July 11, 2023

63. From Side Hustle to One of America’s Wealthiest Self-Made Women with LTK CoFounder, Amber Venz Box

63. From Side Hustle to One of America’s Wealthiest Self-Made Women with LTK CoFounder, Amber Venz Box

One of the reasons I love my job so much is because I get to connect with you guys. I love sharing what I’m shopping with YOU. 

Whether it’s a new dress, mascara, or even home decor, it is now easier than ever to share my recommendations with you. 

Remember when Instagram used to just be grainy pictures?!

Well, while my love of fashion was increasing, a girl who was also passionate about fashion decided to pursue her dreams, too. That same girl has since turned those dreams into the most successful creator guided shopping app in the world… or as you know it:

That’s right - I have the absolute honor of interviewing Amber Venz Box, President and Co-founder of LTK, on the podcast this week!

On this episode, Amber takes us on the wild ride of how her go-getter personality allowed her to enter the fashion scene early in her career through her own jewelry line & personal styling business, but she also touches on topics like:

  • Advice on motherhood + faith while simultaneously running an empire 
  • Tips for creators on how to best utilize LTK 
  • What is upcoming for LTK in the future 

We are really breaking down today how Amber saw a need in the market, how she filled it, and continues to create the industry into what it is today.

But not all of this came easily for her and her (now) husband, Baxter, during those formative and early days. 

Instagram and commissionable links were new to the blogging industry, and the industry was changing rapidly. Bloggers were apprehensive because they had nevertoldtheir followers to do something before (like follow a link or download an app). 

And the fashion industry was NOT accepting of bloggers…initially at least.

Amber and Baxter didn't let that stop them from continuing to adapt and find solutions to the obstacles they were facing, and they continue this same mindset today. Amber says, “change is the only constant, and technology is always going to change consumer preferences. So it’s not what we want; it’s what makes their lives easier.”  

Amber wanted to make the same commission from her fashion blog that she would from being an in-person personal shopper. But she couldn’t exactly PROVE that shoppers were buying items online from her blog since she wasn’t physically going into the storefronts anymore.

Enter: RewardsStyle that would evolve into what we now know and love, LTK.

With Baxter's finance background and some strategic engineering hires, Amber was able to bring her vision to life of helping shoppers find their best outfits, while also making the commission she was as a personal shopper.

Today, LTK is the leading creator-guided shopping app with 20M+ monthly shoppers purchasing $3.6B annually from LTK creators, over 6,000 retailers and 1M+ brands on the platform and investment in creators on the platform hitting more than $2B.

What was once a taboo hobby (blogging) has grown into a billion-dollar industry and Amber has been at the forefront of helping creators monetize their content and turn it into a full-time career.

If you shop through my links or any other creator’s links, you are using Amber’s platform. Thanks to her, I get to do what I love, support my family through it, and connect with YOU on a daily basis.

Now, this conversation isn’t all business talk. I also asked her about motherhood and her faith. 

One of my biggest takeaways was Amber’s advice on “calendaring” moments with your kids. As a mom and business owner, it can be hard to find a balance. I know this first hand.

She says to identify thosecore memoriesyou want to have with your kids and make sure you allow the time for them to take place. No matter what. 

Prepare to be inspired, challenged, and entertained in today’s episode. I know I was. I can’t wait for you guys to hear this one!

LinkedIn:Amber Venz Box
Amber’s  LTK shop

Podcast Instagram:@lifewithloverly
Brittany’s  LTK Shop

LTK website (Download the LTK app in the Apple App Store or Google Play)
Interested in becoming a LTK Creator? Apply HERE


This podcast was transcribed using Please forgive any typos or errors.


Brittany: Hi friends. Welcome to the Life with Loverly podcast. I'm Brittany, a wife, mom, and lifestyle entrepreneur here to help you discover your best daily style and encourage you to try new things when getting dressed each day, I took a tiny following on social media and turned it into a community of over 1 million amazing women. And I am so glad you're here. I'll be sharing my heart with you beyond the 15 seconds on Instagram. So we'll be diving into things like personal growth, friendships, motherhood, marriage, and of course the business of blogging. Really, this space is here to serve as your go-to resource to building a life you adore while sprinkling some kindness to others along the way. Grab an iced coffee and let's do life together. I'm Brittany and this is The Life with Loverly podcast.

Hi friends. Welcome back to the Life with Loverly podcast. Today I am interviewing Amber Venz Box, who is the president and co-founder of LTK formally RewardStyle and a recognized style creator, Amber conceptualized and launched LTK as a solution to monetize her fashion blog over a decade ago. Founded by a creator, for creators, LTK utilizes Amber's unique perspective to connect top tier influencers with brand partners worldwide. So if you use the LTK shopping platform to shop on my blog, Loverly Grey, or swipe up on anything that I post on Instagram, you are using Amber's product LTK. Today, LTK is the leading creator guided shopping app with over 20 million monthly shoppers purchasing over 3 billion annually from LTK creators. What was once a taboo hobby has grown into a billion dollar industry and Amber has been at the forefront of helping creators monetize their content and turn it into a full-time career. Today we talk all about how Amber's seamstress grandmothers influenced her as a child. The jewelry line that she started that kicked off everything, how Amber went from being a personal shopper to being on the forefront of a billion dollar industry, her advice on how to balance motherhood and running an empire, including on how her faith plays a part. And at the end of the episode, she shares tips for creators on how to best utilize the LTK app when getting started. Trust me, this is an episode you don't want to miss.

Hi Amber, how are you?

Amber: Brittany, thank you so much for having me here. I am just so honored to get to be on your podcast.

