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How Maricielo Solis Created a Movement of Connection Through Storytelling Ep. 84
Episode 8430th August 2022 • Fascinating Entrepreneurs • Natasha Miller
00:00:00 00:18:03

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Cielo Solis is a multilingual media storyteller, executive, and TV journalist turned entrepreneur whose motivation, compassion, and game-changing attitude have all earned her a reputation as a media thought leader.

She is the founder & CEO of BLENDtw, a media company focused on producing content that fosters human connection. Through BLENDtw, Cielo produces content that helps people connect through their experiences so they can live abundant and meaningful lives. Disappointed by the lack of diversity in news coverage, Cielo decided to quit her job in television and make a change in the media industry by launching a website focused on grassroots journalism.

That is how BLENDtw (blend the world) was born.

BLENDtw has grown to become one of the most popular sites among gen Z & Millenials in America. The website now averages 1 Million readers per month, and BLENDtw has now expanded into a  marketing agency. 

Cielo’s work has been featured on The List, ABC News, NBC News,  Medium, Thrive Global, Her Campus, and many other publications.

Where to find Maricielo Solis

Website: maricielosolis.com

SPONSOR

This episode is sponsored by Entire Productions- Creating events (both in-person and virtual) that don't suck! and Entire Productions Marketing- carefully curated premium gifting and branded promo items. 

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Transcripts

Maricielo Solis:

I was like, oh yeah, I know what I'm doing.

Maricielo Solis:

I'm gonna make money.

Maricielo Solis:

No, I was broke for almost three years.

Maricielo Solis:

struggling trying to pay my bills and not understanding why is it that I'm

Maricielo Solis:

working on this website for 12 hours a day and it's not working for me.

Maricielo Solis:

Once I understood that I had to invest in my knowledge and

Maricielo Solis:

I had to change my mindset.

Maricielo Solis:

Then it's when things started happening for me.

Natasha Miller:

Welcome to FASCINATING ENTREPRENEURS.

Natasha Miller:

How do people end up becoming an entrepreneur?

Natasha Miller:

How do they scale and grow their businesses?

Natasha Miller:

How do they plan for profit?

Natasha Miller:

Are they in it for life?

Natasha Miller:

Are they building to exit these and a myriad of other topic?

Natasha Miller:

We'll be discussed to pull back the veil on the wizardry of successful

Natasha Miller:

and FASCINATING ENTREPRENEURS.

Natasha Miller:

My book RELENTLESS is now available.

Natasha Miller:

Everywhere books can be bought online, including Amazon and BarnesAndNoble.com.

Natasha Miller:

Try your local indie bookstore too.

Natasha Miller:

And if they don't have it, they can order it.

Natasha Miller:

Just ask them the reviews are streaming in.

Natasha Miller:

And I'm so thankful for the positive feedback, as well as

Natasha Miller:

hearing from people that my memoir has impacted them positively.

Natasha Miller:

It is not enough to be resilient.

Natasha Miller:

You have to be RELENTLESS.

Natasha Miller:

You can go to TheRelentlessBook.com for more information.

Natasha Miller:

Thank you so much.

Natasha Miller:

Maricielo Solis started BlendTW from her couch.

Natasha Miller:

And since then has built a powerful platform that supports college students in

Natasha Miller:

America with their content and products.

Natasha Miller:

We talk about how she went from working in the media to this endeavor, what her

Natasha Miller:

strategy was for selling $100,000 worth of products through affiliate marketing,

Natasha Miller:

and how she taught herself SEO that resulted in building a massive audience.

Natasha Miller:

Now let's get right into it.

Maricielo Solis:

So BlendyTW media company, we have a publication to

Maricielo Solis:

marketing agency and it specifically, it's a publication target for

Maricielo Solis:

college students in the U.S.

Maricielo Solis:

Our mission is to make college life easier and smarter.

Natasha Miller:

Beautiful, I just interviewed someone who has a

Natasha Miller:

company called Greek university, and he has a lot of speakers

Natasha Miller:

that go out to colleges and such.

Natasha Miller:

Do you know that company?

