How POPSUGAR’s Lisa Sugar Built a Successful Media Company on Passion and Playing Nice
In 2005, Lisa Sugar created a blog to share her passion for writing and pop culture. Thanks to her natural instincts, clear vision and a solid team (which includes her husband, Brian, proving you can work with loved ones), that blog has grown into media giant POPSUGAR and now includes offices worldwide, as well as an e-commerce arm. Recently, Lisa published her first book, Power Your Happy, which gives a glimpse into how she built a successful business by, among other things, playing nice. We chatted with Lisa about taking risks, finding your passion and the benefits of always having sweet snacks on your desk.
B+C: What inspired you to write the book?
LS: I often get asked the same questions over and over: How did you create POPSUGAR? and How do I get a job like yours? I felt after 10 years that I had learned enough to share the story of how we created POPSUGAR and built a new media company from scratch.
B+C: Would you want your daughters to start their own business? How do you encourage them to find things that make them happy?
LS: Absolutely. If they have an idea and passion to execute it, then I’m all for encouraging my daughters to start something on their own.
I encourage them to find things that make them happy by constantly trying new things. Exposing them to stories, sports, music, arts — and, yes, lots of time on a computer — are all things we want for our girls. Sometimes they take to hours of LEGO building; other times they want to make bracelets with all sorts of different patterns. Whatever they are into one week may vary to the next, but through the things they come back to, we are starting to see passion and patterns for what might be the future for them ;)
B+C: What would you tell the you that first started POPSUGAR? What advice would you give her now?
LS: I would tell myself stick with my gut. There are times as we grow when I want to let others take over, but if something ever feels off or wrong, I speak up and I think that’s why our brand has stayed so true to itself since the start!
B+C: At the end of each chapter, you have an introspection exercise. Were these questions you asked yourself, and do you go back to see if your answers have changed over time?
LS: Yes, these are things I’ve asked myself and my co-workers over time. Things I want to make sure that my team and I are thinking about as we spend so much time cranking away on the day to day so we don’t lose focus on ways to think differently or grow in our careers.
B+C: What’s the best way to give yourself (or others) that last little nudge to just do it? Or on the flip side, how do you get the courage to quit something that isn’t working out?
LS: I am not afraid to try new things every day (except maybe some crazy strange food:)). I learned from starting POPSUGAR that experimenting was the best thing to do for myself and our audience. We try new things, and quit doing things, every day. If something isn’t working, it only makes everyone frustrated, so it’s important to figure out what is working and adapt what isn’t.
B+C: You talk about finding your passion and later realizing there were clues all along pointing you in the right direction. What advice would you give to someone who hasn’t recognized any clues (yet)?
LS: To pick up on clues, you should keep a journal of what is making you happy every day. Write down three things that happened that day that make you smile. Was it finding time to bake something or hearing a sweet compliment about something you didn’t even know you were good at? Take note of these and then look for themes or common occurrences in the lists each week or month.
B+C: Your mantra “work hard, play nice” is a great one for work and life. Why do you feel that this is so important? How can people successfully implement this at a workplace where they have less control over the overall culture? Do you think modern internet culture/social media has made this mission harder to follow?
LS: It’s important because people should not feel entitled to get anything for free. You need to work to pay the bills, so you might as well work hard and learn everything you can about the job you are in. Playing nice is important because we have enough assholes in the world. Let’s not add to that population. I believe karma will get those people eventually.
When you have less control over the culture, you can still be a great leader, a good listener and friend. Also having some sweet snacks on your desk always helps ease the tension.
Social media has made it easier for people to be judgmental and anonymously (or not) rude. It’s easier to write hateful comments than to say it to someone’s face.
B+C: What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced running a company for 10 years? How do you keep innovating?
LS: Challenges range from losing a great co-worker to feeling too stretched. I always wish I had more time in the day to spend with the teams, brainstorm ideas or even write more. We keep innovating by trying new things every day. We test and retest, as I mentioned before.
B+C: You mention that both happiness and satisfaction are needed in life. How do you strike the right balance between the two, and in what situations should you find one vs. the other?
LS: Happiness can come from big and small successes and wins. It can come from a simple smile or a great cup of coffee. It can come from an exercise class you got to fit into a really great day! Satisfaction is a deeper emotion, because you have to work harder for it to feel like you accomplished something. It leaves a longer-lasting impression.
B+C: What’s the key to hiring strong individuals who can also work well in a team? What are some key things to look for when building a home team and a work team?
LS: I look for passion! Then I want to know what I can learn from this person. Everyone should bring something interesting to the group. We can all have similar and common interests, but we also want to learn about new cultures, new platforms to conquer, new ideas to launch and more. I love finding someone who is as addicted to learning as they are to writing and creating content.
What are your tips to finding your passion? Share them with us @BritandCo!
(Photos via poweryourhappy.com)
Lesley Chen is a California native who writes about travel, health/fitness, and other lifestyle topics. She has a serious case of RBF and exercises mainly to balance out an aggressive candy addiction.