Brittany: I'm so excited. I feel like we're going to get, there's so many great questions and just kind of do a deep dive on who you are and how RewardStyle and LTK came about. I think I know I have a lot of listeners and other content creators who are really excited for this episode, so we're going to dive right in!

Amber: Oh, well, thanks for having me. It's been a long journey. It's been over a decade now, 12 years this month and my gosh, there's a rich history there that probably most people don't know, so I'm excited to share that.

Brittany: Yeah. Okay. So tell us about your love of fashion from a really young age, and I know your grandmother was a big influence in your life. Where did this all start for you from a young child?

Amber: The earliest I remember was in elementary school and my mom would always fix my hair every day for school. And I always had on an outfit with matching shoes and my aunt was an artist and she would paint my ked shoes to match my shirt and it was kind of, I guess early nineties. And so you know, can just imagine what all that looked like. And I remember that being part of the culture of our household, but then also I was a very quiet, reserved student and my teachers would always come and ask me about my outfits. And I think now looking back, I think subconsciously I realized that if I was wearing a great outfit that I could get attention and I didn't have to be the loudest kid in class. And that sort of pulled through. Both of my grandmothers were seamstresses.

So as I got older, my mom would buy PEOPLE magazine in the grocery store and remember sitting there in the car and flipping through and seeing, there was one dress I always remember it was Jennifer Love Hewitt and she was wearing this white Marilyn Monroe style dress, but it was a Prada dress and I took it to my grandmother and I was like, I would love to have this dress and make this dress. And so I spent a week at her house during the summer and we found a similar pattern and sat up in her little sewing room for a full week. I heard all stories about the family, everything, and we made this dress, but both my grandmothers were inclined and really helped I think pull that creativity out of me.

Brittany: That's so cool. I think about as I get my kids dressed sometimes and their commentary on like, oh, this has pockets, I don't like that. Or they see me getting dressed and leaving to go to work in the morning. It really is kind of starting this influence in them at such a young age too. It's just so interesting the way that all really helps shape a person

Amber: Completely. And I've started to realize that I, I've approached parenthood pretty casually where I want my children to express themselves as they want to express themselves, but then I realized that I might have gone too far because I actually really loved the way that my mother specifically fixed my hair every day. And I look back and I find both a sense of pride in that and just thinking of how much she loved and cared for me. And so I've started to get back more involved in it and make it a bigger part of our day. But yeah, Birdie's my seven year old and I don't know where she's sneaking YouTube or TikTok or whatever she's sneaking, but I told her to take a picture of her and her sister the other day. They had a matching dresses and what I got back on my camera roll was hilarious. I mean, the way they had propped the camera up and they had their hands in their pockets and I'll have to share it online, but it's part of their world now entirely and the way it wasn't for us.

Brittany: It's so true. It's a little scary, but there's also so much good I think that can come from it too. So with both of your grandmothers being seamstresses, did you ever want to create your own clothing line?

Amber: I did. I wanted to create everything, always anything that I saw. And so I think one of my earliest little small businesses with, I was taking vintage denim and then reworking it into denim skirts. And that was, I think around middle school I was selling those. And so to be part of my program, you had to give me a pair of denim that already fit you and then $20 and I would cut through the seams, I would take the stitching out, I would rework it. I did have a sewing machine. I also had a hot glue gun. I really liked the hot glue gun. So when I was lazy I would use some of that. And so I've made some great denim skirts. The hot glue was fine for lots of people. For my sweet cousin who gave me stretch denim, she wore that skirt to school and it just totally split on the first day.

And so I learned my lesson about quality and manufacturing, but it was back to that. It was always something that I wanted. There was whether it was the denim skirts or I started a jewelry line in high school and that was because there was, Jessica Simpson had just started her reality show, the first ever reality show. She had these wire wrapped gold hoop earrings with this little kind of gemstone in the middle of them. And I found a store who sold them and they were $120. I knew for a fact my parents would not buy me those. And so I found a way to make them, and that was the launch of the jewelry line was just me wanting to dress and look like Jessica Simpson and I made 'em for myself, but then for myself, and then people at school started asking for them too. And so everything was 20 bucks. It was like, these are $20 as well. They probably cost me $35 to make, but everything was $20 at that time.

Brittany: That's so funny. So then you got into blogging. Was that when you were in college a little bit more or when did your blog start?

Amber: I always worked in the fashion industry. I knew that I wanted to land there. And candidly, that was always my passion, whether it was at home. My mom actually took the TV out of our home for a while, and so her whole thing was either go outside and play or do something creative. And I used all that time to be creative and make jewelry and sew. And I, let's see, first out of school my parents told me that I could either go, when I graduated high school, they said either go to summer school or you get a job. I think I ended up doing both because I wanted to work at that retail store that sold the Jessica Simpson jewelry. So I went in and I was actually very timid and I said I was fully decked out and dressed, but I was like, I would like to work at a store like this store and do you have any friends who have a store like this store?

I was just too scared to ask, can I work here? Yeah. And the owner that I was talking was, you can work here. I was like, I can. And I was just like, my mom's waiting in her car on the side of the shop waiting for me to come back and get out and get in it. And so that was my first job kind of working retail. I moved to LA for a summer and I worked for a stylist there. I thought that I wanted to be the next Rachel Zoe to be a fashion stylist in LA specifically. So I made this whole plan for my parents. I wrote it out, and this was my freshman year of college. And I said, okay, I'm going to be Rachel Zoe. Here's how I back into that. I'm going to need to start building my relationships right now.

