All Careers Considered: Maximize your Network & Launch your Career with Courtney Seamon

Courtney Seamon graduated from IU in 2015 with a degree in Apparel Merchandising, and since then has become a successful fashion blogger and influencer in New York City. On the podcast this week is an interview with Courtney Seamon, a blogger & influencer who co-founded Mimosas + Manhattan, a successful fashion & lifestyle brand. Courtney was shared what it was like going from small-town Indiana to the NYC fashion scene, how she really maximized her network at IU to help her launch her career, and how she makes a livelihood as an influencer.

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Links Mentioned in this Episode

Transcript

MOLLYHey Hoosiers! Welcome back to another episode of All Careers Considered. This podcast is produced by the Walter Center for Career Achievement, which is the career services center that specifically serves students and alumni in the College of Arts and Sciences at IU Bloomington. We’re on a mission to help you achieve career success by supporting you in your pursuit of impactful experiences, designing your life, sharing your story and building meaningful connections. 

Alumnus Courtney Seamon (left) with Mimosas & Manhattan co-founder Kelly McFarland (right).

My name is Molly Burkhardt. I’m the assistant director of strategic alumni engagement for the Walter Center. And I’m also the host of this podcast. You may have heard that you can do anything with your College of Arts and Sciences degree, and I’m here to show you that that really is the case, by interviewing alumni from all over the world to ask how they got to where they are now. 

Next up is this week’s interview with Courtney Seamon, who is a successful blogger and influencer who co-founded Mimosas in Manhattan, which is a fashion and lifestyle brand. Courtney was super fun to talk to, and she shared what it was like going from small town, Indiana to the bustling New York city fashion scene, how she really maximized her network at IU to help her launch her career and how she makes a livelihood as an influencer. It was super fascinating and I think you will find it interesting too. So with that, I hope you enjoy the interview.  

Thanks so much for being here, Courtney.  

COURTNEYThank you so much for having me. I am so excited. I love everything IU, I miss it every single day. So it’s so exciting to be doing something surrounding the college and all of that. 

MOLLYYeah. Awesome. Well, I’m so glad that you’re here today and I think I have so many questions for you and hopefully I won’t take too much of your time, but just to kind of get started. I’d love to hear a little bit more about, if you could kind of explain a quick synopsis of what Mimosas and Manhattan is for people who aren’t familiar with it. 

COURTNEY: Of course. So, um, my cousin and I started Mimosas in Manhattan in the summer of 2013. So I was a sophomore at NIU. And this summer between my sophomore and junior year and I got an internship in New York City, which, the apparel merchandising major really helped me guide to getting that internship because I’m originally from a really small town in Indiana, I had no connections in New York, so I was always asking my professors like, please help me, please help me and they were able to connect me with this like small, wholesale dress company that was in New York called Donna Morgan, which I honestly don’t think it’s around anymore, but you know what it was at the time. And it was a great experience. So we were sharing a ton on Facebook. This was 2013. So Instagram was a thing, but it isn’t to the point that it is now seven years later, almost eight years later. So we were sharing a ton and we had a friend that was like, why don’t you guys just start a blog? So my cousin and I got together and we were like, uh, what do we call it? What do we call it? Okay. We were, you know, bottomless mimosas all the time in New York so we were like, let’s just call them Mimosas in Manhattan and go from there. So we bought the domain and we started just sharing on mostly on a website and then around 2015, so this is when I was a senior at IU, we were like, we have to dive into Instagram, like this is where the blogging world is going. It’s going from websites to Instagram. And so, we dove in there and we just started creating as much content as possible. She was living in New York at the time, she’s a year older than me, but I was still at IU. And so all of my friends were helping me that were in my sorority, like taking tons of photos, thank God for them, and so they were really great at that time, because I was like not living in a city, you know, where that stuff is at your disposal, like photographers and all of that. And so I was just trying to like get it as much as I could. And so we did that. And then I moved to New York in September of 2018, I had a full-time offer from Macy’s corporate, doing product development for them.  

So I moved to Williamsburg, Brooklyn, me and my cousin lived together and we just started to grow the blog. We were shooting every single morning at 7:00 AM not even 7 more like 6:00 AM before work. We’d meet with a photographer, shoot, shoot, shoot, get a ton of content that we could use for the whole week. And then we go to our full-time jobs and we’d come home from our full-time jobs and we would write tons of blog posts, emails, try to, you know, start reaching out to brands. And we went to tons of events and things like that, and then started growing. And we started being invited to, you know, New York fashion week and all of that. 