Maricielo Solis:

Yeah, I actually, yes.

Maricielo Solis:

I'm very familiar with them, small world.

Natasha Miller:

Great, and so now tell us, where did this come from?

Maricielo Solis:

Yeah, so I was working at CNN as a TV journalist, so my background.

Maricielo Solis:

In media.

Maricielo Solis:

I started my career NBC as a page at the page program.

Maricielo Solis:

I worked at the today show and then I got high with CNN and the idea of creating

Maricielo Solis:

plenty doer really came to my mind when I had reached the point of my career,

Maricielo Solis:

where I was done covering heart news.

Maricielo Solis:

It takes a toll on your mental health covering a lot of hard news.

Maricielo Solis:

And I wanted to focus on a different type of storytelling.

Maricielo Solis:

Also, I was just a little bit disappointed by the lack of diversity

Maricielo Solis:

and use coverage at these big networks.

Maricielo Solis:

So I decided to quit my job in television and make a change in

Maricielo Solis:

the media by launching a website, focus on grassroots, journalism.

Maricielo Solis:

That is how BLENDtw or Blend the World was born.

Natasha Miller:

Amazing.

Natasha Miller:

And how long ago was that?

Maricielo Solis:

That was in 2017.

Maricielo Solis:

It's so crazy.

Maricielo Solis:

It's gonna be over six years.

Natasha Miller:

Pre pandemic.

Natasha Miller:

And what happened during the pandemic?

Maricielo Solis:

That is when we stopped seeing this just as a

Maricielo Solis:

creative idea, because I didn't create those to make money.

Maricielo Solis:

We just wanted to make a difference and really give a space for young people.

Maricielo Solis:

To be able to open up about their struggles and issues related to

Maricielo Solis:

mental health, guns in America, all these uncomfortable topics that

Maricielo Solis:

are so important to red address.

Maricielo Solis:

And then during the pandemic, one of her stories just went viral and we started

Maricielo Solis:

seeing organically a lot of traction.

Maricielo Solis:

So that's when I was like, I am going to dedicate my life to this because I think

Maricielo Solis:

that there's something so powerful here.

Maricielo Solis:

And yeah, and we really went from having 10,000 readers per month

Maricielo Solis:

to having 10,000 readers per day.

Natasha Miller:

What was the story that went viral?

Maricielo Solis:

It was about mental health.

Maricielo Solis:

We had a series about suicide prevention and a student for this specific school.

Maricielo Solis:

I don't wanna disclose that, but you can go online and there's a specific series

Maricielo Solis:

that you can go because the students that submit these stories to us, a lot

Maricielo Solis:

of the times they don't wanna actually show their faces or it specifically

Maricielo Solis:

just say their names, but this student specifically up and up about their

Maricielo Solis:

struggle, like living with mental health issues and how like she felt lonely.

Maricielo Solis:

So I think a lot of people identify with that.

Maricielo Solis:

And especially during COVID where people were basically on lockdown

Maricielo Solis:

and that is specifically story went viral, a lot of people, I think,

Maricielo Solis:

especially young people resonated-

Natasha Miller:

right.

Maricielo Solis:

-with that.

Natasha Miller:

I think everyone could resonate with that actually,

Natasha Miller:

especially through the pandemic.

Natasha Miller:

So switching gears, what was your strategy for SEO that resulted

Natasha Miller:

in building a massive audience?

Maricielo Solis:

Absolutely.

Maricielo Solis:

So specifically for us, since we organically, already had attraction

Maricielo Solis:

because of the stories that we're reporting out there, what we started

Maricielo Solis:

doing is we started doing a lot of keyword research and just heavily

Maricielo Solis:

understanding what our audience wanted.

Maricielo Solis:

So we talk about five months to implement an SEO strategy.

Maricielo Solis:

And then it was a mix of just understanding, like through keyword

Maricielo Solis:

research, what topics our audience was interested about and then creating a

Maricielo Solis:

strategy and put content out there.

Maricielo Solis:

But it specifically eat content, which it stands for authority and then content

Maricielo Solis:

that really our audience was gonna resonate and it was gonna be helpful.

