While it’s possible to make money by selling ads and promoting sponsored content, most bloggers pour in hours and words without any monetary compensation. Most of these amateur journalists, photographers and marketers produce content just for the love of it.
Here are just a few of the people behind some of GR’s blogs. Grand Rapids Magazine will continue to spotlight bloggers in coming months, so stay tuned. And let us know which bloggers you follow by contacting GRM on Facebook or Twitter.
Liz Della Croce, creator of The Lemon Bowl food blog, grew up watching NBC’s “The Today Show.” Appearing on the show had always been a dream.
That dream came true in January 2012 when the Grand Rapids woman appeared live on the show’s set to cook with Al Roker, Savannah Gutherie and Natalie Morales.
“Just about every opportunity for publicity — from The Huffington Post to Shape Magazine — has come to me out of sheer luck,” Della Croce said. “I have entered less than a handful of cooking contests in my entire life, but one of those happened to land me a cooking segment on ‘The Today Show.’”
While she might humbly call it luck, it’s really a combination of hard work, passion and creativity that sets her blog apart from millions of other food blogs on the Internet.
Friends and family of the self-proclaimed foodie have always asked her for recipes. When she began a weight loss journey in 2006, those requests became more frequent as people wanted to know what she was eating.
The ultimate push to write a blog came when she was featured in George Aquino’s blog, My Hotel Life, in 2010. She started The Lemon Bowl (thelemonbowl.com) the very next week.
“The Lemon Bowl is a healthy food blog focused on easy and delicious recipes that just so happen to be good for you,” said Della Croce, who has shopped at Fulton Street Farmers Market her entire life. “By using whole foods with an emphasis on seasonality, I create flavorful dishes the whole family will love. After all, it doesn’t matter how healthy food is if it doesn’t taste good.”
Della Croce also provides complete nutritional information for every recipe. Whether you want to eat more protein, increase your fiber intake or watch your cholesterol, the information is there.
“Since I eat much of what I share on The Lemon Bowl, I figured it only made sense to share the nutritional information that I value for reaching and maintaining my personal health goals,” she said.
Della Croce comes from a long line of cooks on both sides of her family. Whether prepping a turkey for Thanksgiving or helping her Great-Aunt Vieve garnish a hummus platter, she was involved.
“My inspiration comes from the women in my family,” she said. “It’s my grandma’s beef brisket recipe that I shared and — no surprise — it instantly became one of the top recipes on The Lemon Bowl.”
A passion for traveling also has impacted her recipes and writing. Her family traveled often when she was growing up, and she has continued to do so.
“In college, I had the opportunity to visit Spain, Greece, Morocco, Italy and other countries throughout Europe,” Della Croe said. “Now as an adult, whenever we plan a trip, we always think about what type of cuisine we want to sample.”
The number of bloggers is growing all over the world, and that is certainly the case in West Michigan. Last fall Della Croce co-hosted the Taste of Michigan Blogging Conference with another Michigan food blogger, Rachel Gurk (rachelcooks.com). They limited the event to 20 people in its inaugural year to guarantee an intimate event that would allow them to experience a wide variety of locally owned food and beverage venues throughout Grand Rapids.
“The event sold out, and we were thrilled to welcome bloggers from throughout West Michigan and as far as New York City, Chicago and even Mississippi,” she said.
While blogging for Della Croce is a 24/7 gig, she can do it on her own schedule. Many of her posts are written in the evenings and on weekends when her husband is home to watch their young son.
“With regards to the business side, up until very recently I had a day job that required me to be at my computer most of the day, which helped me keep in touch with PR reps and other clients who are on a typical weekday schedule,” she said.
In April, she left her hospitality sales job to focus on The Lemon Bowl full time.
“I am grateful for the experience and skills I’ve obtained over the past 10 years which I apply to my blogging career on a daily basis.” she said. “I’m a busy working mother wearing many hats, just like many of my readers. I’ve gotten very good at multi-tasking and, in fact, I think I thrive on it.”
Lori Harrison-Smith’s blog is like a living and breathing photo album, including stories of her life with husband Scott and son Devin.
Lori Harrison-Smith has been blogging since before blogging was cool. Her blog, Fresh Perspectives, is a 10-year collection of stories, recipes and photos that now serve as a simplistic time capsule.
