Emily Winters – Owner of Merrypad.com and For Your Merrypad

Emily Winters is a DIYer and home improvement novice blogging about her design and decor-related activities in the lifestyle blog Merrypad.com. It’s only natural that her career would be progressing as it has been; she was raised in rural Western NY with parents determined to make their little ranch farmhouse highly customized to meet the needs of the family, and therein was exposed to the benefits of a DIY lifestyle from a young age. Now 26 and crazy for anything reclaimed, she takes great pleasure modernizing and updating antique objects and materials to give them a renewed life in a more contemporary era. After obtaining her BBA in Marketing and advancing in the real-world workforce for 5 years (she’s an ex-ad agency girl but won’t let it define her), she’s diving back into a business that appreciates the reclaimed, and yields a happy life, all while being determined to tell a story about how one man’s burn pile can become another man’s treasure.

[quote style=”boxed”]I make a lot of lists. I’m good about acting on what I have written down on real paper, so down go all of my ideas, processes, needs, and wants that go into making things happen. I get it organized and tangible, and then I transfer it all to my Google Calendar. And then I do it.[/quote]

What are you working on right now?

I just launched an etsy site as the starter platform for my reclaimed woodworking business. Consequently, I’ve also been working to establish vendor resources for amazing materials, and getting myself pretty dirty in sawdust while I do the woodworking myself. I’ve never actually sold my own products online before, but I’ve sold to others directly, and the business-side of things just fascinates me, so I’ve also been working to build an online presence and network and design a tiered business plan to set goals and expectations for the summer months.

In a related-but-unrelated venture, I’m also actively seeking dedicated sponsors for Merrypad.com; rather than offer up inexpensive banner ad space, I’m seeking 1-5 companies that would sponsor me and allow me to be an extension of their own PR and social teams. Know anyone I should talk to?

What does your typical day look like?

It’s changed dramatically recently; I’m not picking up and commuting to the office anymore, I’m waking (at the same time) and working from the sunroom in my Rochester, NY home. I spend the early morning answering emails, blog comments, and organizing custom frame requests before spending the late morning and early afternoon following through on order fulfillment, developing and photographing more products, and sourcing new materials (which happily gets me out of the house for a few hours).  I spend the bulk of the afternoon organizing posts for the blog, editing, photographing, writing new content, and also doing projects which I often include on the site whether they go well or awry. If I work into the evenings at all, I’m likely resizing and archiving photos, answering emails and drafting guest post content for other blogs that I contribute to. I engage in the various social media applications that society tells me I should, and stay apprised to those goings-on throughout the day, every day. And I’m good at shutting down too: I unwind by watching DVR’ed Regis & Kelly, Criminal Minds, and Say Yes To The Dress. And I usually tune into SiriusXM Cosmo Radio from morning to night; it’s forever entertaining to me, at this point in my life.

3 trends that excite you?

1. Honeysuckle pink in design and decor.
2. Tunics paired with dress pants that fit more like yoga pants. Woot for business casual!
3. Patchworking. The day-to-day routine bored me and also felt unstable, even though I was gainfully employed throughout that whole rough economic time. In my new gig, I’ve given myself the time and opened up to the opportunity of accepting many different projects and activities not only keeps me on my toes, but exposes me to new media, materials, and networks.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I make a lot of lists. I’m good about acting on what I have written down on real paper, so down go all of my ideas, processes, needs, and wants that go into making things happen. I get it organized and tangible, and then I transfer it all to my Google Calendar. And then I do it.

What inspires you?

Case studies of the successful are a real driving force behind why I feel like I can achieve what I want to. Sites like this that highlight the achievements of entrepreneurs in business and craft really remind you that hard work will pay off, and making your passion your life’s work will only make it that much more worthwhile.

What is one mistake you’ve made, and what did you learn from it?

I’ve undercharged. Considerably. When I first started selling my frames, I didn’t consider the real material investment upfront, nor was I paying myself back a fair wage. I realized and quickly changed my strategy; a reality-check on what the cost of all materials/tool usage/time and recalculated my price points put me in a better position to succeed.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Coming into the blogging world with a background in marketing and advertising, I’m well-aware of what companies are willing and able to pay for marketing and PR support through their vendor agencies. There’s a perception that blogger promotion should be free or done in exchange for product, but I think that blogger spokespeople are far more influential and powerful to a brand than their received income would indicate. I’m fully aware of how much money the PR agency who contacts me to write about their client’s curtains is earning, yet there is no cash available directly to the bloggers who are making it their life to promote brands and act as an influential source in their niche (maybe we just don’t want any more curtains or painting supplies, more often than not, we want cash money). In comparison, when companies hold focus groups, it’s highly likely that the recruited participants are compensated for their time and viewpoints (in my experience, depending on geography, length of session, and subject matter, this is $25-$100/hour). Whether it’s an idea or a need to modify perception of blogger value, one of my goals is to try to get others in the blogosphere to appreciate this perspective, and reiterate the influential value of bloggers to companies in need of PR. Does this even answer the question or is it just something obvious that companies aren’t considering?

What do you read every day, and why?

Harvard Business Review (Daily Stat, specifically): I’m a bit of a data and human behavior junkie, and the daily info about consumers and business is usually pretty cool.
Blogs: I visit many, but I consistently read a few of the ones that resonate and inspire me; Oh My! Handmade Goodness, Scoutie Girl, Young House Love, and Craft MBA. I read my boyfriend’s blogdadand.com too, because I’m a supportive girl and love, love, love his writing style.
Facebook: Admittedly. Both my personal and business pages. Moreso than stalking, I love knowing what the companies and consumers that are my target audience say, do, think, read.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read, and why?

Rework by 37 Signals. For me, it was a great reality check for companies and workers in understanding common things like time management, practical organization strategy, product development, and general economics. And it’s a damn good read. Quick too, as in, you can read it in one night, and you’ll probably try to read it again immediately. It’s been the book I’ve consistently recommend for the whole last year.

What is your favorite gadget, app or piece of software that helps you every day?

Google Docs. I don’t even have Microsoft Office on my Mac these days; I use G-Docs happily and benefit from the ability to share files and access them anywhere, even from on my iPhone while I’m out and about.

Who would you love to see interviewed on IdeaMensch?

Katrina (Owner of Salt City Spice)
Meg Robinson (Owner of Red & Main, redandmain.etsy.com),
JB (Owner of buildingmoxie.com)
Ethan or Fred (from oneprojectcloser.com)

Why should bloggers receive cash payment from companies instead of free product?

I’m optimistic that over time, more corporate marketing pros will adapt a social marketing strategy that includes the dedicated sponsorship of strategically selected bloggers to represent and/or speak to their target audience; as a blogger, I’d act as an extension of a marcom team and promote the brand, product, offers, giveaways, etc. socially in a dedicated manner. I strongly feel that this type of dedicated sponsorship is a better strategy for long term product and brand promotion (as opposed to one-off giveaways or month-long sponsorships that you see so much more often these days). And I think it’s a win-win for companies (benefitting from exposure and consistent editorial inclusion) and bloggers (benefitting from a contracted source of income). Anyone out there up for testing this out? My email’s below.

What’s your Starbucks order?

Venti peppermint non-fat, no whip, no-foam, extra hot mocha. All year long. Yum.


For Your Merrypad:
Emily Winters Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @merrypad