Maricielo Solis:

Yeah.

Maricielo Solis:

Once we started doing that, we started seeing so much traction.

Maricielo Solis:

70% of our traffic comes from Google and 30% comes from pinterest right now.

Natasha Miller:

Oh wow, pinterest so were you using a digital marketing

Natasha Miller:

company to work with you with your SEO?

Maricielo Solis:

No, I did it all on my own.

Maricielo Solis:

I became the SEO expert.

Maricielo Solis:

I truly believe in the power of investing in knowledge and do it yourself.

Maricielo Solis:

Now I have a bigger team, but when I started, it was just me from my couch,

Maricielo Solis:

trying to do this working 12 hours a day, not seeing one penny for almost three

Maricielo Solis:

years, but I believed in this so much.

Maricielo Solis:

That I made it happen.

Maricielo Solis:

Yes.

Maricielo Solis:

I did hire someone in the EO space.

Maricielo Solis:

He is someone that has already built so many websites and yeah.

Maricielo Solis:

And I worked with him for over a year to develop that EO strategy

Maricielo Solis:

and I had to become the SEO expert.

Natasha Miller:

Is he a member of your team internally or is this that?

Maricielo Solis:

No, he's not.

Maricielo Solis:

He's outside.

Maricielo Solis:

His name is Mike Pearson.

Maricielo Solis:

A lot of people in the SEO space knows him.

Maricielo Solis:

He has a core school, Stupid Simple SEO.

Maricielo Solis:

He's just incredible.

Natasha Miller:

That's great.

Natasha Miller:

Yeah, everyone listened to that will put that in the notes.

Natasha Miller:

And so you also sold over a hundred thousand dollars worth of products.

Maricielo Solis:

Yeah.

Natasha Miller:

Through affiliate marketing.

Natasha Miller:

Was that through your site?

Maricielo Solis:

Yeah, it was through our site.

Maricielo Solis:

So a lot of the times what we do is we do lists to specifically recommendations

Maricielo Solis:

to students about specific products.

Maricielo Solis:

It can be laptops like right now, for example, we're working

Maricielo Solis:

in ultimate guidelines for our back to school essentials.

Maricielo Solis:

So one of our biggest ways to monetize our website is through Amazon associates.

Maricielo Solis:

On December only, we basically made over 200 K just on that affiliate marketing

Maricielo Solis:

program, which is crazy to think about.

Natasha Miller:

Affiliate marketing is a whole world in and of itself.

Natasha Miller:

And I see a lot of media outlets leaning on it for revenue.

Natasha Miller:

It's hard to run a publishing company.

Natasha Miller:

And I was surprised to really realize that like USA today in New York times,

Natasha Miller:

with wire cutter, they are hauling in as much revenue from anywhere

Natasha Miller:

and everywhere they can get it, including this affiliate marketing.

Natasha Miller:

And so when you say you brought in a hundred or $200,000, , that

Natasha Miller:

is the gross revenue, right?

Natasha Miller:

Yeah.

Natasha Miller:

So as an affiliate, your take home is various.

Maricielo Solis:

It depends.

Maricielo Solis:

Yeah.

Maricielo Solis:

It's for Amazon associates.

Maricielo Solis:

It depends on the category, the product, but usually it's about

Maricielo Solis:

anything from eight to 10% still.

Natasha Miller:

Anyone can do it.

Maricielo Solis:

Anyone can do it.

Natasha Miller:

Affiliate marketer.

Natasha Miller:

So if you're listening to this and you're like, I wanna make an extra hundred

Natasha Miller:

thousand dollars look into that seriously.

Maricielo Solis:

And it's just one, right?

Maricielo Solis:

There's so many out there, like for example, Blue House, which

Maricielo Solis:

is one that we started using.

Maricielo Solis:

Blue House pays you $65 for each referral.

Maricielo Solis:

I know a lot of bloggers that are making over 200K just from one

Maricielo Solis:

affiliate program, which is so crazy.

Natasha Miller:

Wow.

