Growing up in a middle-class family where my dad was an Army man and mom, a sensible and economical school teacher, scarcity had to be compensated with creativity. My mum, who managed the monthly budget with razor-sharp precision, had a favorite saying especially when my sister and I suggested shopping for friend’s birthdays: “Why buy when you can make?” Considering she was (and still is) the head of the household, there was no arguing. Instead, I would think of ways to make elaborate and customized paper bags, presents and cards so that my present didn’t look like a dud in front of other store-bought goodies.
As years went by, my craft improved, and well-wishers suggested: “Why don’t you make money out of it?” I never could. Sometimes, putting a price on your creative outlet can lead to its premature death, especially when you are not ready because I just wasn’t; the craft was too personal and I wasn’t ready to face rejection or criticism if/when it went public. You see monetizing a passionate endeavor is not a bad thing. As a friend previously said: “Until the time you, yourself believe you are ready, you are not ready, whatever the world says.”
That’s why today, I would like to share the success story of Solmaz, editor, writer, key influencer, founder of The Curious Creature and Toronto Tourism Ambassador. A true go-getter, Solmaz is a perfect example of one who wasn’t afraid to take the plunge in the volatile waters of entrepreneurship.
What started as a passion project gradually and organically turned into a business. Love has many languages, and, sometimes, if you are ready, you are rewarded to speak that beautiful language.
Q1. Blogging for many is a side hustle because monetization is such a challenge. But your story is amazingly different. How did the transition to being a full-time successful blogger happen?
My story is different because I started my blog five years ago as a passion project, not a business. I’ve always been a sharer so the website gave me the perfect platform to tell stories, share photos and build a community. The transition to becoming a full-time blogger happened naturally but was facilitated by my understanding of communications/PR (I worked professionally in these realms for over a decade). I combined freelance work with blogger/influencer campaigns for quite some time until there were enough projects rolling in that I could stop the freelance gigs.
It takes time to develop the networks, build the content and excel, but it’s something anyone can do if they put their mind to it!
Q2. What sparked the idea to launch ‘The Curious Creature’?
I received so many emails asking me for travel and food recommendations that my friend suggested I just put all of my advice on a website. I thought about it for years and one Boxing Day instead of shopping, I put the cash towards buying a domain and website. Deciding on a name was tricky. Having a background in communications I knew a niche blog would grow faster, but I wanted to keep things diverse for my own sake — if you’re in it for the long run you need to have enough room to create content that keeps you interested and makes you happy. For me, that meant a little bit of everything. Yes, I focus on travel and food, but by naming my blog The Curious Creature I was able to keep all doors open and capture my true personality in the brand. I have yet to meet a soul as curious as I am.
Q3. How did the opportunity to be Toronto Tourism Ambassador happen?
Like most projects I work on, it was an idea that I pitched. I’ve always believed in reaching out and connecting with people/brands to see how I can collaborate with them to share content that interests both ends. I LOVE my city and have always been a natural ambassador — even when I’m on press trips to other destinations, I’m always telling people how amazing Toronto is. I became an official social ambassador about 18 months ago and my responsibilities include writing, snapping photos and doing Instagram takeovers for @SeeTorontoNow. Basically, anything that can help promote my beautiful home!
Q4. What are your five mantras to staying focused?
Focus is difficult, especially when your job involves social media — an ever-changing field! I think it’s really important to take the time to understand what you’re good at and what you WANT to learn about. That being said, we all have limited time, so there are a few things I do to stay focused:
Early Riser: I wake up early (not by choice anymore since I have a baby) and get as much done as I can before logging into social media platforms. Those are what I call rabbit holes and time suckers. An entire day can be spent going from link to link!
Set Priorities: I usually set two to three priorities for the day that are “must-dos.” I used to be much more ambitious when it came to this but learned that it can make me feel overwhelmed and unproductive if I try to do too much in a day. Everyone is different so do what works for you!
Time Management: This is a hard one for me because, inevitably, things that I did not plan for pop up. Learning to say no to campaigns that don’t fit, requests that derail my day and being efficient in the short spurts of time I have between baby duty has been key to managing my time.
Know When To Shift Gears: Over the years I’ve learned that I’m (ironically) much more focused when I shift gears throughout the day and stop forcing something that’s just not going to happen. For example, if I’m trying to come up with an Instagram caption and have writer’s block, I’ll move on to editing photos or responding to emails — switching up the order just increases my productivity.
Build A Community: The people in my life help me stay focused. Whether it’s a family member, another content producer or mentor — I think a community is really helpful in keeping each-other accountable, motivated and focused.
Q5. Personally, and professionally, what was the biggest highlight of 2017? And your plan for 2018?
My biggest highlight in 2017 was producing a human being! Having a baby has added a new layer and purpose to my life. 2018 is all about living a balanced life for me. Yes, career advancement is important, but we have no idea how long we’re on this planet and what obstacles will be thrown our way so I truly believe that every second counts. For me, this means making time for family, travel and human connections. These are the things that matter and make me truly happy.
Born and raised in India, Anisha Dhiman moved to Toronto to study Publishing and then Lifestyle Media at Centennial College. Writer, social media strategist and content creator, Anisha is the founder of Five Question Series, where she profiles people… you guessed it, by asking five questions. In her free time, she enjoys reading and trolling people with puppy GIFs and memes. Her only phobia? Losing her sight, but staring at the screen all day long doesn’t help much.