The former PR agency founder gives her best advice to take your social media passion and create products that resonate.
8 min read
In this series, Instagram Icon, Entrepreneur speaks with the individuals behind popular Instagram accounts to find out the secrets of their success.
Style influencer Katie Sturino’s presence on Instagram all began with a very fashionable Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.
Four years ago, Sturino had been running her PR agency Tinder PR, working predominantly in the world of fashion. She began posting photos of her rescue pup Toast in celebrity red carpet looks, essentially a canine “who wore it better.” Toast’s stylish looks caught the attention of leaders in the industry including former Lucky Magazine editor-in-chief Eva Chen and Man Repeller founder Leandra Medine, with whom Toast starred in a popular NARS campaign.
“When Man Repeller did a profile on me and I read the comments from women all over the country saying they had never seen their body type on a blog — I realized that was true,” Sturino recalled. “I felt like it was my duty to step up and be that person even though it was an awkward transition to be in front of the camera.”
Sturino decided to launch The 12ish, a blog dedicated to “style for 12ish-18ish girls living in a size 2 world,” and officially retired from the PR game. Two years later, Sturino broke into cosmetics with her brand Megababe, a line of all-natural personal care products that are available at Target and Ulta. She collaborated with retailer Eloquii in 2017 on a capsule collection and another collection with fashion brand Veronica Beard was announced this February during New York Fashion Week.
Today, Sturino has 287,000 followers on her personal Instagram account and Megababe has grown to 44,800 thousand followers. And Toast’s sisters Cheese, Crumb and Muppet are carrying on the Instagram tradition with a following of 346,000.
We caught up with Sturino to get her advice for making an impact on social media.
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Why was it important to you to start The 12ish Style and Megababe Beauty?
Originally 12ish was part of my journey of self-acceptance. When I started it, I was still coming from an angle of problem-solving for women who have a tough time getting dressed because people don’t make clothes for them. Then it evolved into this body acceptance place. I approached it with confidence because before I started this blog I didn’t know I had a gift inside me that many women didn’t possess. I wanted to share this acceptance with everyone.
I get messages from women from a zero to all sizes that tell me that I’ve helped them accept their bodies. It’s just messed up because women are spending so much time and mental energy on their bodies. Once you free yourself from that jail, it’s just a different life.
What was it like transitioning from a digital presence to getting products into stores?
Every time I drive by an Ulta, if I am able to, I physically stop, I go in and I look at my name on the shelf. I don’t post about it, it’s just there for me to look at and say wow, because that’s a big deal. When I was trying to make our first product, Megababe Thigh Rescue, I had people telling me that no one would buy it. No one needs it. This is a niche product for a niche audience that doesn’t really exist and there’s products out there for them now that they can use. It’s a satisfying outcome to say, yeah, people want and need this.
After Thigh Rescue launched, we were out of stock for almost the whole summer. It was awesome and awful. That did show us that there was a market for it. It taught me that when you really believe in a product, go for it.
How would you describe your approach to social media? Has it changed at all over time?
I don’t think my approach has changed over time. I think the industry has changed around me. When I first launched my brand I was with a model agency and they were very adamant that I polish up and lighten up and stop being so candid on my Instagram stories and my posts. That felt hard for me. It felt wrong to do. It just wasn’t something I was able to do. I can’t change who I am. I felt like I was doing something wrong, but then I started getting positive reinforcement from brands who said “we love that you’re so real.” I’ve always been doing this, it’s just that it went from you needing to have that perfect breakfast spread, for example, and now it’s much more real. How many perfect things can you look at?
What advice do you have for people who want to build brands and businesses in the fashion and beauty space?
The more specific you can be, the better. I have found that you have no business getting into anything if you’re not coming in with something unique to say. Someone who is very big in the influencer industry told me I should not start 12ish because the market was so saturated. But I saw that there was no one in my market. There were tons of fashion bloggers and none of them were size 12ish.
Check out Sturino’s five favorite Instagram posts
“SupersizeTheLook is a series I started to show women that they can pull of celebrity styles at any size. My favorites(and the internets favorites as well) are the Royals!”
“My swim posts are so fun because I would live in a suit if I could. They are also inspiring to women who get caught up in the notion that you have to have six pack to look beautiful in a suit.”
“MakeMySize is an awareness movement to let brands know just how far away I am from fitting into their clothes. Sometimes people look at me and assume I can shop at a certain store. It’s nice to let that brand know that they are missing an entire market of women who want to wear their designers.”
“I love showing people how I apply Thigh Rescue from my line Megababe. I try and push boundaries a little so that others can feel less embarrassed about applying it in the wild! No shame in thighs that touch!”
“My dogs are a big part of life and I am constantly promoting the message of adoption over purchasing a dog. All of my pups are former mill dogs and I remind people all the time not to give business to pet stores because it keeps the mills in business.”