Fashion retailers and designers around the country are talking about Amber Venz, and anyone with a style blog knows her website, rewardStyle. That’s because the ingenious 24-year-old from Dallas is helping both large companies and small bloggers alike make more money off of online sales. After registering with rewardStyle, bloggers receive a commission when a reader purchases an item they post; similarly, companies that sign up with rewardStyle see higher traffic and online sales. Sounds like a win win. And Amber’s burgeoning company continues to grow, expanding around the globe and offering lifestyle product later this year. The co-founder and president who isn’t quite a quarter-century old gives Everygirl readers a peek into what drives her, how she went about starting a business straight out of college, and how she keeps up with it all.
Full name: Amber Elise Venz
Current title/company: President, rewardStyle
Educational background: Bachelor of Arts in Corporate Communications and Public Affairs from Southern Methodist University.
Throughout college I worked part-time at a local high-end boutique, and during the summers I took on various internships across the country. I remember sitting down at the kitchen table with my parents and saying, “Here is where I want to be, these are the steps that are going to get there… by the way, the first stop on this life map is Los Angeles. I am 19 years old and going to drive out to California to work as a stylist’s assistant for a few months.” Don’t worry, I took my gun (socially acceptable in Texas).
The following summer (2008) I took an internship with Thakoon in New York. The week that I arrived, his fit model passed away unexpectedly so I got to be his stand-in fit model/intern for a few months. No, it did not pay, but I learned so much about the culture of fashion in New York.
What was your first job out of college, and how did you land that position?
My first job out of college was the buyer for the boutique I mentioned earlier. I had worked at the store part-time* all through college so after three and a half years of training, it was an easy transition.
*Part-time for me meant that if I was not in the classroom, I was at the store. I did not need to work, but I was addicted to the clothes.
Tell us how you went about starting rewardStyle.com?
I started my fashion blog, VENZedits.com, in April 2010 as an extension of my personal shopping business – I wanted it to be my fashion diary and styling portfolio. I started out posting three times a day, and I was telling all of my secrets to my readers. I quickly realized that I had cut myself out of my own business- my clients were now buying the products I suggested off of my blog and not booking appointments with me anymore.
The Idea: I decided to monetize my blog so I did what any blogger would do- I went to every blog I knew and snooped around to see how they were making money. I ended up becoming a member of about eight ad networks. I had a spreadsheet with the logins, passwords, which ads were where; it was an administrative nightmare and a total time-suck.
After about seven months of that, I teamed up with the technology company NastyGoat, and we developed rewardStyle.com.
This site was built around what I needed as a blogger: I wanted all my advertisers in one place, one login, one reporting system, one check. I wanted to get paid like I used to as a personal shopper, the ability to compare commissions between stores on a single product, a way to track my click-to-sale conversion so I could see what all of these links were worth to me.
How Tough: It is very hard. Tremendously hard. There are several pillars to the foundation of this company and each pillar has its tests; luckily, we have a team whose strengths lie in different places so we each take on our own set of tasks- there is no way that one person could run everything and do it all well. That said, finding the right people is difficult and more importantly time-consuming. For each position we want to work with the strongest possible person.
After building the right team, getting advertisers to pay attention was another task; (it’s almost exhausting thinking about it.) To sum it up, this is not a full-time job, it is a full-life job. If I am not eating, I am planning and when I am not planning, I am executing or sleeping.
Tell us about rewardStyle. Where are your offices? How large is the staff? How has it grown since the launch?
rewardStyle provides fashion, beauty, and lifestyle bloggers with relevant product links for whatever products they have decided to talk about, feature or wear. These links allow bloggers to get paid online the same way personal shoppers do offline. My background is in personal shopping and if I took a client into a boutique, I would get a commission on whatever that client purchased. This is the concept we have taken online. If you direct a reader to a retailers site, we allow you to get paid a commission on whatever that reader purchases at that site for a pre-determined number of days (generally 30 days, although this term varies by store).
Bloggers are working as personal shoppers by styling and suggesting products and we, as bloggers, are keeping the masses shopping by creating a desire for products. (You are welcome, retailers.) Everything about rewardStyle is performance-based; we allow bloggers to get paid exactly what they are worth to these brands and retailers.
rewardStyle is based in Dallas, TX in the heart of uptown. We office on the bottom floor of a two-level Georgian-style home- it has so much character. We officially launched on June 1, 2011 with just five of us in the office. Since then we have grown tremendously – more than doubled in six months. We now have employees in San Francisco, New York, London – all over the world.