Maricielo Solis:

I use Simon Associates.

Maricielo Solis:

Obviously it needs to make sense to your audience, right?

Maricielo Solis:

Because you need to provide value.

Maricielo Solis:

That's what this is all about.

Natasha Miller:

Have you ever thought that you should write a book that you should

Natasha Miller:

write the story of your life to help other people learn from your experience?

Natasha Miller:

Please go to MemoirSherpa.com and learn how I can help you write, figure out your

Natasha Miller:

publishing path and market your story, your Memoir to a Bestseller status.

Natasha Miller:

I was on your site today.

Maricielo Solis:

Yeah.

Natasha Miller:

And this does not have to do with affiliate

Natasha Miller:

marketing, but it has to do with ads.

Maricielo Solis:

Yeah.

Natasha Miller:

Frank and Eileen ad came up on your site.

Natasha Miller:

And I was like, what the heck?

Natasha Miller:

That's a $300 for a sweatshirt that is not a target market for the college,

Natasha Miller:

but I guess it's following me.

Maricielo Solis:

Yes, that's what it does.

Maricielo Solis:

It follows you if you're the one visiting they know so we monetized

Maricielo Solis:

our site through AdThrive..

Maricielo Solis:

I dunno if you've heard about it, but AdThrive and Mediavine

Maricielo Solis:

are the top two ad networks that everyone wants to be part of.

Maricielo Solis:

And it's just been life changing for us.

Maricielo Solis:

Yeah.

Maricielo Solis:

And they're really good at optimizing the ads.

Maricielo Solis:

They do all the work, the backend.

Maricielo Solis:

That's all them, yeah.

Natasha Miller:

So it, wasn't your site that Frank and Eileen, which

Natasha Miller:

is a very upscale basically t-shirt or sweatshirt company for women.

Natasha Miller:

They're not following you.

Natasha Miller:

They're following the user.

Natasha Miller:

Okay.

Maricielo Solis:

Yeah.

Maricielo Solis:

That's follow the user.

Maricielo Solis:

Always.

Natasha Miller:

Let's talk about your team at Blend.

Maricielo Solis:

Yes.

Natasha Miller:

What is it comprised of today?

Maricielo Solis:

Yeah, we have five different people.

Maricielo Solis:

We have an account manager, a senior media coordinator.

Maricielo Solis:

I have a producer for, because we have a podcast.

Maricielo Solis:

I have a senior social manager, but it also does a lot of executive work.

Maricielo Solis:

And yeah, we're about to launch an eCommerce brand, which I've

Maricielo Solis:

been working with this for five.

Maricielo Solis:

Super excited.

Maricielo Solis:

Yeah.

Maricielo Solis:

So now, right now, and then we have about 10 freelance writers.

Natasha Miller:

Yes.

Maricielo Solis:

That work because we need to put content out there.

Maricielo Solis:

And what we've done is like we hire college students.

Maricielo Solis:

We wanna give them the opportunity for them to write.

Maricielo Solis:

And at the same time, make money.

Maricielo Solis:

I wish I've had that job when I was in college studying journalism.

Maricielo Solis:

Yeah, so we have now 10 and they're incredible.

Maricielo Solis:

They're so passionate.

Maricielo Solis:

And it just makes sense because that's the type of content we write about.

Maricielo Solis:

Like I'm not a college student, so I dunno what's going on out there.

Natasha Miller:

So in scaling and growing your company, are you looking at putting

Natasha Miller:

in a C-suite team or middle management?

Natasha Miller:

And if so, when?

Maricielo Solis:

I am looking at different options right now.

Maricielo Solis:

I think I probably do that starting next year.

Maricielo Solis:

What I'm focused right now is we're launching these commerce.

Maricielo Solis:

We don't know exactly how much money is going to make.

Maricielo Solis:

And then really after, I think at the end of the year, we'll have a better

Maricielo Solis:

picture because that's another stream of income altogether, just eCommerce,

Maricielo Solis:

a whole new, different monster.

Natasha Miller:

What will you be selling?

Maricielo Solis:

I'm gonna be selling, it's going to be per for college students.

