Meet Elisa Camahort Page, co-founder and COO of the ground-breaking online network BlogHer, Inc., with its flagship conference Variety magazine calls the “ComicCon for women who blog.” Sure, she’s known as one of the fore-mothers of the term marketers love and many parent bloggers hate – “mommy bloggers” – but, as Camahort Page tells us, there’s much more to the site than that.
Before launching the site, Camahort Page was a senior-level high-tech marketer, helping develop digital infrastructures for voice, video and data delivery. It was on a whim that she started blogging after receiving free blogging client software from Apple for renewing her membership contract with mac.com. As she described it, “I started messing about with it and discovered I had lots of opinions. And, I liked sharing them.”
She had seven blogs. “Most of which are still public, but sorely neglected,” Camahort Page told The Grindstone. “I had a personal blog, a marketing/social media blog, a vegan blog, a green blog, a health blog, a political blog…I think that’s everything.”
Launching BlogHer, Inc., in 2005 with fellow co-founders Jory Des Jardins and Lisa Stone, Elisa leads events, marketing, public relations and research for the company, growing its renowned BlogHer conference from a single conference hosting 300 attendees in 2005 to a series of events hosting over 5,000 attendees in 2011. Elisa’s efforts have garnered coverage from major news outlets like The New York Times, the Washington Post, Advertising Age, Forbes, Fast Company, CNN, The Today Show and the Wall Street Journal. And, revenue for the company has grown to eight figures trailing for the past two years under Camahort Page’s management.
She sits down with us to discuss life before BlogHer, the business of women and even her favorite trash TV shows.
We have to ask. How do you feel about the term “mommy bloggers”? Some parenting bloggers are offended by this term.
We refer to moms who blog as parent bloggers. Not everyone who blogs and is a parent blogs about parenting, so sometimes it’s not even clear what people really mean when they talk about mommy bloggers…is it an identity thing, or a content thing? I’m not a parent, so I wouldn’t try to speak to why some folks like or dislike the term…and some do like it, while some dislike it. Our surveys show that women, in general, don’t think of themselves or put themselves into little demographic boxes the way marketers want to. We think of our lives pretty holistically. Really, how do you separate out the impact of food, parenting, career, travel, green, entertainment on your life? Aren’t they all inter-related?
Did you always want to be a writer? Or, did you always know you wanted to be a business owner?
No and no. I was always a pretty good writer. I liked to write stories when I was younger, and writing skills helped me advance in my career. But I did not envision myself as “a writer.” I also didn’t really dream of running my own business. My role model for my career was pretty much my mom…who went to work when I was in junior high and worked her way up the corporate ladder. I saw myself doing the same.
Blogging is still a very young medium. How did you know that it would grow into something bigger than you’d ever imagine? For women also looking to be entrepreneurs, what tips can you give them to be on the lookout for the next tech wave that you caught successfully?
Blogging is young, but the urges to connect, to self-express, and to exchange information and advice are not. Blogging and other social media tools give us the opportunity to scale and amplify those natural human tendencies. I always think of leading an innovative company as being all about listening to your community (your customers, your users, etc.), understanding what they’d like to achieve, or what problem they really need to solve, and then figuring out how to lead them where they already wanted to go anyway. So much of the Internet seems to be about trying to *lure* us somewhere, to do something. But now that we have so much power to create our own personal Internet experience, it’s really more about joining your community where they are and delivering the opportunities right to them.
When you were just starting out with BlogHer, did you have trouble describing what you did for a living to friends, acquaintances, family?
Well, I worked in tech before BlogHer, and in the commodities industry before tech. So, I’m quite used to people not understanding exactly what I *do*. But I do find that when I share that I’m an entrepreneur, or own my own business, that seems to be sufficient for a lot of people to be pretty impressed.
When and how did you realize blogging was a business?
I had what I call my peanut butter and chocolate moment soon after I started blogging. I was reviewing things…books, movies, music, restaurants. I sent a restaurant review of a little local Greek deli to some former coworkers, and the next time I went to the restaurant (about 10 days later) there was a group of folks form my former company there having lunch. My review had been passed around the company, and the restaurant had become the new lunch place of choice. I realized them that blogging could be an excellent tool for marketing and communications…that’s how I got the idea to start my Worker Bees consulting business that I ran before giving it up to focus on BlogHer exclusively.