Annie Spano: Cultivating a new norm with Style Collective

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“You don’t need to be competitive to make it to the top, you can be supportive of others while still fighting for your success every single day.” This is Annie Spano’s message to women everywhere and especially Style Collective , a platform for female influencers to connect, grow, and learn how to be successful bloggers and entrepreneurs. After a week as a Style Collective (SC) member you’ll realize that this is not just something she says, but she lives it, and instills it in the global community of over 1300 women she cultivates and mentors.

Just recently a blogger shared that when she first started blogging she would reach out to established bloggers and they would ignore her. I could hear the hurt in her voice. Many pundits say that it is the norm for women to compete with each other and protect their territory. With Style Collective however, Annie promotes inclusion and the ultimate sisterhood where women embrace the notion that there is indeed room at the top for each of us and champion the act of ‘reaching back to help up’ so that THAT is our norm. What’s really great about Annie however is her humility, genuine kindness and thoughtfulness. In an age where a quick text, a tweet or an email of thanks is enough she still writes personalized thank you cards.

Whoooooooooooooo doesssssssssss thatttttttt?!?

Customer service managers everywhere should take note as that’s how you nudge passive customers to the loyal fans column! This week I had the opportunity to interview Annie for our fashNcurious 5 series. Here is what she shared:

What inspired you to start Style Collective?  

I endured a work bully at my job. The work bully treated the rest of the women and me in my workplace with extreme disrespect and even emotional abuse. She loved to put me down and humiliate me in front of my peers during meetings, lock me in her office and go down a list of all the things she felt were wrong with me, micromanage every little detail of projects that I worked on, and make fun of me to my face (and behind my back). My experiences with that work bully shaped who I am today; without going through all of this, I don’t think that I would have started a blog, realized the need for an influencer platform, and worked to create Style Collective.

You could have started a Gardening Collective, Beauty or even Work Out. Why Style?

When you’re starting a business or a blog, you have to target a niche, a small subset of users who have a problem that needs to be solved. I started writing about fashion in 2015, and I leveraged my blog as a marketing tool, presenting myself as a fashion expert and creating opportunities for myself in the fashion industry. By using my blog to build my brand, I became a consultant for a local high-end fashion boutique, generating almost five figures of side-income while still working full-time. Like most women, I’ve always loved style since a young age, and I just loved the idea of helping other women who also love fashion.

Do you ever wish that you’d created Style Collective right out of college?

No, absolutely not. I was at the right place and right time when I created it. I was a math teacher for 2 years, corporate marketer for 5 years, and went back to school for my MBA during that time. All of these skills combined allowed me to create Style Collective. I wouldn’t have been able to create it right out of college.

You’ve created a platform to inspire women and propel women. What message do you want to give them?

This is such a good question. The mission of Style Collective is for women to empower one another while creating their own success. I endured YEARS of emotional abuse from a female work bully, which inspired the creation of Style Collective. I want to show other women that you don’t need to be competitive to make it to the top, you can be supportive of others while still fighting for your success every single day.

Where do you see Style Collective in the next five years? Or even in the next ten years? Do you see yourself retiring from this?

I have so many big things that I want to do with SC, and I feel like I have only scratched the surface in the last 15 months. Starting in June, I am bringing brands onto the platform so that they can reach out to SC influencers directly for partnerships. I want to bring consumers onto the platform so that they can connect with their favorite bloggers. I also want to add a marketplace for influencers to sell their digital products and services to both consumers and brands. I firmly believe in influencers being entrepreneurs as well, and the marketplace will support that vision. I am going to host a conference in 2018 in Raleigh, and I’d love to create a certification program for SC members to teach workshops all over the country. I am looking forward to bringing on my first full-time employee at the end of June and growing SC into a company with many employees! It’s so much fun being able to do this while impacting other women in a meaningful way.

How do you manage the needs of your immediate family with that of your style collective family?

Well, it is just my husband and I right now. I am thinking about getting a little dog after we move to Raleigh and I’m still on the fence about kids. Style Collective is integrated into my life, so I just work on it whenever I can. Sometimes it’s 14 hours a day, and sometimes it’s 2 hours a day if I am traveling. It just fits into my life, and I take breaks to workout, cook, and see friends or family. My Dad lives in NY, and my sister lives in Raleigh, so we see them a few times a year.

What five tips would you share with other women who want to transform their dream into a reality?

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  1. Find your passion: Assuming you have a traditional job, what you need to do is think about what you are interested in and passionate about. It can be MANY things, but you should focus and pick one thing to start.

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2. Become a subject matter expert: Do lots of research on that subject and become a   subject matter expert if you aren’t already.

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3. Find and identify a need: This is easier said than done. It doesn’t have to be a unique solution, but you have to start somewhere. Start your business immediately so you can at least pay the bills. Once you have been doing it for a little while, you can find your differentiator and make yourself unique. The biggest mistake is WAITING to launch.

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4. Survey, survey, survey: Ask your customers what they REALLY care about. Survey often and observe what they are saying. This is the POWER of knowing your customers, asking them questions and getting to know their unique needs.

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5. Find Your Niche: After you’ve been running your business for a while its the time to create your niche. Yes, that’s right because this is now you:

You are a subject matter expert.

You know what everyone else is doing.

And NOW you have customer insight.

 You can now niche down and do something unique within your field. This is called creating differentiation and will set you apart from your competition. You will be able to carve your space. This strategy can be applied to SO many businesses: jewelry making, designing clothing, creating art, becoming a personal trainer. Any kind of product or service can be created using this method.

So tell us, what are three things the world does not know about Annie?

Well, my friends and family know this, but my SC fam probably doesn’t know this. When I was 19 years old, I had corrective surgery for scoliosis. So my spine is fused with metal rods and screws!

In college, I was on the swimming and diving team; I placed in the top 5 for springboard diving at the state competition my freshman year. I also love to sing; I sang the national anthem at sporting events in college.

Who’s your favorite designer and why?

I think that I am late to the party of this one, but I just absolutely love Kendra Scott! Her jewelry is great, but I love her story of how she created the business and the obstacles that she overcame. Talk about becoming fearless. I would love to interview her on my podcast one day.

Are you a part of the new norm at Style Collective? If not then join us!

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