Maricielo Solis:

So what we've done is since we are ready, are selling to Amazon

Maricielo Solis:

thousands of dollars every month.

Maricielo Solis:

We've seen the top products, their students are buying, so we've act

Maricielo Solis:

have so much data and we've used the data to create these products.

Maricielo Solis:

But honestly, I decided to get into these commerce space because I was

Maricielo Solis:

making 200K, 300K to Amazon monthly.

Maricielo Solis:

And I'm like, okay, I think it's time to get into the eCommerce space.

Maricielo Solis:

Yeah.

Natasha Miller:

Are you developing your own line?

Maricielo Solis:

Yeah.

Maricielo Solis:

Our own line it is.

Natasha Miller:

So that means, are you sourcing manufacturers and designers?

Maricielo Solis:

Oh yes.

Maricielo Solis:

It that's been my life for the past.

Maricielo Solis:

I've been breeding that for the past five months.

Maricielo Solis:

I've just been working with so many companies in China and

Maricielo Solis:

Mexico trying to figure it out.

Maricielo Solis:

That's been my number one thing right now, like right now.

Maricielo Solis:

Thank God.

Maricielo Solis:

I have an incredible team.

Maricielo Solis:

They've been managing the publication, but I've just been so

Maricielo Solis:

focused on the e-commerce brand.

Natasha Miller:

I just read an entrepreneur magazine about a

Natasha Miller:

college based apparel brand that I think they bought for $16,000.

Maricielo Solis:

Yeah.

Natasha Miller:

And they had to revamp the whole thing.

Natasha Miller:

And I can't remember.

Natasha Miller:

I think they're at 40 million now.

Maricielo Solis:

Yeah.

Natasha Miller:

There's your future?

Maricielo Solis:

Oh, yeah.

Maricielo Solis:

Yes, it's also a matter of providing them value and yeah,

Maricielo Solis:

I've had so much fun doing this.

Maricielo Solis:

It's a lot of work, but it's just been so interesting to me to enter a whole

Maricielo Solis:

new different space and the way I do it because honestly, I like other media

Maricielo Solis:

companies and colleagues that I have, that they just went and raised a lot of money.

Maricielo Solis:

I started as a grassroot project from my couch.

Maricielo Solis:

My company has been growing organically and it's been a slow

Maricielo Solis:

growth just the way I love it.

Maricielo Solis:

So for me, every time I get into new space, what I do is just, I hire a

Maricielo Solis:

coach in that space and I work with that person for five, six months.

Maricielo Solis:

Get all that knowledge.

Maricielo Solis:

And then I do a strategy.

Maricielo Solis:

So I don't break in any market without a strategy these days

Maricielo Solis:

it's so important because I struggle so much in the beginning.

Maricielo Solis:

And I'm really honest.

Maricielo Solis:

When I first started, I thought I knew, I was like, "Oh yeah, I know what I'm doing.

Maricielo Solis:

I'm gonna make money."

Maricielo Solis:

No, I was broke for almost three years, struggling trying to pay my bills

Maricielo Solis:

and not understanding why is it that I'm working on this website for 12

Maricielo Solis:

hours a day and it's not working for.

Maricielo Solis:

Once I understood that I had to invest in my knowledge and

Maricielo Solis:

I had to change my mindset.

Maricielo Solis:

Then it's when things started happening for me.

Natasha Miller:

Absolutely.

Natasha Miller:

But you also have the bruises that any entrepreneur has, so welcome to the club.

Maricielo Solis:

Heyy.

Natasha Miller:

What is your current biggest challenge in your business today?

Maricielo Solis:

My current biggest challenge is.

Maricielo Solis:

I think that sometimes I wanna be oversee everything cuz that's the way I am.

Maricielo Solis:

And it really took me a while to realize that no, I need to trust my team and I

Maricielo Solis:

need to be able to delegate work for the hardest time because this was my baby.

Maricielo Solis:

It was the hardest thing, but it got to a point that I was like,

Maricielo Solis:

no, I need to be able to delegate.