“I worked for a web development company and learned about blogging through industry people I’d been following,” she said. “With my love of writing, I thought I’d give it a try.”
After picking up a camera several years later, her blog transformed from short personal stories to a living and breathing photo album. Her style is simple, fresh and friendly; a few minutes scrolling through her site feels like a quick catch-up with an old friend.
“When my son was 2 we had a hilarious encounter with a bumblebee. When I was describing it to my husband, I knew right then it had to go on my blog,” she said.
Not every day — or month, for that matter — offers enough free time for blogging, but the honest and good-hearted nature of her posts are worth the wait.
“I see it as simply a place to record my thoughts and photographs as you would in a journal, but obviously with the knowledge that it doesn’t have that privacy.”
When Joel Leo unearthed a box of 1919 love letters in a 2008 home renovation project, he uncovered a curiosity for Grand Rapids research and history. Three years later that curiosity led to curation in the form of his f***yeahgrandrapids blog.
“I’ve been in marketing for 12 years, focusing on search engine optimization and online marketing,” he says. “In a way, my job has helped me become more creative and efficient in my blog research.”
The hunger for local details isn’t just an interest. His site, which he operates with the occasional help of friends, recently reached 600 regular followers.
“There’s plenty about Grand Rapids that people don’t know, like that the building San Chez is in once was home to one of the largest refrigeration companies in history,” he said. “I have an interest in uncovering that stuff and have found that others enjoy hearing about it.”
Leo’s collection of Grand Rapids history often reads like a virtual celebration of life in Grand Rapids.
As for the edgy name, it’s a play off other Tumblr blogs with similar names.
“There’s such a want here to celebrate the area and I wanted to capture that excitement.”
Sidewalk Ready started as a blog about Kayley Heeringa’s daily outfits, photographed by husband Kai Heeringa. Now she includes tutorials on a variety of her DIY projects, like how to create a J.Crew-style belt using embroidery thread.
Fashion fanatic Kayley Heeringa stumbled upon blogging as a means of keeping up with a long-distance friend.
“When we’d meet up while she was in town, she always commented on my outfits,” she said. “She suggested I look into fashion blogging. I didn’t know anything about it up until then.”
And with that, Sidewalk Ready was born. Kayley, a hairstylist by day, started capturing her daily outfits on her blog. Soon after, she found more to write about than layering chambray shirts with cardigans and statement necklaces.
“A lot of my hobbies — like photography, fashion and hair styling — are intertwined,” she said. “When I started incorporating tutorials for unique and quick hair styles and different ways to tie scarves, I really saw my traffic take off.”
Her DIY projects expanded to include quick home décor ideas and inexpensive ways to transform accessories. And while readers eat up her almost-daily posts, Kayley hardly spends all day behind her computer.
“I try to dedicate large chunks of time to knocking out several posts at once,” she said. “I found I’m more productive that way than spending an hour here or an hour there.”
What’s the future blogging trend for this fashionista? “At this point my goal is to keep doing what I’m doing and to see where it takes me.”
Grand Haven resident Jim Linderman has been blogging for five years as a way of cataloging his collections for future curious minds and Google searchers.
Long before he started collecting words on his blog, Dull Tool Dim Bulb, Jim Linderman collected pop culture memorabilia. His repurposed collection of vintage music won him a Grammy in 2009; two years later his blog capturing the stories behind his treasures landed him a profile in The New York Times.
“I’ve been blogging just about every day for five years,” he said. “Just the other day I was written about on a website based out of Croatia. It’s exceeded any hopes I had of blogging success, though I don’t make a dime from it.”
Dull Tool Dim Bulb is one of three blogs — or should we say, virtual museums — operated by Linderman. Blogging is his way of cataloging his collections for future curious minds and Google searchers.
“I’ll find a picture of a woman with the world’s biggest potato and look it up to see if she really did have the world’s biggest potato,” he said. “I’ve been contacted by grandchildren who found the blog post I wrote with the photo of a pin-up girl thanking me for keeping their grandmother’s memory alive.”
His hobby is something that helps him fill the day, but in reality his goal is to fill his digital footprint.
“I see kids that think the only real things in the world are what’s on the web. I’m trying to show them things of value beyond the Internet.” GR