You don’t have to work in the retail or tech industries to envy the company culture at Zappos. Although the e-commerce powerhouse, which was acquired by Amazon in 2010, is firmly established and claims well over 3,000 employees, it’s managed to maintain its startup ethos, thanks largely to the visionary and creative leadership of Tony Hsieh. His dedication to cultivating “happiness” throughout the Zappos brand is rooted in sustaining a happy staff. Employees are provided a particularly unique opportunity every quarter to pitch business proposals within the company, and the best are funded, which is how Zappos’ Emerging Designers program came to be.

The concept is the brainchild of Zappos trend managers Alison Callaway and Natasha Pace. At a very basic level, imagine an in-house version of Project Runway that provides breakout opportunities for “up-and-coming” designers and original product lines for Zappos.

Although content has always played a central role at Zappos, Callaway and Pace are working with the company’s veteran copywriting blogger, Hannah Espina, to fuel the Emerging Designers program with even more content and new forms, such as the monthly Zappos ZN digital magazine.

The three trendsetters took some time recently to share a few thoughts with the Marketeer on their newest adventures in content, as well as some of their favorite sources of inspiration.

Alison Callaway

Alison Callaway for The Content Marketeer“Including content as part of the Emerging Designer program is an important way to share the story behind the designer and the collection. If you view the individual landing pages for each designer [here and here, for example], you will see photos, a bio, and a video of them, along with the product images. Having this content helps engage the customer and helps them to see the person and the creative inspiration behind the line. It helps to tell the story behind the line and develop a personal connection with the designer.”

What she’s reading: All the usual fashion magazines—Lucky, InStyle, Vogue, Elle, Glamour, People Stylewatch—and countless blogs, as well. In my role, it is “required reading,” but the articles and photo shoots help inspire us for our own content.

What she’s watching: TV is usually with my 6-year-old daughter, so it involves Project Runway, Cupcake Wars, Ultimate Cake-Off, and Cake Boss, as well as My Fair Wedding with David Tutera, and Say Yes to the Dress. My daughter is a creative designer/baker in-training, so I do my best to help inspire and encourage her. But in the process, I think she ends up inspiring me.

What she’s listening to: I am a child of the ’80s and can’t seem to move out of that decade. There was something about the music and the energy of the decade that has stayed with me and continues to inspire me.

What she’s geeking out on: I am just now becoming obsessed with Instagram. I have always wanted to be a photographer, and now I have a way of making my photos look fabulous. 

What keeps her charged: I am a runner and love being outside. My time running helps me recharge and tap into my creative ideas. Sometimes I wish I had a notepad with me to capture some of my ideas.

Natasha Pace

Natasha Pace for The Content Marketeer“Having had created and sold my own line and then later being a buyer myself, I understand what both sides [designers and retailers] are going through creatively and business-wise. I also have insight into the consumer’s mind. The combination of these three aspects give me enough foresight to see how people will react. It helps me answer the questions before they are asked.”

What she’s reading: I just started reading Triumph of the City. It coincides with our company move to downtown Las Vegas.

What she’s geeking out on: I have a Women’s Wear Daily app that I read. It’s my kind of news.

What keeps her energized and inspired: My girls. I have a job to do as soon as I walk in the door. And the best part is my daughters want to hear all about my work! They ask questions, read fashion magazines with me, and make it a part of our daily life. I’ve even had them travel with me. They look forward to the day they can go to work. That is all of the inspiration, charge, and energy I need.

Hannah Espina

Hannah Espina for The Content Marketeer“Writing for Zappos, it’s pretty much impossible to run out of fresh content. In fact, there’s more content than any one person has the bandwidth for. We have so many brands and categories, therefore there are a lot of stories to share. I work closely with our brands and merch teams to make sure we’re featuring the freshest, letting our customers in on the latest and greatest.

“Of course, a big part of the Zappos blogs is our company culture, and trust me, there’s a lot that goes on at Zappos on any given day. I am fortunate to have such amazing coworkers who contribute to this facet of the blogs, from our A/V team to Zapponians from different departments who are passionate about our culture. I’m excited to see how the Zappos blogs grow and evolve as time goes on, and I feel very fortunate to be able to represent not only the Zappos family, but also the Zappos brand as a whole. There’s never a dull moment around here!”  

What she’s reading: As far as fashion mags, I’m a huge fan of Lucky and InStyle. Not only is their editorial content amazing, they’re always on the pulse of what’s hot right now. However, I do a lot of my reading online, like many of my fellow Gen X and Y peers. I’m obsessed with blogs, particularly ones that have to do with style, photography, and design. I follow everyone from The Man Repeller, From Me to You, and Rockstar Diaries to e-zine-blog hybrids like WhoWhatWearDaily and The Beauty Department. I’m constantly on the hunt for inspiration, whether it be content or visuals. This is probably why I’m obsessed with Pinterest! I have a pre-bedtime ritual every night: Google Reader to catch up on my favorite blogs, then Pinterest. It keeps me constantly striving to be better at what I do.  

What she’s watching: I don’t watch a whole lot of TV, although a friend got me hooked on Dexter a year ago. I’m also a big fan of Saturday Night Live and E! Entertainment Television. I like to know what’s going on in pop culture—cheesy reality TV and all! It’s just always good to have your eyes and ears open to all that stuff, no matter how trivial or silly you might think it is. It’s what defines this generation, so it’s always good to pay attention to what’s “buzzworthy” right now, even if a lot of it is fleeting.  

What she’s listening to: I listen to a few different genres of music, but mostly indie rock and pop. Some bands and singers that are always on my heavy rotation list are The Shins, Fleeting Foxes, Temper Trap , James Blake, Radiohead, and Friendly Fires. I love discovering new music of all types.

What she’s geeking out on: I like Instagram a lot. It’s a genius idea that’s so simple, yet so impactful. I’ve always been a fan of film and instant photography, so this is like the new generation’s nod to old-school photos. 

Where she “networks”: I’m  a big Facebook geek. Not so much Twitter, though. I somehow never got into it. Facebook is a great way for brands to engage with their customers on a more intimate level. I can’t even begin to count the number of amazing articles, photos, funny videos, etcetera that I’ve discovered through Facebook. There’s a reason why Mr. Zuckerberg is a billionaire!

What inspires her: I love photography. It never ceases to inspire me. There’s always something new to learn, something new to explore. I have been obsessed with film photography for years, and I still shoot film quite a bit (35mm and 20mm). The best thing about photography is that it forces you to see the beauty in the mundane, the extraordinary in the ordinary.


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