010s. When users create a video they can choose any song as their soundtrack as well as create their own audio for videos. This is what makes TikTok the perfect place for music artists, as you allow others to evangelize your music organically. When a song on TikTok gets associated with a trend or dance that others recreate and share on their own profiles, the song naturally spreads throughout the TikTok community. TikTok’s nature also makes you want to get in on what is popular and trending. If you hear a song more than three times on your “For You” page, you are going to want to do a little search to hear the whole thing- just a quick switch to the Spotify app.

“drivers license” was a perfectly positioned spark that ignited a wildfire. 

Olivia-Rodrigo-1610556343To date, “drivers license” has been used in over 1 million TikTok videos, that has helped aid in its Spotify fame, showing that fans are not only engaged in listening, but also in the narrative of the song and how it is incorporated in their own lives a.k.a in their TikTok filmmaking. This is a testament to two factors in particular: Rodrigo’s young fanbase being the main users on TikTok, 32.5% of users being ages 10-19, and the culture of todays youth who resonate with the messaging within the song. Although it might seem like a stretch to connect the two, according to the American Psychological Association, Gen Z is 27% more likely than other generations to report their mental health as fair or poor. Couple that with months of isolation due to the COVID-19 pandemic and a prevalent, casual “hookup” culture in young America, this song is used by those on TikTok for a reason- it not only relevant to them, it resonates deeply with them. 

One aspect of our culture that defies age, however, is the love of gossip and rumor. What undeniably helped the song propel itself to the top of the charts are the breadcrumbs that Rodrigo gives the listener. The ballad’s descriptive lyrics have led mega-fans to pull out their drawing boards and get to work. It isn’t a far leap to guess that the ex-boyfriend within the narrative is Joshua Bassett, Rodrigo’s rumored ex-boyfriend who worked closely with her on the High School Musical: The Musical: The Series. Yet, going even further, news outlets and Rodrigo’s TikTok fans began immediately speculating about the connection between the lyrics “that blonde girl” who is “so much older than me” and Bassett’s current girlfriend Sabrina Carpenter. This interest undoubtably increased engagement, not only in TikTok hypothesis videos, but online searches and internet investigating. And the best PR move Rodrigo could have made is not saying a word about it.

“I totally understand people’s curiosity with the specifics of who the song’s about and what it’s about, but to me, that’s really the least important part of the song,” she says. “It’s resonating with people because of how emotional it is, and I think everything else is not important.” she mentions in a Billboard article. The rumors and intrigue go on. 

What can I say? “drivers license” is truly a perfect storm, but a storm that could not have been possible without such perfect alignments. A beautiful song, a viral-inducing marketing platform, some gossip, and a primed audience that has finally found the words that speak for its broken heartedness. I give that three words. 

Well played Olivia. 

Prashant on Becoming a Music Producer and Getting 1 Million Spotify Streams

Get the first interview exclusive of Prashant- the Spotify beat maker. 

Making music never seemed to be in Prashant’s plan. Although Prashant has always had a passion for listening- cutting holes to wire up his sweatshirts to listen during High School classes- science has always been his primary focus. While majoring in biochemistry in college, Prashant happened upon music production by what seemed like fate. His freshman college dorm room is the birthplace of Prashant’s first exposure to music production, after a friend shared a track he made on Garageband. Intrigued by creating beats himself, Prashant started playing around with the Garageband music creation software. As Prashant’s interest quickly grew, he found that he wanted to take his basic knowledge to the next level, installing a bootleg version of FL studio to get him there. Sitting on the bus, on his way home for holiday break is where Prashant first opened the software and thought to himself “wow, now that’s a lot of buttons” 

Prashant has surely come a long way from unknown switches and toggles to audio engineering and producing music in the hip hop, pop, R&B, and EDM genres, clocking in over five years now. His journey to becoming a self-taught producer has been the accumulation of years of hard work. For two summers, Prashant mentions that he made “hot trash,” however this didn’t stop him from spending hours in his dorm creating beats. Prashant made it a point to make as much music as possible during any free time that he had, whether it be during breaks in his internships at the lab or even during class. 

