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Who: Amber-Kemp Gerstel
What: Blog vs. Content Business; Building True Influence
Where: Miami, FL
Occupation: Crafter, Content Creator & TV Host 

You've been crafting since you were a child, but tell us more about deciding to carve out your corner of the internet with the Damask Love 'craft is in session’ blog.
Damask Love was not supposed to happen. It certainly was not supposed to be a business. It most certainly was not supposed to be successful. It was a hobby - a place to post my images (pretty mediocre at the time) of random paper crafting projects - that’s it. Nothing more. Maybe that’s precisely why Damask Love has worked. As a hobby blog, I had no allegiance to brands. No one was paying me to create. There were no sponsorships dictating my content. I just created what I loved and slowly (and unwittingly) built my own little crafty corner of the interwebs where I offer crafting tutorials served up with a side of honest, snarky commentary.

About three years after its start, I thought: “Well, maybe this could be something more. Like a legit business. Other people are doing it, maybe I can too.” Even then, I had my doubts and I kept plugging away at my full-time job as a child psychologist. About five years after starting Damask Love, I finally made the leap to full-time blogger/business status!

How do you come up with ideas for crafts and DIYs? Where do you find inspiration?
I’m pretty sure my brain is like that chocolate factory episode of I Love Lucy: Always going and really hard to keep up with. My number one objective with every project is to keep it “doable” or “clever” - the best projects meet both criteria. I love taking a familiar project or material and making it totally approachable and “wow” worthy. I want each of my projects to have that “come-hither” quality that draws in even the most UN-crafty person.

What are some of the challenges, and benefits, to having a very specific focus for your blog - i.e. the doable DIY?
Damask Love has a fierce loyalty to crafting and DIY. When you type in the URL, you know what you’re getting. Similarly, you know what you’re NOT getting. There are no recipes. There’s minimal mom-talk. We make stuff. That’s how we roll. 

As a devout DIY-er, I’m constantly challenged when I work with beloved brands and still need to remain true to my mission. For example, when working with a hand-soap brand, I had to develop content that was engaging to my audience but also reflected the brand’s campaign. It came together in a messy, fun DIY that unified the brand’s story with my own mission to be crafty.

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@damasklove for Method Home

You’re also an HSN host and craft contributor on the Hallmark Channel. Do you credit your blog and active digital presence to landing those first on-camera opportunities?
Absolutely! Through the years of growing my blog and digital presence, I was also growing trust with brands I loved. They were getting to know me as a content creator and becoming familiar with my voice. One of those relationships was Cricut, a company that manufactures a popular electronic cutting machine. As my relationship with Cricut grew, they saw potential in me as a brand advocate and invited me to be part of a video campaign. That was my very first time on-camera. From that small video campaign, other’s noticed my comfort on camera and I eventually landed the TV gigs I hold today! It all started with building meaningful relationships with brands whom I trust and who trust me to create great content and be an engaging personality and ambassador.

We talked about the difference between ‘managing a content business’ and ‘being a blogger.’ Why has making that distinction been important for your growth as a content creator?
The #1 hardest part about what I do is explaining what I do to other people. After many trial and error responses to the “What do you do for a living” question, I’ve learned that the term “blogger” just doesn’t quite capture the whole she-bang. It’s too narrow. It’s too specific. Often, I am creating content for brands that is never posted to Damask Love. At times, I work specifically on social media campaigns rather than blog campaigns. As a television personality, I often am working to develop DIY segments and fun demos. “Blogger” doesn’t quite capture those components of my business.

You recently quit your full-time job as a child psychologist to dedicate yourself to Damask Love. Had you been planning to make that transition for a while? What are some of the challenges that came along with the change?
In 2015 I quit my job as a child psychologist and leapt into life as a content creator. Crazy, right?  As a psychologist, I spent my days in the office and came home to work on Damask Love. Essentially I was working two full-time jobs and after a while, it became too much to manage…especially after becoming a mom. Before quitting my job, I spent about a year stashing away money into savings so I’d have a little nest egg in case the whole “blog-thing” bombed and I never made a dollar. Fortunately, that didn't happen. Once I left my full-time position, I was able to really dedicate myself to treating Damask Love as the business it had become.

Of course, there have been challenges. Most notably, the challenge of managing my time efficiently so that everything gets done...after all, this is a one-woman show! I swear by my planners: one for daily tasks and another that is my editorial calendar. Seriously, I’d rather you steal my car than steal my planners. They are the only way I know what to do and when to do it! I keep them updated weekly with tasks, due dates, content, campaigns, and ideas.  

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@damasklove for Old Navy

More and more people are starting blogs, growing Instagram audiences and choosing ‘influencer’ as a career path. What advice would you give to an aspiring influencer trying to make it in our industry?
Oooooh – this is a toughy because I’m going to be blunt and honest. Here it goes: 500K followers an influencer does not make. Here’s what I mean: A large following is only one component of being an influencer. You have to know how to effectively leverage that following into a viable business plan where you have a point of view, an authentic voice, and marketable content. Without those pieces, all you have is a large following, which won’t amount to a successful career as an "influencer".

With a career that requires so much time online, how do you strike a balance between the constancy of the digital world and real life connection to yourself and others? Do you ever truly feel or go “offline”?
I actually go “offline” a lot. When I’m at home with my son, I rarely take out my phone. In the mornings, I don’t check my email until I’m in the office. Since so much of my job relies on social media and the Internet, it’s easy to unplug when I’m not in “work mode.” I especially like to do this on weekends when I take a break for work.  

Coffee with Collaborators is an interview series featuring the incredibly talented, creative voices in our community. Interested in having coffee? Email us.