Charlottesville Blog of the Week: SuzySaid C’ville

Here’s my interview with Amy Eastlack of SuzySaid C’ville:

How did you get involved with SuzySaid?

SuzySaid was started by a childhood friend of mine (and no her name isn’t Suzy). We went to K – 12 together in Minnesota. We had lost touch over the years (I’ve moved around a lot) but reconnected on Facebook. When I saw SuzySaid on her FB page I immediately wanted to know more. It was EXACTLY what I had been dreaming about doing but hadn’t been able to get the concept from my brain to the computer. Lucky for me she happened to not just work for the company but OWN it! I called her the next day and we quickly agreed that Charlottesville was a perfect market. The Charlottesville Edition was up and running within a couple of months! It was a dream come true for me.

Is it a franchise? How does it work?

No – it’s not a franchise. It truly is a girlfriends network. The women who write the local editions are friends or friends of friends that got involved that way. SuzySaid’s original Fairfield, CT edition launched in March of 2007 when my friend and her girlfriend (see, I told you it was a girlfriend network!) saw there was a void of a “go-to” kind of place for information that was updated daily in their community that specifically targeted their demographic (25-55). While most of our readers are moms, not all are. I personally strive to ensure that my content has something for everyone – so while it can be little mom-centric (I’m a mother of two
girls) it definitely isn’t just about that. We also combine the local info with stuff that Suzy (and her friends) love (which are actually quite often one and the same – a fave AND local).
The concept is built on the basis that word of mouth recommendations trump all else. Women especially go to their girlfriends when they want or need something. So while Suzy is a fictional character- she’s actually a little bit of all of us. She’s all the different girlfriends you go to when you need info., advice and guidance – but she’s all of those girls wrapped up into one – and accessible 24/7.
While it’s a little different than a typical blog it essentially runs the same way. As the “editors” of the local editions we have control over
what we write, when we write it and how we do it. Most of the other local editions are actually a duo or trio, which makes keeping the site constantly updated much easier. I am currently working solo, but that could change over time. There isn’t a set rule about how much you write or how often you update, but we all know what makes the site work. If you’re not updating you’re not accomplishing what you set out to do, really.
One unwritten rule that we have is that we focus on the positive. That isn’t to say that we lie – that’s absolutely not allowed – but if we have a bad/negative experience with a product, business, restaurant, etc we just don’t write it. There are plenty of other sites out there for that kind of stuff – it’s just not what we’re about. We are NOT paid to write articles about anything.

What can area businesses do to be part of the SuzySaid network?
We are, of course, always looking for paid advertisers, but most importantly we’re looking for information on what’s going on around town – who’s out there and what they’re doing. One of the reasons I got so excited about doing this in Charlottesville was that this town embraced the “Buy Local” thing long before it was a trendy. People here truly believe in supporting local businesses and therefore the local economy.
That’s what I’m all about – supporting Charlottesville by getting the information out to the public about all the amazing opportunities we have in our town. There are some things that nearly everyone knows about and I love writing about those, but there are also a lot of things happening that some of us have no idea about. I LOVE when I write a story and hear “I had no idea we had that here” from a reader.
I welcome contact from local businesses!
One of the most highly read sections of the site is actually the Calendar, where we list events that are happening in the community. The beautiful thing about this is that businesses/organizations can enter their event directly from the site. It comes to me for approval/editing and is live within 24 hours. I also love getting press releases, but those usually take 48-72 hours for updating just due to my schedule.
I’m also hosting a once a month event that is open to the public as a way to 1) let people know who I am and what I’m about and 2) mostly to bring women together to build a network of friends and contacts. It’s not about networking from the business-building perspective necessarily (although that happens too) but about going new places, meeting new people and just having a good time! Those events are posted on the site, on our Facebook Fan Page and are always tweeted about in the week leading up to them.

What kind of feedback are you getting from the site?

The feedback has been fabulous! The site design is fun (I can say that because I didn’t do that part) and that seems to draw people in. I really try to keep the articles short and point the reader in the right direction if they want/need more information because, let’s face it, we’re all really busy. We want a place to quickly get the info we need and move on. That’s what people are telling me they like about it so I feel like I’m accomplishing my goals!

What can we expect to see in future months?
I’m so excited about all the great things coming up with SuzySaid!

To begin with you will start to see more “guest writers” – local experts, business owners, personalities, etc. who will be helping me expand what the site has to offer (as I am definitely not an expert on all things!).
Examples of this will be Jenee Libby of EdibleCville filling us in on the best eats in Cville, Kira Sullivan of Stroller Fit offering her health and fitness expertise to new moms, we’ll be working with ACAC on a few really cool things and (on a less healthy note) we’ll be doing a “Winery of the Week” focusing on local wine in addition to working with a local wine shop to beef up our “Wine of the Week” which I, surprisingly, do not drink enough wine to keep up with on my own! This is a partial list – there are so many great things coming up!

We recently launched a weekly feature called “Women at Work” that highlights a local woman entrepreneur.  I am floored by the number of absolutely amazing women in Charlottesville! We will be expanding this feature to include not just business owners, but local women who inspire us.

Additionally, we will continue to work closely with area non-profits in our GIVE section. We will be ramping up our coverage so that we are highlighting a new local organization each week. This is a big part of what we’re all about – helping others – so we’re going to work with organizations to help them get their name out there – find volunteers or whatever their needs are. We will also be teaming up at an even deeper level with a few local women’s organizations – as women are our demographic at SuzySaid (and it’s something I personally feel very strongly about helping with).

The last thing that I want to make sure people know that is coming up is a “Local Gift Buying Guide” that will be coming out prior to the holidays.  This will be a special e-newsletter that will focus completely on the amazing, unique shops, businesses, organizations and restaurants we have in Charlottesville and surrounding areas.

A few things I’d really like people to know about 1) Our twice a week e-newsletter (Monday’s focuses on the week – Friday’s is weekend news) is a quick and easy way to see what is coming up around town. You can subscribe from the site by clicking on the “Subscribe” icon. (and we do NOT sell the info). 2) In addition to the newsletter I update our Facebook Fan Page daily and try to tweet about happenings on Twitter too  3) I LOVE to hear suggestions from readers on what they’d like to see – great deals they’ve gotten – favorite places to eat/go. etc. They can click on “Ask Tell Suzy” icon to share. They can also e-mail me at amy@suzysaid.com. 4) I have a few “Have You Heard What SuzySaid?” T-shirts left that I am selling for $10 and 100% of the proceeds will be donated to PACEM through the Cville PieFest.