By Nila Do Simon, Brooke Richardson and Crystal Wall
Photography by Navid
TV host and branding coach
Daily mantra: I always say, whatever you do, do it with guts and grace. This saying has gotten me over the hump during my nearly nine years in the sports industry. I’ve been the only woman in locker rooms, and I lacked a lot of confidence because of it. But I was able to convince myself I could get through it, and I believed that I belong. I kept telling myself that with guts and grace, I can do it.
When it clicked: I started noticing the power of social media when I was the in-arena host for the Florida Panthers. I loved being part of that team because of the fan base and the community. I was able to use social media to get to know the fans and become friends with them. I would go the extra mile and read through our fans’ comments, find out where they were sitting in the stadium and connect with them. For four seasons, I saw the impact of the friendship I was able to garner via social media.
The right alignment: If I’m going to strategically partner with a company, there must be a message I want to convey with them. I’m looking for brands or partnerships that focus on personal and professional development. For example, I was lucky enough to do a social media campaign with WeWork, a company I respect for the nurturing entrepreneurial environment it provides.
Behind the story: I don’t always want to have these happy, positive stories because that’s not always the truth. You’ll probably see a lot more vulnerability in my future posts. I want people to understand that my social media feed might look glamorous, but there are still some challenges along the way.
The power of social media: I always revisit how powerful social media messages are because sometimes you get lost in the noise of it all. A gentleman messaged me recently and said he decided to start a podcast because of my video. He said he’d wanted to do it for years and finally did after getting inspired by me. How cool is that?
Founder and owner of Yoga Joint
Her yoga beginnings: My parents were going through a rough divorce and a therapist suggested my brothers and I try yoga as a way to cope. I took my first class and was terrible at it. I hated it. I thought it was so bizarre. I kept at it though, and practicing eventually became a safety net for me to fall back on during stressful times. If I feel like my life is crumbling on the outside, I get on my yoga mat.
Connecting with other yogis: I feel fortunate to have social media, and I use it to my advantage to help change people’s lives. I love doing yoga challenges to inspire others to get out of their comfort zone. I want to touch people through everything I do with social media. People have gone on vacation in Fort Lauderdale just to come to the studios and practice with us. It’s very humbling.
When it clicked: About a year ago, I realized you can accomplish a lot with this social media thing. I talk not only about yoga but also about my daily struggles. I think it’s important that people know I am real. I candidly share who I am and what I stand for. I am on this path of harnessing the power of social media, and I am excited to expand my reach even further.
Yoga Joint’s growth: We are opening a new studio in The Dalmar hotel in Fort Lauderdale this summer. The owner of the hotel is a Yoga Joint client and approached me with this opportunity. Guests will have a Yoga Joint mat in their room and will be able to take classes in the studio located on the first floor. All existing Yoga Joint clients will also be able to use specific hotel amenities at a discounted rate.
Fashion stylist and creator of the blog Sauci Style
Her industry beginnings: When I was 18, I landed a modeling contract and moved to New York City, where I got my first taste of fashion. I’ve been hooked ever since. Then, I started working for Alice + Olivia and found myself in a management role fairly quickly. I knew I loved fashion, but earning promotions validated that I had a knack for the industry as well.
Her social media beginnings: There was a time when I felt a bit lost and uninspired by the career opportunities in my vocation. I realized if I couldn’t find my dream job, I’d just have to make up my own. I used every contact I had and started a styling business. Over the years, Instagram has revolutionized the fashion industry, and I recognized that I needed to get on board. My priorities had to become creating content, growing and connecting with my following and sharing my styling knowledge.
When it clicked: A public relations contact for a store I shopped at frequently asked me to start a partnership. The company was focused on getting its associates comfortable with using social media as a selling tool and saw me as a resource. During that meeting, it dawned on me that I’d developed enough of a social media following to focus on elevating my content to a more editorial and image-driven level.
Fan following: There are plenty of people on Instagram who bully by posting negative and hurtful comments. Knowing that makes me feel lucky to have a supportive following. Fashion influencers tend to draw a predominantly female audience, and fortunately I’ve found my followers to be incredibly complimentary and uplifting. My favorite part of engaging with my audience is that I get to witness the #girlboss movement in real time.
Barista and owner of Coffee Hub
Uniting cycling and coffee: I did a lot of races around the world and always ended up in a coffee shop. When you go to a coffee shop that has a good atmosphere, it gives you that family feeling where you can meet people and make friends while traveling. I wanted to own a coffee shop, but it costs a lot of money to open a storefront. I was watching the Tour de France and saw a bike like one I use for the Coffee Hub in the VIP area, and I said, “OK, I’ve got to do it.” I was so excited because it was a mix of cycling and coffee—and we drink a lot of coffee in the cycling community.
When it clicked: Social media is definitely the way people find me. My website has been down for a few months, so everything I do is on Instagram, and Instagram links to Facebook. People send me messages on Instagram to ask where I’m going to be. Publications, including Bicycling magazine, find me through social media like nothing else. Social media has been the key to my success.
Influencing health: I just try to show people that I am happy with my lifestyle. You can work a lot but also have fun. The bike is cool, but nobody wants to see pictures of the bike; they want to see that I am satisfied with what I’m doing.
Making the leap: Just do it. Follow your passion and even if it doesn’t work, you will learn a lot. I don’t think there is any school that will teach you that. If I decide it’s not working, at least I’ll end up with a nice coffee machine. I learned a lot in the last three and a half years and met some amazing people.
