PaperCity Magazine

September 2014 - Houston

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Page 26 of 87

SEPTEMBER | PAGE 27 | 2014 In turn, the 4,000 retailers who sell these products pay a commission to the blogger every time a recommended item is sold. The company, which negotiates these fees for 14,000-plus global style publishers, acts as the middleman. Last year, rewardStyle drove about $155 million in sales to its retail partners — a 300 percent growth from 2012, with everything on track for the same level of growth this year. The company employs 87 people, maintains a second office in London and is currently expanding the Travis Walk location in Dallas. Like many inspired business concepts, this one emerged from personal need. "Amber was our first client," says Baxter, 32, who studied engineering and math at the University of San Diego. He was a research and development engineer at a medical device company and a hedge-fund manager before earning his MBA in finance and strategy/ entrepreneurship from SMU in 2011. "When I met her, she had a suitcase full of jewelry she had designed." Baxter evaluated her spreadsheets to determine how best she could earn revenue through her blog, Venzedits, which was then a portfolio for her personal styling business and a showcase for her jewelry designs. Amber describes the premise of the blog as "I like this, and you should like it, too. Today, I'm wearing this, and you can purchase it here." Making money from the enterprise was the hitch, though. Banner ads were graphically unappealing, and joining multiple advertising networks was a logistical maze. Amber and Baxter realized that advising customers on what to buy in a store commanded payment for that service, so advising customers online should have the same financial benefit. Soon they understood that they could monetize online product promotion, too, if they figured out the technology. What began as a personal need for Amber expanded into a platform for style bloggers just like her: aesthetically driven technology-averse creative people looking for an easy way to navigate a website, track sales and earn cash for their efforts. Julia Engel, who started writing Gal Meets Glam as a junior at the University of the Pacific, says, "I was excited to use a platform where everything was in one place. It was really hard to keep track of money coming in; rewardStyle made it friendly. And they are continually trying to make it easier and easier, so we can focus on creating content." A year and a half after signing on with rewardStyle, Engel says she has 150,000 unique visitors per month. When Amber and Baxter began thinking about the potential for such a business in 2010, just a few other style bloggers were establishing themselves in Dallas. Nationally, fashionable young men and women were beginning to discover the medium's power of personal expression, yet they didn't consider or even expect that they could earn an income from it. Amber and Baxter sensed what bloggers needed at the time and were able to maximize a couple of industry trends, notably the disruption of traditional media and "THERE IS SO MUCH CHURN IN FASHION." — AMBER VENZ BOX Saint Laurent top, Proenza Schouler gauchos. Tom Ford sunglasses, at Neiman Marcus, Tootsies. Valentina Kova ring, at Sloan/ Hall. Zara shoes. Amber Venz Box wears 3.1 Phillip Lim jacket and Carven dress. Baxter Box wears Brunello Cucinelli suit and shirt. Ralph Lauren shoes. 3.1 Phillip Lim jacket and Carven dress. Pair of 10 Crosby/ Derek Lam skateboards from the holiday season's Neiman Marcus x Target collaboration. Roberto Cavalli ear cuff and ring.

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