In 2009, Sydney Carver was a freshman at JMU struggling through her business classes. After deciding the College of Business wasn’t for her, she changed her major to communication studies and began looking into the public relations concentration. She researched public relations blogs and decided that she’d start one of her own to practice her writing skills during the following summer.
Her blog’s name, “Summer Wind,” comes from Sydney’s favorite Frank Sinatra song. Her first blog post was about attending a Coldplay concert, and since then she’s moved to writing about lifestyle, fashion, beauty and travel. Her blog didn’t start to gain a following until she was about to graduate in 2012. Now, she blogs almost every day, is active on social media and reaches over 66,000 followers on Instagram.
“If you would’ve told me as a freshman that my blog would be this popular, I would’ve said, ‘No way, you’re joking,’” Sydney said.
After graduating from JMU, Sydney worked for a digital advertising agency, where she decided to devote her career to her blog and social media presence. She switched her mindset and became more strategic with her blog, and started constantly posting about products she enjoyed.
Sydney’s blog became popular after she began selling advertisement space. She says this launched an opportunity for her to begin partnering with other brands and companies, such as Olay, Lilly Pulitzer, Talbots and Nordstrom. Almost a decade later, companies are reaching out to her instead. She spends half her day managing her email inbox and sorting through offers for various partnerships.
“I don’t think of myself as an influencer — I started out blogging, so I think it’s important to recognize that my content does influence people,” Sydney said. “But at the same time, I think of myself more as a blogger.”
Sydney’s mother, Susan Carver, says she originally thought the blog was going to be a fun hobby. Once she saw how popular “Summer Wind” became, she knew Sydney’s success was dependent on her driven and motivated personality.
“Eventually it just started growing into a true business,” Susan said. “It’s truly what she enjoys doing. She’s a business owner — she has all the problems that business owners have, but all the joy also. It’s her own creation, her blog does represent who she is. When she’s sharing on her blog, she’s sharing a part of herself.”
Sydney’s favorite brand she partners with is Talbots — she grew up wearing the brand and worked at Talbots Kids in high school. After visiting their head office during New York Fashion Week in 2012, she developed and maintained strong relationships with the women who work there.
Ellen Heisler, the senior public relations manager at Talbots, says Sydney’s partnership with the company has been special from the start. She says Sydney’s motivation to learn and produce excellent content with Talbots has made the relationship with the company strong.
“She’s so lovely — I think the personality you see in her posts is so genuine,” Heisler said. “The same person you see on social media translates to who she really is. She is always top of the line to work with for almost every collection, campaign or initiative. She’s so timely, so professional and delivers beautiful content.”
After almost 10 years of dedication to her blog, it’s become the biggest part of her life. She’s taken time for herself and stepped away from technology to prove that while the blog is a part of her, it hasn’t consumed her entire life.
“One of the hardest things about blogging is separating your life from your job,” Sydney said. “My blog is my life — but my life isn’t my blog.”
Sydney says her favorite part about her role as a blogger is forming relationships. While she’s been able to travel and share her passions with others, she’s loved meeting people who read her blog and building connections with the brands.
“It’s always more than a partnership with her — it’s a collaboration,” Heisler said“She just really understands Talbots and can bring her own voice to her audience. It’s been really exciting to watch her grow and develop over the years.”
Sydney also enjoys being her own boss. She says she spends her days working alone behind her desk, but maintains the same disciplined mindset she started developing while at JMU to produce and ensure her blog is authentically her.
“JMU is part of the reason that I was set up for success,” Sydney said. “So many things I learned translates to what I do now. I think the work ethic that JMU requires trained me to be my own boss.”
She believes her ability to convey her true self online through her blog is the reason it’s become the success it is. As she shares her thoughts on products and provides style and lifestyle advice, she’s able to capture her readers by showing she isn’t perfect. She’s a human just like everyone else.
“I never set out to be a blogger and an influencer,” Sydney said. “It needs to start as something that you’re passionate about. I think the only reason I’ve been able to run this blog for 10 years is that it’s something that I care about. I think if your intentions are the money and the cool free stuff, you won’t be successful unless you’re truly passionate about what you’re doing.”
Contact Andrea Brusig at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more on the culture, arts and lifestyle of the JMU and Harrisonburg communities, follow the culture desk on Twitter @Breeze_Culture.