Women in Travel: A Founders Interview with East Coast Contessa

July 27, 2020

By: Richard Lau

Women in Travel: A Founders Interview with East Coast Contessa

Tell us about yourself and how your journey brought you to where you are now.

Hi! My name is Alexandra Booze, and I am the editor and founder of the travel and lifestyle blog, East Coast Contessa! I was born in Maine but raised in Kentucky for most of my life. I studied journalism and political communication at Western Kentucky University and moved to Washington D.C. in 2010 for an internship on Capitol Hill. It was here that I co-founded East Coast Contessa in 2016 while I was working for a well-known corporate company and travelling to many states across the U.S. I worked in D.C. for almost nine years in public relations and non-profits, and decided to say goodbye to politics and move abroad in 2018 (can you tell I move around a lot?) I first lived in Prague where I taught English part-time and was a consultant for multiple travel brands and hotels. In 2019, a friend from college talked me into moving to Spain to be an assistant English teacher, and I wound up at a renowned culinary school in the wine region of La Rioja. You would still find me there today if not for COVID. These days, I am in the states spending time with family and prepping for my sister's upcoming wedding.

Was there someone or something that inspired you?

I've always loved to write. I graduated from college with a degree in News Journalism and began blogging on WordPress in 2007. My first blog was titled "A Slice of Heaven," where I focused on lifestyle and day-to-day activities like music, makeup, and recipes. It wasn't until 2016 that I started travelling domestically, and eventually, globally to London, Paris, and Rome that same year. It was during this trip that I fell in love with exploring new cultures and other parts of the world outside of the U.S. I wanted to share my experiences and show others that it's never too late to start exploring the world!

How did you create your brand name and logo?

At the time of the blog's inception, I was working with a now-former business partner. I lived in D.C., and she lived in New York City, but we were both from the South, so I thought the name East Coast Contessa was fitting. For those that are unfamiliar, "contessa" means lady. My logo has changed a couple of times over the past few years. I always want my logo to reflect the niche that my blog represents accurately. Although it first started as a mainly food-focused blog, I am 70 percent travel, 30 percent food and lifestyle. For this reason, my current logo shows a depiction of a woman in a hurry carrying a suitcase with an airplane overhead. I like to think this is me as I am running through an airport!

How did you go about establishing your marketing?

I have many years of public relations experience under my belt, so I utilized the skills that were at my disposal! When I was first starting, I tried to get as many free, earned media placements as possible. I would "pitch" myself out to reporters and editors to offer my expertise for an interview. This included radio interviews, podcasts, and guest editorial posts. I also partnered with numerous brands without pay for the first six months to gather content and establish myself before I proved I was ready to work with larger brands. My first paid campaign was with Barefoot Wines.

Tell us about your first experience in the industry.

My experience in the influencer/blogging industry has been unique. I love what I do, and it is my passion in life, though some days are more robust than others. Sometimes it can be challenging to find brands that will pay for marketing as many approach me wanting my services for free. The market has also become somewhat saturated with people who dream of moving abroad and getting rich quickly and easily off of being an influencer or blogger. This may work for some, but I speak from experience that "getting rich quick" is rarely the case. Overall, this side hustle has provided me with so many experiences that I would not have otherwise had the opportunity to experience if I had taken another path. I have built relationships with amazing companies and brands and made lifelong friends with amazingly talented content creators! I would say the great days outweigh the frustrating ones.

What is your work structure like, and what does the average workday look like for you?

Every day is different but also the same. I wake up at 7:30 am, pour a cup of coffee, and pop open my laptop. For the first hour or so, I answer emails and respond to brands that have reached out to me regarding collaborations or paid campaigns. After breakfast, I look at my "pitch list" to see who I made a note to contact that particular day or week. These could be brands, tourism companies, tourism boards, or restaurants. These emails are usually regarding campaigns, or emails introducing myself, so they have me on file for any upcoming campaigns if I am a good fit. After lunch, I typically engage with followers on Instagram by liking or commenting on new accounts and those who regularly engage with me. It's so important to grow a robust support community on social media! I take an hour or two breaks before dinner. In the evening, I will usually shoot photos for campaigns when the lighting isn't as harsh. I upload the images to Adobe Photoshop, edit them, and place them in a Google folder to share with the client or company. If I don't have the campaign to work on, I update my website, edit photos, or draft outlines for upcoming blog posts. Blog posts take up the most time due to SEO optimization, Pinterest pin designing, and overall editing. I work out for an hour or go for a walk after dinner (self-care is vital!). While I lay in bed, I might engage in a few more Instagram posts before I sleep.

