Unless you’ve been banished from civilization, or live off the grid not having a clue about the women’s blogging scene, you’ve little excuse for not knowing about Stefania Pomponi.
Her award-winning personal blog “CityMama” won SheKnows.com’s 2010 Parents’ Choice Award for Best Website for Parents. The accolades go on.
The story about how Stefania first started her company Clever Girls Collective, is now famous. Back in July 2009, with her fellow professional blogger BFF Cat Lincoln, she took a road trip - destination Chicago - where the BlogHer conference was being held. Picking up a car provided gratis by the Ford Motor Co, the pals published amusing posts mentioning the car from time to time, while their followers spread the story across the web. Needless to say, Ford was thrilled with its canny and subtle investment.
After the proverbial roller-coaster ride of life as an entrepreneur mom, all these years later, Stefania’s company is estimated to be hitting the multi-millions in revenue and has an enviable client list including American Express, Toyota and The Gap. She and her partners have established a network of over 6,000 female social influencers: bloggers, Tweeters, Pinners and Facebookers who post about their experiences with consumer services and products. Clever Girls Collective pays these female bloggers upwards of $100 a post. Stefania loves that she is helping both women bloggers and corporates, creating a win-win for both sides. It’s also an acknowledgement all round that a woman’s influence in making big financial decisions in the household cannot be underestimated. Stefania and her partner Cat recognized this very early on.
Wati had always mentioned Stefania as a bit of a business icon-role-model, while loyally reading the CityMama blog and often quoting Stefania’s humorous stories to me. For me however, Stefania is a true social innovator. She may not label herself as such, but Stefania became an agent for positive change. She saw her chance with the blogging boom, and went on to empower women bloggers to become acknowledged as important consumer influencers. Stefania and her co-founders set up the company in the middle of the worst economic climate you could imagine. In those early days as a social entrepreneur, she made real sacrifices. While seeing the bad practices of banks reel out of control on Wall Street, Stefania moved her family from their house in Palo Alto into a two-bedroom apartment. At the time, she was worried that her husband (from whom she is now separated) would lose his job. Before long, her new venture showed it was values-based and she was on her way to becoming a real social media achiever. Like the natural social innovator that she is, Stefania saw that if the current system doesn’t meet the needs of a rapidly morphing society, then you have to change people’s mindset. A great re-imagining of commerce was taking place in 2009. And Stefania moved once again into the comfort of a cosy and stylish new home once things stabilized.
DoubleVision recently nabbed the super-busy mom of 3 and in the paragraphs below, she chats with Wati about her family life, some business tips and what makes her tick:
WATI: I know you’re somewhat private. Thank you so much for talking a bit about your personal life because I know our readers will find it inspiring and reassuring to know that successful businesswomen can be vulnerable and very human too. Can you talk a little about being tall? (Stefania is 5 foot 9") I think it’s great that you’re unapologetic about it and that you enjoy wearing heels!
STEFANIA: I've always been a tall, Amazonian woman and have had plenty of weight struggles through the years. I've finally now (at age 43) gotten a handle on a fitness routine that is working for me (and I've lost 50+ lbs and counting since the beginning of last summer). I avoid complex carbs as much as possible and aim for 10,000 steps a day (running, walking, or a combo). I use my Nike Fuelband to help motivate me. I ride my bike all over town, and also take a hip-hop dance class every Friday night. It's so much fun - way better than being on a treadmill - and connects me to my 80's "wanna be B-girl" roots. I also recently broke a 10 minute mile!
WATI: Can you tell us a little more about your fitness regime? I know it’s been a journey. What gave you the motivation to make the change in your life?
STEFANIA: I've been on my own personal happiness project for the past two years. It started when Steve Jobs (one of my idols) died and people started sharing his Stanford commencement address via social media. One of the things he said was, "Your time is limited, don't waste it living someone else's life."
