Did you know that over two-thirds of North American retailers are utilizing social media influencers in their marketing strategy? Obviously, influencers are a huge asset to large companies who have a budget for celebrity endorsements, but small businesses can use local influencers just as effectively!
This month, I worked with Aroma Candle Studio (one of downtown Bel Air’s newest additions) to host a a local Influencer Event. The goal was to invite 10-15 local women who have a strong online following to come visit the studio, create a custom fragrance, meet women that they follow online in-person, and provide valuable content for their brands.
Events like this one are common in the city, but we rarely see them in Harford and Baltimore County. I’m so excited to not only show you how we organized and created this event so that you can do it yourself, but also introduce you to all of the incredible women who made it possible! Be sure to follow each of these ladies and businesses on Instagram!
First things first, you have to meet the Aroma Candle Studio team. You guys already know I’m a huge supporter of small business and downtown Bel Air especially, so having them be one of the newest additions to the Main Street family is such a treat! I’m telling you, this is unlike anything in Harford County. You spend time shopping over 100 scents and combine your favorites to create a custom candle. I’ve personally made about a dozen candles there already since they’ve been open and I’m still looking forward to going back again. My son’s idea of a perfect date for us is making a candle at Aroma and then getting cream of crab soup at Buontempo’s across the street. The studio is owned by Marc and Wendy Mills, who bring every bit of hospitality and charm that you would expect from a couple who spent so much time in Texas. They’re already growing roots in Bel Air and working on ways to help build up the downtown area. Keep an eye on their social media and website for lots of info on upcoming events this year! We have some fun things coming your way!
We were so excited to have local photographer Heather O’Steen attend and photograph the event. Ya’ll, this woman is the TRUTH. Her photos are absolutely stunning, she is sweet as pie, and she got these photos to us THE SAME DAY. Unheard of. From a marketing perspective, her photos could not have turned out better. Each one is an awesome reflection of the amazing space we were in and the incredible connections that the women who attended have. Someone looking at these photos thinks to themselves, “That looks like so much fun! I want to go!”, which is exactly what you want your social media followers to think! If you own a small business or are growing a brand, I cannot stress the importance of professional photography enough. Obviously, you can’t afford it all the time, but work it into your budget annually or quarterly. Maybe even partner with a local photographer to have monthly mini-shoots that are discounted. If your brand needs to be turned up a notch, photography is the first place to start. Heather, thank you SO much for your fabulous eye and for making us all feel relaxed and beautiful. You are certainly one of Harford County’s finest!
You should all know me well enough by now to know I gotta have a little something to drink at the events I plan. Lucky for me, my favorite local brewery is just a few doors down from Aroma! Not only did Independent Brewing Company provide a few different types of beer for us, but we were also blessed with the presence of two local favorites, Shelby Stange and Beth Rhudy (more about them below)! The only thing I love more than women supporting women and local businesses supporting local business is Independent beer, so needless to say I was a happy girl. They were kind enough to donate cans of their Blonde Ale, Bad Hombre IPA, and Hard Times Raspberry Lemonade Sour. #yum
Another local company offering their support at the Influencer Event was Sean Bolan’s Irish Pub. Conveniently located right next door to Aroma Candle Studio, Bolan’s offers discounts to Aroma customers who want to grab something to eat while they wait the 90 minutes for their candles to set. Business supporting business- my heart is full, ya’ll! They brought over a few dishes full of crab dip and I’m not ashamed to say that I snuck back there to shove my face several times while the girls weren’t looking. So. Freakin. Good.
And for the starting lineup….
(listed in alphabetical order according to their Instagram handles)
Project Your Best
Amanda is doing the Lord’s work and helping mom’s with busy lifestyles (so….all moms…) look and feel their best without breaking the bank. Think StitchFix for those of us that are on a budget and care about the environment. Her style is to die for (the jacket she wore to the event had dragonfly hardware all over it and was S’CUTE) and her personality is even better. This momma and boss babe is all about girl power and lifting others up. Give her a follow for style inspo on a budget!
Designs By Doree
Doree is an example of a local boss babe who is really using Instagram to grow her business. Her company creates custom apparel and printing options for businesses and individuals and she is a dream to work with. Personally, I’ve used her for several things, including matching Bride Tribe sweats for my sister’s bridal party. Professionally, she’s all over Bel Air and has created branded apparel and vinyl decor for many of your local favs. Check out examples of her work in Aroma next time you visit! She can brand just about anything, so if you’re looking for ways to brand your business, Doree is your girl. For this event, Doree helped us create shirts that matched perfectly with the event invitation we sent out for each of the girls to take home!
