How a Newlywed With a Performing Arts Degree Beat Out Bank of America and Transformed the Blogosphere

How a Newlywed With a Performing Arts Degree Beat Out Bank of America and Transformed the Blogosphere

For the month of February, we’re talking all about college student entrepreneurs. Our 4-part series looks at four very different businesses started by studentpreneurs and the key takeaways that can help you in your business. Questions? Suggestions? Want us to feature your business? Drop us a line! anna [at] atxwebdesigns [dot] com.

Who: Naomi Davis

What: (originally called The Rockstar Diaries)

Where: The Juilliard School

The Problem: Wanted to connect with her friends and family thousands of miles away.

The Solution: Started a blog and regularly posted life updates.

Naomi Davis was a lifestyle blogger before lifestyle blogging was even a category, back when blog titles (including hers) still had “blogspot” in the url. In 2007, she was in her final year at Juilliard in New York City and newly married to her husband Josh. She started her blog to keep in touch with friends and family back in Utah, but it quickly reached a much larger audience.

The blogosphere then looked much different than it does today. Instead of beautifully designed websites featuring styled photos by professional photographers (and an assembly of advertisements down the sidebar), blogs were little more than internet journals. They were personal, reflecting one’s personal tastes and preferences because blogs hadn’t yet become synonymous with brands and marketing. Davis’ reflected her talent for design, and early on showcased an appealing aesthetic. Take a look at this archived page from January 2010. Everyone on it is beautiful and happy, and everything featured is beautiful and stylish.

So of course it became a smash hit. Mr. Davis, a Columbia graduate, had a successful career in banking. He was Vice President at Bank of America Merrill Lynch before leaving to work full-time managing the blog (which by 2014 had become a thriving business) and related projects, including creative video, fashion and product collaboration with top brands. In 2017, Forbes named her on their list of Top 10 Parenting Influencers.

No official word on how much the blog brings in each year, but if living in a 3-bedroom apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan is any indication, the business is pretty successful.

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Top 3 Lessons and Takeaways:

1. Do you. Love Taza (Davis’ blog and brand) has flourished because of Davis’ distinctive tastes. In her blog’s early years, she also ran an Etsy shop which sold headbands. Now her blog regularly features fashion, home decorating, makeup, kids style, art, design, photography and videography. Most striking, perhaps, is her penchant for mixing bright colors–like on their walls, as well as in both their former living room (with the bright yellow piano) and their current living room. Don’t be afraid to let your personality shine through. It’s what will set you apart from everyone else.

2. Sometimes It’s Nice to Have a Break. Years ago, Salon ran a piece featuring Davis’ blogs and the many like hers in which the writer called blogs like Love Taza “weirdly uplifting.” There’s no stress or drama on these blogs. Everything is beautiful and everyone is happy. Many businesses set out to change the world, and leaders to become the next Steve Jobs or Elon Musk. But sometimes, it’s just nice to see people being happy.

3. Just Start.  Don’t worry so much about the details that you never get off the ground. Do the things you’re good at. Do them consistently. Share them with the world. Who knows–maybe 10 years from now it’ll be you on the Upper West Side.

How David Gilboa Lost His Eyeglasses, Made $1 Billion, and Changed the World (With the Help of Some Friends)

How David Gilboa Lost His Eyeglasses, Made $1 Billion, and Changed the World (With the Help of Some Friends)

For the month of February, we’re talking all about college student entrepreneurs. Our 4-part series looks at four very different businesses started by studentpreneurs and the key takeaways that can help you in your business. Questions? Suggestions? Want us to feature your business? Drop us a line! anna [at] atxwebdesigns [dot] com.

Who: David Gilboa and Neil Blumenthal

What: Warby Parker

Where: The Wharton School

The Problem: Eyeglasses are incredibly expensive, especially to people with limited income.

The Solution: Sell glasses online directly to the consumer, and donate a pair for each pair sold.

When David Gilboa lost his eyeglasses, he had a problem.

They were his only pair, and they cost $700. As a full-time student, he couldn’t afford to replace them so he spent an entire semester squinting in lecture halls and, as he put it, complaining to anyone who would listen about the exorbitant cost of glasses. Why were they so expensive?

He asked this of everyone, but it was Neil Blumenthal, with some experience in optometry, who took it seriously. Blumenthal and Gilboa got with two other friends and spent 18 months brainstorming and refining the idea for the company that would become Warby Parker.

From the beginning, they wanted the company to make a positive impact. In addition to drastically reducing the price of eyeglasses and making it easy for customers to try on various styles, they also implemented a social mission into their business model. Like Tom’s, for every pair purchased, they donate a pair.

It sounds like another do-good company started by Millennials, but in fact, Warby Parker is a unicorn.

Prior to its founding, customers had few choices about eyewear. One single company owns and produces all the eyewear you have to choose from. And what they don’t own, they have exclusive licensing agreements with (glasses with fashion labels, for instance). They set the price, and the consumer has no other option but to pay.

It was a crazy idea, that a couple of college students could disrupt an enormous, powerful, deeply-established monopoly like Luxottica, and many people told them so. People with far more experience told them there was no way their idea could work.

The company was founded in 2010. By 2015 they were valued at over $1 billion.

Top 3 Lessons and Takeaways:

1. Choose Mentors Wisely. Everyone told them why it Warby Parker could never work. The mentors they trusted asked tough questions, but were also encouraging and positive. That’s what a great mentor is for: to help you clear the challenges and remind you of your own potential.

