After moving to Dallas, Texas, in 2015, Lily Kramlich-Taylor, ’10, former editor-in-chief of the Octagon, started a new business with friend Kara Shannon entitled Dallasites101. Dallasites101’s goal is to bring together and introduce newcomers to the culture, events and friendship of Dallas.
Q: How did you first get the idea of Dallasites101?
A: The idea of Dallasites101 was presented to me by one of my good friends, Kara. We had both gone to NESCACs (New England Small College Athletic Conferences) on the East Coast (and) then transplanted ourselves to Dallas for jobs, without knowing much about the city.
We had a quick and easy time making friends and fitting in but met a lot of other transplants who had difficulties finding their friend groups and activities, therefore, not enjoying Dallas.
Both (Shannon) and I were outgoing and known as the “social planners” of our friend groups, so (we) were already really active in Dallas life. (Shannon) recognized a need to help Dallas newbies integrate into the city, so she came to me with the idea to share our adventures on Instagram.
We came up with the name because we wanted to present the “101” to exploring Dallas. We are your intro class into learning about the city!
Q: How did you start the platform?
A: We made a plan to amass a ton of photos over the course of a few months before going live. From food to fitness to events to general city information, our Instagram grew very quickly as we spoke to Dallasites in a way in which they hadn’t been before. We were talking to them very authentically from a “Hey, we are new here too, so let’s explore this city together” voice, which a lot of people appreciated.
It also helped that we became addicted to Instagram and spent hours upon hours liking people’s photos taken at popular places around Dallas and commenting and following people we thought might like our site.
We were growing at about a thousand people a week and eventually added in a Facebook page and a website. We now have a newsletter too.
Q: When did you officially launch Dallasites101 as a company?
A: We officially launched in April 2015, and by the fall of 2015, we decided to make Dallasites101 into a formal business. From there, we began monetizing our platform and working with both local and national businesses on campaigns to connect our followers to cool products, services, stores, restaurants, etc.
Additionally, we began hosting events as we also recognized the need for our followers to get out and meet one another. We didn’t want to be simply telling our followers what to do, but showing them as well.
From bar crawls to happy hours to pumpkin painting classes to apartment pool parties, we have hosted over a hundred events throughout the Dallas community, both free and ticketed, to help people meet each other, enjoy their city and interact with awesome local businesses.
It is really cool to have become a platform in which we are the middle men for helping people interact with their city and have fun while helping small businesses.
Q: Are you trying to expand the company?
A: In April 2018, we celebrated our three-year birthday and most recently, hit the 80,000 Instagram follower mark.
We are currently hiring a firm to represent ourselves through our partnerships, so that we can focus more on growing our business, working on our website, possibly launching a blog, planning more events and maybe even expanding to other cities!
And most recently, we launched a second Instagram called Localites101 to focus on our travels. There, we feature a different city every few weeks, diving into where to stay, eat, shop, explore, etc, and how to be a “localite” in a city in which you are a visitor.
While we both still work full time – I work at Hill + Knowlton Strategies on the AT&T Corporate Communications Team and (Shannon) works for Teach for America – we very much plan to one day take Dallasites101 full time!
Q: What do people use your media platforms for?
A: People use our Instagram, newsletter and other media platforms for information about where to eat, shop, play, work out, etc. as well as information on how our city is changing.
We are constantly sharing info on new buildings and businesses and city development. We also partner with businesses, both locally and nationally, on giveaways, as we love to give away products, services, gift cards, etc. to our followers to help get them out and go beyond Instagram! It’s also very cool to be in a position (where we can) ask businesses for a gift card to give out to our followers.
Right now we are hosting our Christmas in July Giveaway series, where we give something away every single day of the month.
In total, we have over $9000 in value to give out!
Q: How has the website influenced other people?
A: Dallasites has grown into a full-fledged Dallas brand. It is weird to think of ourselves as influencers, but we have become one of the largest Instagram accounts about Dallas and, subsequently, branded ourselves as experts of living life in Dallas.
People come to us all the time via email and Instagram direct message, asking us where to go to dinner or where to go for a friend’s birthday. We were even asked once where someone’s friend should propose to his girlfriend! That was really cool!
And people know the Dallasites101 brand. If we brand an event with our name on it, it instantly gains more traction, as it has our “stamp of approval” on it.
We have people tell us all the time that they are obsessed with our account and follow everything we do and post.
We have had people tell us that they’ve found their friends because of us. I can recall one time that we were speaking at a local publication’s event, and afterwards, this man comes up to us and admits he’s been dying to meet us because we are the reason he has friends in Dallas and enjoys the city now.
He began coming to our events and shyly sitting in the back, observing, and he eventually worked up the courage to talk to people and found his group of best friends, which he says he owes to us.
We even get recognized on the streets, which is the weirdest thing! Neither one of us set out to become Instagram influencers or celebrities. We really just wanted to help Dallasites enjoy their city, which was so second nature to us. Subsequently, we became a localized version of an Instagram celebrity.
Q: How has your website affected the community?
A: The hundreds of events we’ve hosted where thousands of Dallasites have shown up to wouldn’t have taken place if it wasn’t for our creation. Countless memories, friendships and relationships wouldn’t have been created, and who knows with the ripple effect how it’s affected businesses too.
And we now host Instagram workshops as well to try and coach small bloggers, marketing professionals or business owners to better their own social media for growth, sales, etc. And we even get to lend our advice to people in Dallas as a whole, as we have gained an expertise into what people like and don’t like, what will sell or not sell, what businesses need to do to attract Dallasites.
We’ve been observing this through pushing things out to our followers for the past three years.
Q: Is this company successful financially?
A: Zero followers and zero capital and three years later, we are making enough revenue to support ourselves. It’s a great business because our only real expense – beyond website, email, lawyer & accountant fees – is our time. We only ever needed to invest $1000 each into Dallasites101 when we originally made it into a formal company. And as we grow, we are able to increase our prices and expand our revenue streams.
Q: Do you get any cool perks because of your status in Dallas?
A: From trying out amazing restaurants and enjoying concerts to working with hotels when we travel for partnerships with brands like VitaCoco, there are a lot of cool perks to being an Instagram influencer! We also got to go to Austin City Limits Music Festival for free.
Q: Did your time on the Octagon affect the process in any way?
A: I often think back to my time as the Octagon editor when looking at my experience with Dallasites101.
When I became Octagon editor, I was really so excited and envisioned so much for it. I spent the summer redesigning it and taking it from black and white to color, making the pages bigger, and modernizing it as a whole. I loved it and spent pretty much all my time in class working on the Octagon. I was obsessed, really.
And that’s how I feel now with Dallasites101. It was a passion project that has consumed my life in the best way possible. I spend hours upon hours on it every week, and a lot of times, it can bleed into work. But I wouldn’t have it any other way, as I very much have an entrepreneurial spirit that makes me want to continue pushing it and driving it.
And the Octagon was without a doubt the best experience to prepare me for Dallasites101 – I think a lot of that spirit and knowledge I got from being on the Octagon!