After moving to the Bay Area two years ago from New York, Stefanie Schoen found herself with a choice: continue working as a fashion buyer and merchant, or follow her passion for blogging and interior design and go out on her own. Lucky for us, Stefanie followed her heart and launched a gorgeous blog, The Style Safari, while honing her interior design skills as a consultant for Homepolish. She’s also growing her family—her first babe is joining her crew any day now. Already a pro when it comes to wellness (she’s a fitness instructor!), textiles (she sews!) and connecting with other mamas in the Bay Area (hello, new heymama San Francisco ambassador!), Stefanie spoke with us about how she’s prepping for her next big role: motherhood.
We loved spending time with you while at our SF launch recently and are amazed at how beautifully you rock the baby bump! Tell us more about your career and how focused on The Style Safari after moving across the country.
My career path has evolved immensely as I transitioned 2 years ago from working in the corporate fashion world as a buyer and merchant to working for myself. While I have had my blog, The Style Safari for 6 years, it has always been a side project to my day job. When my husband and I relocated to Marin from NYC 2 years ago I knew that if I didn’t take a chance on myself then, it would only get more difficult as mortgages and babies inevitably add to the costs and stresses of life. As the blog wasn’t quite bringing in the money that I needed it to, I supplemented with all of my other hobbies; teaching barre and dance classes, learning photography and shooting for a few tabletop brands, designing a line of fabric prints and selling them as passive income, and eventually helping out my friends with interior design projects. Basically, I threw every one of my skills against the wall to see what stuck, and while I was making money, I was stretched so thin that I didn’t really have the time to make any one of these jobs truly successful. It wasn’t until I had a sudden knee injury and found myself unable to teach or sew (or walk) that I was forced to focus on my top 2 businesses, the blog and my interior design. I applied to Homepolish as an interior designer and have since grown my interior design business completely separate from the blog, which is fantastic. With the blog, I am able to talk about fashion, travel, my impending motherhood, clean beauty and all of the things that make me ‘me’. In contrast, my interior design business is all my clients, and their needs and budgets, which provides a much needed balance to get out of my own head! Both businesses provide me with a flexible schedule and the ability to travel, which was always a top priority for me.
What was the tipping point that really took you from daydreaming to knowing you wanted to take action and turn your passion for blogging into a business?
I think my life has been more of a series of tipping points than just one lightbulb moment. Sure, you could say that it was when I moved, or when I hurt my knee, but the reality is that ever since I was young I envisioned working for myself, and consciously or not, have tried to make decisions and build skill sets that would make it slightly less scary to go out on my own. That said, I still feel as if I have a long way to go and have several even bigger business ideas brewing that I hope to bring to life in the next year. But taking small steps to realizing a passion is so much more achievable than one big leap, so I feel comfortable with learning one thing at a time, slowly testing out the waters and building as I go.
The Style Safari now have over 80K followers on Instagram. Was there a certain post and/or period of time you can point to where you really started to grow your following?
Absolutely. One of the most outrageous projects I did on my blog proved to be a huge growth opportunity. As a long time sewist and apparel designer, I have never missed an episode of Project Runway and still find myself screaming at the TV disagreeing with the judges whenever it’s on. I decided right after I left my corporate job that I would play along with the next season that aired, meaning I would watch the episode, do my best to recreate the same challenge and post it on my blog and instagram account before the next episode aired. I videotaped and edited each webisode, having my mom act as my ‘Tim Gunn’ and even had stressful testimonials of the sewing process. I asked my blogger friends and past colleagues to be judges, and had them send in video reviews of each of my challenges. I did some crazy things like raid a party store with $50 in 30 minutes to make a party dress, and create a dress that looked just as interesting in regular light as it did under black light. The official Project Runway instagram account took notice and started posting my challenges each week asking their followers to weigh in on the result, which provided huge growth for my instagram account! While it was one of the most stressful and expensive projects that I have ever done, it was fantastic for my social and getting my name out there.
That is so amazing! What are your thoughts on the rise of the micro-influencer and how do you see that changing your business?
I feel like there have always been micro-influencers, but we just didn’t have a way of tracking them before. We all knew someone that influenced us; whether it be a college friend with great hair or a colleague that never seemed to have ‘one of those days’. Now, we are just able to track who those micro-influencers are through social media! I never imagined that I would be one of those people, as my taste has always been a bit more outside of the box, but somehow people like it! I don’t see micro-influencing as my business, but as a way to get to where I want to be in my inevitable business. It’s more of a nice validation that people are listening to what you have to say, not necessarily a be-all end-all business in itself.
