Partner Spotlight: Amy Loochtan of Coffee Beans and Bobby Pins
Here at Ahalogy, it’s no secret that our influencers are at the core of everything we do. From their gorgeous imagery to their unique creative vision, we would be lost without our Ahalogy Partners—a network of over 5,500+ content creators across the Food & Drink, Health & Beauty, Lifestyle, and Parenting categories. Just as no two blogs look the same, each of our influencers have a different story to share. Check out the following Partner Spotlight interview to learn more about what it takes to become an Ahalogy Partner.
Amy Loochtan is a six-year veteran of the influencer marketing world. With a full-time job and a new baby, Amy is no newcomer to the challenges of juggling everyday life with blogging. On her site, Coffee Beans and Bobby Pins, Amy covers everything from lifestyle to recipes to—most recently—motherhood. Head on over to her site to see how Amy mixes a little humor and realness into everything she does.
How did your blog Coffee Beans and Bobby Pins get started?
So my husband was in medical school and I actually moved down to Athens, Ohio—that’s where we did our graduate degrees—and I rented this terrible apartment. I didn’t have a job at the time and I was about to start grad school so I was going to be living on the stipend that I was getting. I think the rent was $400 a month. It was in an old house and it was terrible.
There was a really old fireplace in the apartment and I just remember thinking, “Oh my gosh, this is my first grown-up apartment by myself. It’s filthy, but I’m going to make it work.” I started googling, “How do you decorate a fireplace?” This was in 2010. I had never really read blogs before and I stumbled upon some home decor blogs about mantle decorating and whatnot. Somehow, stumbling upon those decor blogs eventually led me to finding fashion, style, and lifestyle blogs. I quickly became immersed in the home decor side of things—the home decor blogs and more the lifestyle stuff because I just loved them.
Once we moved for his clinical rotations—at this point we were engaged and we were decorating our home together— that’s when one of these home decor blogs led me to a fashion blogger and I was like, “hm I have a pretty nice camera.” My grandpa had left us a little bit of money when he passed away, each of the grandkids, and my dad said, “I really want you guys to buy something that reminds you of your grandpa. Don’t use it for bills, don’t use it for credit cards, don’t go shopping. Buy something that reminds you of him.” He was always taking photos. So, I bought my first DSLR camera. I had no idea how to use it but I was like, “I’ve got a camera. I’ve got a lot of clothes. I’ve got way too many shoes. I could probably start a style blog.”
So, I told my girlfriends and I told Aaron—my husband, who was my fiance at the time—and they both were so supportive and, you know, I had a name. Now I look back at how funny my blog’s name is because I’m older but it’s so true. There are still bobby pins all over my house on any given day and I live for coffee, obviously especially now that I’m a mother. When we just started out the pictures were terrible, looking back at those early posts now I’m like, oh dear heavens. This photography is terrible, and you know the writing is terrible, and the outfits are terrible, but it’s also fun to look back sometimes and see how far it’s come.
I work with a photographer pretty regularly now, I also have a better DSLR. I’ve watched hundreds of YouTube videos and what started as kind of just fashion has definitely morphed into more lifestyle just because that’s really what I’m interested in. That’s what my life is like. So it’s definitely been quite the transition from what it started as but I wouldn’t have it any other way because it’s just been such an amazing and crazy opportunity.
How do you balance your blog with your personal and your professional life?
I’m a little bit different because I feel like a lot of the bigger influencers actually blog full time. I currently still have a full-time job. I mean, I’m on maternity leave right now, but ever since I started blogging 6 years ago—I started in 2012—I’ve carried a full-time job. It really was just this hobby thing that started. I never thought that this was something that I could make money with. When I started influencers really weren’t profiting off their blogs, or very few were. It’s definitely always a challenge to find the time to do it but I’ve always said that you make time for what you love and, for me, blogging has definitely been something that has always been a stress reliever.
There are days where I don’t post because life got too busy or whatnot and I get kind of frustrated about that but tomorrow is always a new day and you just try to go forward and make it work that way. Even with motherhood, it’s been such a balance. I took an unplanned 2-week break after my daughter was born but now I’m slowly getting back into it. I’ve always told my husband that I’m going to keep blogging until it’s not fun anymore, until there’s no joy in it left for me. And with deadlines and the drafts and things like that, it can definitely become daunting. There’s photos and sometimes the lighting is not good and you have to reshoot them or you didn't put something in there correctly so that's always stressful. But at the end of the day, it’s still fun. I still love it. I’m still enjoying it so much so I want to do it. Even now, my husband is like, “you can take time off to adjust to being a mom now” but I need to get back into the things I enjoy. Yes, I’m a mother, but I’m also an influencer, I’m also a blogger.
How has your blog grown and changed over the years?
