Some people are just born with an entrepreneurial streak. Amber Venz Box is one of those people.
She was in sixth grade when she took her first leap into the business world, setting up a business deconstructing and reselling jean skirts. It was here that she learned her first lesson in running a business – the market price of the goods must exceed that of the production cost. “Also the teachers didn’t take too kindly to me mending my wares in the back row of their class.” Venz jokes.
With her first failed business under her belt before the age of 13, she was just getting started and the ‘failure’ did anything but deter her from pursuing other entrepreneurial ventures. Next came the jewellery business she set up a few years later, by which stage she was a senior in high school. Having learned a lesson or two the first time around, she worked hard on the business and by the time she reached college it was earning her $100,000 per year. She continued making the jewellery in her dorm room before heading out and selling her products to the department stores in Dallas.
In 2011, at 23 years old, Venz’s passion for the fashion industry was still going strong as she’d just made her entrance into the world of styling, trying her hand at personal shopping. In a bid to attract more customers, she set up her own blog but in doing so risked cutting herself out of a job. She quickly realised that the kind of customers she was trying to attract were busy people hence why they had booked her services as a personal shopper in the first place. “By just giving them access to everything on the website, they didn’t actually need to book time with me anymore, they could just buy what they wanted online.” At that point she started thinking about ways to monetise her blog. This move would be the one to put her name in lights. It was this blog that served as the seedling that grew to be RewardStyle.
So, along came RewardStyle, a platform that allows influencers to earn money from their social media content. LIKEtoKNOW.it soon followed as an extension of the platform, allowing users to buy products that their favourite influencers have included in a social media post. Shoppers simply like the photo featuring the product on Instagram and receive an email including all of the information with regards to purchasing the product.
Since its launch in 2014, through LIKEtoKNOW.it, shoppers have purchased $250 million worth of merchandise and the platform boasts upward of 30,000 influencers using RewardStyle to monetise their Instagram. High profile users include Meghan Markle, who right up until she was forced to close all social platforms upon becoming a royal, was a RewardStyle influencer through her blog, The Tig.
Last March saw the launch of the LIKEtoKNOW.it app. According to the press release, “By downloading the app, consumers get a push notification with the ready-to-shop information when they screenshot enabled influencer images across the mobile web, including the content they discover inside of closed mobile social platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat.”
At only 30 years old, Amber Venz Box has been listed on Forbes’ 30 under 30, as Fast Co.’s ‘Most Innovative’, Fashion Group International’s ‘Innovator of the Year’, one of Business of Fashion’s 500 and Entrepreneur Magazine’s ’15 Female Entrepreneurs To Watch’.
As such an influential figure in entrepreneurship, what advice would she pass on to those with aspirations to launch their own business?
Learn as much as you can about your industry
“Learn what motivates people in your industry and take advantage of all of the opportunities that come your way.”
Be your own customer.
“We created RewardStyle to create something that I really needed. Look for problems in your own life, a real problem that you and other people have, and try to fix it. And if you continue to be your own customer then you will be able to properly critique and improve your product.”
As for if she were starting over building her following of 90k all over again, Venz’s advice would be:
Treat it like a business
“As with any business you need content, inventory and a business plan.”
Know your USP
“In order to be competitive, you really have to have a differentiated point of view and a willingness to provide a high volume of content. I emphasise volume because quality is a subjective thing – it doesn’t need to be the most fantastic photo in the world – in fact sometimes that’s a little bit a alienating for customers. An influencer starting today needs to be pushing out original content three times a day, at least, across social media.”
“Goal setting is so important – it’s better to have a goal and miss it than not have a goal at all. Do the research, learn and teach yourself how to grow. Peer relationships are so beneficial, not just as a support system, but a place to actually get your information. This is such a new industry where there’s not necessarily any one given book that’s going to teach you how to do it and do it well, so spending time investing in relationships, whether it’s with brands or with peers can definitely help you grow.”
While her motivations in the early days may have focused on things like owning her own apartment with a wardrobe bursting with beautiful clothes, those goals have somewhat evolved over the years. Nowadays her motivation to work harder in her business comes from other women taking control of their careers and their work schedules through RewardStyle.
Speaking to elle.com, Venz Box explained, “It’s incredible just to see the thousands of success stories that have come out of that – women who already had careers, maybe a chief architect or teacher, nurse, high school student, or maybe a mum who wanted to help and contribute to support the family, but wanted to have work hours that meant they could be with their child.”
Originally, Amber Venz Box set out on a mission to get her influencers the recognition they deserved within the fashion industry, hoping to reach a point where bloggers sitting front row at fashion week was normal. She quickly realised that this wasn’t necessary because not only were they not going to get the acceptance she hoped for but her influencers didn’t care. While Box’s foray into blogging was part of her goal to become a fashion editor someday, a lot of her clients started blogging as a means of supporting themselves. With her clientele ranging from out of work creatives to stay at home mothers, Box is deservedly proud of the fact that her platform supports and empowers people from all walks of life to have flexible careers and creative outlets.
So, what’s next for the brand?
A book, of course. A beautiful, coffee table worthy book filled with inspirational imagery from world renowned RewardStyle influencers. The book spotlights stories from almost 100 of RewardStyle’s influencers where they share their tips, tricks and offerings of advice through a Q&A format covering inspiration behind their content, how they got their start in the industry and all of the juicy gossip about what they were doing pre-influencer life.
LIKEtoKNOW.it: Stories from the Influencer Next Door is available from Amazon, £29.99