I need to move to la. I'm going to pack my car. I found a cheap place to live. And my dad was like, okay, take your brother. And so we literally drove across the country, drove to la, spent the summer there. The next summer I shared a bed with my best friend in New York because that was when internships weren't paid. That was legal at one point. And so we lived in a three bedroom apartment and we shared a queen bed with no headboard, no anything. It was basically just like sheet. We ate brie and drink wine for dinner cause that's what we could afford. And worked in wholesale there. And then came back to the store. I was in pr, and so I was learning how to make pitch books. And so for the store I was like, Hey, I, there's all these lines I want us to sell. Can I pitch these lines and see if we can get them? And so I started doing that and found success with it. So then I became a buyer for the store. And basically I take you through all that because I had worked on all sides of the industry. And what that unknowingly prepared me for was to be equipped to understand what every single person in this ecosystem wanted, whether it was the press or the stylist or the celebrities themselves or what the manufacturer in New York was looking for when they sold into the retail store. And so I had really worked on all sides by the time I launched my blog. So that was a long, long journey around to tell you about the blog. I had a jewelry line still, so that jewelry line from high school actually took off. And so that was a huge, the biggest part of my earnings.

And then I worked at the store. I had clients that would come in the store and I would dress them for their vacations for events. When I met Baxter, who's now my husband and my co-founder at LTK, he was looking over my shoulder one night at my spreadsheets of all my jewelry earnings. He was like, what are these spreadsheets? What is it? What are these totals? And I was like, well, this is my jewelry line and this is kind of my fun money and I have my real job too. And he was like, well, you're looking at this right here. Where is this money? And I was like, do you not see my bags and my shoes? I am well dressed. I'm having fun. And he was like, you make more than twice as much on your jewelry line as your real job.

You need to leave your job. You need to go invest in this and see if you can grow this. And so I did. And I started growing the jewelry line. And in order to have money to reinvest and grow the line, I continued the personal shopping side. So instead of working for that one store, I went to many stores around town and said, Hey, this is my history. Can we negotiate a deal? And if I sell your clothes to my clients, then I'll get paid a commission, but I'm not going to work exclusively for you, but I will have a deal with you. And so that business I absolutely love because I loved styling people, I loved my customers and getting them ready for whatever event it was. And I launched a blog in 2010 because to me it was a website. This was kind of before blogging was a known part of vernacular and it was going to be documenting all my work offline with this personal shopping. And my thought was, if I can demystify personal shopping and make it approachable that I'll get more customers offline. And so 2010 I set out and I started blogging three times a day and kind of documenting all the work that I was doing offline for customers.

Brittany: Wow, okay. I feel like so much to unpack here. This is so fascinating though. Do you still have the jewelry or where's the jewelry?

Amber: So the jewelry I closed down in 2012. Okay. So I launched it PR in the early two thousands. And then, so it had a really nice run. Yeah, I'll say with the jewelry line, I was pretty much a one woman show. I had hired interns to try and help me with things, but I had no corporate or strategic or larger experience to even be able to manage people or even know how to tell them what to do. And so while it was on paper successful, I was working around the clock and I really had hit a ceiling. And that came down to my ability to delegate and manage others. That also, 2008 was a very tough year. So 2008, I graduated college. Early on that day I was like, Hey dad, will you keep pay my rent? Cause I'm going to make this jewelry line.

He was like, Nope, you can move home and eat what's in our closet. And so I was trying to make things go with the jewelry line. The reason I closed it down was what was RewardStyle? Now LTK was taking off, and candidly I loved it so much more because it was asset light. I had a laptop and I could just like, I'd go to the office and I'd work on my laptop and the jewelry line was frustrating. I bring up 2008 because like I said, that was the year I graduated from college. I was trying to make the jewelry line go. It actually, it was really taking off at that point. I had started investing in it. I had built a whole website for, it wasn't just selling it wholesale anymore, I was selling it direct to consumer. I had several department stores who had picked it up and I was thrilled.

I mean, things were going really well. I had some department stores order multiple sets of the entire collection. But what I found, which was maybe one of the greatest lessons of my life was when you're doing business with a department store, at least at that time, they have a set of terms that all their vendors agree to. And those terms are that you basically front the money for everything that they've ordered. Then you're on a net whatever. So net 30, net 90, net 120. And that means they don't have to pay you until that point. So 120 days later, 90 days later. And then there's all these sort of fees for, did you mark the bags correctly? Was it in the bags that they like it in? Is the box sent to the right address? And then you have fees for anything that you've done wrong with that or they can bounce your box.

So 2008 hits, I have all of this money invested in this line. I I've spent mean a lot of it was handmade stuff. And so I mean hours on, hours on hours getting these collections launched and in store and the economy tanks. And I had some stores that just kept the product and never paid for it. I had some that kind of just shipped back whatever didn't sell and sent me a check for what as if it was consignment. It was heartbreaking to me because it was all of my money and all of my savings and it just didn't seem fair. There was a store at the mall that was a sparkly store right across from Neiman Marcus, and the woman wouldn't let me take my jewelry and she also wouldn't pay me for it. So I mean, I was just this little girl who was like, I don't understand this. These are not the rules. And so I'd been through a tough patch and learned a lot, and I saw a really a brighter future with rewardStyle. So 2012 that January, I closed it down and I donated all of my supplies and goods to a charity who creates you basically kind of a cool story. They use refugee women to make kind of interesting products where there's clothing or jewelry or whatever and sell those. And so it felt like it had a good home and I was able to mainly walk away from.

Brittany: That close the chapter. So then when you started your blog and you were doing the personal styling, did you kind of run into a roadblock with people who were wanting to shop online, but then you were making the commission from the stores? Was there a crossover? I mean, I think this is kind of where rewardStyle got its birth a little bit. Right?

