Aug. 30, 2022

How Maricielo Solis Created a Movement of Connection Through Storytelling Ep. 84

How Maricielo Solis Created a Movement of Connection Through Storytelling Ep. 84

Cielo Solis is a multilingual media storyteller, executive, and TV journalist turned entrepreneur whose motivation, compassion, and game-changing attitude have all earned her a reputation as a media thought leader.

She is the founder & CEO of BLENDtw, a media company focused on producing content that fosters human connection. Through BLENDtw, Cielo produces content that helps people connect through their experiences so they can live abundant and meaningful lives. Disappointed by the lack of diversity in news coverage, Cielo decided to quit her job in television and make a change in the media industry by launching a website focused on grassroots journalism.

That is how BLENDtw (blend the world) was born.

BLENDtw has grown to become one of the most popular sites among gen Z & Millenials in America. The website now averages 1 Million readers per month, and BLENDtw has now expanded into a  marketing agency. 

Cielo’s work has been featured on The List, ABC News, NBC News,  Medium, Thrive Global, Her Campus, and many other publications.

Where to find Maricielo Solis

Website: maricielosolis.com


SPONSOR

This episode is sponsored by Entire Productions- Creating events (both in-person and virtual) that don't suck! and Entire Productions Marketing- carefully curated premium gifting and branded promo items. 

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Transcript
Maricielo Solis:

I was like, oh yeah, I know what I'm doing. I'm gonna make money. No, I was broke for almost three years. struggling trying to pay my bills and not understanding why is it that I'm working on this website for 12 hours a day and it's not working for me. Once I understood that I had to invest in my knowledge and I had to change my mindset. Then it's when things started happening for me.

Natasha Miller:

Welcome to FASCINATING ENTREPRENEURS. How do people end up becoming an entrepreneur? How do they scale and grow their businesses? How do they plan for profit? Are they in it for life? Are they building to exit these and a myriad of other topic? We'll be discussed to pull back the veil on the wizardry of successful and FASCINATING ENTREPRENEURS. My book RELENTLESS is now available. Everywhere books can be bought online, including Amazon and BarnesAndNoble.com. Try your local indie bookstore too. And if they don't have it, they can order it. Just ask them the reviews are streaming in. And I'm so thankful for the positive feedback, as well as hearing from people that my memoir has impacted them positively. It is not enough to be resilient. You have to be RELENTLESS. You can go to TheRelentlessBook.com for more information. Thank you so much. Maricielo Solis started BlendTW from her couch. And since then has built a powerful platform that supports college students in America with their content and products. We talk about how she went from working in the media to this endeavor, what her strategy was for selling $100,000 worth of products through affiliate marketing, and how she taught herself SEO that resulted in building a massive audience. Now let's get right into it.

Maricielo Solis:

So BlendyTW media company, we have a publication to marketing agency and it specifically, it's a publication target for college students in the U.S. Our mission is to make college life easier and smarter.

Natasha Miller:

Beautiful, I just interviewed someone who has a company called Greek university, and he has a lot of speakers that go out to colleges and such. Do you know that company?

Maricielo Solis:

Yeah, I actually, yes. I'm very familiar with them, small world.

Natasha Miller:

Great, and so now tell us, where did this come from?

Maricielo Solis:

Yeah, so I was working at CNN as a TV journalist, so my background. In media. I started my career NBC as a page at the page program. I worked at the today show and then I got high with CNN and the idea of creating plenty doer really came to my mind when I had reached the point of my career, where I was done covering heart news. It takes a toll on your mental health covering a lot of hard news. And I wanted to focus on a different type of storytelling. Also, I was just a little bit disappointed by the lack of diversity and use coverage at these big networks. So I decided to quit my job in television and make a change in the media by launching a website, focus on grassroots, journalism. That is how BLENDtw or Blend the World was born.

Natasha Miller:

Amazing. And how long ago was that?

Maricielo Solis:

That was in 2017. It's so crazy. It's gonna be over six years.

Natasha Miller:

Pre pandemic. And what happened during the pandemic?

Maricielo Solis:

That is when we stopped seeing this just as a creative idea, because I didn't create those to make money. We just wanted to make a difference and really give a space for young people. To be able to open up about their struggles and issues related to mental health, guns in America, all these uncomfortable topics that are so important to red address. And then during the pandemic, one of her stories just went viral and we started seeing organically a lot of traction. So that's when I was like, I am going to dedicate my life to this because I think that there's something so powerful here. And yeah, and we really went from having 10,000 readers per month to having 10,000 readers per day.