Screen Shot 2021-01-12 at 8.39.16 PM

It was around his Junior year in college that Prashant started to take his music production more seriously, as he began publishing his music online. Prashant cites inspiration from artists that he listened to growing up, such as Linkin Park, The Cure, and Seal as much as his current muses like Young Thug, Lil Uzi Vert, SAINt JHN, and Future. Every 3 to 6 months, Prashant made sure to publish the best music that he could make at the time. In doing so, Prashant was able to tangibly see his growth as an artist. Before doing this, Prashant mentions that felt he was in a vacuum, without any outside references to how much he had learned over time. And this is one of Prashant’s favorite aspects of being an audio engineer and music producer- seeing the evolution of his craft over time. This also allowed him to see how valuable the time and effort he put into learning, and how it adds up to a real payoff in the sound he creates. What else does Prashant love about doing this work?

“Every now and then you get a beat that you know is going to change some things,” cites Prashant, which is just what happened last year.  

A particular beat that Prashant made in class one day happened to make its way onto a beat tape that he released on Spotify. This wasn’t anything out of the ordinary, and to him it seemed like just another beat made like clockwork. While he thought that the beat was O.K., six months later it got picked up and put on a Spotify playlist with over 150,000 monthly listeners. Being featured on one playlist, turned into being featured on many playlists and it just snowballed from there. When Prashant hit a personal milestone of 100,000 streams, he humbly doubted the possibility of reaching half a million streams. Soon, Prashant hit this milestone too, and then hit the 1 million stream mark, a feat he never dreamed possible. Prashant’s increasing popularity on Spotify has opened many doors for him, as he has been able to work with new artists and on a slew of new projects. 

Screen Shot 2021-01-12 at 8.43.53 PM

Prashant’s advice for artists and producers aiming to make it big in the music industry is to work hard. “There are no shortcuts to accumulating 1000 hours in the studio and until you experience something with your own two hands, you won’t appreciate that lesson of learning.” Prashant also warns not to be too hard on yourself and your progress as an artist. “You have to fall in love with the process, the journey more than the destination. You have to learn to appreciate the little moments, because if you don’t appreciate those, you won’t be able to appreciate the bigger moments. They will be cool for a moment. But it won’t last long. The moments are only made up of how much value you assign to them,” the reason that Prashant has always made it a point to practice gratefulness with every coming achievement. When he got picked up by the Spotify playlists, he had 24 monthly listeners at the time and was excited to even have that many people listening to his music after not releasing any new material in months. 

Prashant notes that the best advice he has received himself was from his mentor who said to him “whatever music you are making, but don’t make it for who is listening now, make it for someone listening in 3 years. Play the long game,” which has always stuck with him since. One of the reasons Prashant has been so proficient at what he does is because he has taken a considerable amount of time making beats and putting out his best music, believing the first impressions are paramount in the industry. “You only get that curious click from a listener once,” Prashant says.

Screen Shot 2021-01-12 at 8.47.27 PM 

In regards to the future, Prashant has a lot of exciting projects that he is working on. As of late, Prashant is less worried about what others think and more worried about whether he likes it and if he is excited about the sound. “2020 was a lot of leg work and now I have a lot of music to release. Give me time and I am a dangerous man” Prashant notes. In 2020 alone he made over 240 beats, yet this year he is focusing more on making some special beats for his listeners.

“A lot can change in a year,”

Prashant says, reflecting on just one year ago when he only had 24 monthly listeners, “I can’t wait to look back on this year to see what more has changed”.

CEO Sit Down: Bert Cumming on Mijimask

Inspiring individuality and identity, while covering up and keeping safe.

Masks have been on everyone’s mind since the beginning of the year, as the COVID-19 pandemic has become an increasing concern for people across the globe. The Center for Disease Control has advised mask usage in helping decrease the spread of COVID-19, as masks provide a barrier to prevent respiratory droplets from being transferred from person to person. For many Americans, mask usage is a new concept that makes expressing who we are difficult, because of the area of the face masks cover. Realizing this, Bert Cumming started a business during the past year that focuses on helping children show their personality and individuality with Mijimask.

