At LVBT our mission is to help inspire you to be your own kind of beautiful and embrace your natural beauty. We strongly believe in empowering women to be themselves and be the best that they can be while still being true to who they are.
We got to interview To Work Or Play co-founder Vanessa Toby, a true inspiration who proves that you can do it all if you put your mind to it.
LVBT: What does your full-time job consist of?
Vanessa: I’m a New Business Manager for a digital marketing agency based in Shoreditch. My role varies from day-to-day, sometimes I’m at my desk ploughing through proposals for prospective clients, others I’m at events where we’re live screening from space. It’s a collective mix of creativity, technology and good fun. I work on an all-female team with a mantra of Just get sh*t done! It can be horrendously busy, fast paced and long hours but 90% of the time it’s really just hanging out with your friends and solving genuine marketing problems across the globe!
LVBT: When and why did you start your blog, To Work Or Play?
Vanessa: We started To Work Or Play in the summer of 2013. There were five of us all working in the same agency and all eager to create something new in the marketing space. We wanted to make a space where we could voice opinions, form relationships with brands and to do something that we could work on together. Originally, it was going to be purely industry based, we decided to include the play side to ensure that we kept our social life full of fun and exciting things outside of the industry. I’m so glad we did!
LVBT: Tell us a little about your blog and what you write about? (Work side/Play side)
Vanessa: Across the blog we cover so many subjects, it’s really hard to generalise. Within the work section, we tend to cover profiles of either marketing or creative people and views and opinions on industry trends. We have a lot of “work mates” who write guest posts related to their industry/business - these are my favourite. I loved hearing about successful up and coming brands!
The play side is a great place to share experiences across culinary, travel and lifestyle. It’s a great excuse to go to new and up and coming places, share the experience and get more people to go to your favourite spots! Writing travel posts are my absolute fav, they take me forever to write as I try desperately to get across an informed opinion - holidays are so important for people, I’d hate someone to have a bad experience where I’ve recommended. To this point, we are always super honest - whether or not we’ve paid for the experience or we’ve gone in on a complimentary press pass we always tell it how it is!
LVBT: How do you arrange to meet the people you interview/places?
Vanessa: The marketing industry is huge but so small at the same time. Natalie and I have worked within a fair few agencies now and people move and grow all the time. It’s mainly about keeping relationships and building them. We do often write to brands and people that we find interesting just out of the blue, we get such a good response this, I love how willing people are for us to interview them.
LVBT: How do you manage to juggle your full-time job and the blog?
Vanessa: This comes down to team work. Natalie and I are very aware that we’re both working full-time and trying to blog at the same time. It has to be said that Natalie pulls together a lot of the day to day tasks such as Instagram and twitter which is a huge help. I tend to carve out time in the evenings to write my posts and if my content needs a further research weekends and lunchbreaks are always useful!
LVBT: What challenges did you face starting your blog and how did you overcome them?
Vanessa: One of the main challenges was trying to cut through all the noise and get noticed. There are so many blogs out there, everyone is expressing an opinion about everything! We had to keep asking ourselves why would someone to come to us? Why would they read our post? It took it’s time but we go there in the end. Natalie worked really hard on our social following which made a big difference. We were actually engaging on social rather than just posting content, this builds a relationship where people want to help and before we knew it we had people that aspire to share our content and following us back which was wonderful!
LVBT: You recently won – New blogger of the year in 2015 for Innovation, can you tell us a little more about this?
Vanessa: The Bloggers Lounge award was such an amazing achievement for us! We couldn’t believe it when they said our name, we were like 3 screaming girls running up to get the award! We won Best Blog in the unique category. I mentioned earlier that we cover a range of topics which makes it hard to segment us. This works well for us and we’re clearly doing an OK job it to be recognised. The award is mainly based on votes - we were sharing our link like crazy! We were up against 4 of other amazing blogs, to be honest, I never thought we would win!
LVBT: What advice would you give females out there looking to start their own blog?
Vanessa: I think my biggest tip would be to do something that fits into your life, something that fits you. Don’t try and create something that someone already has, it needs to be unique to you. Running a blog is hard work, if it’s not convenient if it’s not a passion and if you have to work too hard to find the content you won't succeed. Another piece of advice is to allow yourself time to become established. It doesn’t happen overnight. You also want to build the right following, there are so many apps out there where you can buy followers, yes your numbers will be high but your engagement will be low - it won’t be very stimulating. Once you find your audience engage and write to them, it’s so much more fun that way!
LVBT: What are your top three travel destinations you have visited and why?
1) Croatia – For me Croatia is a place of party, sun, beach and culture – seriously what more could you want?
2) Vietnam – The people, the food, the streets, the architecture – it’s an escape from the norm and into something so different it's fascinating! I love the sharing culture of Vietnam – from food to tuk-tuks!
3) New York – I feel alive here. I never want to sleep when I’m in New York. I try and go once a year with my boyfriend just to satisfy my craving. I love waking up in the morning, leaving the hotel and just walking around, popping for coffees with friends and then going to some crazy SoHo bar for cocktails. Before you know it, it’s 4am and you're rambling nonsense at the top of the standard. Love it!
LVBT: What upcoming travels do you have planned for 2016?
Vanessa: We’ve had some wonderful trips this year already including South Africa and Dubai. Next up is 10 days in Croatia for some island hopping in August. Very excited about it!
LVBT: When you’re not working or travelling what do you love to do (hobbies)?
Vanessa: I love to travel - this is my biggest passion I’d say. It can get expensive to I’ve had to find hobbies closer to home - Yoga is another big passion of mine, nothing feels better than a 30 min stretching class where you actually breath. My ultimate is spending time with friends and family - we could be doing anything but as long as we laugh I’m happy!
LVBT: Being a Londoner, what places would you recommend?
Vanessa: London has so much to offer! Depending what mood I’m in I have a few sets of favourite spots. For low-key dinner, I’ve recently fallen in love with The Ivy Cafe in Marylebone - gorgeous simple food with classic soundings. For drinking with the girls, I love the hotel bar scene in London - The edition, Sanderson, Rosewood, Charlotte Street…. Pretty much all of them! Chilled brunch spots - Modern Pantry in Farringdon or WorkShop of their coffee and baked eggs. Dancing until the early hours - it has to be Toy Room - amazing music and a low-key crowd!
LVBT: What do you feel about LVBT’s mission to help inspire real women to be their own kind of beautiful and embrace their natural beauty?
Vanessa: This is a message that rings true to my heart. To be your own kind of beautiful is very much a mantra that I try to live by. There is nothing more beautiful and inspiring that someone who is being themselves and expressing themselves through which ever medium they desire, especially when it comes down to style.
LVBT: What is your favourite LVBT collection and why?
Vanessa: My favourite collection is probably Hagar Satat – I think it’s super elegant and bold at the same time. I love the bold gold and black combo mixed in with a gorgeous gem!
LVBT: If you could only pick one piece of jewellery to best describe yourself what would it be and why?
Vanessa: A big chunky, blingy necklace! Something like an LVBT Sadie Statement Necklace is really what describes me. I have a big personality that I like to showcase!
LVBT: How would you describe your overall style?
Vanessa: I like to dramatise one thing at a time. For instance, I could wear Jeans and t-shirt to work but would always have a statement necklace or shoes. I’m fairly high street and love to use accessories as a way to vamp up an outfit.
LVBT: What makes you feel beautiful and why?
Vanessa: Being out and having fun with my girlfriends and/or boyfriend. There is no better feeling than laughing with people you love!