Maricielo Solis:

I need to be able to trust my team.

Maricielo Solis:

I need to give.

Maricielo Solis:

Incredible training.

Maricielo Solis:

So they know exactly what they have to do.

Maricielo Solis:

So to me, that was a challenge like this year, now that we're

Maricielo Solis:

about to launch a whole e-commerce brand, I need to hire more people.

Maricielo Solis:

And that's the thing it's I have all the knowledge, I have to be able to

Maricielo Solis:

give them extraordinary training.

Maricielo Solis:

So once that store takes off, because we're gonna be selling

Maricielo Solis:

it, Amazon, Walmart, Etsy, a Shopify store they need to know

Maricielo Solis:

exactly what they have to be doing.

Maricielo Solis:

Yeah.

Maricielo Solis:

So that's been a struggle I think.

Natasha Miller:

Have you landed a deal with Walmart for your?

Maricielo Solis:

Not yet.

Maricielo Solis:

We are in talks, they first wanna see numbers just as any other company.

Maricielo Solis:

And so to us, it's just, we're going to start in Amazon and then

Maricielo Solis:

in our Shopify store, which we're already selling digital products.

Maricielo Solis:

And then obviously they wanna see numbers in Amazon and then we are going

Maricielo Solis:

to hopefully be able to sell there.

Maricielo Solis:

But it's a process.

Natasha Miller:

Yes, it is a process.

Natasha Miller:

So is that your number one strategy for growth for the rest of this year?

Maricielo Solis:

Yes.

Maricielo Solis:

For the rest of this year, my end goal with BlendTW is to create production

Maricielo Solis:

company that has always been to train.

Maricielo Solis:

But it's also been very realistic for that.

Maricielo Solis:

You need money and need time, right?

Maricielo Solis:

Because I think my passion and the one thing that gives me life is just

Maricielo Solis:

storytelling to be able to connect with people, to tell their stories.

Maricielo Solis:

The reason why we enter the eCommerce space is because we

Maricielo Solis:

sell such a big opportunity.

Maricielo Solis:

I love it.

Maricielo Solis:

We wanna make it grow, create our own brand, but ultimately too, we wanna make

Maricielo Solis:

sure to, we allocate those resources to create a production company, which

Maricielo Solis:

is really gonna focus on human stories, to creating content that is going

Maricielo Solis:

to make the internet a safer space, especially for our youth because that

Maricielo Solis:

is what I'm very passionate about.

Natasha Miller:

So would you keep your productions within your BLENDtw brand?

Maricielo Solis:

Yes.

Maricielo Solis:

Everything together.

Natasha Miller:

Great.

Natasha Miller:

I don't doubt that you will make it happen.

Natasha Miller:

Thank you.

Natasha Miller:

And are you looking for partners or resources to help grow your business?

Maricielo Solis:

At this time no.

Maricielo Solis:

A lot of people have actually reached out to me.

Maricielo Solis:

Hey, are you selling your website?

Maricielo Solis:

that's what happens when they start seeing a lot of traction in one

Maricielo Solis:

website, they get very curious.

Maricielo Solis:

Now, I truly believe in this.

Maricielo Solis:

And you know what?

Maricielo Solis:

Entrepreneurship is not a straight line.

Maricielo Solis:

You probably know this for every highlight and for every thing that

Maricielo Solis:

it's actually working your best.

Maricielo Solis:

There's five things that are not working and aren't going well.

Maricielo Solis:

It's honestly just part of the journey, but I take so much pride in the work

Maricielo Solis:

that I do that to me, I just see myself doing this for the next 10 years.

Maricielo Solis:

For more information, go to the show notes for your listening to this podcast.

Maricielo Solis:

Wanna know more about me go to my website, OfficialNatashaMiller.com.

Maricielo Solis:

Thank you so much for listening.

Maricielo Solis:

I hope you loved the show.

Maricielo Solis:

If you did, please subscribe also, if you haven't done so yet,

Maricielo Solis:

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Maricielo Solis:

I'm Natasha Miller and you've been listening to FASCINATING ENTREPRENEURS.

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