Adam: Thanks again for taking the time to go behind the brand. First things first, though, what is something about you that the many people who follow you don’t know?
They may not know that we set out to be artists, not astrologers! We grew up in Detroit in a very multicultural neighborhood and went to art school at the University of Michigan. There, we learned how to use the tools of “desktop publishing” (it was the ’90s) and started our own multicultural women’s magazine, HUES, which we grew into a national magazine after graduating. Ophi took a side job at the U-of-M computer labs, where she had access to state of the art Macs and video editing equipment, and she taught herself how to use a ton of programs during those long, slow hours. We taught ourselves how to code in HTML (that’s all there was at the time!) and began building websites from scratch in the mid-1990s. Concurrently, we became interested in astrology—especially since it was one of the few ways you could talk about the so-called “differences” between people without it getting polarized and divisive. When we moved to NYC several years later and worked at magazines, we became known as sort of unofficial oracles.
Adam: How did you become “influencers”? What is the inside story?
It was never our focus. That term didn’t exist until well into our careers. What we DID do was consistently grind away at our laptops for years, publishing daily, weekly and monthly horoscopes reliably. Never late. Never missed a day. We worked on our craft of writing and design, kept up on pop culture and world events. We maintained a genuine interest in other people. We invested in transformational workshops, therapy, coaching and business courses. We showed up where our people showed up. We made our passion, astrology, a framework for our lives. We did readings for celebrities and influencers as gifts, and some of them spread the word about us. We came from a place of service with zero expectation that anyone owed us anything.
Adam: What advice do you have for those interested in working with influencers? How do you decide who to work with?
Approach them with generosity and drop the agenda. People know from a mile away if you’re trying to “get” something from them and it kills any chance of a long-term relationship—just like dating. If there’s a genuine connection and the timing is right, that’s a start. Research them thoroughly. Follow them on social media and don’t demand that they follow you back. Contribute something and enhance what this person is already passionately about. Show that there’s a connection AND that it’s a two-way street. No matter how “famous” anyone is, they need sources of inspiration as much as anyone else.
I’ve always been super impressed when people read the longer bio on our site, follow our writing and take the time to understand our values and philosophy. Flattery is NOT needed, but an acknowledgment that someone gets what we’re about is essential. Then, if they’re doing something that enhances what we already do—but doesn’t copy or duplicate it—that’s interesting. For example, we now publish posts from a numerologist and a crystal expert who add a deeper dimension to our horoscopes. Their work complements ours.
Adam: What advice do you have for those interested in becoming influencers?
Stop caring about being an “influencer” and focus on creating something great that connects with your tribe! The market changes. Snapchat was up-leveled by Instagram Stories. Facebook changes algorithms and gets mired in scandals. YouTube changed its advertising model. The only thing you can rely on is your passion and creativity, and being a decent human being. Do you genuinely love what you do and care about the people who follow you more than the free swag and products? Are you willing to work around the clock to build your platform? Because instead of having one boss, you’ll now have a few hundred, then a thousand, then maybe millions: the products you represent and the people who follow you. Also, don’t quit your day job until you’ve passed a certain tipping point. Keep the side hustles going so money stays in the bank. We built websites for small businesses for YEARS while we built up our brand. It was an awesome way to keep our skills fresh and pay the rent, even though it did take a lot of time!
Adam: What is the biggest misconception about the influencer world and life as an influencer?
Probably the glamour. Sure there are glossy photo opps and filtered social media snaps, and maybe some celebrity action. But there’s also a ton of prep work! The hours we spend on the couch in yoga pants, or apologizing because we have to slip off early and write our columns, or fixing some glitch on the site…it’s anything BUT glam. But if you love what you’re doing and you feel connected to a bigger mission, it will even out.
Adam What has being an influencer taught you about branding and marketing?
Everything! The best way to learn it is to do it. Consistency AND flexibility are the key, even though they sound like contradictions. We’ve been building our brand for over 15 years now. Through it, we’ve adapted to trends in the market and industry, such as print media being overtaken by web, the advent of social media. We’ve invested in SEO and PR. But we never changed the core of who we were. We’ve been told to shorten our horoscopes by marketing “experts,” for example, but our audience likes ’em long. Stay connected and tuned in to your audience, and adapt based on their desires.
Adam: What are your hobbies and how have they shaped you?
Our hobbies kind of overlap with our business—we don’t really have a lifestyle that’s separated between work and time off. But we love to travel, make things, learn about design and home décor, read, learn, and have great conversations with friends. Personal growth and transformation are passions. But all of it spills into what we share with our readers. We’re also not-so-secret karaoke addicts—we love to get a private room in one of the NYC or Seattle karaoke spots and sing for hours. It’s one of the biggest stress relievers and it’s impossible to be unhappy while belting out a favorite jam!
Adam: Who have been the biggest influences in your life and how do you pay it forward?
The women in our family: our mom, aunt and grandma. All of them lived creative lives and followed their dreams. Our aunt was an artist who inspired us to go to art school. Our mom became a rabbi at age 55, a lifelong dream since childhood. She up and moved to NYC in her 50s to make it happen. Our grandmother was a certified dentist in Europe in the 1930s, unheard of for a woman in her time, and survived the Holocaust by hiding in a convent as a nun. We pay it forward by encouraging our readers, who are mostly women, to create life on their own terms and listen to their truths rather than following roles that are prescribed for them. We also give a percentage of our proceeds to a meaningful charity each year.