The allure of Hollywood has been a constant obsession for our culture. But what started as a distant peek into a glamorous and unknown world, has now turned into a need for daily feed about everything from what a celebrity is wearing, to how they dress their kids, what they are eating, how they are exercising, and of course, who they are dating. Lisa Sugar’s obsession for celebrity and pop culture brings all of this to her readership in the form of POPSUGAR. The highly addictive content now tops the charts for Hollywood news and well beyond- covering fashion, fitness, parenting and everything else that’s fabulous for a 18-40 year old woman who wants to stay in the know. Basically, POPSUGAR is your new best friend and a one-stop shop to everything that’s hot. All the while, Lisa remains about as down-to-earth as they come and shares her story on how she creates content that carries.
1. What were you like as a child? Who are you today?
I was optimistic, adventurous, and innocent. I was always outside, playing with my friends in the neighborhood until sunset. I was Daddy’s little girl. My mom dressed me up all cute and girlie, or matching my older brother in Adidas outfits, until around 8, when I got much sportier and athletic. Barbies were not played with at my house. I was a tomboy and still love dressing sporty.
Today I am a loving wife, raising three magical daughters (9, 5 1/2 and 2) and our dog Lucy (14!). I’m beyond grateful to have had the opportunity to build a company I cherish and to have a job that is creative, inspiring, and happy. I wake up each morning spending time with my family, taking my oldest daughter to school before heading into the office. POPSUGAR has 400 employees and offices in SF, NY, LA, Chicago, and the UK, and we are growing! Every day I am learning how to live a fulfilling life at home and at work.
2. Your life’s work?
At POPSUGAR we talk about powering people’s happy. I feel so fortunate to work with such a wonderful team to create content that spreads joy and encourages others to be their best selves.
The fact that this was started as a personal passion and has grown into something that reaches 1 in 3 US women ages 18-40 is beyond my wildest dreams. I feel we still have so much more to do, and I love what is on the horizon.
3. How did PopSugar start? What is the secret behind its success?
POPSUGAR started from a passion to create content and a desire to form a habit of writing. I knew I wanted to write but didn’t know where to begin in SF. I didn’t want to write about the city, which I thought I would only be living in temporarily. The other popular beat to cover was technology, which I was not interested in either at the time. I had a vision of a friendly online magazine that was safe, relatable, and happy. I began to write POPSUGAR in March of 2005 with the help and nudge of a friend. I quickly became very addicted to updating the site and finding things first. Celebrity news and images was what drove the “insanely addictive” (our first tagline) daily content, but I always included news from other categories as well — like a new It-bag I lusted after or a beauty product I could not wait to get my hands on. I felt very strongly about maintaining a community that was positive and encouraging. My husband saw how quickly the audience was growing and had the foresight to build something so much larger. We set out to replicate the newsstand online; we felt it could be disrupted. While I still have a passion for print, clearly online was the way of the future.
Our success has been built on maintaining the original vision and voice while adapting to modern times. Social media has greatly changed how our audience consumes our content, and we love the continued challenges and opportunities new technologies create for our company. Building a passionate team of smart, creative, and fast individuals who are setting trends and remaining positive are the most important qualities in what we create today on POPSUGAR.
4. What have you learned about the digital space-about bringing content and commerce together?
Our audience wants to learn, be entertained, and be inspired. We write content that they can connect to in some way, whether that’s factual information they can take away, something fun they enjoy, or something that keeps them thinking. In all these cases, commerce can play a part. Mostly it’s helping steer them in the right direction for something specific they are looking for, but we also inspire them to buy things they didn’t even know they wanted. An ultimate guide, a celeb style breakdown, or a new designer collaboration that they need to mark their calendars for — our audience wants to see product porn.
5. Can viral stories still be high quality? What’s your take on social media?
Absolutely viral stories can be high quality! There are all kinds of viral content, like a humorous video (way harder to produce than it looks) or a really heartwarming firsthand story. As long as it serves the purpose to entertain and emotionally trigger a reaction, then yes, viral can = quality.
Social media is brilliant. I love that I can be in touch with so many close friends and family so easily. I’ve been living far from family for 15 years. Over the past 8, it’s been way easier to stay in touch. Living far away is hard, but being connected online is easy and makes me feel happy to know what people are up to.
Social media is also a tool. It is how we share the content we produce. We are thrilled when people react and share, comment, and like stories, because it’s positive reinforcement to our team that they are doing something right and providing a service to our audience. Social also allows for our team to be more personal and be themselves. People love to follow our hosts and see behind-the-scenes action, and we love to share that with our audience.
6. What do you look for in your staff/employees?
We look for passion, personality, and adaptiveness. We want writers who are full of ideas and energy and can’t wait to get going. We also know everything changes so quickly these days, so finding people who can adapt is more important then ever. We look for a team that wants to do it all and can roll up their sleeves at any level. There is always something left to be learned, so no job is beneath anyone.
7. What is your personal measuring stick for success?
I want a happy home and employees. If my children feel loved, safe, and happy, then I feel like I’ve done it all. I consider POPSUGAR one of my babies, so I feel the same about the company and all that are a part of it.
My father taught me the importance of finding something you love to do
8. What is your greatest gift in life?
My family. There is no greater joy than watching my children grow up or making my own parents proud.
9. When you became a mom, how did you business change?
I started writing POPSUGAR in March 2005. By November it was such an addiction and I was very excited to be pregnant with our first daughter so I quit my job in advertising and started to concentrate on just the site and preparing for a new chapter in our lives with our baby girl on the way. Brian joined me in April 2006 to launch POPSUGAR with 4 other founders. June 1st was our first official day of training and the funny thing is, I ended up going into labor! Katie came 2 weeks early! We were so unprepared but jumped into taking on everything at once. In fact, I had her on a Thursday and that Sunday was the MTV movie awards so I was back up and blogging by then.
Since life as parents started at the same time we were building a company we immediately learned to blend the two together. We actually brought Katie to work with us for the first three years. It was amazing and such a special treat to have her in the office everyday.
I would be nursing one minute and writing the site or training new employees the next. Katie actually had the only closed door office in the offices. It was her playroom/ nap-room etc. She would come out and play and the team would cheer her on as she started to do new things like crawl for the first time. The girls in the office would even throw special tea party birthdays and more. It was really special. But eventually she had to go to school and start socializing with people her own age.
Since then we’ve had two more daughters and while I wish we could have had the same experience with each of them, juggling various school schedules, nap times and a growing company etc isn’t realistic. However, they do come to visit often and I make sure to carve out time in my schedule for important events like plays, field trips and even helping with various carpools. I love my time as a mom with my kids but I consider POPSUGAR one of my babies as well and it also needs special attention just like the others..
10. What important teachings can you pass on to your kids?
To work hard and be nice. Being humble, having good manners, and learning from failure is also something I want my children to understand well.
11. What is it about you that has made your dreams come true?
Surrounding myself with amazing people has allowed me to create a dream world. I’m constantly learning from my husband and co-workers, and learning as our company grows and experiments with new things. Being optimistic, adaptable, and open-minded is very important to my personal growth. I hope to continue to fulfill many more dreams.