How do you manage the sheer volume of engaging in an authentic way with your followers? Do you have any apps, hacks or assistants?
I wish! I spend a LOT of time on instagram authentically engaging with my followers. I reply to comments and DMs all day long, and try to ask and answer questions in my posts and insta-stories to promote even more engagement. I would say the hack I have is focusing on one or 2 platforms MAX. I don’t do twitter and only recently started investing more time in Facebook (a little late I’ll admit!) but that allows me to not feel overwhelmed with too many platforms to manage. I do use a lot of apps to edit my photos and plan my feed, which include A Color Story, SnapSeed and Snug.
You are about to become a mama! How do you anticipate this transition influencing the way you approach your career?
This is the 10 million dollar question! I am torn about this because at the moment I am actually scared of letting go of any aspect of my career, and in fact, want to keep growing and building new businesses so that I can feel I am setting the right example for my daughter. However, I am often told that everything changes when you have a child and that rightfully so, your priorities shift. I am looking forward to the idea that since my time will be limited I will have to be laser-focused on my goals. I need that kind of shift in order to help me prioritize my true passions, and really be more efficient with my time.
What 3 things do you recommend for staying stylish while pregnant?
Only 3? Hah! #1, join Rent the Runway Unlimited! I joined at about 5 months just when things weren’t fitting right and I don’t think I can ever go back. I started just by sizing up on tops and dresses, then switching to renting stretchy midi dresses and oversized sweaters. They launched maternity on there now so there are even maternity jeans so you seriously have no reason to buy anything!
#2 Dress head to toe. A long dress or separates in matching colors is lengthening and far more flattering on the bump than cutting yourself off with jeans and an ill fitting blouse. I bought thick knit midi skirts in black and white and wear them at least 3 days a week with matching black or white sweaters to be comfortable while still looking professional for meetings. Plus- they are great for all of the dopplers, ultrasounds and stress tests that you might have- easy to roll down and wash that gel off of!
#3 Show off the bump! I wore more fitted clothing this pregnancy than most of my life and loved it. Especially in months 5-7 when you are barely showing. Trying to mask the bump is so much more difficult and inevitably adds bulk to other parts of the body where you don’t want it!
Those are great tips! We’re big Rent the Runway Unlimited fans too. You are a big supporter of sustainability. Tell us more about this.
I had a bit of a moment with our most recent election- not in a political way, but with the idea that I was useless as a citizen of this country. I struggled with what I could do to make an impact, and realized that what I am knowledgeable about is the fashion industry, and that supporting a more sustainable or slow fashion way of life was how I could make an impact. I think embracing slow fashion can come in all forms, so I tried to find a path that worked for me, even if that meant the occasional purchase from a brand such as Zara! As much as I try to buy organic, fair-trade and sustainably made clothing, I also support sustainable practices such as buying less clothing overall, fixing or reinventing old items in my closet, re-selling through Poshmark and ThredUp, and using rental companies like Rent the Runway to satisfy my need for trends and variety, to cut down on overall clothing waste that is clogging our landfills and emitting dangerous toxins into the environment. If you’re interested in reading more, here is a Beginner’s Guide to Shopping Sustainably that I wrote for my blog!
We’re so excited to be launching heymama in San Francisco. If you had a day to wander anywhere in the Bay Area where would you go?
I absolutely love San Francisco, but if I had a free day I would drive up north to Healdsburg and enjoy a day of wine tasting! First I would go to Arista or Ridge for a tasting, then follow with lunch at Campo Fina followed by a slice of pie at Noble Folk Ice Cream & Pie Bar in the square. Then I would explore the fun shops, like One World Fair Trade and Saint Dizier home before heading home!
You’re a heymama ambassador (yay!). Why do you think it’s empowering for women to work together? What have you learned most by working with other women?
Even as recently as two years ago I still thought that you had to choose between excelling at your career and excelling at motherhood; because these stereotypes are what are widely depicted in movies, books, and the types of women that I had worked with in my corporate career. However, after starting my business and meeting so many other mamas who have found ways to find balance and excel in work and home has truly changed my mind as to what it means to be a modern mother. I hope that being a heymama ambassador allows me to further change the stereotype, and to inspire other women to follow their creative or business dreams. It’s so important that this community of like-minded mamas band together to help each other, so that our sons and daughters don’t grow up believing the same stereotypes that many of us grew up with.