Screen Shot 2020-12-15 at 6.08.24 PMBert! Tell us a little bit about yourself!

I am a junior, and recent transfer, at Babson College.  I am concentrating in finance and entrepreneurship with hopes to one day take one of my companies public on the stock exchange.  I consider myself an innovator and a doer, what I mean by that is that I love to create solutions to all sorts of problems and my motivation drives me to attack these ideas.  

Some hobbies include Jet Skiing over the summer, snowmobiling over the winter and day trading in between.

What is Mijimask and what was the inspiration behind the business?

Screen Shot 2020-12-15 at 6.23.55 PMMijimask is a customizable face mask designed for children of all ages. Our mission is to provide children the opportunity to “own the pandemic” by wearing a mask that represents who they are. It provides children the ability to customize their own masks thereby providing them a unique mask and gaining confidence. Mijimask allows kids (recommended ages 5+) to customize their masks with attachable and detachable Mijis making them unique to their personalities.  

My inspiration behind the business is to prevent kids from losing their individuality by covering their faces every day.  At young ages, children are susceptible to every little thing they are exposed too, and I do not want their creativity to be effected in the future years because of the pandemic that is happening at this pivotal time in their lives.

What excites you about the business and the business’ mission?

Screen Shot 2020-12-15 at 6.24.03 PMWhat excites me the most about this business is the direct correlation that comes from COVID-19.  In today’s marketplace supply chains are affected across the globe affecting businesses, and if I can learn to navigate the supply/product market in the hardest time in history, I will be more than capable of navigating the market when COVID-19 does not exist.  

My mission is exciting because I am working towards protecting the creativity of young minds, and this is important to me because I consider my creativity and innovative abilities to be some of the most important traits I have.

What makes Mijimask different from other masks on the market?

Mjimask is different from other masks because it promotes the personality and customization of face masks. Other masks in the market are extremely generic and mass produced with printed designs on them, limiting the rarity of the mask itself. Mijimask makes it nearly impossible to have the exact same mask as anyone else, promoting creativity when designing the mask.

What has been the most challenging aspect of starting and operating the business?

Screen Shot 2020-12-15 at 6.24.19 PMMarketing has been the most challenging aspect of operating my business.  This is due to the sole reason that I do not know how advertising and marketing work, and I have to spend a majority of my time studying and learning instead of actually doing something since it is costly.  I had previously underestimated marketing as a whole, and now have much more respect for that industry.

What has been the most rewarding moment of starting and operating Mijimask?

The most rewarding moment of starting Mijimask, MaskMate L.L.C. is demonstrated in the picture of the two girls below.  When I received this picture of the kids choosing their mijis to put on their mask, I knew what I was doing was for the right cause and my mission was chosen correctly. 

What advice do you have for entrepreneurs who are starting or would like to start a business during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Do it. Do not let COVID-19 delay your plans to start a business or intimidate you into not starting your business at all.  We do not know how long this will last and the longer you wait, the less passion you will have for your idea in the future and less of a chance to be successful.  Start your business not matter the environment around you, and learn as you go–like I am currently doing with marketing. 

What about the future excites you?

Screen_Shot_2020-12-15_at_5.22.23_PM-removebg-preview

I am excited for these vaccines to be released, and for things to go back to normal as soon as possible.  People keep saying, “our new normal”, but I do not want to accept a world wear wearing a face mask and doing work and school online is considered our “normal”.  The way we are currently living is a false reality and we need to do everything possible to return to the world we used to live in, where it was normal to gather in groups for holidays and no one needs to feel scared when a simple cough is let out. Mijimask is made to make these times easier, but it is not made to make these times acceptable forever. We need to wear our masks while we are told to prevent the spread, but we also need to accept the time when it comes to abandon these masks and return to our normal way of life, and I am excited for that day to come. 


