Stevie Nicks once sang the timeless lyric: "Have you any dreams you'd like to sell?" It's a question that has been on my mind since attending the seventh annual rewardStyle conference based in Dallas, TX, called #rStheCon. And this might sound crazy, but in this day and age, few understand the nuance of this lyric more than a self-made influencer, the dominant business model of a tech-savvy generation.
The rewardStyle conference, which launched in 2012, is the brainchild of co-founder and president Amber Venz Box, a 30-year-old American wife, mother, and entrepreneur who has been named Glamour's Woman of the Year in the field of technology and in 2017, was a Forbes 30 Under 30 honoree.
The three-day event's parent company, rewardStyle, is essentially a global tech platform that "empowers influencers to provide for themselves and their families through entrepreneurship." The website states that it was founded "by an influencer, for influencers." And the conference, like the platform, is invitation-only. Those at #rStheCon are selected based on internal performance metrics measuring audience growth and engagement over the last year. Once chosen to come to the Dallas, influencers have the opportunity to network with major global brands, from Mary Kay and Macy's to Urban Outfitters and eBay.
This year, 22 global brands took part. They also learn more skills from said brands as well as marketing experts on how to successfully monetize content. And of course, they blow off steam via a number of high-style events. One such event, the finale party, featured many Instagrammable moments, from a St. Lucia performance and swings to ballerinas and dramatic balloon displays reading "Dream Big."
Additionally, 202 "hypergrowth" lifestyle influencers attended the conference from 10 countries. Half of those invited were new to the conference. The combined following of the 202 selected was 38.6 million, and Instagram impressions for the conference using the #rStheCon hashtag came in at over 14,000 and counting. Scroll through the gallery below for a look at what went down.
Walking around the Crescent hotel and retail complex, where #rStheCon took place this time, was surreal: It was as if all the world's most impressive makeup tutorials, high-fashion looks, notable selfies, and worldliness as typically seen through a curated Instagram grid came to life in real time, all amid the Crescent's post-modern Texan glam scenery. All meant for getting the shot. For the feed and the story. And probably reality TV, except, you can't deny the fact that the earning power of influencers yields massive events like these. Brands are obviously buying in and the stats speak for themselves: an internal rewardStyle report notes that 83% more influencers using the service earned $100,000+ in 2017 than in previous years.
Currently, 40,000 self-described influencers across beauty, fashion, luxury, and lifestyle verticals from around the world take advantage of rewardStyle's free services, which include connecting them with useful, data-driven marketing tools and year-round consultations on brand development. A database of over 4,500 retailers invest over $100 million dollars into the platform to help sell their products online. And in turn, the self-sustained business of being an influencer becomes a maximized and lucrative one for those utilizing rewardStyle's services.
The power of influencer marketing is also leveraged in rewardStyle's LIKEtoKNOW.it app, which lets influencers share their diverse personal style and engage with their followers about their passions. But also, per a company statement, LIKEtoKNOW.it prides themselves on being the "number one influencer shopping app, specifically designed for people looking to search and shop from relatable people, inspiration and context."
So, again, in this context, rewardStyle and its annual conference are destinations where business-savvy dreamers on the Internet can actually sell their dreams and fuel more of them. Turns out Stevie Nicks, musical prophet, was on to something after all. PAPER met a few influencers at #rStheCon who shared bits of advice and debunked common misconceptions. They have managed to make their dreams go live on the Internet and beyond.
Erica Hoida, Founder of Fashioned|Chic Styling, 1.1 million followers
Follow Erica on Instagram @fashionedchicstyling.
PAPER: What advice would you give someone who wants to be influencer?
Erica Hoida: You have to have a unique point of view and hone in on that point of view.
What is the hardest part of your job?
It's a 24/7 job. People think it's really glamorous, but it's so much hard work — from photos to editing to styling. I think about it all the time.
Since your life is your work, how do you achieve a work-life balance?
