Today we’d like to introduce you to Lya Mariella.
Hi Lya, please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story.
I took my first blogging baby steps in college circa 2015 when I started getting involved on Instagram and posting photos on a weekly basis. I remember direct messaging a brand in those early days, with a question regarding their shipping, and them replying with praises to my page and an offer of 25% discount in exchange for a tag in one of my photos. I was so excited and simultaneously thought I was getting the deal of a lifetime!
It wasn’t until 2018, however, that I began considering what I was doing on Instagram as a “side gig” (not a full-time career yet). I had traveled to Bali, Tulum and a few other exotic places in the prior year and my page & photos were starting to get people’s attention. Brands began to reach out to me for collaborations and I thought “why not?” so I took all the unpaid work you could think of on top of my 9-5 finance job (which I don’t recommend, but more on that later) and put my creative juices to flow! That year I also realized that I no longer saw myself working in finance for the rest of my life and even though I already had a savings account, I began to make a more conscious effort to put away money so that I could eventually start a business of my own. My goal at the time was to grow my IG page and blog site so that I could have an audience by the time I was ready to launch my business, but I didn’t see blogging or influencing as an actual career then. With the help of a friend, I opened my first website lyamariellablog.com (1.0) and started dedicating most of my time off work to taking photos, posting stories, and growing my following which slowly began to bear fruit and provide me with a side income.
It was a struggle at first because I didn’t really have a support system (family or friends who actually understood what I was trying to accomplish) but little by little I started surrounding myself with people who had similar creative aspirations and that ultimately ended up making all the difference.
One of these people was a childhood family friend who had recently moved to the states to pursue fashion design. After rekindling our friendship, we decided to start a swimwear brand together (Caribum.com). Another was a friend of a friend from my hometown in Puerto Rico. She was a fitness influencer at the time, so she’d help me with pictures and we’d work on content for both our IG pages together. Eventually, she joined the Caribum team as head of marketing and the three of us have now launched two successful sustainable swimwear collections.
Last year, after the launch of Caribum’s first collection and with the help of an amazing community of creators, friends, and my extremely supporting fiancé, I was able to leave my finance job. I’m now dedicated full-time to my blog and to growing the Caribum brand!
Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall, and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
There was a mental component that I struggled with due to initially lacking a support system. You start doubting whether you’re actually capable of achieving the things you’ve set out for yourself. Sometimes you compare yourself to others in very unproductive ways when you lack mentorship and guidance because in a way you feel lost. You look for clues in others’ work to figure out your next move but often end up focusing on the things you’re either not doing or think you’re doing wrong. There were many sleepless nights when my anxiety threatened to take over and I got close to giving it all up but somewhere along the process, I realized all I needed to do was put one foot in front of the other every single day. It sounds so cliche but understanding that all you can do is your best and the rest is up to the universe will give you a sort of peace. Things eventually fall into place but by over-stressing you’re only taking away from your energy resources which you could be using to fuel the work you’re actually trying to accomplish.
As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
Short answer: I am a lifestyle blogger and slow fashion small business owner.
Long answer: I am a digital entrepreneur and influencer which to me is less about posting pretty photos or getting people to buy from you and more about leading by example and living a life worth emulating.
If I had to describe my blogging style in two words it’d be aspirational and authentic. Aspirational because you’re constantly working on being better yourself (there’s always going to be room for improvement) and authentic because being genuine in front of your audience is absolutely essential. You have to selflessly share who you are, what you know, your ups, downs, and your realness in order to become a source of value in other people’s lives. People usually follow me because they like my outfits or my photos but they stick around because the way I live my life inspires them and they see themselves (or the person they want to become) in my content.
If you had asked me a couple years ago what I think I’d be the most proud of today I’d probably say the launch of my company (Caribum) but actually what I take most pride on is the community of fun, lively, go-getter women I’ve build around both my brands. They are truly sensational and interacting with them via DM, comments, stories, etc. has become my favorite part of the job.
All of my favorite digital entrepreneurs are the same person behind the camera as they are in front of it and I believe that’s what sets them and me apart from the rest. No one else is you and as long as you don’t try to be anyone else your uniqueness will shine through.
Is there anyone you’d like to thank or give credit to?
CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE TO: My business partners: fashion designer bestie Ana Torres and fitness & marketing guru Gabriela Short.
My fiancé Nicky for being my accountability partner, #1 supporter, and best listener I know.
My community of girls who keep spreading the word, liking, commenting, and interacting on both my blogging page and Caribum’s.