Girls Perspective caught up with Mariam Bashorun the founder of the online blogging community Black British Bloggers. We spoke about launching the platform, tips for starting a blog, plus more.
How did you get started as a blogger?
It started after I graduated with a degree in journalism which just happened to be around the time of the recession. I couldn’t find a job in journalism and I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do. I was working in H&M and I just needed a creative outlet, I needed something that would remind me of what I wanted to with my life. So I started the blog initially because I was making cushions and I did the blog as an accompany shopping page for the cushions but I realised that I loved writing the blog more and so I ditched the cushions and kept up with the blog and I’ve just been writing ever since.
What sort of things did you experience in running your blog?
So many amazing opportunities. I was surprised at how many things could happen to you through a blog. I went to Nigeria and Africa Fashion Week London where I met so many interesting and different types of people who were all very creative and very entrepreneurial.
Why do you think there was a need for launching Black British Bloggers?
I noticed that there was a lack of community within black British bloggers, I would join other groups or I’d go to events and I wouldn’t really see black British faces. I just didn’t know that many black British bloggers except for big names like Patricia Bright and Shirley BEniang. So I just thought one, it would be nice to read stories that matched up with my life views and also I saw there was a huge gap between helping brands connect with an audience that is underserved and not that visible, in terms of meeting other black bloggers and enhancing the economic empowerment of the black community.
What was the hardest thing about launching the platform?
I would say keeping up with demand. When I first started, I didn’t know where it was going to go. I just kind of started it and hoped for the best and within 6 months I was already getting requests from people asking me to do things I couldn’t commit to because of my full-time job. Also, because I didn’t really think about it as a business when I started I’ve had to adapt and adjust to learning to keep up with people’s needs and remind myself that as a business it has to be sustainable.
How do you manage the business? Do you work by yourself or do you have staff?
For the most part, I do it by myself. I have had a social media intern and for the events, I work with an event planner and I do it full time as well. I realised that I couldn’t do this and hold down a full-time job, but I will say it wasn’t a decision that came lightly and I did work and put a lot of time and effort into saving up and diving in before I committed full time. That is one thing I would say to anybody thinking about this, is that to have the dream is not enough you also have to think about the financials and also lean on the privileges you do have. So if you have a family that is willing to support you while you build a business ask them, but if you have children and you have rent to pay you also have to manage those expectations as well.
How do you approach others British bloggers and brand partnerships?
I have adopted an approach that’s kind of like ‘if you build it they will come’ because that is how I started the business. I basically put it out there and said if anybody is interested they will hop on board. I did do a lot of social media promotion making noise on Twitter and Facebook and being on Instagram liking people’s pictures. Also finding bloggers and making sure they knew the platform existed and did a similar thing in terms of getting brands to know that we are here. I sent out emails to connections I already had and reached out to a couple on social media and so now it’s sort of becoming a word of mouth with the blog starting to self-populate. So now bloggers tend to find me and because of the work that I’ve put in and being on social media and building the SEO, businesses can also find us much more easily.
What kind of blogs stand out to you?
I read a bit of everything. I am a massive blog reader and I do enjoy YouTube videos and podcasts. So for me, it’s the ones that are passionate,the ones that the creators don’t care about being vulnerable and are very honest with their content. I feel like when it’s too polished I can look at magazines for that, like I don’t need it to be super polished, I just need it to be different and so those types of blogs I really enjoy.
What sort of difference have you seen in the blogging community since starting the platform?
Personally, for me, I have become more aware of how diverse the black British blogging community is and how many different stories are being told and from so many different perspectives. In terms of addressing the whole monolithic, black person blogging is a great way to do it because you get involved with so many different kinds of people and so many people are hardworking and hustle for what they want. Also, it has kind of broken down the stereotype when people say black people don’t support one another. In this community bloggers support each other they will engage with you on social media, retweet your content, comment on your posts and people will collaborate with you. It’s a big shift in trying to foster a community so that we become a unified front.
What has been the biggest learning lesson you have had since you started?
I would say that not everyone is going to see the value in what you do and that’s fine because not everything is for everyone. So, if you start something and you get good feedback that’s great and if you get negative back feedback that’s also fine because you can learn from it, you should be aware of how it benefits your business and what you can take from it. You can’t do everything on your own and sometimes you need to say to people I need some support and find support from others and taking in advice as well.
What ways would you like to evolve the business?
As I am based in London at the moment, I would like to take it outside of London. I feel like black British people outside of London are underserved by events because most things tend to happen in London. So, I would really like to take our events outside of London, something definitely on the horizon. Initially, it was an idea with bloggers in mind but I want to expand to podcasters and YouTubers. We have started a few bits here and there but I want to create a stronger space for them so they feel more engaged with the community.
What sort of influences do you have in terms of running your business?
I am influenced by other small business owners. I don’t find the traditional way of running a business appeals to me. I would rather go for something non-traditional and gives you that work-life balance. As a woman eventually at some point I may have a family and I would hate to have choose between my business and my family. So, I’d like to create a way of working that allows for that and is a bit more fluid and a bit more organic and says we don’t live to work we work to live. So, I’m most inspired by other businesses that have done that so, for example, Ibi Meier-Oruitemeka who is the founder of the Afro Hair and Skin Company is a mum and has this business and she lives over the sea side and she’s doing well but she also gages in self-care and wellness and you can see that in her business and it feels like she engaged with her audience. So I’m trying to create that type of environment for myself and essentially the team I will have in the future.
In terms of creating networking opportunities for other bloggers, what other types of events can we expect from you going forward in terms of growing the brand?
I would like to do workshops which will be smaller and more intimate, and they will be designed to educate and inspire. So the actual social would just be an annual event like once a year big one and hopefully be bigger and better and more people involved. But between those I’d like to have smaller more interactive networking workshops where you can learn about how to grow your platform, meet people that have taken their blog to businesses and see where the growth potential is and meet bloggers that have come from journalism and just interact with people.
How did you find moving the community from a Facebook group to creating this platform?
I tried to do it very organically. I focused on the Facebook group initially but I did set up the twitter page and Instagram shortly and all I did was let everybody know that those pages existed from the Facebook group. And I did the same with the newsletter letting people know that this exists and if you want this you can sign up. So people just found a way naturally to all those different areas. Because of the way the network works as in you don’t have to pay or sign up, specially if you only want to be part of the Facebook group, so you can decide how immersed in the group you want to be. Some people have joined across everything, some are only on Facebook, so I’ve tried to keep it like that and it’s worked so far.
What sort of tips would you give to someone wanting to start a blog?
I would say make sure you’re passionate about what you are writing about because there will be times when you don’t want to write anything but you have to find content. I would say come up with a posting schedule and stick to it. Being consistent as a blogger is one of the hardest things but it’s one of the things that if you start knowing that you have a schedule and also your reader gets to know you have a schedule then it’ll help you out in the long run. On a technical note if you’re thinking of doing your blog long term I would say monetize your blog from the start because it’s happened to people where you don’t monetize your blog and then all these offers come as a surprise and you’re not prepared. I would say have some Google ads as those are the easiest ones to get and so if you have suddenly have a post that goes viral you can start earning from that and also if brands reach out to you and want data such as your rate sheet you have that. Believe in yourself and believe in your ability to succeed. It’s better to be prepared and ready than to be underprepared and surprised.
What can we expect next from Black British Blogger?
We’ve got lots of exciting things in the pipeline which I will let you know about when they happen. We are hoping to have a strong foothold in the blogging community and become more of a presence. You can expect more events and more opportunities coming your way from different brands. So lots that I’m aiming to get this year so it’s just a case of WATCH THIS SPACE.