SelfMade Story | Blogging with Cedar + Rush

She’s the definition of the girl you’d want to be friends with.  Nicole is a hardworking and bubbly creative entrepreneur that’s managed to build a successful blog, Cedar + Rush, part-time.  Learn how she’s accomplished it all and how she’s still learning on a daily basis.

1. What did you study in college and what was your first job out of school?

I graduated with a finance major and worked in the corporate world for seven years for commercial insurance brokerage firms.

2. How did you get the idea to start your blog?

I had just started dating my now husband. We were going out on lots of dates and exploring Chicago top to bottom. This is when I truly fell in love with the city {and Sean too!}. The next thing I knew, friends and family were using me as a resource for their activities and dates. To add fuel to the fire, I felt a deep void in my life and craved a creative outlet. So I thought why not share fun ideas and things to try in Chicago. So I kept a secret blog, called “Great Dates In The City”, for 9 or 10 months. {If you search deep in the archives of Cedar & Rush, you can find these hidden gems!} I finally told friends and they started reading it, too. Then it grew from there! It was truly something I loved to do and blogging was very new at the time.

3. How has Cedar + Rush evolved?

I built a brand of going to the hottest newest places in Chicago. Which is hysterical because I was just a regular girl with zero expertise in this subject. How’d I do it? I’d stalk local websites (there was no Instagram at this time!) to see what was coming and get reservations for opening night. Then I’d share it on my blog. People loved to get the inside scoop. What began as a resource for trendy spots in the city, slowly morphed into what I was wearing to these places. After a year, PR companies started reaching out to me for both restaurants and fashion. I was invited to the sneak peeks of restaurants and stores before they opened to the public. I met so many amazing bloggers and influencers who are still my friends today.  As my life evolved to a thirty-something, Cedar & Rush has transitioned to be more fashion and entertaining focused. I just can’t go out like I used to!

4. What’s been your secret to success?

Maintaining authentic relationships with my audience and other bloggers. It makes them so engaged! I consider myself small but mighty and a large part of my audience has followed me for a long time. I’ve known so many Chicago bloggers when they were just starting out. It’s exciting to see how they’ve grown.

Building on this, I believe the secret to success in the blogging world is what you do face to face. I may be old school but I believe social media can only take you so far. Unless you’re doing something completely different online, going to events, meeting PR companies and other bloggers in person is what sets you apart. It keeps you front in center and will get you opportunities over bloggers who are significantly bigger than you. It’s also super helpful to go to events because you’re more authentically integrated into the conversation. When I was young and lived in the city, I’d go to everything (5-10 events a week!). Now that I’m married, run a business and live in the suburbs, I’m much more selective with where I spend my time.

5. How do you stay relevant?

This is the million dollar question! Based on my experience and from what I’ve seen other successful bloggers do, I believe there are FOUR key points.

  • Creating consistent content

This is hands down the HARDEST and most underrated key to blogging. I believe this is what sets the top bloggers apart from others. Posting valuable content every single day (social media and/or blog) over a long period of time. It takes a tremendous amount of dedication, tenacity, time and organization. I admire those who do it!

  • Providing value for your readers

Think about why you read certain blogs, magazines or other articles – they provide value to you.  Your readers are similar.  If you consistently provide them value whether it be the best fashion deals or how-tos, they’ll keep coming back.

  • Having a niche/angle

It’s important to answer the questions, “What makes you different from all the other million blogs out there? Why do people care about you?  What’s the ‘why’ behind what you do.” Knowing what separates you from the rest will help you to stand apart.  If you can’t define it, how will someone else be able to define it?

  • Networking in person

As I mentioned above, this is the best way to set yourself apart, cut your learning curve, get noticed and remain top of mind.  Plus you make so many friends along the way!  I’ve met so many people over the years and have built a network where we can rely on one another to help each other out.

6. But blogging isn’t the only thing you do, is it?

It’s not! Most people think I blog full time but that couldn’t be further from the truth. I own a social media business as well.  Through my blog, I was approached three years ago by a few companies to help run their social media. When still working full time at my corporate job, I signed my first client – a three month contract with a local hotel. I quit my job (thanks to my husband’s tremendous support) and haven’t looked back since. I work through word of mouth and most of my clients are repeat clients. I only take on 1-3 clients at time and feel incredibly honored to work with such innovative business owners. They’ve taught me SO much!

7. How did you actually get started?

No matter what you’re doing, you’re just trying to figure it all out. I’ve learned the most by genuinely meeting people. I think it’s the people around me who have helped me the most.

8. How have you continued to build your business over the last three years?

My social media business is my #1 focus and priority – even over blogging. I think I stand out because I’m professional, reliable and responsible (which I feel is a lost art these days!). This has resulted in a great deal of repeat clients. I give full credit to my corporate background and I value that experience.

I also believe being a blogger has kept me up to date on the latest social media trends and I understand the pain points of social media clients first hand. Through my blog, I’m able to test new platforms and strategies. I get to see how multiple PR Agencies and brands run their campaigns. I believe this is what sets me apart from larger agencies and how I’m able to beat out my competition.

Lastly, I see so many businesses ONLY focused on number of followers. I believe in RESULTS and that you don’t have to have a humongous following to grow your business. There’s a lot of fluff out there and social media following doesn’t always convert to PAYING customers.

9.  What are you most excited for in the next 12-24 months?

My blog! I’m honing in on my purpose behind Cedar +  Rush. As mentioned above, it’s evolved a lot over the years and you can tell. I’m excited to have a niche that feels genuine to where I am in my life and bring value to my readers’ lives in a fun new way. I’ve been working with a marketing mentor to help refine my purpose and passion, and we’ll see that come to life over the next 12 months. A HUGE thanks to my mom and friends who’ve been helping me behind the scenes too. The holidays will be a big a unveil and you’ll start seeing my focus come to life.

10. What’s one piece of advice you would give to someone starting out?

Just do it.  Nike style. The biggest thing I’ve noticed successful people do over others, is getting things done. We get overwhelmed and we want things to be perfect, which results in doing nothing at all. I’m a huge offender of this myself. The best thing you can do is to start, regardless of not having all the tools or expertise. The more you work at it, the faster you will rise to the top. There are NO shortcuts in life and the more you fall on your face, the better you become.



Meet Jen

I’ve always had a love affair with creation. Since I was a child, I handmade my gifts or combined toys to design something new. Fast forward twenty years, and I’m still making my gifts every holiday and designing new ways to do things.


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In order to grow my small business, I earn revenue in a few different ways. I publish sponsored posts from time to time, which are always labeled. Sometimes I earn an affiliate commission on the sales of products or business resources I link to. I only feature items I genuinely love and want to share. Thank you for reading and supporting my small business!

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