Natasha Miller:

What was the story that went viral?

Maricielo Solis:

It was about mental health. We had a series about suicide prevention and a student for this specific school. I don't wanna disclose that, but you can go online and there's a specific series that you can go because the students that submit these stories to us, a lot of the times they don't wanna actually show their faces or it specifically just say their names, but this student specifically up and up about their struggle, like living with mental health issues and how like she felt lonely. So I think a lot of people identify with that. And especially during COVID where people were basically on lockdown and that is specifically story went viral, a lot of people, I think, especially young people resonated-

Natasha Miller:

right.

Maricielo Solis:

-with that.

Natasha Miller:

I think everyone could resonate with that actually, especially through the pandemic. So switching gears, what was your strategy for SEO that resulted in building a massive audience?

Maricielo Solis:

Absolutely. So specifically for us, since we organically, already had attraction because of the stories that we're reporting out there, what we started doing is we started doing a lot of keyword research and just heavily understanding what our audience wanted. So we talk about five months to implement an SEO strategy. And then it was a mix of just understanding, like through keyword research, what topics our audience was interested about and then creating a strategy and put content out there. But it specifically eat content, which it stands for authority and then content that really our audience was gonna resonate and it was gonna be helpful. Yeah. Once we started doing that, we started seeing so much traction. 70% of our traffic comes from Google and 30% comes from pinterest right now.

Natasha Miller:

Oh wow, pinterest so were you using a digital marketing company to work with you with your SEO?

Maricielo Solis:

No, I did it all on my own. I became the SEO expert. I truly believe in the power of investing in knowledge and do it yourself. Now I have a bigger team, but when I started, it was just me from my couch, trying to do this working 12 hours a day, not seeing one penny for almost three years, but I believed in this so much. That I made it happen. Yes. I did hire someone in the EO space. He is someone that has already built so many websites and yeah. And I worked with him for over a year to develop that EO strategy and I had to become the SEO expert.

Natasha Miller:

Is he a member of your team internally or is this that?

Maricielo Solis:

No, he's not. He's outside. His name is Mike Pearson. A lot of people in the SEO space knows him. He has a core school, Stupid Simple SEO. He's just incredible.

Natasha Miller:

That's great. Yeah, everyone listened to that will put that in the notes. And so you also sold over a hundred thousand dollars worth of products.

Maricielo Solis:

Yeah.

Natasha Miller:

Through affiliate marketing. Was that through your site?

Maricielo Solis:

Yeah, it was through our site. So a lot of the times what we do is we do lists to specifically recommendations to students about specific products. It can be laptops like right now, for example, we're working in ultimate guidelines for our back to school essentials. So one of our biggest ways to monetize our website is through Amazon associates. On December only, we basically made over 200 K just on that affiliate marketing program, which is crazy to think about.

Natasha Miller:

Affiliate marketing is a whole world in and of itself. And I see a lot of media outlets leaning on it for revenue. It's hard to run a publishing company. And I was surprised to really realize that like USA today in New York times, with wire cutter, they are hauling in as much revenue from anywhere and everywhere they can get it, including this affiliate marketing. And so when you say you brought in a hundred or $200,000, that is the gross revenue, right? Yeah. So as an affiliate, your take home is various.

Maricielo Solis:

It depends. Yeah. It's for Amazon associates. It depends on the category, the product, but usually it's about anything from eight to 10% still.

Natasha Miller:

Anyone can do it.

Maricielo Solis:

Anyone can do it.

Natasha Miller:

Affiliate marketer. So if you're listening to this and you're like, I wanna make an extra hundred thousand dollars look into that seriously.

Maricielo Solis:

And it's just one, right? There's so many out there, like for example, Blue House, which is one that we started using. Blue House pays you $65 for each referral. I know a lot of bloggers that are making over 200K just from one affiliate program, which is so crazy.

Natasha Miller:

Wow.

Maricielo Solis:

I use Simon Associates. Obviously it needs to make sense to your audience, right? Because you need to provide value. That's what this is all about.