What philosophies do you integrate into your workflow most often, and what view inspires you in your work?

I believe that being candid is best. I always like to be honest with potential partners for campaigns, especially if I don't think a collaboration or investment will fit them or me. No matter what I am being paid, I feel it is essential to do my best quality work and complete all requested deliverables on time. This will establish trust and is the foundation for long-term partnerships.

What do you think you do that drives your success?

I always try to produce quality work on time. Going above and beyond is never a bad thing in my book. I am also honest and like to stay true to the brands and products I promote on East Coast Contessa.

How do you engage with your clients and build your following?

It is essential to remain engaged with an audience base. This not only reminds them they follow you but can attract completely new followers too! With the Instagram algorithm, it's easy to overlook people's content, even if you don't mean to. By regularly liking and commenting on their photos, they keep you fresh in their minds, so they are more likely to search for you organically or keep an eye out for your posts. I engage with my followers by liking or commenting on their posts, interacting with the Instagram stories, or reading/sharing their blog posts. All of these things are very important.

How do you use social media, and what recommendations do you have?

I use social media for everything! While I believe that having a functioning website to call your own is the most crucial aspect of blogging, utilizing social media effectively is a secondary component. I drive traffic to my site through Pinterest pins, group boards, and ads on Facebook. I drive sales and click-throughs on Instagram with a swipe up links and engaging photos. I think each platform serves a purpose, but my advice is to make sure that each platform you are active on is valuable to your ultimate goal. If it's not bringing new followers, income, or traffic to your site, you should reconsider the time you put into it.

Is there an event or situation that you can point to that was life-changing for you that you can share with us?

I think this might be the same answer for most people, but Covid-19. I never imagined that a global pandemic would put a wrench in my life abroad. They say that everything happens for a reason, and I certainly believe that, but it's a bit difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel. If anything, this experience has taught me to appreciate every moment, even the small ones. I look back on trips now and think, "wow. If I had only known that would be my last time doing XYZ, I would have appreciated it more." I don't want to feel that way again.

What has been the most memorable or inspiring interaction with a client or customer?

I love it when I provide photos that I took during a tour or a stay in a hotel to the company or individual, and they are so happy with the outcome. I love to see them using the photos on social media or sharing them with their customers. It makes me feel like I am doing something right!

What are you looking forward to in the next week/month/quarter or year, and what are your aspirations?

I am in a bit of a limbo at the moment due to the Covid-19 outbreak. I had to come back to the states unexpectedly and am not sure when it will be safe for me to move back to Spain. Things are also a bit uncertain over there regarding how they will re-open schools at the moment, so my hands are tied. I hope that I can move back, continue travelling, and share even more amazing European and Asian travel experiences with my followers again! For now, I have been travelling domestically when safe to and spending time with family.

What would people be surprised to learn about you?

I seem adventurous, but I am a big scary cat! I have to pump myself up and talk myself out of panic attacks often. I am extremely claustrophobic, so I don't like flying (ironic), I don't like elevators (also unexpected), and I am not a huge fan of hiking or the outdoors. I travelled to Iceland in 2018 and thought I could talk myself into snorkelling the Sifra Fissure, but that remains the one thing I have not been able to do to this day. I would like to go back and (try) to conquer it again.

What's your personal "go-to" workout?

The stationary bike! I always try to work out when I am on the road, and the bike is an easy go-to that burns a lot of calories. I also have a bike at home that I use once in the morning and once at night. I love taking walks outside for fresh air, too.

Where is your favourite place in the world?

Prague, Czech Republic. I lived there for a year from 2018 -2019, and it is truly the most magical city in the world! There is a unique atmosphere to it that just makes you feel alive.

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