His industry beginnings: I was raised about a block from the beach and always had a love for water sports, plus my family loved camping and fishing. I attended Florida Atlantic University for graphic design and photography, but didn’t decide to start doing what I do now until I was 24.
When it clicked: For me, social media began as a way to share stories and adventures from my travels. I could reach more and more people, and it was definitely an eye-opener. The world is awake 24/7; there’s always someone looking at my feed and inquiring about my work. An influencer’s way of reaching people is constantly evolving. I never planned to fall into the social media world—I just embraced it.
Biggest inspirations: The first is the challenge of photography. It is all about problem-solving. Every time I am introduced to a scene, I am inspired by having to figure out the most interesting perspective for the viewer. My other source of inspiration is wildlife, especially sea turtles. Their determination to survive has evolved based on their ever-changing environment, which is a huge part of what I document.
Bringing social awareness: I work with a lot of organizations and conservation groups to understand how I can help make an impact with photography. I love to speak in classrooms and Skype with elementary school kids as well. The younger generation is obviously the future—these kids are going to be in control of what happens when we’re gone. If I can capture their attention, that’s the most important thing going forward.
Vintage décor curator and founder of Heathertique
Her industry beginnings: I have always loved vintage décor. I bought and renovated a house but was left with a limited budget due to renovation costs. I decided to furnish it with pieces from consignment and vintage stores. After that, I just couldn’t stop. It had become such a passion. First I started an Etsy store, then my own website. I do it all on my own, a one-woman show.
The power of social media: Instagram has been great for making connections. I have a tightknit community to confide in. Social media also allows me to have direct conversations with followers and clients. In addition, I launched a blog to share my tips.
Digital authenticity: I have a niche taste for one-of-a-kind vintage pieces. The décor I choose usually captures attention immediately. I also like to keep my social media authentic. I don’t hesitate to show my bad days in addition to the good ones.
Greatest professional accomplishment: My 9-year-old son Keegan went to an estate sale with me one day and bought an item he was interested in. He restored and sold it afterward. I realized I had passed down my entrepreneurial spirit to my son. Seeing how my hard work had rubbed off on him was priceless. My grandfather was a successful entrepreneur as well, so watching my son continue in my family’s footsteps is fulfilling.
Favorite vintage find: I sold an Igor Pantuhoff oil painting and regret it to this day. It’s the one that got away.
Dr. Sonali Ruder
Emergency medicine physician and co-creator of The Foodie Physician
Her industry beginnings: I started watching cooking shows during my medical residency in Manhattan. As a resident you work crazy hours, and these food shows were on all the time. They were great for stress relief. Then, I started cooking and realized I had a knack for it. During residency, I entered a Food Network competition called “Ultimate Recipe Showdown” and got chosen based off my recipe. The show flew me to Los Angeles for the competition, which unfortunately I didn’t win. But that gave me the confidence to enter culinary school once I became an attending physician.
Behind the scenes: My health and wellness blog was created nearly a decade ago as a way for me to share what I was learning in culinary school. Since then, it’s evolved into a website and social media presence with the help of my husband, Pete, a fellow emergency room physician who moonlights as The Foodie Physician’s social media manager and photographer. A lot of hours go into developing a recipe, testing it, photographing it and sharing it on social media. Most days, my husband and I go to work at our hospitals and then stay up until 2 a.m. or 3 a.m. on our laptops working on this.
Her inspiration: In the ER, oftentimes I see people at the end of their disease journeys. I was tired of writing prescriptions and not being able to help them prevent their situations. Many conditions can be prevented with proper diet and exercise, and I wanted to change my position by being at the forefront of their journeys, not at the end.
Reaching followers: The messages and comments that mean the most to me are the ones where people say that my recipes have changed their lives or their family’s life. I love hearing when followers don’t have to take blood pressure medication anymore or they’ve lost any unhealthy weight.
What’s next: I recently gave a lecture to University of Miami medical students about healthy cooking, which got me interested in teaching future medical students about the importance of nutrition. I also just taped three episodes of “The Dr. Oz Show.” And who knows—there might be a Foodie Physician cooking show one day.
His industry beginnings: Creating content started from my days of being the class clown. I was very involved in acting and school plays in middle school. In high school, I became more involved with athletics and less invested in the arts. After college, I decided to make a YouTube channel. It formed from a combination of being bored and loving the way I could make people laugh.
His impact: I want to be a voice or face that made you happy, took you back to a certain memory or allowed you to temporarily escape. I hear families say they watch my videos together. It brings back memories of when I watched certain shows with my own family as a kid. I love being able to bring people together.
Behind the scenes: An average video for me is usually 10 minutes or longer, but the process behind creating content is never-ending, from brainstorming to filming to editing to promoting the video. It is not like a regular job. You have to want to succeed. You set your own hours and make your own deadlines; there’s no one telling you to do it.
His challenges: You have to constantly be cautious and aware of what you post and how you’re acting in public. People want to know everything about you, so you have to make sure you are OK with limited privacy. Although there can be negatives, it’s mostly a positive experience. I run into subscribers I’ve never met who are so excited to see me. They become almost virtual friends and family, and it makes me love the impact of what I do.
Photography: Navid/Belle & Company Makeup & grooming: Leslie Munsell/Belle & Company using Beauty For Real Hair: Stephanie Gilles/Belle & Company using Beauty For Real Shot on location at La Vie en Blanc (@lavieenblancftl).