Amber: Exactly. So with the personal shopping, I would physically go into usually at least three stores at a time for a customer. And then I would buy, get everything in their sizes, bring them into their home, style them, take photographs of them, show them all the pieces. Some products would always have to be swapped in and out for sizing or whatever. Then so finally I would take go back, charge the credit card at the store, and then I was again on a payment plan. So maybe 30 days later, I would have to go back to the owner, sit there and remind them of what I had sold, wait for the check. Sometimes it was a $30 check, sometimes a $16 check. Sometimes it was a hundred dollars check. But I'm sitting there begging these people to cut me checks. This was the same year. So Dallas Morning News, I had a great relationship with them because whenever cool product would come into the store that I worked at previously, I would call the fashion editors and be like, we got this cool thing, or this is here.

That was just because I genuinely loved my job, and so I had made friends with them. And so when I launched my blog, they did this full page article in the Dallas Morning News, and at the top all block letters it said Blogger and it said Meet the Blogger. And that's kind of when I found out that what I was doing was called blogging. I just thought I had a marketing website. And then in the article it said, Hey, this the girl, she has a jewelry line. She was this shop girl, she's personal shopper, she's offering her services online for free. And I was like, that's not what I told them. That is not at all what I told them. I was like, why did they write that? But I was so happy to have the piece of press. I was like, whatever. They just didn't get it.

And then by October of 2010, this is maybe six months later, I was like, they were so right. I am doing all this work for free now because I had hired a photographer, I'd paid for a custom website. I was documenting all the work I was doing, and then by documenting, I was saying, roll the sleeve this way, bite at this place. And my customers were texting me or emailing me. That was normal at the time. And oh my gosh, I love your newsletter. Or I got that bagger. You're right, the jeans are great, keep it up. I love the blog. And I was like, they love the blog. And I now have less money than ever before. My storyline is going this other way. I am paying a photographer. I am paying for this custom website. I'm blogging three times a day. And so Baxter, was it his background, as an engineer.

He was in grad school and he was getting his kind of strategy and finance degree there, getting his MBA at smu. And he saw what I was going through and he was like, what do you want to do the jewelry or do you want to do the blog or what's plan? And I was like, I really love blogging, but I can't go to this store and collect the $30 or the a hundred dollars because I can't prove it that they bought it the way that I could before. And so he was like, well, do you want to want me to help you make money on your blog? So yes. So we went on a walk, we took the dog, we literally walked down to Starbucks on KN Street if anyone's in Dallas. And on the way there he was all cards on the table. You can have anything that you want, how would you make money?

And I was like, I just want to make the commission that I always made that worked for everybody that seemed fair if I could just get the credit for what I was doing. And he was like, okay, well what would this thing be called? And I was like, well, I guess RewardStyle, because if you have good taste, then people are going to buy what you're showing them and then you're going to make money. So it's kind of rewarding you for having great style. And we got on and it was like, of course available because what a weird name. But we bought it and we launched it. And so at night I would sit on PowerPoint and I would draw the wire frames. I didn't know they're called frames, I was told that. But what I wanted the pages to look like and what it was, I was going to click here and it did this.

And then later evening we had a friend who was a designer, and so he would come over and translate my PowerPoints into true wire frames. And then on the weekends we would sit with an engineer that we were paying just by the hour and try to explain what everything needed to do and how it was going to work. And by early 2011, we had a product that was, I mean, MVP is not even the word. It was very, very, very simple. We had maybe two retailers that had agreed to kind of work with us. It was me and a handful of my friends kind of testing it out to see if this was going to work, if we could make money online as fashion bloggers.

Brittany: So at what point of this were you let me offer this to other people. So even just your close friends who just were trying it out or helping kind of get some testing the waters,

Amber: I think it was always part of the larger plan because it needed to be bigger than me in order to even justify building out and investing in this engineering work and all that it would take to get these on board and it integrated. And so I just started looking around to see who I knew that had a blog. And one of my friends was at SMU still, and SMU had started requiring a blog for one of the communications classes. And so I was like, Hey, do you want to test this product and see how this works? And I had another friend, and by the way, these are all people I had profiled on my blog. So I used to have a section called Girl of the Moment, G O T M, and it was like every Tuesday for a month I'd pick one person. They were the person for the full month.

Every Tuesday I would do a deep dive on them and different outfits and tell different parts of their stories. So it was everyone from, I went to school with Whitney Wolf Herd from Bumble. And so she had a bag line that was donating money to save the seals. So she was on there for her bag line. Crystal Schlegel, who was a younger girl than me that I had profiled who had a blog at smu. Yeah, Bradley Agather was one. So Bradley had Luella and June and now I think it's just And so they were all people who Bradley had a Tumblr page with her best friend and I was like, do you want to try it? And so it was literally me just, I remember one night sitting in parents' house, I think the Super Bowl was on, and I was calling Bradley and I was like, Hey, that Tumblr, do you want to see if you could make money on it? And so that's really how it started was just anyone I knew that was kind of interested in this space to see if they would want to jump in with me.

Brittany: Well, and it's interesting because I feel like I'm hearing from your story how going into just these boutiques and brands and selling your earrings that is so similar to once you had this product asking people, Hey, do you want to try this? Do you want to test it? It's like you're kind of using past experiences to bring what you have to life, if that makes sense entirely. So that's always interesting to see how it can connect from such an early age. So how would you say, at what point were you in Baxter? Okay, this is actually something like we are going in this direction.

Amber: So it was that winter, and I don't know if I'd say it was 2010 or 2011, but that winter time and I was able to make a decent amount of money doing it. And the friends I mentioned were starting to make money and they were excited and they were posting more because they were making money doing it. And it was no longer just a school hobby or a thing that somebody did that with wine at their best friend. It was like, oh, this could actually be a business. So Baxter and I pulled all of our friends together and there was an Irish pub kind of in our neighborhood. We went there and there's maybe 15 people and we kind of stood up and we were like, Hey, we started this thing and Amber's doing it. She's making money doing it. And I kind of told them about how it works.

