When I was 18, I started college in a new city (Pittsburgh) and quickly found a passion for something I had no idea I could ever actually do professionally: writing.
But before I got to the point of doing so, I had to prove to myself and to others that I had the skills; anyone can put words on a page and be a great writer, but what could I do that was anything special?
I found myself down a few paths my freshman year; I wrote for an online publication called Her Campus and also started writing for my school’s newspaper, which were two very different experiences. From writing about homesickness to covering events on my campus, my exposure to writing was at an all-time high. And I loved it. With my hands in various different writing platforms, I was excited to see where my writing would take me, and to keep proving to my family that journalism was something I could pursue in the long-run.
Then came the boom in social media for more than just sharing pictures from college football games. I stumbled into the space of creating social media pages for a business during a brand ambassadorship, and it lead me to think: Can I create an extension of my current self on social media?
Answer: I could. And I did. I decided to go in the direction of food and share what I was eating, which turned into sharing what my friends were eating, which turned into strangers wanting to share with me what they were eating and telling me their favorite places to eat and why.
Maybe you’ve heard of my social media food alter-ego, AKA Hungry Grl Big City. But what you might not know is how I ended up with over 32,000 followers, or how I ended up “going viral” with giant Moscow Mules on social media with my first job out of college at Business Insider, or how I get to work with brands like The New York Jets or Cosmopolitan Magazine. There’s no one right answer, but I can give you a few.
1. Stick with your passions, no matter how small they start. My friends thought it would die out. Quite honestly, so did I. But, over three years later, I’m still posting and sharing with my followers, some of which have been following since I started. It’s turned into its own business and brand, which I could never have predicted. Whether I realized it at the time or not, this account became an extension of myself and really represented how positive social media can be: I met new people (both via Instagram and in-person), had new conversations, and even pursued new opportunities, like being flown to Chicago to work with Kraft Heinz and package meals for the hungry. And to some that even message me or recognize me in-person, my words have really inspired them in some way or another.
2. Know that you have a voice, and use it. Yes, Kim K may have over 120M followers. And yes, it’s easy to compare your following to others. But what I realized along the way: people follow me because they care about what I have to say, not just look at what I’m eating. Which has lead me to discuss issues that go beyond food and mean a lot to me: body positivity, finding ways to give back to communities, partnering with local businesses to donate proceeds to charities, discussing the ins and outs of post-grad life and careers, even political discussions.
If you knew me in high school, you knew how introverted I was. I lacked confidence, had zero idea how to use my voice (which I didn’t know I had), and often followed others’ opinions or statements. However, creating this extension of myself allowed me to grow as my accounts “grew.” It taught me how to talk to people I didn’t know, figure out how I wanted to project my beliefs and ideas into the world, and it even taught me how to talk business with people who wanted to work with me. Recently, I had someone reach out to me about interning for me… can you imagine?! I certainly am still shocked by it.
At this point in my life, I’ve decided to use what I have and run with it. AKA, I’m using what I’ve built into a business through Hungry Grl and run with it… literally. With a recent move (back) to Pittsburgh to live on my own and pursue my own social media management business, I can’t help but look back and see how far I’ve come. But nothing I am currently doing would be possible without having faith in my own voice and abilities and pursuing my passions in all capacities.
No matter how big or small you think your platform is, whether it’s your Facebook following or real-life reach, never doubt that you could have a positive influence on at least one person. Every conversation or movement starts with just one. I believed and acted on the fact that food, to me, has always brought the ones I love together. Now, I get to share my digital table with thousands, and spread positivity and good vibes while doing it.
Now it’s your turn. Never be embarrassed about just starting. Everyone starts there.