Interview with Lisa Jean-Francois, founder of beauty, fashion and lifestyle blog, Lisa A La Mode.
We bring you today our exclusive interview with fashion and lifestyle blogger Lisa Jean-Francois. She began blogging part-time while studying and working in New York. After graduating, getting married and moving back to a small town in Massachusetts, Lisa decided to take on blogging full-time. She has since grown her blog into a one-of-a-kind space where young Black women can find information from the latest in cosmetics and fashion trends to product reviews and where to find the hottest deals.
Lisa, I read the About Me section on your blog. You seem to be a very educated young woman doing quite a hard job. Can you briefly introduce yourself to our followers.
Well, my name is Lisa. I’m a full-time content creator. I say that because blogging doesn’t encompass everything that I do. I create content across a few platforms, from Instagram to Youtube, to Facebook. But I’ve also in the past five to six months delved into reporting news or trending stories. I am incorporating some of my background as a journalist into the content that I create, so sometimes it’s not physically creating the content, where I would actually go and take pictures and things of that nature to put into a post. It’s literally just gathering information that already exists online and presenting it to my audience in a different way than it’s been presented elsewhere.
Going through your blog, I can see lots of wonderful articles targeting young Black women. I think you are doing a great job.
So tell us, why did you move from New York to a small town in Massachusetts?
I’m from Massachusetts originally, so I essentially came home. I had left Massachusetts for college. After I finished my four-year degree, I moved directly to New York. Literally, I packed my car and moved to New York the next day. I lived in New York for about eight years, got my MFA in writing from Sarah Lawrence College, and got married. After graduation, I had the opportunity to stay with the company I was with but I chose to leave. My position was eliminated and I didn’t want to take another position because it didn’t feel right, so I figured I’d come here and get into higher education which I did. I worked at Harvard Business School for a few years.
Can you tell us about some of your principles as an entrepreneur? Do you have any special message that you stick to with all the stuff that you do?
I think what I stick to is just recognizing that it’s a journey and that you can have and you can set specific goals, but when you are too rigid with them, you can easily become defeated or lose morale. When I left Harvard in July 2015, I left with the idea that I would be a full-time consultant, with blogging and creating video content being more like an addition, just a side-thing. Once I really delved into consulting, I noticed I would have frequent bouts of depression and I would feel unhappy. I kept thinking, “Well this is what happens when you’re a new entrepreneur, this is how it’s supposed to be.” I ultimately found myself at a point where I had to make a decision if I was going to continue down this path of trying to be a coach and consult other entrepreneurs or was I going to really leave behind the fear. I think the reason why I did not allow myself to really do content creation full-time was because I was afraid. I said to myself, “Well, I’m competing against all these other bloggers. Where is the stage for me?” At this point, I had been doing blogging part-time for three years and I figured, “Well if I was to become anybody as a blogger and do well as a brand, I would’ve made it by now.” But then I had, as I call it, my come-to-Jesus moment, where I had to be honest with myself and really do what I wanted to do. Because if you do anything outside of what you want to do, it’s going to feel like work and you can easily find yourself depressed. And so although I had some consulting clients and I did work with some women, ultimately, I discovered that consulting is a direct sales job, which isn’t my thing. I won’t say that I would never go into consulting again – I do have enquiries all the time – but it’s not my passion.
It’s quite interesting. Why did you choose Lisa A La Mode? Did you want to make any connection with French fashion traditions?
Well, I’m Haitian, so ‘a la mode’ is an expression I’ve used my whole life. I grew up bilingual, and so for me, it’s just me bringing forward my own cultural background into that. But also, my brand was really a beauty and fashion brand when it began and that’s what it’s been for years, so there’s still that element there, although depending on what day of the week you come to my blog, you may or may not see beauty and fashion. I don’t think there’s anyone who’s blending content creation the way I am, with video, products reviews, blogging style and fashion, and in the middle of all that, bringing you trending stories and other things that are happening that speak directly to a Black female audience.
Yes, that brings me to this. Your main readers are Black young women. Do you sell them your own products through your blog or do you just advertise other brands?
Currently I don’t, although the ultimate goal is to have a product to sell. That is my goal for 2017. My product was consulting – it still is – but a physical product is something that I’m working on and developing, and I hope by the end of 2017, I’ll have it available for sale. I think if you have a blog and you’re running a space, you absolutely have to have a product of your own. Otherwise, you’re dependent on other businesses to keep your business afloat, which is how I’m existing right now. It’s not very comfortable to exist in that space, but you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.
Can you tell us a bit more about your next steps as an entrepreneur?
Well, I have a few goals for 2017. One is to launch my physical product. I also plan to do a lot more speaking engagements. I particularly enjoy speaking to girls, so I would like to be able to do a lot more panels and things of that nature directed towards young girls and young women. And just getting out more from behind my computer screen. I think with the addition of writers coming on to write for Lisa-a-la-mode, it will free me up to be able to do some more of that. I will always be very hands-on and very present on my blog, but I’d like to be able to get out behind it and just grow my brand. I want the brand to have far more reach than it has now. This time last year, I made an average of about 20 – 30,000 views a month, maybe 40,000 sometimes. But now I’m averaging 250,000 a month, so the growth has blown my mind, and I just want to keep that momentum. In 2017, I want to quadruple that to a million views a month!
Talking about exponential growth, can you tell us about some of the main achievements you’ve been able to make as a blogger in the last three years?
I think partnering with major brands – having the opportunity to partner with Procter & Gamble, the end of last year I had the opportunity to go to Los Angeles and film some video for Walmart – has been fun. But I think I’m still growing. I should acknowledge these things as wins, but I still feel like I’m waiting for the big win. The biggest thing is seeing that I can do a blog post and it will go viral and people are excited to read it. Learning is also important, because I did write for another blog for a year and I worked there as an editor as well, and in that year’s time, I learned a lot. So for those who are looking to build their blogs and build their brands I absolutely think it’s important to shadow or work for another major blog and publication to learn.
Do you have any plans to move back to New York, maybe build a career again?
No, I’m done. I’m here with my family, I have a child. I lived in New York for about eight years and I have no plans of living there ever again. I can visit, but it doesn’t interest me as a place to live and have my family.
What are your parting words for our readers? Do you have any New Year wishes for them?
Stay the course, don’t get discouraged. Be encouraged, and if you’re doing what you love, it will be successful. It just may not be on your timeline, but it will be successful if you do what you love and you just continue to do it. Don’t put a time limit on it. Just move forward.