We were actually think, this is pretty big. All these things are hitting, a couple retailers have said yes, and other girls besides Amber are starting to make good money doing it, and we think that there's a future, but we need some money to pay engineers to keep building this thing. And I wasn't getting paid. Baxter reports wasn't getting paid. It was just like we had put a thousand dollars at a time as we had it into this engineer. And so people kind of went around and they wrote small checks, and one of the guys that was there was Baxter, this is such a big opportunity, why are you not quitting your job and doing it too? Because I was already doing full-time, even though I wasn't being paid, I was just like, I had not a lot to lose in a dad's house to live in.

So here we are. And so Baxter was like, that's fair, that's fair. I'm going to make a plan and I will quit my job and I will do this too. So let's see, I think by the summer we opened an office, which was a studio apartment in Mockingbird Station in Dallas. It was the smallest apartment, but we wanted to be in a cool area where Starbucks was downstairs, there were restaurants there. It was a happening place. We definitely could not afford to be on the commercial side. We definitely could not afford to pay commercial internet. I mean, again, I was not being paid. I was scared. When Baxter said, we're going to open an office. I was like, I live at home. Why are we paying rent somewhere else? We set aside $800 to buy office furniture. And I was like, how are we going to make this go?

I was like, mom, how are we going to figure this out? $800. That's like a chair. I don't even know how we would do that. So we found a defunct business in Fort Worth, drove over there and packed up their chairs, their desks. That June, which was the June we opened, I think was my 23rd birthday, and I got a Keurig for my birthday for my parents. And our engineer always just begged for coffee. And so it was like, now we're a real office. We have a Keurig, we have some desks. So it started at that point, but it was, I think what something you touched on earlier, which I think is so important, was the past work experience. And I talk to Baxter all the time about how I really want, as soon as our kids can start working to do anything in any industry, whatever that is, just go try something. I mean, what working in a retail store is, it's a hospitality business. I'm picking up people's clothes off the floor. I'm zipping their zippers up. I am trying to make things easy for them. It got a lot of experience in that small store because the owners gave me a lot of freedom. And so I would merchandise the store, I would pick the lines. Yeah, it was kind of my little dollhouse and I got to do a lot there. But working in LA, I learned a whole lot working in New York, I learned a whole lot, totally different cultures having my own line going through 2008. And so I think whatever industry you're in that there's something to be said about understanding what drives every single person in the ecosystem and what those cultures are like. And then understanding then, okay, well, when I walk into this store and want to, whether I'm selling them earrings or I want them to commission me and my friends to pay to sell things online, how am I going to position in a way that they win?

And the earliest days, this was kind of before LinkedIn, so when you think about getting these retailers for online, Vogue didn't have a website yet. Most retailers were not online. Social media was just launching. This was pre-Instagram. And so it was hard to find people down. The way that we got into NetApp Porte, which was one of my biggest exciting moments was it was our intern's, boyfriend's, sister's, roommate who was a designer, a graphic designer at NetApp Porte. And that's how we got a meeting at NetApp Porte was, I mean, everyone I asked would know was just like, do you know anyone who works in fashion? Do you know anyone at this retailer? And there were retailers who were early shop and Netta Porte were early believers. It was low risk. If it didn't work, they owed nothing. And we made it super easy. And then there were other retailers who were, one woman told me, she was like, if I paid a blogger, I would get fired.

She was like, we work with celebrities, we work with magazines. She was like, this is a hard no, and that was honestly the reaction for most retailers. Even in through, I think 2015 was the first time we started actually getting applications to work for RewardStyle from a brand perspective. But otherwise, I had spent the first, easily, the first five years on the road just sitting in front of brands trying to explain that we could minimally bring them traffic, but we could also bring them sales. And they had a hard time wrapping their minds around offboarding their brand and their marketing to someone else that was seen as much lesser than.

Brittany: Right? It's so crazy. I think when I was in college, we had a boutique here who had just started posting photos on Facebook of what the clothes were that were coming in. And so the owner hired me to come in and take, just try the clothes on, and she would take a picture of it and then they would put it on their Facebook page so people could see clothes on a person. And I look back now and I'm like, that is so crazy that eight years before I even started a blog, there were pictures of me in clothes. So just people could see what it looked like on just providing a service. What about when was the connection between Instagram and, that was such a brilliant just idea of truly like the photo and then get the details. So where was this in history of LTK?

Amber: So our official lunch of what was then RewardStyle was June of 2011. And then by the end of 2000, well definitely by the end of 2013, we were looking at our data and it was showing that, because remember, okay, so a lot had actually happened during this time. So when we launched, it was all about blogs and specifically fashion blogs. And there was only Facebook and Twitter. And you would use bloggers would sometimes, especially internationally because blogging was bigger in Europe, they would have Facebook pages that pointed to their blogs. I would use Twitter to point to a blog that used to work back then. Now it's very different. And so then in 2012, 13 was when Facebook bought Instagram, and that was also at the same time that Apple came out with their iPhone. And so first gen iPhone was around 2000, I want to say 13.

And that was when the app store came loaded on the phone. And so it was just like you think about all the things happening at once. You have this phone with a camera built in, because we started the business side of Blackberry. And by the way, there's a great Netflix on Blackberry that I just watched, and it kind of tells the whole story, but Blackberry, all of a sudden you can have a phone with a camera built in, which changed things for creators because previous to that, you had to have a really expensive camera, whether that was a small digital or a dslr, it costs money to be a blogger. It costs money to have a website. So then by 2013, you could have basically quote a website by being on Instagram for example, without having to pay for the website. You could get your comments all of that very, very quickly.