Natasha Miller:

Have you ever thought that you should write a book that you should write the story of your life to help other people learn from your experience? Please go to MemoirSherpa.com and learn how I can help you write, figure out your publishing path and market your story, your Memoir to a Bestseller status. I was on your site today.

Maricielo Solis:

Yeah.

Natasha Miller:

And this does not have to do with affiliate marketing, but it has to do with ads.

Maricielo Solis:

Yeah.

Natasha Miller:

Frank and Eileen ad came up on your site. And I was like, what the heck? That's a $300 for a sweatshirt that is not a target market for the college, but I guess it's following me.

Maricielo Solis:

Yes, that's what it does. It follows you if you're the one visiting they know so we monetized our site through AdThrive.. I dunno if you've heard about it, but AdThrive and Mediavine are the top two ad networks that everyone wants to be part of. And it's just been life changing for us. Yeah. And they're really good at optimizing the ads. They do all the work, the backend. That's all them, yeah.

Natasha Miller:

So it, wasn't your site that Frank and Eileen, which is a very upscale basically t-shirt or sweatshirt company for women. They're not following you. They're following the user. Okay.

Maricielo Solis:

Yeah. That's follow the user. Always.

Natasha Miller:

Let's talk about your team at Blend.

Maricielo Solis:

Yes.

Natasha Miller:

What is it comprised of today?

Maricielo Solis:

Yeah, we have five different people. We have an account manager, a senior media coordinator. I have a producer for, because we have a podcast. I have a senior social manager, but it also does a lot of executive work. And yeah, we're about to launch an eCommerce brand, which I've been working with this for five. Super excited. Yeah. So now, right now, and then we have about 10 freelance writers.

Natasha Miller:

Yes.

Maricielo Solis:

That work because we need to put content out there. And what we've done is like we hire college students. We wanna give them the opportunity for them to write. And at the same time, make money. I wish I've had that job when I was in college studying journalism. Yeah, so we have now 10 and they're incredible. They're so passionate. And it just makes sense because that's the type of content we write about. Like I'm not a college student, so I dunno what's going on out there.

Natasha Miller:

So in scaling and growing your company, are you looking at putting in a C-suite team or middle management? And if so, when?

Maricielo Solis:

I am looking at different options right now. I think I probably do that starting next year. What I'm focused right now is we're launching these commerce. We don't know exactly how much money is going to make. And then really after, I think at the end of the year, we'll have a better picture because that's another stream of income altogether, just eCommerce, a whole new, different monster.

Natasha Miller:

What will you be selling?

Maricielo Solis:

I'm gonna be selling, it's going to be per for college students. So what we've done is since we are ready, are selling to Amazon thousands of dollars every month. We've seen the top products, their students are buying, so we've act have so much data and we've used the data to create these products. But honestly, I decided to get into these commerce space because I was making 200K, 300K to Amazon monthly. And I'm like, okay, I think it's time to get into the eCommerce space. Yeah.

Natasha Miller:

Are you developing your own line?

Maricielo Solis:

Yeah. Our own line it is.

Natasha Miller:

So that means, are you sourcing manufacturers and designers?

Maricielo Solis:

Oh yes. It that's been my life for the past. I've been breeding that for the past five months. I've just been working with so many companies in China and Mexico trying to figure it out. That's been my number one thing right now, like right now. Thank God. I have an incredible team. They've been managing the publication, but I've just been so focused on the e-commerce brand.

Natasha Miller:

I just read an entrepreneur magazine about a college based apparel brand that I think they bought for $16,000.

Maricielo Solis:

Yeah.

Natasha Miller:

And they had to revamp the whole thing. And I can't remember. I think they're at 40 million now.

Maricielo Solis:

Yeah.

Natasha Miller:

There's your future?

Maricielo Solis:

Oh, yeah. Yes, it's also a matter of providing them value and yeah, I've had so much fun doing this. It's a lot of work, but it's just been so interesting to me to enter a whole new different space and the way I do it because honestly, I like other media companies and colleagues that I have, that they just went and raised a lot of money. I started as a grassroot project from my couch. My company has been growing organically and it's been a slow growth just the way I love it. So for me, every time I get into new space, what I do is just, I hire a coach in that space and I work with that person for five, six months. Get all that knowledge. And then I do a strategy. So I don't break in any market without a strategy these days it's so important because I struggle so much in the beginning. And I'm really honest. When I first started, I thought I knew, I was like, "Oh yeah, I know what I'm doing. I'm gonna make money." No, I was broke for almost three years, struggling trying to pay my bills and not understanding why is it that I'm working on this website for 12 hours a day and it's not working for. Once I understood that I had to invest in my knowledge and I had to change my mindset. Then it's when things started happening for me.

