Manhattan has some of the best pizza in the world, as every New Yorker will tell you, namely Craig Agranoff. Upon leaving his beloved city for warmer weather in Florida, he made it his mission to find pizza similar to the quality in his home state, but instead stumbled on the opposite. In an effort to share his pizza horror stories with family, he jokingly launched Worst Pizza, a blog that included descriptions of cringe-worthy pies with accompanying photos.
The reaction was surprising.
“All of a sudden I was getting hundreds of hits per day,” remembers Agranoff. “I had people from all over the country wanting to write reviews. It was nuts.”
While readers were excited, pizza shop owners were outraged. Agranoff received threats from entrepreneurs who said their shops were shutting down as a result of a bad blog review. This reaction inspired Agranoff to pivot his blog’s focus; today the site highlights great pizza places around the country and leaves out the bad ones.
A few years into writing his blog, Agranoff began getting consulting requests from pizzeria owners. This interest led to the founding of The Pizza Experts, an advisory firm on all things pizza. Today, Agranoff enjoys consulting and says he’s been pleasantly surprised by the link between his blog and a successful business venture.
Agranoff’s blog trajectory is common within the online community: blogger starts writing for fun, readers flock, blogger realizes he/she can make money with a product or service relating to blog content, and success follows.
Grace Bonney’s story is proof of this path. An avid design fan, she started blogging in 2004 as a way to display her portfolio. While she was having fun writing, her readership was ballooning—to the point where Bonney decided to turn her blog into what she calls, “The magazine I always wanted to work for.” Today her blog, Design*Sponge, attracts more than 75,000 readers per day and she makes her money with a combination of online advertising, publishing projects and speaking engagements.
When her husband’s job moved them to Houston from Chicago, chemical engineer Alicia DiRago found herself without a job and unsure of what to do next. She loved crafting and do-it-yourself projects, so she started teaching monthly in-person classes and launched Dismount Creative as a blog to describe course projects.
Pretty soon, readers from around the country were requesting DiRago host classes in their cities. These requests sparked an idea: why not create a product for readers to purchase that can quench their need for an in-person class? And so Whimseybox was born. For a monthly subscription fee, DiRago and her rapidly growing team ships a physical box filled with products for DIY craft projects. Along with the box, DiRago writes blog posts detailing creative ways to use the boxed items.
The company is doing so well that it was selected to participate this summer in Excelerate Labs, a Chicago-based startup accelerator, and is now in talks with several venture capitalists ready to hand over an initial round of funding.
Jaden Hair is a the talent behind Steamy Kitchen, a wildly successful cooking blog that attracts more than 200,000 page views per month and has landed her segments on The Today Show and CBS Early Show. She offers four tips for budding bloggers/entrepreneurs.
- Focus on a specialization. “The narrower the niche the better,” says Hair. “You want to be known for one thing.”
- Develop multiple skills. Not only can Hair write about food, she can also shoot video, edit it herself and speak in front of the camera. If you don’t have these skills, sign up for local classes or imitate bloggers/talent that you idolize.
- Create a plan. This can be anything from a formal business plan to a sketched out vision of what you want your business to look like, she says.
- Build multiple streams of income. Hair makes her money with advertising revenue, sponsorships, spokespersonships, book deals and even sells cooking products on her website.
“I have a partnership with Cooking.com,” she says. “Whenever someone referred from my site buys a product, I get a cut.”
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