Your tool to create that, that photo was actually on your phone already, so you had it in your pocket and Instagram was making it pretty so you didn't have to be good at taking photos. So all of that came about, and our creators were able to expand into this first ever mobile social wall garden. Cause remember previously it was all desktop, and by 2013, we saw about 30% of retail traffic from our creators was coming from phones. But remember, I mean that phone screen was so small, and so imagine just a huge website shrunken down into this tiny screen. So at that point, a couple things happened. One, we were like, oh my God, this industry's going to be over unless we make all these blogs. Mobile responsive creators didn't know how to go in and technically change. And so we hired engineers to go in and make all of their blogs mobile responsive, so it was a better experience for their customers.

A year later, Instagram had become popular, but again, walled garden, you can't link out. And so actually I had been begging Baxter to go to Marfa. And so in Marfa, Texas, if you don't know is this, it's Manhattan dropped into the middle of the desert. It is a art town with some of the most interesting cool people in the world, and it is, there's literal tumbleweeds going by and there is one stoplight, but tons of art galleries. So I wanted to go and he was finally said, okay, well we will go, this is the end of 2013. He was like, we'll go, but every single day we are going to stay in the hotel and at least for half the day, we're going to work on figuring out how to monetize Instagram and we're not going to leave Barfa until we have done that. And so we would sit there in the PNO Hotel, they don't even open until dinnertime.

We'd sit in there, little leather chairs, and we would come up with basically what we came up with was called And so the thought was we would tie into the API on Instagram and if you would register for our service, that was called as a consumer. And if you did, whenever you liked photos that were by our creators, we would send you an email, a newsletter within seven minutes and it would show you that post that you liked with all the shoppable information about it. And so it was very difficult at that time whenever we launched it, because first of all, our team didn't believe in it. They were like, you want creators to tell people to do, what are you talking about? We work with bloggers. This is so weird. So they were really not super excited about it.

On the blogger side, I was like, I were sitting at lunch with a handful of bloggers one day. I was like, guys, we figure out how to monetize Instagram. And they're like, yes. And I was like, so you need to tell your audience that they need to sign up for, and then you need to tell load every photo and tell us what's in them and we will send them a newsletter. And they were like, Nope, nope. And they was like, what? I get it, but you don't have to teach 'em. But once they're taught, it's there and they will know and they'll get that information. So it was difficult on the creator side as well because they were like, I don't want my audience to, I've never told them to do something before that. It feels weird. So the first year we sold 10 million worth of product through, and then the next year we sold 50 million with a product through, and it was a growing part of our creator's businesses and that at this point, Gwyneth Poro and Chris Martin were consciously uncoupling and the word consciously uncoupled for some reason.

When I read Goop and I read that whole article she put out about it, I was like, we have to consciously uncouple from Instagram. And so I literally pulled our engineers together in a room, we sat in a boardroom and I was also newly pregnant and also just feeling urgency about everything. And I was like, we have to consciously uncouple. And so we made a whole list on the board and it was like how we would untether from Instagram, and it was step by step by step. And every single day it was checking things off the list because we were like, oh my gosh, this is going to get so big and they're going to turn it off. And so by the time we hit 150 million in sales, which was the following, so triple, I mean it was just expanding so rapidly. We were great down the path of uncoupling and we were like, we need an app.

And so we went and bought a small tech team out of New York that had a really cool screenshot technology and they could build apps. And so we were like had this app launched right now, and so they were fully focused on this. And so we launched that app in 2000, I want to say 17. So spring of 2017 we launched itself by, and the whole thing with the app was like, Hey, now you need to tell your audience something different. You need to tell them they need to download the app and then they can just screenshot the stuff that they want the information from, same sort of service, but we're going to move them into the app because Snap was becoming big and we were like, oh, with Snap, there's no liking. It's a different, so we were like, we've got to become agnostic to all of these platforms. And so we launched the app a year to the day after we launched the app. Instagram pulled the plug on the API for the

Brittany: So I remember that it was like, wait, no, but we were fine because we had been training people how to shop through the app for so long,

Amber: Right? Yeah. It was literally we had prepared for this day, and I remember when it happened and some people on our team were like, oh my gosh, they pulled plugin. I was like, guys, we prepared for this. We knew it. This is why we built the app. Literally, I just need you to update some comms. We're sending it out to all of our users. We're sending out to our creators. This is what we're telling the creators, like, Hey, now this is the only way and for consumers as well. And so bridge that kind of gap and then have grown from there even tremendously now to where people are now buying over 4 billion worth of products through LTK on an annual basis. And so consumers wanted the service. I think it's become something that was, I think back to those days of sitting in that room with a woman who was like, I would get killed if I, ID get fired if I paid a blogger to now it's culturally normative to have a shopping guide that you trust that you've opted into that can take you shopping. I think most people, regardless of what their interest is, whether it's fashion or home or maybe it's canoeing, they have an expert that they trust that to take them shopping for the right product.

Brittany: Yeah, I feel like there were also so many things happening because stories weren't a thing on Instagram when I first started. I remember for the first five months that I had blogger version of my Instagram, I didn't have an LTK because this was back when you kind of had to prove that you were going to be somebody trustworthy. You couldn't just sign up the day you started to get into the platform. And then I remember it was this shift between having this beautiful content and kind of everyday stuff and really getting people to trust you, but then there was no stories to share your story. So then you would have to take up a grid and make a caption that explained this is how you shop or write a blog post and then be today in the blog. I'm talking all about how to use Ltk or and how to get the links to things.