Natasha Miller:

Absolutely. But you also have the bruises that any entrepreneur has, so welcome to the club.

Maricielo Solis:

Heyy.

Natasha Miller:

What is your current biggest challenge in your business today?

Maricielo Solis:

My current biggest challenge is. I think that sometimes I wanna be oversee everything cuz that's the way I am. And it really took me a while to realize that no, I need to trust my team and I need to be able to delegate work for the hardest time because this was my baby. It was the hardest thing, but it got to a point that I was like, no, I need to be able to delegate. I need to be able to trust my team. I need to give. Incredible training. So they know exactly what they have to do. So to me, that was a challenge like this year, now that we're about to launch a whole e-commerce brand, I need to hire more people. And that's the thing it's I have all the knowledge, I have to be able to give them extraordinary training. So once that store takes off, because we're gonna be selling it, Amazon, Walmart, Etsy, a Shopify store they need to know exactly what they have to be doing. Yeah. So that's been a struggle I think.

Natasha Miller:

Have you landed a deal with Walmart for your?

Maricielo Solis:

Not yet. We are in talks, they first wanna see numbers just as any other company. And so to us, it's just, we're going to start in Amazon and then in our Shopify store, which we're already selling digital products. And then obviously they wanna see numbers in Amazon and then we are going to hopefully be able to sell there. But it's a process.

Natasha Miller:

Yes, it is a process. So is that your number one strategy for growth for the rest of this year?

Maricielo Solis:

Yes. For the rest of this year, my end goal with BlendTW is to create production company that has always been to train. But it's also been very realistic for that. You need money and need time, right? Because I think my passion and the one thing that gives me life is just storytelling to be able to connect with people, to tell their stories. The reason why we enter the eCommerce space is because we sell such a big opportunity. I love it. We wanna make it grow, create our own brand, but ultimately too, we wanna make sure to, we allocate those resources to create a production company, which is really gonna focus on human stories, to creating content that is going to make the internet a safer space, especially for our youth because that is what I'm very passionate about.

Natasha Miller:

So would you keep your productions within your BLENDtw brand?

Maricielo Solis:

Yes. Everything together.

Natasha Miller:

Great. I don't doubt that you will make it happen. Thank you. And are you looking for partners or resources to help grow your business?

Maricielo Solis:

At this time no. A lot of people have actually reached out to me. Hey, are you selling your website? that's what happens when they start seeing a lot of traction in one website, they get very curious. Now, I truly believe in this. And you know what? Entrepreneurship is not a straight line. You probably know this for every highlight and for every thing that it's actually working your best. There's five things that are not working and aren't going well. It's honestly just part of the journey, but I take so much pride in the work that I do that to me, I just see myself doing this for the next 10 years. For more information, go to the show notes for your listening to this podcast. Wanna know more about me go to my website, OfficialNatashaMiller.com. Thank you so much for listening. I hope you loved the show. If you did, please subscribe also, if you haven't done so yet, please leave a review where you're listening to this podcast now. I'm Natasha Miller and you've been listening to FASCINATING ENTREPRENEURS.

Maricielo Solis Profile Photo

Maricielo Solis

CEO & Founder of BLENDtw

Cielo Solis is a multilingual media storyteller, executive, and TV journalist turned entrepreneur whose motivation, compassion, and game-changing attitude have all earned her a reputation as a media thought leader.

She is the founder & CEO of BLENDtw, a media company focused on producing content that fosters human connection. Through BLENDtw, Cielo produces content that helps people connect through their experiences so they can live abundant and meaningful lives. Disappointed by the lack of diversity in news coverage, Cielo decided to quit her job in television and make a change in the media industry by launching a website focused on grassroots journalism.

That is how BLENDtw (blend the world) was born.

BLENDtw has grown to become one of the most popular sites among gen Z & Millenials in America. The website now averages 1 Million readers per month, and BLENDtw has now expanded into a marketing agency.

Cielo’s work has been featured on The List, ABC News, NBC News, Medium, Thrive Global, Her Campus, and many other publications.