I met Sandy online 6 years ago through some friends we had in common. This Madrid-born woman who arrived to the United States in 2002, was at the time studying a Master’s Degree in Criminology, working in the U.S. Senate and had also launched Sira&Mara, a virtual accessories store. One day, Sandy announced she was moving to Miami and leaving politics. A short time later, there she was, on television, giving fashion advice, while Sira&Mara kept growing with success. The truth? I was not surprised! With just the little that I knew about her, I knew she was not crazy and she was just chasing after her dreams. A few months ago at Hispanicize 2016, we finally got to know one another in person and I have to say that, if it was a luxury to meet her online, it was more than gratifying to hug this woman who always has a smile on her face.
When I decided to launch this project, I wanted to share stories. Stories of women I admire and who have revolutionized our market as “Latinas in Media.” And it is an honor for me to inaugurate this section sharing the story and work of my dear friend Sandy Bodeau.
Latinas in Media – Who is Sandy?
Sandy Bodeau: Each and every one of the times I am asked: Who is Sandy? I reply the same thing. I am a dreamer. I was born dreaming, I grew up dreaming and I want to die dreaming. I don’t understand the world without having a new dream to fulfill. That is what makes me alive and what has driven me to my greatest achievements.
LM – How did you get involved in the digital world?
SB – I got involved in the digital world when I created my accessories company (which nowadays combines my online store, my styling company, my blog, and my appearances on television as a fashion expert) with only $800 and I didn’t have a budget to promote it. Not using even a cent of my savings was the business choice I could ever make. It forced me to push the boundaries and to focus on creative ways of promoting a company no one knew about. It was then that I realized that social networks were a vital (and free) tool to get my company on the map.
The truth is that the idea of the blog was not mine. I came from working in the world of politics, where your personal life is completely separated from your professional life. All the advertising that I did for Sira&Mara was done through other fashion bloggers. After a year of having launched my company, one of my clients encouraged me to upload pictures of myself on social networks in order to see my style. “If we love your accessories, we will probably love your style. It would be helpful to see how you style your own pieces.” When I read that, I saw the opportunity to promote my pieces in a more aggressive way and I followed her advice. When I started to upload pictures of myself wearing my accessories, those pieces became my best-sellers. After a few weeks of seeing those results, I decided to buy a camera and create a blog with the sole intention of showing how I used Sira&Mara accessories. What has happened with the blog since then was completely unexpected.
LM – What do you want to achieve with StylePledge and what makes it different from other blogs?
SB – Although this may sound crazy to other people with businesses, I don’t usually set goals on my professional path. My greatest achievements have been accomplished through hard work and focusing on doing my job better every day and the opportunities have just come up. This is why I don’t establish goals for myself. My goal is that my work speaks for itself. To get better every day. To learn every day. And then I let life surprise me as the result of that hard work.
Style Pledge is different from other blogs because when I launched it, I did not allow myself to be influenced by the flavor of the month and I created the type of blog I wanted to create. In that moment (and up to a certain point, this still happens), the usual thing was to promote certain popular brands which were the brands that the masses wanted. I was, as always in my life, swimming against the current. I showed my audience that you don’t have to shop where everyone else does – and go broke in the process – to look the same or better. I remembered that I arrived to the USA with nothing, and I would have loved for someone to give me advice on how to dress well when I couldn’t afford to spend a lot of clothes. My mission, from the beginning and until today, has been to help women to be divine regardless of their budget.
LM – What has your blog achieved?
SB – Personally, and most importantly for me, it has allowed me to have a voice to share what, for me, is the essence of the American Dream. I arrived to the United States with $800 (which is why I launched my company with that amount symbolically) without knowing anyone and without speaking English. I graduated first of my class with two majors and I worked in the Senate for years. Then I left everything to launch Sira&Mara and keep fulfilling my dreams. The blog and its diffusion through social networks have allowed me to share this journey with my community to be able to show them that I could do it and that they can do it to.
