<I>Style Me Pretty's</I> Larson: Women Business Leaders

BOSTON ( TheStreet) -- If you haven't caught the headline yet, Style Me Pretty is one of the fastest growing and talked about online wedding publications.

Abby Larson, bridal industry entrepreneur and founder of the popular wedding blog, launched Style Me Pretty five years ago to fill an untapped void in the online wedding space.

The publication collaborates with more than 1,700 vendors and receives hundreds of real wedding submissions per week.
Abby Larson of Style Me Pretty

Larson has successfully wedded bridal blogging to business. Style Me Pretty tops the wedding publication list with more than 18 million hits per month and 1.6 million unique visitors, the company says. In the social media space, Style Me Pretty has more than 65,000 Twitter followers, over 119,000 Facebook "likes" and approximately 520,000 monthly visits from Pinterest.

Larson is continuously evolving the brand and looking to engage new audiences. Style Me Pretty recently debuted " Style SMP at Home," the site's brand new lifestyle and entertainment section.

With so much content to choose from, Larson is also about to launch her first compilation book displaying a collection of real-life weddings as well as a practical guide for any bride planning a wedding. Style Me Pretty Weddings: Inspiration and Ideas for an Unforgettable Celebration goes on sale on December 18.

Saying that entrepreneurism is in her blood, Larson started the blog while she was in the process of selling a wedding invitation business she started.

"I was trying to find a way to stay connected to this industry that I have fallen in love with," she says, and saw a need for edited and curated wedding content so that brides and wedding enthusiasts wouldn't have to wait for monthly magazine issues.

Last week, TheStreet interviewed Larson about her success.

Why is the blog so popular?

Larson: I had timing on my side. Style Me Pretty was one of the first places to go to see that edited content. The timing was great. The blog was just really well received right out of the gate. I had a really well-known place link to me and traffic that was pretty huge for our early success.

The second reason is we put out great content. That's always been the goal with Style Me Pretty.

The other secret to my success is Tait, my husband. He transformed this little blog into something that people were reading all over the world. He tripled revenue by handling the back end . He does all the development on Style Me Pretty.

Where does the content come from?

Larson: We accept content from brides with the photographer permission and from vendors from all over the world. Tait built a submissions tool and vendors can go in and upload all their pictures. And through the back end we can automatically create those photo boards. We get about 600 weddings a week in.

Did you know the idea would be a hit? What lesson can other entrepreneurs learn from your experience?

Larson: I don't think I knew with certainty it would be a success. I did know the wedding industry is a really visual, beautiful space and it's a very profitable space. And then it's a space where your target market is constantly craving ideas, so it's this culmination of these components.

No entrepreneur knows with certainty. You trust your gut and your instincts and you get off the sofa and you start doing it.

How does social media, specifically Pinterest, fuel your efforts?

Larson: For the first four years of Style Me Pretty we didn't use Pinterest. All three social media sites have been strong. Facebook has been much more visual. Twitter great for vendors and getting that community vibe. Pinterest is new but they deliver far more traffic to our site than any other social media site without question.

Pinterest was really designed as an outlet to document your inspiration and ideas for your personal self, not necessarily for your business, and businesses come in and use it as a form of marketing. We decided to approach Pinterest kind of the way it was originally intended. The editors and I pin things that we truly love and that speak to us. It really worked in our favor by approaching it that way. It's quite amazing the amount of traffic it has sent us.

As a business owner, what has been unexpected for you?

Larson: The most surprising thing with growth is a different approach to decision making. When it was just me running the site I used to be able to make a decision and turn on a dime and it was done. Now we have more than 20 employees, millions of people check into the site -- it's become much bigger and you have to be a lot more careful and more thoughtful with the changes and decisions you do make. We pushed out products that haven't worked.

For instance, The Style Circle. The hope was that it would tap into the social media craze...it just really didn't take hold because the decision was made hastily. It really got away from our core business model. Thankfully we're a small organization to shift.

Now we know that every decision we make is important and it affects someone in some way and so we're a lot more careful with that now.

Is now a good time to start a business?

Larson: A lot of people would say no. I'm not one of those people. My mantra is it's always a good time to do something you love and are passionate about. I believe that starting a business needs to be a thoughtful decision. You're justified if you have an idea that no one has done before and it has relevance or you can do something better than everyone else is doing it. If you can say yes to one of those two things then it is a good time to start a business.

Can you share the best piece of advice you received on starting a business?

Larson: The best piece of advice I ever received was from the woman that bought my stationery company: Know what you do and do it really, really well. It's so important that you know what your core is and you stick to that.

My second one is to not be afraid. It means a lot of different things -- don't be afraid of change, of what's coming up next, be willing to try and experience and understand that not every outcome is what you anticipated and that's ok. Really successful businesses are built on agility and change when necessary.

-- Written by Laurie Kulikowski in New York.

To contact Laurie Kulikowski, send an email to: Laurie.Kulikowski@thestreet.com.

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