That kicked my ass into gear, and I started addressing all the aspects of my life that were making me unhappy - personally, work-wise, everything. I tackled everything and my fitness and health goals were the last piece of the puzzle. I've always been pretty active, but having three kids and limited time for work outs can take a toll (not to mention being burdened by unhappiness). Once I started creating more room for happiness in my life, I was able to focus on health and wellness and here I am today so much lighter. I have a few more pounds to go before I'll be personally satisfied, but I've never felt better. Or happier. I'm not wasting any more time: this is exactly the life I want to be living.
WATI: What is your best tip or piece of advice to a woman entrepreneur starting up her own business?
STEFANIA: Do your research and have a solid plan. Business plans can change, but you should know the problem you are trying to solve, how you are going to get there, what your market share is, how you are going to market your product or service, and have a path to creating revenue. Tie everything you do to business goals. Hire only the best people. Be prepared to work your ass off. Go for it!
WATI: What is a business mistake you made and how did you get over it and learn from it?
STEFANIA: Not being true to who we were as a business. Clever Girls Collective is a kick-ass social media agency. For about 10 minutes, two years ago, we tried to position ourselves as a tech company because we do have really cool, proprietary technology that we developed in-house (mainly our platform which manages our network and all our client campaigns). It turned out that that was a huge distraction for us. When we embraced our true "corporate nature" - that we were/are an agency (and really excellent one at that) - it allowed us to regroup and double down on our business goals and go after them. We're clear who we are now, and we feel unstoppable!
WATI: Who do you admire in the blogosphere today and why?
STEFANIA: The 6300+ social media savvy women in the Clever Girls "Clever Network." They are some of the most influential content creators (whether written or visual) in the social mediasphere today and I'm proud to work with them every day.
WATI: Any business people you follow regularly?
STEFANIA: I don't follow business people regularly, but I do read business "magazines" (both online and print) regularly, from Ad Week to Fast Company to Social Media Today.
WATI: Do you have another favorite quote that helps to continually inspire you in business?
STEFANIA: "Innovate, elevate, and be fierce" They are our corporate values and they touch every part of our business from how we treat each other as coworkers, how we define products and programs, and how we service our clients.
WATI: I know a lot of our readers want to know the real Stefania behind Clever Girls Collective. What was your childhood like being raised in Hawaii? Was your Mom strict with you or pretty laid back when you were growing up?
STEFANIA: My childhood growing up in Hawaii was pretty idyllic. My mom didn't really work then so she spent a lot of time at home. She was one of the original slow foodies - we had a garden, everything was made from scratch, always. No processed food was allowed in the house. Art classes and crafts were important as well. She was a Fine Arts major and met my dad in Rome. She worked for Valentino while she was there so fashion was also very important. My mom is Korean but from Hawaii. I had the benefit of being raised by a mom who was raised by a "Tiger Mom" (my grandmother) who was very strict. My mom was pretty mellow in general compared to what you hear about the Asian mother stereotype, but she still has her moments. As a kid I wouldn't dare cross her. Consequences were scary! And still are! Ha!
WATI: How important is it to you to teach your children pride in being part Asian?
STEFANIA: The most important thing my Mom taught my siblings and me was to be proud of our mixed heritage. As a result I feel that I have one foot firmly planted in my Korean-ness and one foot firmly planted in my Italian-ness. I could never choose which culture I identify most with because I feel exactly Korean-Italian. And I am just as comfortable in Honolulu as I am in Rome (where my Dad lives).
I think about how my own parents bucked the trend in the 60's: an Italian man met and married a Korean woman from Hawaii...if it weren't for mixed marriage, I wouldn't be here. I teach my crazy mixed-up kids to be just as proud of their heritage and, hopefully, to be just as accepting of others. I want to raise decent, kind, happy humans. That is my goal for them. Nothing more.
Read Stefania’s outstanding piece The Heroes in Our Midst below which she told us “pretty much sums up everything I have to say about being a working Mom”.
*** Photos of Stefania & Cat Lincoln (blue background) by Carla Duharte - babyjidesign.com