And you really had to educate your followers early on. But for those bloggers who had been doing this for longer than I had, you could tell they were hesitant to just not create a pretty post. And it was like, do people really want that? And then stories started and then it became this really personal thing. And then you could just have a conversation with people and say, I really need you guys to this is how you shop things. And I remember it being awkward at first. This is how I make money, but I mean, you don't know if you don't know. And so just the history throughout the influencer and the blogger using your platform, I feel like there's so many pieces of that that just all fell into place.

Amber: It's a history that it was like it's built on day by day. I think back to, we talked about the desktop and then moving, then you're still blogging, but you're blogging on mobile, but it's hard for your customer. And then moving your customer kind of expanding into social media, and that's their preferred because it's the easiest. Customers always will go to whatever is the simplest way to do whatever they're doing regardless of name your thing, and they're going to always pick the easy path. And so then going into social media and social media launched as this place where it was much blogging, where it was it very human centric and you're following a person, and if you like Britney, then you might like Amber, and if you like Amber, you might Nikki and it's taking you through person by person. You're opting into their stop motion reality show.

But then like you said, snap comes about, TikTok comes about stories or about reels, and I think the one thing that I always try to teach all of our clients and our team is that change is the only constant and technology is always going to change consumer preferences, and so it's not what we want, it's what makes their lives easier, and we have to really rotate our businesses to make sure we're using world-class technology to meet their need of, we're still hospitality in the same way in the store. I'm zipping zippers and I'm hanging clothes up. We're still doing that, but in the digital version today and just trying to make their lives very easy, whether that's tagging all the right products or telling them the sale codes or going into this description and adding about sizing and all of this type of stuff, we're still just doing the digital version of making it easier, but it's going to continue to change.

And you've seen lately platforms have become very much about entertainment. So where I launched on my Instagram for example, really wholeheartedly like 2013 by today, 2023, the majority of people who see my content are not even my followers all about. They're leveraging AI to get that interesting entertaining content in front of a consumer, which now means I operate differently and I have to reteach people again because people are seeing my content for the first time that don't know how to get to it. And so the comments are where you get the jeans or can I have a link to this sweater? And I'm like, oh, they don't know me. And so I have to tell them, Hey, if you liked this outfit, this outfit plus 2000 other outfits are on my LTK shop. And so we're sort of back to that reeducating our consumers on how we can be the best server to them in their needs.

Brittany: Totally. I tell my team all the time, I'm like, this is a customer service job. We are responding to messages. We are helping people find a solution to their problem. We've like when we respond back, I mean it's all customer service. It's just like this is just how we do it. But it's been an amazing, I think just with everything that LTK has come to be and the ease of shopping. You know what I mean? And I know you and I have had this conversation previously, but it's really the LTK app is a place where you don't have to make a decision to, I'm going to go to Nordstrom or I'm going to go to Target. You're going to go to the ltk app and find the people that you really vibe with and they're going to tell you in their shops where to find the pieces that you want. You can search on their red bathing suit and all these options will come up instead of just going to one retailer. So you're giving people a ton more options than what one retailer would limit them to.

Amber: Yes. The job we do, I think is, it's curating, it's also testing and trying products and then giving the recommendations of the thing that we actually do like, and then all the details. I'll tell you today, I'm wearing these, this horseshoe jeans and they run two to three sizes larger. And so I'm teaching everyone, Hey, this is the place that has 'em in stock. You need to order 'em three sizes smaller, and I've gone through and tried on all the different colors and this is the color that you need. And so it's going in and it's the same thing I did before with personal shopping, which is you're going in and doing the work, you're putting the looks together for everyone. You're finding the best and most interesting products because I want my followers to go out in the world and get compliments from everyone. I want them to be the best dressed. I want their kids to be the cutest at the pool. I want their tabletop to be something that gives them a source of pride when they have friends over. I want them to be the heroes, and so I'm going out and doing that work for them and then making it easy for them to do it, because I know that not everyone is passionate about shopping in the way that I am or curating the way that I am. And so to make it turnkey for them and for me to be able to bring joy to their life, that's a driving force for me and what gets me excited about posting every day.

Brittany: Yeah. Okay. Let's move into a little bit more personal life. I know you and Baxter are married and you guys have four kids, which is amazing. As a mom and as somebody who's running an empire, do you have any advice for maybe the mom who is busy working mom and just kind of like what are some rhythms you have in place for your day-to-day?

Amber: Yes. Yeah. There's a couple that I definitely have learned from trial and error and some from advice from other parents. One that I think we can all do is identifying the things that are important for you. I'm going to call them the core memories that you want to have with your child or you going to be a part of personally, and then calendaring those things. So the example for me was I wanted to go to Birdie's dance lesson. I wanted to drop her off. I wanted to be there when she came out. I wanted to talk to her about it. I wanted that to be a memory for us. And so I scheduled that on my calendar and including travel time, this is defendable, this is what I'm going to do with her. Or once a month I go and I volunteer at her cafeteria so I can see her.

And so that's on my calendar. It is like what's happening? There's going to be different things for you that you find important. The opposite side of that was this mom was telling me, she was like, look, if I'm PTA president, that takes time away from my child. Or if I'm doing something like behind the scenes at the school, it needs to be done certainly. But because I'm a working mother, I only have so much to give and I'm going to do the things like I'm show up at class with the cupcakes or I'm going to go have the lunch at the school. So I thought that that was a great piece of advice is what are the things you can do that are with and for them that they see visually and that you can calendar? There are on the flip side of that, there are other things too that you can outsource or get more help with.

