How Sylvia Esmundo Turned Her Instagram Influencer Alter-Ego Into an Inspiring Success


Photos: Sylvia Esmundo

Mention the word "#influencer" and you'll undoubtedly be met with tons of assumptions: That what they do involves posing for Instagram photos all day long, watching the Likes roll in, then wash, rinse, and repeat the process all over again. As many of our multi-hyphenate members prove, smiling for an iPhone lens and crafting a thoughtful caption is only a tiny part of running a successful personal brand on social media — no one knows this better than San Francisco-based Fashion Mamas ambassador Sylvia Esmundo.

When the mother of two isn't busy at her day job leading's textiles e-commerce team, she's creating content as and guiding big and small brands as a digital marketing and merchandising consultant. Here, Esmundo — who gave birth to her daughter, Olive, last month (congrats, mama!) — tells us about her career journey, how she won over the hearts of over 150,000 Instagram followers, her No. 1 tip for raising kids in San Francisco, the cool kids brands that are currently in her little ones' closets, and her advice for those who aspire to build a successful social media presence.

First off, what are the names and ages of your little ones?

Thelonious aka "Theo", 4 1/2, and Olivia aka "Olive", 1 month!

What do you do now, and what has your career journey been like? 

By day, I lead the Pottery Barn e-commerce merchandising/site experience team for all textiles categories: Bedding, Bath, Flooring, and Windows. And then there’s my alter-ego: My life and career as a lifestyle influencer and a digital marketing and merchandising consultant for a variety of brands, both big and small. I love inspiring women, especially mothers, with content that shows women can be stylish and mothers without breaking the bank, that it’s never too late to leap, press reset, be curious, all in the name of happiness and finding our best self, and celebrate women of color as we create and rise up across the workplace. 

My career has been a series of twists and turns. From fashion PR and editorial ([Melissa Davis] of Ruby Press was my first fashion boss!), to an executive training program and 10 years of merchandising and product development at Gap and Banana Republic, to a fast and furious digital marketing life at bootstrapped startups, to a data-driven, editorial and influencer-focused career at POPSUGAR and ShopStyle. [Of course, there's also] my influencer and consultant life that’s given me the opportunity to work with some major brands (American Express, Tom Ford Beauty, Nest, Sephora, Samsung, and HP, to name a few), and discover and promote small, inspiring ones. 

We're so curious: How did you grow your Instagram following to nearly 150k followers?

Getting my name out there and press. I’ve been a contributing editor for a few websites (POPSUGAR, Momtastic) and lucky to have been mentioned or featured in articles on MyDomaine, POPSUGAR, Wells Fargo Small Business, to name a few. Those articles have my social handles in the byline so I’ve been steadily growing that way for the past year and a half.

Partnering with other influencers on content — I attended New York Fashion Week twice a year for my former job and last year decided to collaborate with some of my close blog friends on content while we were there. I did the same when I went to Coachella this year. Getting featured on other influencer accounts helps get you noticed and associated with influencers who have similar audiences to yours. I try to do content with blog friends at least once a season. We help and support each other daily and wouldn’t be where I am today without my tribe. And I love to collaborate with brands and fellow blog friends for giveaways.

Lastly, engaging with brands and brand followers on Instagram — This is a big one. I always use brand hashtags and tag brands in my posts, follow brands i love and like and comment on their posts. I’ve been lucky enough to have bigger brands repost (regram) my content on their Instagram channels after working with them or using their hashtag. And while I was pregnant with Olive, I was featured on RewardStyle’s LiketoKnowIt Instagram (which has over 2 million followers) and was regularly featured on their family Instagram with all my maternity outfits; just yesterday they regrammed one of our family photos.

Let's talk about the offline world now: What are your best tips for raising a child in San Francisco?

Take them on food adventures! SF has some of the best food in the world and the restaurants are surprisingly family friendly. We’ve been bringing Theo and now Olive to our favorite restaurants — from brunch all star Outerlands to Michelin-starred Japanese sushi, to iconic Dim Sum — to introduce them to the awesome flavors of different cultures. 

What's are your favorite organizational tools/apps that help you balance work/mom life?

Evernote, Instacart, iCal (if it’s not on my calendar there’s a 99% chance I won’t remember to show up), and Amazon.

How about your favorite kids clothing brands?

Tosan (a fellow Fashion Mamas member-owned business), Kira Kids, Natti Natti, Mini Rodini, and Winter Water Factory.

What about grown-up clothing brands?

Acne Studios, Golden Goose Deluxe, Mother Denim, Zimmermann, Maje, and A.L.C.

What's one beauty product you can't live without?

VINTNER’S DAUGHTER. Period. It’s liquid gold, and every mama deserves this treasure in their skincare regimen.

What's your best advice for mamas looking to construct their own multi-hyphenate careers?

It’s never too late to try something new. Set small, frequent goals every month that inches you towards your big goal. Networking is one of the biggest keys to success to starting that second career: Let your community of amazing women (and men!) contribute their expertise and audience to help you build your next dream. And patience — there is no silver bullet, Rome wasn’t built in a day....small victories will eventually grow into a thriving brand, business, and career, but it’ll take time and consistency before that happens.

And last but not least, what are your top three tips for other mamas interested in organically growing their social media presence?

1. Find the "White Space": Look at the other influencers and content your target audience follows - what are they good at and what are they missing? 

2. Push for Press: Big brand regrams, mentions in local articles about bloggers, and brand events help surface your name above all the other influencers in the same space.

3. Come Together + Share the Love: Find your tribe of like[minded influencers, create seasonal content together, feature each other’s content on your blog and social channels, and partner with favorite brands and bloggers for giveaways.