Working out is my sanity. I get up in the morning and work out really hard. Taking time for myself and getting into nature is really important. It's how I bring myself back.
What's your favorite place you've been as a result of your life and work merging?
I was just in Iceland, and it's definitely one of my favorite places. There are blue lagoons and aquamarine colors that are seriously spectacular. I snowmobiled on a glacier. Bora Bora is also beautiful — it has the most insanely saturated aqua color it doesn't even look real. I wouldn't have been able to experience these places if it wasn't for this job.
What's your favorite idea that you've brought to life?
My idea was to become a personal stylist, and my blog was a hobby. That just went and I guess my best idea was to just go with it!
Cynthia Andrew, Creator of SimplyCyn, 158k followers
Follow Cynthia on Instagram @simplycyn.
PAPER: What's the hardest thing about being an influencer?
Cynthia Andrew: The hardest thing is knowing when to stop, because you're always going. Everything you're experiencing feels like something you should share, from your travel to your meals. You have to tell yourself, OK, I'm going to put the phone away and live in this moment.
What's the best place your work has brought you to?
Any space where I get to meet a lot of really inspiring women. I have to say that most people think that what we do can be very superficial, and that it's all surface. But I've met so many women who have inspired me to do things I never thought I could do, to be braver, to challenge myself. So I think the best thing about the platform for me is not just connecting with likeminded individuals but people I actually have a lot in common with.
"Sometimes being an influencer can seem glam and you're traveling — that's all great, and those are some of the perks. But you actually have to have something to say."
What's the biggest piece of advice you'd give to someone who wants to become an influencer?
The biggest piece of advice is to be honest about who you are and what story you have to tell. What exactly do you want to share? I think sometimes being an influencer can seem glam and you're traveling — that's all great, and those are some of the perks. But you actually have to have something to say. That's the starting point. Start with the story you want to tell, and what you wanna share, and what you want to present to the world. Everything else will come from that.
What's your favorite place to go to?
The truth about travel is there are so many interesting things to do all over the world, but one place is very special to me. It's Paris. The reason why it's special to me — it's special to a lot of people — is because it was my first experience as a traveler. I went on a study abroad when I was in college. It changed the way I saw the world, I opened myself up to people and experiences like never before, and it started my addiction to travel. Now every time I go somewhere, I'm aware that there is more than what you see on the surface. The Eiffel Tower that I'm in love with; those neighborhoods and streets with cafes that I would sit in, those are the memories I like to create when I travel.
Camila Coutinho, Founder of Gartotas Estupidas and Iconoclasts, 2.4 million followers
Follow Camila on Instagram @camilacoutinho.
PAPER: What would you say to someone who wants to build a following of their own?
Camila Coutinho: I think the best thing in this business is to be original. Trust that you can make something different from everyone else. There are a lot of people doing the same thing. But trust anything that makes you different, and trust your gut. Get inspired, but don't copy.
In your life, what country or city have you loved going to?
I loved going to Dubai for a travel series I have on YouTube, but a nice thing is I get to travel a lot inside my own country — places I woudn't go if I didn't have to work. Then, I discover something beautiful like Las Cataratas del Iguazú, or Lencois Maranhenses, I've never seen something like that. Discovering my own country has been quite a journey.
"You have to keep reinventing yourself. Everything changes very fast."
What's the hardest part of doing what you do?
I've been doing this for 13 years already, so I think the hardest part is you have to keep reinventing yourself. Everything changes very fast, which is good and also the worst thing. Another hard thing is its a job that depends on you: where you are, who you hang with, how you're feeling. Sometimes you just want to be home with your friends, you know? But I think everything's changing a lot. My plan is to invest in other business so I get some of my routine back.
Can you tell us about your new book, Estúpida, Eu?
It's a book that tells my story over the last 13 years and fashion, market, influencers arrival all changes, which I talk about. It's an interpretive guide that will help you trust your dreams and ideas and go for it.
Photos courtesy of rewardStyle