So one thing that I probably have a pattern of, I'm going to describe as be the hero of like, no, I can do it all. I can do it. And so what I've done this last year that's different, that has really changed everything about our mornings is I have someone take my kids to school, but I have them arrive 45 minutes before they go to school. So I have time during that morning to get them dressed, do the hair, we talked about the things that I care about, the making sure they're ready, but that person can make sure their backpacks are packed, the water is filled, that the car has gas, whatever. And if there's a morning where maybe Baxter and I just need to have a conversation about something, we need to go on a walk or there's a urgent meeting, then that morning I won't do the hair and that person can do the hair and whatever else and get them out the door.

But it has made our mornings stress free in order to layer that person in. And then I found someone who, for us as a housekeeper in the evenings, but can flex into being a babysitter. This is important for this specific time of my life because yes, I can do all of our family's laundry, but I will be up till midnight every night doing it. Also, I have kids that are in sports, but I also have a baby. And so if I take the baby to the sports, then the baby gets all the attention. I'm not seeing them. I'm not cheering for them. And so for this chapter of my life, I have found someone that when the sports are going, they can keep the baby at home when they're not, they can be doing the laundry. And so that everything is optimized for my time with my children.

And then the other thing is just boundaries. And so I learned this both within my, myself running a business, but also there's a woman who came into our business that was really great upfront, fantastic hire that we really wanted, and she was like, I want you to know that I will deliver. She was definitely the person for us, but she was like, but from five o'clock to eight o'clock, that is family time every night. And she was like, I will not take a meeting that goes past five. I will be hanging up the phone at five o'clock and I am feeding my kids. I'm doing the sports, and then if something is urgent and needs to be revisited, I will be right back on at eight o'clock and we will totally get it done. But she was like, this is sacred family time. And I had such huge respect for that, and I was like, yeah, everyone needs to have that.

I need to tell everyone who walks in this door, just tell us what your boundaries are for your family, because I think that you'll be happier here longer and bring your best self if you feel like you have the flexibility to do the things that are important for you sustainably. For Baxter and I, that has meant that we don't work nights or weekends. And so being a couple that works the same business, there's always ideas that you're coming up that I want to run by him or, oh, I found this out, or Did you know this? Or I think we should X, Y, Z, and what we do is we schedule time with the other person during that next week on their calendar that's specific to that topic. And I often find that I can get to a solution or work it out in my own mind even before we have that meeting. But it makes me know that I do have time set aside for it. But we're not going to take time even from a conversation standpoint out of our weekend or our personal time together. Those have all been really helpful.

Brittany: Yeah, I love that about just with you and Baxter. Cause Chris and I work together as well and there are so many times where it is a night or weekend that I'm like we really need to sit down and have this conversation And then it takes away from every night just begins a meeting and that that's not really fun. But it's also sort of just, I think having the confidence, how you said that new hire came in and was just like, this is just what it is. But having the confidence to set that boundary and knowing that your family is most important, but you're going to be do a kick-ass job in your job when that is where you can 100% focus.

Okay. So how would you say your faith looks in this season of life right now?

Amber: Yeah, it, it's grown. I mean a ton. I totally appreciate this question. So I grew up in church and then in college I would say just in engaged a lot less. And then in my adult life, I would say probably most people through the trials of life and seeking for answers and going through a rough patch was like I need to recenter and kind of find home. And so I actually reached out to a person that I went to college with. It was a guy that I loosely knew, but he just always stood out to me as a very strong Christian. And he had had his own challenges in life and had kind of come through that and was just consistently living his faith. And so I messaged him and I was like, Hey, it's me from a while back. What church do you go to?

Cause I was like, this person's different and whatever's like happening in their life is what I want. And so recommended a church to me. I started going there. Baxter actually separately started going to this kind of church. There was a period of time where we weren't together. And so there was one sermon though that just hit me and I'm sure it's one that we've probably all heard if you've grown up in any Christian faith, it's just about bearing fruit. And for some reason this Sunday it just hit me that it was like, Hey, your life will look a little different if your faith is real. And I was like, wow, there are a lot of things in my life right now that don't look the way that I would want them to look based on what I believe. And so that was probably maybe 10 years ago.

And so I would think that people would say that have known me through that whole period that my life is very different right now, specifically in this moment. I think of my children as my first priority. So, and really the order is my faith and then my husband and then my children. But with my children, they're my first kind of ministry. And so how am I investing in them? And so we've done a lot lately to get our arms around our children in growing and building a business. Any entrepreneur will tell you that it's just always on and it's all the time. And Baxter and I didn't even start taking vacations until probably five years ago or even, I mean weekends maybe in the last five to seven years was when we started not working on weekends. And so there was just a lot of our life that was around the clockwork.

And so now with our children, they've just grown up so quickly. Birdie is seven, my youngest is two and we have four kids. And I'm seeing that I really want to be the one who's shaping and molding them. And I'm starting to see things coming through school friends and conversations that we're having. And so we have done a lot right now to get our arms around them. And so not only I changed my work hours to where I actually work earlier in the day and get off earlier so that I finish work when they finish school, which gives us that time and afternoon to be together, which has been very helpful. The other thing that we've done is we're taking kind of what I'm calling a family gap year. So we have moved to a very small town in Texas and we're doing it for a year, year and a half.

And the whole point is that we're, I'm going to call it, we're ejecting socially from all of our responsibilities back in Dallas so that we have all that time with our kids so that after work we're going on hikes, we're riding bikes together, we're making food together. We've really, one of the cool things about being here is being able to refocus on our diet cause there's not restaurants around. And so we're making everything that we're eating, which I can also see a change. My kids are drinking way more water, they just look healthier. But we're spending a ton of time together as a family. And I would say that that really started in this recognition of our faith and how much we want to invest in our children and what we want their lives to look like. And so luckily LTK is a remote first organization, so you can work from anywhere. And we're taking advantage of that and spending this time with them to make sure that they have us modeling well for them as parents.


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