So I was still working at Macy’s. I did that for three years. And then in the summer of 2018, I think I might have said September 2018 earlier. I get all my dates confused, but I started at Macy’s in September of 2015, and then I left, in September of 2018 and I was like, you know what, I’m going to try to do this blog as my full-time job. We didn’t know how it was going to go. I was really nervous. I was moving at the time into the city, so like paying a little bit more in rent but here I am. Two and a half years later, and I’m still doing this full time and it’s the best job, I’m so lucky. It’s hard, but, it’s so rewarding at the end of the day. 

MOLLYYeah, that’s really cool. Thanks for kind of sharing all of those steps. And I know as someone who does follow your guys’ account, I mean, you guys have some great content. It’s always really fun to see. And I mean, you all have over, I think, 63,000 followers, so I’m sure that other people would agree with me too. 

I’d love to go back to, you know, kind of going chronological order here and talk a little bit about your time in the IU. So it sounds like you were really taking advantage of your faculty members and the courses you were taking at IU, and you said you had some sorority sisters that were, you know, helping you build your photography and all of that. So tell me a little bit about what that was like. I mean, I can imagine there probably are a lot of, you know, young women, students that are thinking, I want to go move to New York, I want to start this career in fashion, but it can be kind of daunting because you know, that’s hard to do, especially when you’re 20 years old and kind of trying to build your career. 

So, tell me more about what that was like? Did you have any kind of doubts? Were you nervous about it at all? 

COURTNEY: Oh my gosh. It was so daunting. I remember sitting my freshman year in the introductory course to apparel merchandising and I wasn’t even an apparel merchandising major at the time I was international studies and then I ended up switching, but I was surrounded by girls that were from New York were from, they just I mean, there were girls that got internships at Vogue after their freshman year. And I was like, I don’t even know how to get my foot in the door. I don’t know anybody. So, there was, I think it’s still called this, but a club called retail studies organization that the pro merchandising major professor Schaefer had created. And so I was like, I have to join this club. I have to like, start just getting like, some sort of networking and meeting people. And so I definitely utilized every little thing that I could, and at the time professor Shaffer was doing these retail studies organizations and was doing these trips to New York city. And we would meet with like so many brands and people and that was actually how we had gone to the place I ended up interning at after my sophomore year, we had gone there just on the trip. And so I had gotten a business card and written down all the information and later emailed her, you know, after, you know, when I was looking for an internship. 

But they are definitely, I mean, it is so daunting, but I always suggest utilizing what the college has in front of you. Because even my cousin, she went to Virginia tech. She was always like, oh my God, you have so many, you know, opportunities that like, she was like, we didn’t have that, like these trips to New York and these trips to Chicago, or even to Columbus to meet with like Victoria’s secret. So we were really given like, you have to take advantage of those things, you know? And so I’m really happy that I did. And then also, the second thing is I also just kind of looked outside of the college. So at the time, there was a professor, her name was Jessica Quirk and she had a lifestyle fashion blog on the side called What I Wore. And this was around my senior year and I was looking for a job, but I was also just trying to learn at that time we had started the blog and there were no courses. There’s no guidebook to learning how to being a content creator, blogger, any of that. So I was like, how can I find a way to learn more about this while I’m still in college? 

And so she was looking for an assistant and I had a friend who was her previous assistant, I asked her to recommend me. We ended up getting coffee with her, Jessica, and she ended up hiring me and I worked for her my senior year. So also just looking outside of the college, if by chance you aren’t finding those opportunities, there is a lot of things happening in Bloomington that might not be advertised, but doing like a Google search, if you’re interested in the world of blogging or interested in that, like photography, finding people that are maybe, you know, in Bloomington. She was associated with the college, but like kind of, you know, looking outside the box. 

MOLLYYeah. Super helpful. And it sounds like you were also just super ambitious as a student and we’re taking advantage of opportunities. So I feel like that is a really big thing, too, just being ambitious and persistent with that. So switching gears a little bit, I’d love to hear about, you know,  you are a recent graduate living in New York city working for Macy’s and then you kind of decided to do the blog full-time. So I’d be curious to hear about what that decision was like to leave, you know, your job at Macy’s. I can imagine it was a little more of like a nine to five job with maybe some more traditional benefits, and I can imagine that it would be kind of like really exciting, but also along the same lines, kind of daunting switching to kind of being your own boss and working for yourself. So tell me about what that was like.  

