When Erin Gates started blogging, hardly anyone knew what a blog was—and even fewer actually read her posts, which she started publishing in 2007. In fact, when the designer began posting her design-inspired musings (which kicked off after the discovery of some abandoned boxes of mint-condition Scalamandré wallpaper), she was fresh off a series of career mishaps.
Gates initially embarked on a career in fashion. Finding the culture too cutthroat, she moved on to positions in art galleries and event planning before landing a dream job at a design firm—a position she soon fell out of love with (and that she was ultimately fired from). Noticing an unmet demand for affordable design services among Boston’s younger residents, she decided to trust her own vision and started her own firm. All the while, the blog began to grow.
“People started reading the blog more and more, and eventually the Boston Globe magazine shot my apartment because one of the blog readers was a writer there, and it got the cover,” Gates tells Kaitlin Petersen on the latest episode of the Trade Tales podcast. “Literally, my business took off immediately. Local press is the best press. I’ve been in tons of magazines that have a glossier, bigger reach—nothing changed my life like that Globe cover.”
From there, it was a whirlwind. After the news coverage, Gates’s career took off in every direction—she began receiving interest from employees who wanted to join the firm, tons of new client leads came in, and one of her blog posts was published in Ladies Home Journal. Then came the call from a member of the book publishing industry, kicking off another phase of growth and brand-building Gates never saw coming.
On this episode of the podcast, Gates explains how she weathered a period of rapid change and growth, both for herself and the industry at large. She shares what it takes to build an authentic brand, find team members that support her vision, and why she recently brought on a new hire to keep her firm’s operations in check.