2. Think Long-Term, Then Bottom-Line. Building a company with a legacy requires thinking about the big picture. There will always be the bottom line to consider, but what about the purpose of your company? What impact are you making 5, 10, 50 years down the road?

3. Focus. The four founders didn’t rush to start their business. They carefully considered it, talked, sought advice, tested and planned for a year and half before their launch. As their company has grown, they’ve continued to focus on what they do best. Should they ever go public, go international, or roll out other products, it will be when it’s best for the company–and its customers. In Gilboa’s words, I can’t think of many businesses that have failed because they were too focused.

The Five Most Important Features of Your New Website

The Five Most Important Features of Your New Website

Business owners love a sexy website. They tell us to make their website look cool. They want their users to be impressed by it, to spend time (and money) on it.
What they don’t usually think about are the really practical but crucial elements of a website that we don’t notice until they’re not there–or, worse, done poorly.

1. User Experience

Each website has its own purposes and objectives. None of them can be achieved if it isn’t stupid-easy to navigate the site. I think this is the single most important element of any and every site because I have no patience for websites that confuse me or present me with broken links or missing pages.

As we always say: know your target audience. Know why they’re there. Know what they want. Know how to get them to what they want.

The key to nailing this part? Test, test, test, then test some more. It doesn’t matter what’s on your site or how good it looks if people can’t get what they need, or leave out of frustration.

2. Mobile response

Do I need to say this? 80% of internet users own a smartphone. Hell, you’re probably reading this from yours! Make it mobile responsive.

3. Analytics

Installing Google analytics is so easy that I’m sure you already have it on your site. The question is: are you using it?

It’s the end of the year and you’re planning your marketing for next year (right?). Your analytics will tell you almost everything you need to craft the web site piece of your marketing strategy. How are people finding your site? What keywords are they using? How long do they spend? How many pages do they visit? Which pages to they visit?

You want to know traffic sources, keywords, and user behavior so you can audit your marketing, determine your ROI, and craft growth strategies for the future.

4. About

I hate when I got to a website and can’t figure out what the company does or what their product is for. Have you had this? You go to the about page and it says a bunch of lofty things about how the company has been utilizing innovative technology since 1986 and is a leader in its industry. What does that even mean?

Just one sentence somewhere on the site about what you actually do would be very helpful to the lost visitors who wander to your website from a social media link and wonder, What the hell am I doing here?

Point ‘em in the right direction. Send ‘em home.

5. Social Media Links

It may be a Millennial thing, but I always check out social media links when I visit a new website. It’s a great way to get a feel for the business. I want to know if they’re posting funny memes or if I can see Instagram updates on their Facebook feeds. Do people like them? Is there a new product coming out? Is it a cool company?


Put your social media links up and invite people along (it’s an easy way to grow your following–and effortlessly generate more leads).

When The Dumb Business Decision Is Actually the Smart Business Decision

When The Dumb Business Decision Is Actually the Smart Business Decision

Back in the day (10 years ago) YouTube was this website where random people from all over the world could upload random videos—and random they were. Remember when Charlie Bit My Finger was a sensation? There were virtually no production values. People had digital cameras and it was a big deal if its quality was more than a few megapixels (who even talks like that anymore?). There was no HD—pretty much everything was 240p quality. And if you did create a smash hit like Charlie Bit My Finger (or Charlie the Unicorn? Shoutout!), you had no way of getting money from it.

Man, things have changed so much.

Now kids grow up wanting to be YouTubers—like it’s a legitimate career. Just kidding—thanks to advertisers and sites like Patreon, it is a legitimate career. Congratulations, Kids!

Patreon is a platform that puts the money making in the hands of creators. Instead of relying on ad revenue (especially after a change in YouTube’s algorithm left it drastically reduced)**, creators can produce content directly for their audience who can, in turn, directly support the creators’ efforts. Support can be given for as little as $1 a month.

In December, Patreon announced that they’d be changing their fee structure. I’m not a Patreon creator so I don’t entirely understand the ramifications of the decision, but they must have been huge because Twitter blew up. Many creators were upset with the changes claiming It would significantly hurt their revenue. Subscribers were upset about the change in fees and a good chunk of them left the platform. It was pretty ugly.

So what do you think Patreon did?

Better yet, what would you have done if it were your company receiving the backlash?

Defend it using the same logic that was used to make the decision in the first place? Explain to your base why these changes are good for them? Talk about your vision moving forward?

That’s what most companies do. They make the decision that’s best for the company (ie profit and growth) and either think little of their target audience or simply underestimate the impact it would have on them.

So it’s remarkable that, just days later, Patreon issued an apology and officially rescinded their decision.

We still have to fix the problems that those changes addressed, but we’re going to fix them in a different way, and we’re going to work with you to come up with the specifics, as we should have done the first time around. Many of you lost patrons, and you lost income. No apology will make up for that, but nevertheless, I’m sorry. It is our core belief that you should own the relationships with your fans. These are your businesses, and they are your fans.


Evidence that sometimes the smart business decision is the dumb business decision.

Maintaining integrity and authenticity with your customers–especially your core customers, your target audience–is how to build a business that lasts. It’s how you recover from dumb decisions, and it’s how you leave behind a legacy. Establishing trust is the real smart business decision.

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