Shelby Stange and Beth Rhudy
Independent Brewing Company
I already sang Independent’s praises, but Shelby and Beth need a special shoutout. If you don’t already know them (and if you’re in Bel Air it’s nearly impossible not to), Beth is the owner of IBC and Shelby is their bartender extraordinaire. They’re an incredible tag team and so much fun to be around. Like I said earlier, the IBC team is all about promoting Bel Air business and lifting others up. We are so lucky to have people like this in our community!
Beth Cunningham Pocalyko
John’s Men’s Clothing
Beth and her mother, Maureen, have been running a men’s clothing boutique on Main Street since April 2019 and I’m so excited to see how much it has grown in such a short time. Just like Independent Brewing Company, John’s works hard to support other downtown businesses so that they can all lift each other up. There’s nothing else like them in the area, so they bring a little something special to Main Street. Beth has the most gentle spirit and is loved by everyone she meets. Be sure to check out the shop if you haven’t yet- they have some awesome brands that dad/hubby/kids will love!
US Taekwondo Academy
Julia and her husband, CJ, are the owners of a taekwondo studio on Main Street, US Taekwondo Academy. My son was a student of their for years and as a mom I gotta tell ya, it was a game changer behaviorally. My kid is an angel, but the level of discipline and obedience this kind of training instills in a child’s mind is impressive to watch. Julia herself is not only a straight up bombshell, but she’s got brains too. Oh, and she can kick ya butt. Follow her on Insta for taekwondo-based workouts, healthy eating options, and mom life, all sprinkled with her signature humor.
Krista is just fabulous. She’s a mom, Stella & Dot rep and team leader, and all-around optimist. I love following her for her fab fashion finds and her big smile, but my favorite thing about her brand is her constant encouragement. This girl will have you feeling like the best version of yourself after one conversation. She gets along with everyone - you can tell just by scrolling through her IG feed. Before she left the Influencer Event, she went out of her way to thank me for organizing it and to tell me that she really loved my energy and the way I bring everyone together. I drove home thinking about how good that made me feel. Follow her for all the good vibes and watch as she steps out into a new business venture!
Many people assume that social media influencers have to be bloggers, but Krystle is actually one of only two on our list that keeps up with blog content for us. She’s been at it for about two years and her brand is everythingggg. As a marketer, I have major heart eyes for the look and feel of her IG feed (go look- you’ll understand what I mean), but her killer blog content is what really sets her apart. Easy recipes (like, so easy that even I could handle them), adorable décor ideas, and advice about motherhood and marriage are regular topics on her website. Don’t sleep on it!
Boho Marketing Co
So I had been following Sarahbeth on Instagram for years, but this was my first time meeting her in person. Turns out, we not only run similar businesses, but we went to basically the same tiny, conservative high school and went on to get Master’s degrees. This girl is so down to Earth and was a joy to have as a guest. She is a wealth of knowledge, so give her a follow for tips on social media marketing and connecting with your community!
If you like the look and feel of Krystle’s Instagram, Melissa’s will be right up your alley too. Envy is a sin, but I’d kill to be able to take something from drab to fab as easily as she does. On top of being a wife, mother, and advertising pro, she also does interior design work. Whether your home needs a refresh or you have a new business that you want to make a statement, Melissa is your girl. She and I met for the first time almost two years ago when I planned my first styled shoot (see the photos HERE- Julia was one of the influencers at that event, too!) and it makes my day every time I get the chance to see her. Follow for home envy and IG inspiration.
And then there was one…
Little ol’ me.
This event is a win on all fronts for me. Getting huge engagement spikes for a client, showing some love to downtown Bel Air, hanging with my girls, and getting some killer photos of me actually doing my job. Had a great time, did some good for my community, and left with content that I can use in my own marketing strategy. Can’t beat it!
If you own a business and you’re interested in planning your own Influencer Event, here’s how to do it in a few easy steps:
1. Choose a date/time
2. Create a list of local influencers you’d like to invite. Take note of how many IG followers they have.
3. Create an invitation. We used Canva.
4. Optional: Create a private Facebook event. We skipped this step because we were sticking to IG influencers and we didn’t want to confuse people by crossing platforms.
5. Send invitations individually via direct message from your business account with a personalized message about why you’d like that person to attend.
6. Create a spreadsheet to keep track of who can and cannot attend.
7. Choose a photographer to participate.
8. Reach out to local businesses that might want to participate/donate their products/services.
9. Send reminder messages to guests a few days before the event.
10. Give them VIP access. For this event, we allowed the influencers to sample and use unreleased summer fragrances that weren’t available to the public yet.
11. Give them something to take home. We chose t-shirts made by Doree, a custom candle, wick trimmers, and a cute little Polaroid photo of all of the attendees together.
12. Create a group message on Instagram right after the event including everyone that attended (including companies). Thank them for attending and remind them of the importance of tagging everyone who was involved in their stories and photos.
If you’re hosting an Influencer Event, I want to see it! Tag me in your photos or message me with questions and ideas!
Happy marketing! xoxo Malia