Sharing a bit of love today for one of my sidebar sponsors, Melissa DiRenzo of the blog, The Sweet Escape and blogger workshop series, Happy Blogger Studio. Hailing from Toronto, Ontario, she is a multi-faceted creative that is working hard to foster a sense of community amongst Toronto’s design bloggers. I almost met Melissa in real life in San Francisco last summer when we both attended Alt Summit SF. I was asking one of the keynote speakers whether he thought you could stay in Canada and be successful as a blogger or not, and Melissa hollered out “Yay, Canada!”. I never found her that day but I made sure to track her down on social media! Excited to share this little Q&A with her about inspiring other bloggers, working for herself and travelling the world!
Tell me a bit about what you do.
Sometimes I wish this was a simpler answer, it would be easier at parties. I’m a art director, graphic designer, blogger & dabbling stylist. I currently take freelance jobs in all these areas as well as use all these skills and more to run my blog, www.thesweetescape.ca, which is updated 5 days a week.
When/why did you decide to follow your dream and go freelance?
I started the blog just under a year ago and took the leap of faith 6 months ago. It definitely wasn’t an easy decision. I was earning a great salary, had full benefits, 5 weeks vacation and rarely worked past 5pm. But the reality was that I was extremely unhappy (and unhealthy) and I knew there was no opportunity for change or growth in that role. I have tiny moments where I miss some of those positive elements but have never regretted the decision. Ironically I am working wayyyyy harder than I did even though I’m not making even a fraction of the income.
What is your favourite place to get inspired in Toronto?
I love Toronto. If you live here long enough and really get to know the neighbourhoods, I guarantee you’ll fall in love with at least a couple of them. It’s no coincidence that after almost 15 years of living here I now live in one of my favourite areas, Kensington Market. It’s really a unique little pocket in the city. It’s full of character and characters. There’s lots of coffee shops & restaurants, a ton of vintage shops, great food and the streets are busting with eclectic arts & music in the summer. Every Sunday from May – September they close the streets to cars so it’s a real pedestrian market.
What city have you travelled to that has inspired you exponentially?
This is tough because I’ve done a bunch of traveling (24 countries and counting!) but I can think of three cities that had this creative ‘vibe’ that just really inspired me and I could envision myself living there. Amsterdam for the classy-cool factor, New York for it’s creative buzz, and San Francisco for it’s creative and entrepreneurial “anything is possible” vibe.
What is your favourite way to spend a Saturday in Toronto?
I don’t have routines, it’s just not in my DNA so there’s no such thing as a typical Saturday for me. But I would say one of my favourite activities is to go hunting for treasures, either garage sales, vintage shops or even the odd estate sale. It’s a bit of an addiction.
What is Happy Blogger? How can people get involved?
The Happy Blogger studio is a side project I started to give bloggers or creative small biz owners who manage their own websites/blogs the creative skills (think photography, design, styling, etc) to make their sites look beautiful & professional. Being a designer puts me at an advantage in that department but not everyone has those skills. They have great ideas but may struggle to bring them to life visually. We just had our first successful photography workshop and I really felt great about people walking away feeling way more comfortable with their DSLR cameras.
We really want to offer workshops that people want and would love any feedback – even if you don’t live in Toronto. We would be super grateful if you took a few minutes to fill out this short survey and if you are in Toronto you can get a discount promo code for your next Happy Blogger studio workshop.
Where can people follow you?
You can follow our website, www.HappyBloggerStudio.com, or check in on Twitter (@HappyBloggerTO) or Facebook or if you’re not really active on social media you can sign up for our newsletter for updates on upcoming workshops.