Brands like Pier 1 and Target regularly find Jessica Lighter, of The Celebration Stylist, through her Instagram posts. In fact, despite her accomplishments as a party planner and blogger, she says the community she’s made on Instagram is what she’s proudest of. Here she talks about how she built a following of thirty-thousand highly engaged followers.
“I always had all these fun business ideas but I never had an audience for them. I knew if only people saw the things I could create, they would appreciate them and support them, but finding an audience was the hardest part. And what’s a business without buyers right?”
Jessica Lighter has always been a woman of many talents. Creativity isn’t something she does, it’s who she is. Trying to find a job that encompassed her many talents wasn’t easy; as she says “They don’t offer ‘party throwing’ as a college major.” But in high school she worked at a mall store that specialized in children’s birthday parties, and while she didn’t expect that to become her career path, it sort of did.
She went on to open her own party store, but when she and her husband decided to have children, her focus changed. She closed the store and planned occasional parties for families around the neighborhood, working events around the schedule of a stay-at-home mother. Then she began posting pictures of these parties on Instagram.
“I had a personal (but not private) Instagram account, like most people do, and one day I got a couple of random strangers following me. It dawned on me almost instantly that somehow I needed to grow my Instagram account and THAT would be my audience.”
Growing her Instagram following became her focus. She knew she could find an audience there and maybe even people to buy her products. Not only that, but “People that were interested and invested in my journey and what I would create.”
She says it was the exact solution she needed.
“No matter what I decided to do, I needed people to know about it if I was going to make it work on my own.”
Instagram fascinated Jessica. She saw businesses and brands using it as practically their only medium for growth. Jessica has devoted a lot of time to studying how to build a business through Instagram, and along the way, she discovered that she also enjoyed writing, which made blogging about her parties a natural evolution.
“There have definitely been points where I felt I was failing at life, but it all sort of funneled into this. And this lets me stay home with my daughter, write, create – all of which I like to do. A lot of people think they can’t make a career out of what they love to do, but I’m here to tell you, you can. You might just not know how yet.”
Jessica says she had no idea before she started that there were companies, big ones, that would pay other people to create images for them.
Today, Jessica as The Celebration Stylist works with brands like Target, Shutterfly and Pier 1 to create styled party shoots for her blog and Instagram, in addition to planning parties for local clients. It’s a system that’s working so well for her that she says she isn’t accepting new clients at this point – she’s earning enough and is able to give her two-year-old all the attention she needs (which, being a two-year-old, is a lot!).
Unlike so many entrepreneurs, Jessica Lighter isn’t all about the hustle. Her priorities are her daughter, work-life balance, and spending what time she has (while her daughter is napping) doing what she loves. Not a bad way to do business, if you ask me.
In this interview, Jessica Lighter shares how she built an Instagram following of more than 30,000 highly engaged followers, works with big-name brands, and is starting a community of party-loving creatives all on social media.