COURTNEY: Yeah, it was, it was a crazy time. So I had started at Macy’s as a product assistant in their product development realm, and specifically when you’re in product development for a major department store, what that means is you’re working on there you know, like in company brands. So things that aren’t sold, like we were working on a brand that wouldn’t be sold at like a Dillard’s or Kholes it’s specifically sold at Macy’s. So, the brand I was working on was Talia and it was a great experience. I still keep up with so many of my coworkers and I learned so much and Macy’s really treats their employees really well, which was great. 

So I kind of worked my way up, like after a year and a half in the assistant role, I moved up to an associate role, which was great on the same brand. So I just kept learning. I think as we got into, you know, like the fall of 2018, I started to think I was just working so much, like I had got promoted and that was about a year and a half in the associate role. And it was a ton of work then plus everything that we had on the side. And we were moving into New York fashion week, which is in September, like the second weekend in September, every single year. And that’s our busiest time and I can’t take off work. So I like going to events on my lunch break or going to a show like right after work or before work. And I think I was kind of like, you know what, I want to make a decision like right before fashion week, but then what ends up happening was the brand I was working on. It was kind of a universe thing. The brand I was working on, Macy’s decided not to sign her again, sign the Trulia label. So it was everybody kind of like got let go on my team. I mean, we were given the opportunity to move to a different brand within Macy’s, but I kind of was like, you know what? I think this is the universe being like, just do it. And if it doesn’t work out, like you can for two months. See how it goes. It was really, really nerve-wracking. I was 25. So with benefits and stuff, like I was okay, cause I could be on my parents’ healthcare till I was 26. Um, but I was, I was very worried. I was like, Oh my goodness, I don’t know if this is the right decision. But then once I started getting in the groove of things, I mean, I left Macy’s and it was immediately fashion week. So there was no time period for me to even like regret that decision because I started working, it was like, boom, boom, boom, boom. And I didn’t even really like, it all kind of just fell into place I thought was going to be something I was going to really have to train myself to learn how to do, but it really came super naturally. I mean,  you have moments like you’re living in New York City, you want to go out, you want to go do this, and you’re like, oh, I’m my own boss. So you have those, you learn. You’re like, okay, I can’t be going out on Wednesday and having to work on a Thursday. So you go through some highs and lows, but I feel like I’m just in a really good place right now, which is great, and everything is going so well with the blog. I mean, with coronavirus, we had like a bit of a low point this year as any small business or any freelancer or anybody will have but this holiday season has been really great for us, which is exciting. 

MOLLYAwesome. Very cool. Yeah, it sounds like that was a really exciting time, especially with that brand, not being with Macy’s anymore, but it sounds like everything worked out really well. I’d also be curious, you know, since, so it’s you and your cousin Kelly that kind of owned this business together. So I’d love to hear more about what it’s like to kind of own a business with, not only a business partner, but also a family member and it seems like you guys have an awesome dynamic and are best friends and all that, but I’d love to hear what that’s like.  

COURTNEY: Oh, yeah. Well, we always joke and say like, we could never have done this with a friend. It being family makes it so much better because we know that at the end of the day, like, what the goals are, and we don’t get, not that there’s like we ever get upset with each other, but if there was a moment where you want to do one thing and she wants another thing, or I like this picture, you like that picture it, nobody gets their feelings hurt over like that type of small stuff, which is great. But no, it’s been so awesome. I think like this industry within blogging influencer, content creator, which it’s so funny because we never even set out for this to be our full-time jobs. Like we were just doing it because we wanted to put something different on our resume and to like help us stand out, like while we were in college. And so now that it is our full-time job, it’s such a competitive industry, you know, especially in New York City. There’s so many people that are all trying to do the exact same thing. And so having somebody in your corner and that you can go to events with and always be able to talk to candidly openly and have somebody that you can trust is such an amazing thing. 