On a professional level, the blog was the channel through which I was discovered and given my first chance on television. I never set out to do it, nor was working on television one of my goals. But one great day a producer was looking for a fashionista for a segment on her show and when she asked her team, one of the presenters proposed me as a candidate since she was a follower of Style Pledge. From then on, I have worked as collaborator in fashion segments in several shows, including my current collaborations in Despierta América.
LM – Which is the most-read post in your blog?
SB – Every Wednesday — starting just a few months back — I share the recreation of a celebrity’s look, and this section has become the most popular in the blog. Undoubtedly, my most-read post could not be outside of this section that has been received with such acceptance by my community. The recreation of Kate Hudson’s look is the most popular post so far, with over 10.000 visits.
LM – What advice would you give to the Latin woman who are thinking of launching a digital project with the objective of monetizing it?
SB – My first advice always is: find your own voice and what is the unique ingredient that you offer to your community. We all have something that is unique and irreplaceable. If you manage to identify that, it will be evident in your work and the results will come on their own. Even though Style Pledge is a full-time business nowadays, it was never my intention to earn money on my blog. Focusing on monetizing is not the right strategy, in my humble opinion. Of course, it can be a goal, but our focus when it comes to creating content has to be to express what we want in a genuine way and with our own voice. If we do that, we will be doing it in a passionate way and that passion is contagious. The rest comes later.
LM – What challenges do you think Latin American women face in the undertaking of a digital business?
SB – I think the greatest challenge we face when it comes to jumping into the world of digital business is to keep balance between being faithful to our culture and at the same time creating attractive content on a global scale. It has been a challenge for me in the fashion industry because I started my digital presence in the English world. When I started working on Spanish-speaking television shows, I realized that I also had to speak to the new member of my community who spoke Spanish. With this transition, a new audience with different tastes and different opinions regarding image came along as well. At the end of the day, my recommendation is to focus on what one wants to transmit, understanding that it is impossible to please everyone.
LM – Have you considered writing in Spanish?
SB – I write in Spanish on all my social networks and, at the moment, only in English on Style Pledge. My biggest presence in the digital world is through social networks and that is the reason why I felt the need to adapt to my new Spanish-speaking audience. If the day comes when I feel that it is necessary in Style Pledge too, I’ll do it with pleasure. I am always open to continue evolving.
LM – What tools do you consider essential when it comes to creating content and handling your blog and social networks?
SB – The first tool I consider a lot of people ignore is education in media. Not everyone who has a phone with a camera should create content unless they don’t care whether the content has quality or not. I spend an hour every day reading articles that help me improve my content (be it about photography, trends I have to incorporate in my content or about monetization). Once we have a knowledge foundation about how to create content and handle our social networks, it is definitely worthy to have a good camera. It is true that we can take spectacular pictures with our cell phones and different applications, but, in my opinion, nothing beats a picture taken with a good camera. Once we have created good content, it is essential to discover what digital platform works best for us. Become an expert in that platform and do not waste time on others where your audience is minimal. You don’t have to be everywhere. It is better to create a strong presence in one of them than a non-existant presence in all of them.
LM – You work on both television and digital media. Which one do you prefer and why?
SB – Even though I am passionate about television and the adrenaline necessary to survive in the medium, I would not trade the digital world for anything on the planet. I am PASSIONATE about being able to connect with people that I would have never been able to meet, and to connect with on a very personal level. There are people who I have connected with through social networks to whom I speak almost every day and that magic is priceless.
More about Sandy!
A blog: The first fashion blog I followed, which was also the first blog to collaborate with Sira&Mara, Nany’s Klozet.
One “Latina in Media”: My friend and personal trainer, Adriana Martin. I think she is a genius on digital communication in her niche.
One social network: Instagram
One App: VSCO Cam
One YouTube channel: I admit that I am not a great YouTube consumer, but as of late, I can’t miss a single video from my friend Anabelle Blum’s new channel, Familia Perfecta.
One brand: Can I say Sira&Mara? It has my grandmother and aunt’s name and there will never be a better brand for me!
One phrase: The best piece of advice my father ever gave me: “Do the important jobs with the humbleness you would do the mundane jobs, and do the mundane jobs with the pride you would have in doing the important jobs.”