Contact Mijimask

Website 

Instagram

Ari Somerfield on Miles for Smiles and Getting Free First Class Flights

Why pay for adventure when you can get it for free and in first class?

At just 23 years old, Ari Somerfield has a whole lifetime worth of experience as both a passenger and a pilot. Since a young age, Ari has been interested in aviation. On family trips, Ari cites looking forward to the flight more than their actual vacation. Ari’s passion led him to getting his private pilot license with an instrument rating right after graduating from high school. Needless to say an enjoyable Friday night for Ari as a nineteen year old was a bit different from the norm, Ari taking a rental plane to visit friends across Los Angeles to beat rush hour traffic. 

Although he is looking to pursue film professionally, Ari has taken up travel advising in his free time – a true passion. In high school, Ari worked for a luxury travel concierge and discovered the impact of travel points and racking up miles for future travel. It fascinated Ari that, in strategizing how to maximize your points, you could fly first class for free. Shortly after, Ari had made it his mission to discover the ins and outs in regards to how to accumulate points, getting credit card sign-on bonuses, referring friends for credit cards, and transferring points, to name a few. 

After having accumulated enough mileage points, Ari used the points to take his first trip overseas to England, where he flew business class and hasn’t flown anything below business when traveling long distances since. Unlike many travelers, Ari likes to travel for no more than two days to a week, considering himself a homebody. What Ari loves about racking up mileage points is that he can travel the way he likes to, on a whim and for short periods of time. Currently, Ari has over 3 million points and feels best when he has at least 2 million points at a time, so that he is able to take a trip whenever he likes. It isn’t unusual for Ari to fly to Singapore to visit his favorite vegan restaurant or travel to Vietnam for just two days and then hop on a flight back home shortly after. Two of Ari’s favorite flights so far have been his journey from Japan to Singapore, where he had the best vegan meal of his life and his first class trip from Hong Kong to New York flying Cathay Pacific, which he argues has an unparalleled in-flight passenger experience.

In accumulating such vast knowledge of credit card rewards, flying, commercial airlines, planes, and the like, Ari shared this knowledge with friends and family. At one point, however, Ari realized that his passion could be made into a business and started to help others maximize their points in the same way.

Since then, Ari’s business called Miles for Smiles has grown and he has established a process and methodology that he goes through with clients to ensure success. First, Ari has a meeting with his client in order to establish their lifestyle habits and existing credit cards to figure out what program he decides will be best suited for them. From there, Ari advises on which credit cards his client should open and strategizes on maximizing their points. For everyone that Ari works with he guarantees them 500,000 mileage points to use for the future. Ari also has an extensive knowledge of airlines and their product offerings, which will ensure an enjoyable and restful transit experience when he makes the final booking. Singapore Airlines is Ari’s favorite, but he can walk clients through every airline and airplane offered, a credit to his incredible in-depth knowledge of the industry. To date, Ari is responsible for earning 20 million miles for his clients  who have flown in premium cabins across the world and is only just getting started. 

IMG_4288Right now, Ari says that now is the best time to plan for the future and maximize airline points, given that credit card companies are offering some of the best deals he has ever seen, with major sign on bonuses. But what excites Ari about the future? In terms of commercial aviation, Ari mentions

“the advancements that I’ve seen in a short period of time, like the new products and services coming out are incredible, Air New Zealand, for example is rolling out beds in economy class. New things that are really exciting.” As a vegan himself, Ari also notes that airlines are offering more options than ever for the plant based community, a token to commercial airlines continuing to strive towards greater inclusivity in so many different ways. Personally, Ari tells me that one day he wants to get an aircraft of his own that he can fly around with friends and family. While he works towards accomplishing this dream, he also is excited for the day he works with film director Taika Waititi. 

What makes me so certain Ari will reach these goals? His incredible ability to become hyper focused on his passions and find success in whatever he does. Whether it be learning to fly, juggling numerous credit cards and their respective points, or directing a film, I trust Ari to get the job done- and not just well- first class. 


To contact Ari and Miles for Smiles

Website

Email: aripoints@gmail.com