It’s also a lot of work, you know, a lot of my friends, within the content creation world, they have assistants or managers, and we’ve been lucky that we have the two of us. So like we’ve never felt super, overwhelmed. We have had interns, which has been great, but, never, you know, anything that we felt like, Oh my gosh, we can’t handle this on our own. But, my advice, if you do like go, you know, business partner relationship with anybody, I think the best thing is that you have to know and always keep in your head that if something is said it’s not personal and you have to be able to separate, you know, we’re talking about business right now and then that’s done. And then we’re giggling and having the best time ever, but nothing is personal. And if you have that relationship going into it, that, you know, like you’re always going to have that best person’s interest in mind, and you’re always going to have their back. And like, your relationship is the most important thing, regardless of anything, you know, you would never want that relationship to suffer because of the business. And I think it you’ll be fine, but yeah, definitely pick that person wisely because I’m always like, I could never have done this, like with anybody, but Kelly.  

MOLLYYeah. That’s such a good point. I could definitely see what you mean about, you know, having like a family member you just hVE a little bit of a different dynamic with them, so that’s cool that that’s worked out so well. I’d also be really curious how it works to kind of, you know, how you are able to make a livelihood out of kind of doing the brand content creation stuff. Cause I kind of, what I picture in my head is that, you know, brands reach out to you to create a partnership, but then maybe, sometimes you’re also reaching out to them, but I’m sure there’s more of a strategy behind that. You know, how you’re kind of like working with brands and kind of like paying the bills and how all that works. 

COURTNEY: Yeah, it’s, it’s confusing. Trust me, I get this question all the time. Everybody’s like how, because I also live in New York and they’re like, how do you work when you work? 

Because it’s, it’s hard to understand. I totally get that. So basically how it works is brands will come to us and they’ll be like, we would love for you guys to do a video and IGTV you know, something on Instagram, a blog, post, a tik tok, that’s a big one nowadays, and we’ll send them our rates. So we’ll say, you know, well, it’s XYZ to pay for this, if you want this or you want that, and so then there’s a negotiation period between the two there’s contracts. So we handle all of our own contracts, all of our own invoicing. So obviously then there’s additional things like usage rights or exclusivity rights to the content, basically saying like, if we’re working with a makeup brand and they’re like, we don’t want you working with any other makeup brands for two months after this goes live. So then that’s obviously an additional rate. So you go through that whole negotiation with the brand, and then you sign a contract, we do the work and then we send them an invoice. So obviously over time, right at the beginning, we were probably charging like $200. We just didn’t really know. And then as we’ve gotten bigger, yeah, it’s kind of like you talk to people, especially in New York,  I think you can be able to make really trustworthy friends here that you can speak to like, oh, how much do you charge for that? Or like making sure that you’re kind of on the same level, because there is no guidebook and you just really have to figure these things out trial and error. Like if a brand says no or a brand says, yes, so those are like smaller deals. Obviously there’s bigger deals that you’ll get. If you know, you’re doing like a yearlong partnership with a brand or a brand wants to, you know, use your content like in stores or, like if a brand wants to do a full shoot day with you. So those are kind of where the bigger paychecks come through. But I mean, it’s a very, obviously in any freelance situation, you’re going to go through moments where you’ve had a really amazing month and then you have a month that maybe isn’t as amazing. But it, I have had to learn that. You can’t see it as like a month to month thing. You more have to see it as like a quarter thing, like this quarter, this quarter, this quarter, you know, these three months, these three months, these three months, which has been super helpful. But yeah, I mean,  this is what I tell people. I did this interview with business insider and she was like, just tell me how much you make a year. And I was like, listen, all I can say is I make more now than what I did at my job at Macy’s. And then I was like, you can look it up. You can look it up on Glassdoor, but I wouldn’t have ever left my job at Macy’s unless I was able. And I tell people this all the time that are aspiring content creators or influencers, bloggers, tik tokers, YouTubers,, if you have a full-time job, wait until you’re at least on that same basis as you were, or you’re like a little bit about that.  

MOLLYYeah. That is a really helpful kind of behind the scenes. I feel like if I was wanting to start a career in this, I’d be like, I just don’t know how it all works. So that is really helpful. To also kind of switch gears, I saw that you are studying to get your real estate license in New York. So tell me a little bit more about that. That sounds really exciting. 

COURTNEY: Yes. So I am doing that well, this month has been so crazy. It’s hard because we, in the fall, things were really slow. 

And so I was like, you know what? I need to do something because work was kind of slowing down a little bit with the pandemic. And we had never seen that in like the seven years we’ve been doing this. Like if we hadn’t had a period that was you know, it was that slow. So I decided I’m going to just get my real estate license. 