I think I definitely started just as style blogging and fashion. We bought a house when we moved to North Carolina. That was really exciting because that introduced me to the home decor area. We were pretty much newlyweds when we moved, so I was making dinners more often too. My husband was a resident and I was working communications at the time so we didn’t have a huge budget. It was kind of like, oh I’d love to show people how to make healthy meals or desserts or be able to bake or to cook or anything or be able to decorate but everything in moderation on a budget because we’re not millionaires.
I always want to try to be real with my readers so it was like, well, I’m also decorating a house, do you guys want to see this? Do you want to see my recipes? You know, a lot of my readers love my home decor stuff, some of it does the best. Some of my recipes do the best. I could see that my readers really liked it so I kept doing it. When I announced that I was pregnant on my blog, it was like that was just opening another door for Coffee Beans and Bobby Pins. Now I can blog about motherhood. Even though it’s not for all of my readers, there's such an amazing group of them that are mothers or that are expecting. People have reached out like, “oh i’m so excited you're expecting, you know, so am I” or “I have 4 kids.” It’s been another avenue that I can explore.
When you're choosing sponsored collaborations, what kind of things do you look for in a brand partner?
I think that’s a really good question because I think a common misconception with influencers from people that don't really know how they work is that we just will blog about anything for money. That is really not the case for my blog.
I can’t speak for other influencers, but I am very picky about the collaborations that I accept or that I apply to or that I even entertain because if it’s not authentic to my readership, then they’re going to be like, oh, she just did this for money.
Early on I would accept things, whether it be product or paid opportunity, and then I would get the stuff and be like, why did I do this? This is so not me. So I really try at this point to make sure that it's really authentic to my life and that it's also authentic to my readership and what they respond to because they're going to be able to see right through me. A lot of these people have been following me since I started my blog 6 years ago and if I post something that isn’t me they’re gonna know it.
Even with brands that are like, oh we want to send you x, y, z but it might not be a paid opportunity or it might just be a PR package that shows up on my doorstep, I try to be real with brands because I never want to sour any kind of relationship. If it’s not a good fit, I still want to be very polite. I always try to let them know that I'm happy to accept if you would like to send something to me, but if it's not a good fit then it won't be posted. I try to be really upfront with anybody that wants to collaborate or that hears what I do. This has to fit into what I'm doing and if it's not a good fit then it just doesn’t happen.
What’s the best piece of advice that you have ever been given and what’s the best piece of advice that you would give to someone else?
The best advice that I've ever been given is probably just to power through because it's so hard to get started as an influencer. Especially today, the market is so saturated with bloggers. Everybody is a blogger. So if it's really something you're passionate about and something that you really love then you just keep writing. Don't expect anything.
When I first started, I would never have dreamed in my life that somebody would pay me to do a sponsored post with them. I remember when somebody reached out to me when I first started and they wanted to give me a necklace. It was a pretty necklace, don’t get me wrong. But it was costume jewelry; it was very inexpensive and I just remember how excited I was. Like, somebody wants to give me a necklace—for free! They want to gift it to me, they want me to wear it on my blog!
I just remember feeling so appreciative and shocked and all of the emotions and I guess the best advice I got was to not expect any of that. If you’re going into being an influencer to get free stuff or to make money, you’re in it for the wrong reasons. So that’s kind of the advice I got, but also the advice I’d give.
If you’re not passionate about it, it's going to be obvious. There is so much work that happens behind the scenes and if you just think it's going to be some easy way to get in there and make money and do things, so mistaken. And I think that that’s kind of where my second piece of advice would come in: just be authentic because if that is the reason why you’re in it, it’s going to show and you’re not really going to have a dedicated readership. You know, the money is great, the free perks are great, all the perks are great, don’t get me wrong. But the readership and the loyalty to your followers, that means so much.
When I had my daughter, I wrote about her birth story or I wrote some more personal posts about how I didn’t really enjoy pregnancy. It’s amazing what people respond to and what they say back to you and it just becomes a community. It means so much now to me when a reader will comment something or DM me on Instagram because these people really, I feel like they're my friends, which is kind of creepy but also true.
I’ve met some great girlfriends through blogging that I’ve never even seen in person and a couple of years ago I flew across the country to California to meet a girl that I’d never met in person because we became blog friends. It’s awesome and scary and amazing.
At the end of the day, there’s one common theme amongst our Ahalogy Partners—they value their readership base and the integrity of their work above any material benefits that their site might bring them. Here at Ahalogy, we appreciate that mindset because it leads to more authentic partnerships between brands and influencers. Stay tuned for next month’s Partner Spotlight to hear a fresh perspective on what it’s like to work in influencer marketing.
About the Author | Katie Cattell, Copywriter
As a Copywriter on the Creative Team, Katie writes the Ahalogy social, blog, and paid media posts. Katie also owns writing copy for Ahalogy Brand Marketing materials, editing blog drafts submitted by Ahalogy Partners, and aiding in recruiting talented content creators to join our program. To keep up with the latest Ahalogy news, follow us on Instagram.