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Welcome to A Year in the Life, a new series where we follow Bay Area entrepreneurs through the highs and lows of the fashion business.
Photo: Caroline Curran
"I feel like life unfolds and you just go where you want to go," Caroline Curran says. Five months ago, the San Francisco native launched her personal style blog, Perfect 10 SF. "I was looking online and saw an article about bloggers and outfits that you should copy. And I thought, 'the only difference between me and these bloggers is that they're doing it.'" Life, since then, has unfolded in an unexpected way.
After an all-nighter at the University of San Francisco library —Caroline works part-time at a private school, and she's a grad student— Perfect 10 was born. "It started off with shoes because I have a size 10 foot. Which is so nasty. I was like, 'I can never find shoes. Maybe I'll help women like me, in Nordstrom Rack, trying on these size 10 boats.' And it kind of evolved." That evolution includes her J.Crew-and-Kate Spade-preppy looks, punctuated by shoes picks that she considers "perfect in the sense that it's a good price, or you can wear it more than once, or you feel happy about it."
In the saturated style-narrative space, it's a wonder that any new site can find an audience. Blogging is gamble that rarely yields a payoff, but —despite the odds against her— Caroline is ready to leave her job and bet on herself. For her, it's the next step in trusting her instincts.
"Everything I've done for the blog has been this gut feeling." When her gut told her that she needed press to promote her new endeavor, Caroline hosted a party at Ambiance and contacted the Chronicle about running a style profile. When she became aware of the business of blogging, she watched YouTube videos to learn how to monetize her site. Now she's focused on affiliate links; preaching the gospel of ShopSense, while itching to be accepted to rewardStyle.
Caroline confesses that rewardStyle has rejected her three times. "I applied the first night I started my blog... and they were like, 'come back.' I went back at the end of summer... I want to either get accepted to rewardStyle or work with their competitor, because I'm a business woman. But I also want to get in their network; it's huge to work with other bloggers. That's how people get a lot of followers."
Followers have come to Perfect 10 through word of mouth, Instagram, and contests. Caroline has partnered with local stores like Toss and Sports Basement on giveaways and discounts, and she promotes her blog through heavy hash tagging on Instagram, where she already has 12,000 followers. "I see the original bloggers —Song of Style, Damsel in Dior— all these blogs that have tens of thousands of followers. And I think we can't follow their path. They were first to market. Where I see this going is growth in Instagram, growth in press, quality content."
Currently, she's making a nominal sum from ad placement, but she wants her blog to be generating revenue in the five-figure range by its one-year anniversary next April. (It will probably be in the four-figure range, she concedes, but she's pushing for five.) Caroline also dreams of a future filled with branding opportunities, a shoe care product line, and —in an ideal world— a Chanel partnership. She laughs while saying, "I can't wait for Karl to call me and say, 'Caroline, you and Blake Lively are doing a shoot together.' And I'm thinking, 'Geez, Blake. Okay… if I have to share the spotlight with you.'"
Jokes aside, she has a lot of work ahead if she's going to achieve her goals. Most bloggers don't earn much from their blogs, and fashion industry insiders, like Robin Givhan, suggest that the golden era of fashion blogging has passed. Is Caroline's plan realistic? We'll find out over the next year as we follow her efforts to build an empire.