And of course, as luck will have it, I get through like the first 40 hours of the coursework cause you have to do 75 hours in New York. Things immediately start picking up and I’m so, so busy. But my goal is I still want to do it because I’m like, you know what, I’m already 45 hours into the work. I just need to finish it out, get the license and then I then I’ll have it. But I’m very interested when we moved into our new apartment, In Brooklyn a couple months ago, in August of this year, we moved from Manhattan back to Brooklyn because we wanted more space. I fell in love with just interior design and apartments and doing, you know, all of these different things. And it’s just been kind of an interest that I like, developed. I also feel like with me, with the blogging stuff, like this is you know, doing Mimosas in Manhattan, this is my dream job. Like I, especially in the fashion industry, you know, I studied pro merchandising. Like this is what I, I don’t think I could ever get a job. This is like the goal. So I think I’m also interested now in exploring like something else and like doing something different just to like, continue to learn and develop in my career and just have that. So I’m still working on that. I’m hoping my goal is to have the coursework done by the end of the year, hopefully summer night, and then take the test in 2021. 

So fingers crossed. I get that all done. 

MOLLYYeah, that sounds really exciting. And I could definitely see what you mean with, like, I feel like I envision, you know, this type of job as being a content creator, you know, a blogger, it sounds really exciting, but it’s also nice to kind of have some other, you know, something else to lean on as well as you kind of develop in your career, so that’s really cool.  

So I think that is kind of all of the questions I have. This has been super interesting just on a personal standpoint. I feel like students will be super interested in it as well. But for students who might be kind of in a similar position as you are, like, maybe they’re from a small town, they, you know, are dreaming of moving to New York and starting this career, but are kind of trying to figure out maybe what their next step should be or how to just get started. What kind of advice would you give them?  

COURTNEY: I would say too, like, don’t get too discouraged in yourself and don’t compare, you know, we all, it was so hard when I was starting to take these classes and people were so fashionable and from like these really cool places, and I just started to think, like, I wasn’t ever going to get an internship.I was never going to get a job. I was just getting really down on myself. And so I think like, don’t feel that way because we all bring something different to the table. And no matter where we’re from, like that does not dictate where our future and where we can end up, you know, living in our lives and achieving in our lives. We might have to work a little bit harder because we don’t have those immediate connections or those immediate, like people in our lives that know, you know, the head of Vogue or something that can get us a job. But I think working harder, if I had all those connections, we probably would have never started the blog because originally we started Mimosas in Manhattan as just something to have on our resume because to differentiate ourselves from other, you know, people applying for the same job. And so I don’t think I would’ve ever done that. So I think like, and now here it is like, as my full-time job. So I think like, continue to differentiate yourself and think outside the box. Do you know things that are different and just don’t get discouraged because I promise, like it will all work out.  

MOLLYYeah, that’s great advice. And then if students have any questions or maybe want to connect with you, is there a way that they could reach out to you maybe like social media or something like that?  

COURTNEY: Yes, definitely reach out to us. You can follow us on Instagram @courtandkelly. that’s the best way. Just slide into our DMS that’s the best way to get in contact with us. And you can check out our website, which is just www.mimosasinmanhattan.com and those would be the best ways I think, to get in contact. I mean, unless you want to eat what you can, but our emails on our website. 

MOLLYSo yeah, that’s perfect. And I’ll link those two at the bottom of the episode so people can find it as well. But thank you so much for joining me, Courtney, it’s been great getting to know you and hearing more about your story today. 

COURTNEY: Awesome. Thank you so much for having me.  

MOLLYYeah. And thanks everyone for listening to another episode of All Careers Considered, and we’ll see you next time. 

Thanks so much for listening today and thanks to my fantastic colleagues for providing production assistance and inspiration for the podcast each week. Those folks include Ian, Sory, Camryn Schreiner, Maureen Langley, Amy Cornell, and my entire Walter Center team. To learn more about the Walter Center and the services, resources, and events we offer. 

Please check out our website careers.college.indiana.edu. You can also follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to receive timely updates from the Walter Center as well. To connect with alumni. Like the one in this episode, please make a profile on the Walter center success network. It only takes a few minutes to create an account and start building your professional network.  

If you liked what you heard today, be sure to subscribe on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcast to make sure you don’t miss an episode. And last, but not least feel free to reach out to me, Molly Burkhart personally on LinkedIn, or send me an email with any questions or feedback you might have. 

Thanks again, everyone. And we’ll see you next time. 

By Maureen Langley
Maureen Langley Designer & Marketing Coordinator Maureen Langley