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039: Gabrielle Blair on Blog Business, Family and Travel

I first learned about Gabrielle Blair in an HGTV episode of International House Hunters way back 10 years ago when my husband and I were both still living in the Boston area.

This was during the earlier stages of blogging and podcasting. I still remember having some abandoned blog from the old “Blogger” platform which in the digital world is considered ancient history! Fast forward to today and there are 19 million active blogs and 200,000 plus active podcasts (according to Hubspot). Who knew we’d be having a conversation about blogging still being like the Wild West in that there is no real standardization because of technology’s constant changes.

So why blog in the first place? Traditionally blog content was created to inspire, educate, or entertain (maybe a little bit of each). Back in the day, blogs consisted mostly of text and graphic images, although today they have more of a multimedia function. Content can be consumed in text, images, video, audio or a mix of these. All content is usually targeted towards a particular reader, audience, listener or “tribe” in Seth Godin terms. It’s also the start of a conversation or a way to connect with those you or your company’s brand would aspire to connect with. It’s about making a difference, impact and in some way transformation, whether on a personal level or at a larger scale.

I’m excited to share this conversation with Gabrielle as she was one of the early pioneers in the blogging world. She’s been so generous in sharing all her experiences on parenting and designing a life, which is what we’re all about here at Simply Designed Life podcast. I mean, how does one go abroad and live in another country with six kids? Tune in and find out in this episode!

Who is Gabrielle?

Gabrielle Stanley Blair is a founder of Alt Summit, the blockbuster bi-annual conference for lifestyle bloggers and creative entrepreneurs. She is also the founder of which was named a Website of the Year by Time Magazine, and praised as a top parenting blog by The Wall Street Journal, Parents, and Better Homes & Gardens. Her first book, Design Mom: How to Live with Kids, a New York Times Bestseller, was published in 2015. On her website, Gabrielle covers the intersection of design and parenting, with thoughtful posts on topics like motherhood, family travel, picture books, food kids will really eat, and family-friendly design. Since moving back to the U.S. from France, Gabrielle and her husband Ben Blair, live with their six children — Ralph, Maude, Olive, Oscar, Betty and June — in Oakland, California.

Quotes from Gabrielle

But the conversations and commentsthere’s few places, maybe no places like it on the internet where you have really smart women. My team has done some surveys and the women that read Design Mom are extraordinarily educated. This is like a much higher level of education than the average American. They’re really smart, they’re really forward thinking and a compassionate group too. So these comments sections, I rarely have to delete a trolly comment, it’s unusual. And the conversations are really good, and deep and not fluffy and not surface but just people sharing their experiences without judging the fellow commenters. It’s amazing. (9:49)

I really try to be honest and let readers know, ‘Hey, if the content is excellent this week on Design Mom, and I find I’m knocking it out of the ball park, then just assume my house is a wreck and you know, the laundry is piled up and we haven’t gone grocery shopping in way too long.’ And that’s just the reality. And if my home is doing awesome, and I feel I have everything in order, then I’ve probably been more absent from the blog than I should be. I’ve worked out systems over the years… and even when I need to give my family attention, I have systems in place to keep the blog going. We’re certainly beyond those early stages, but still work life balance is a never ending thing, it’s an ongoing thing. (19:40)

(On Living Abroad in France)
We just really had a hard time leaving. It was a magical time for our family. One of the big things was they have a very different school schedule from what we have. They basically go six weeks on and two weeks off. They have these long two week breaks every six weeks. That was hugely beneficial for us because we could travel in those weeks. And we were both working from home and we could use those two week breaks to drive all over Europe in a big van and really get to explore without disrupting their school schedule. (23:22)

What You’ll Learn

  • How timing and trends contributed to her blog’s success
  • The early days of content creation and community building 
  • Today’s digital landscape and the challenges of staying on top of algorithm changes
  • The inspiration behind creating Alt Summit, a design blogging conference 
  • Rich experiences living abroad with her family in France

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