The moment that changed Brendt Blanks’ life and career trajectory came in the middle of a church service. The popular lifestyle blogger and social media influencer sat in a pew at Vestavia’s Shades Mountain Baptist when she heard the words from the pulpit: “Give it a go.”
Blanks, who worked at the time as a marriage and family therapist at Birmingham Children’s Hospital, had been through some difficult recent days. While “there were wonderful moments,” her work was taking its toll and her father was going through treatments for stage-4 cancer. “A stirring in my heart kept telling me that I needed an outlet to get my mind on other things,” Blanks said, sharing that she’d long loved interior decorating and was often encouraged by friends to share images of her home on social media.
When the speaker at church said those words, ”Give it a go,” she knew that God was speaking to her. She didn’t know much about Instagram or the blogging world, but the words inspired her to start a social media presence using the same phrase (www.shegaveitago.com and @shegaveitago on Instagram). Blanks began sharing pictures and she soon had a loyal following (with currently around 170K followers on Instagram) and then branched out into blogging. Four years ago, in the fall of 2017, she launched her website and made it her mission to make it a full-time job. Today, her blog includes posts on topics related to home decor, crafts, DIY projects, recipes, family, and faith.
“When the speaker said to give it a go, he challenged us to do it however that works in your life,” she remembered. “It couldn’t have been any clearer to me that God was saying ‘I have a path for you, but you’re going to have to just step out in faith.’ That was scary because my step was running into a lifestyle brand in home decor that I didn’t really understand yet.”
Farmhouse Style. Blanks creates engaging and beautiful posts and photographs from a style she likes to call modern farmhouse décor- a trend that’s become popularized by television shows, magazines, websites, and collections from designers like HGTV’s Chip and Joanna Gaines. From her family’s Ross Bridge home in Hoover, she tries to inspire other women on how to create a clean, uncluttered, stylish environment. “It’s a mixing of the traditional look of chippy farmhouse style with a more modern, collected look,” she explained. “A kind of country chic.”
She begins planning for the autumn season several months early, and stresses that a similar style- clean, uncluttered- is perfect for fall and the upcoming holidays. “I stay true to a neutral foundation and then add whatever colors you decide to add,” she said. “When it comes to seasonal decor, you can toss in accessories if you’re on a budget. Throw in an orange pillow, for example, over the neutral color you start with.”
Blanks partners with companies and brands throughout the year by placing their home decor items in her home. “Brands are wanting to look for authenticity, and I think I’m good to work with,” she said, “and I love brands I can partner with long term.” Such brand connections with companies like Kirkland’s, Antique Candle Co., The Container Store, and Bed, Bath, and Beyond, are just one way Blanks hopes to grow her business. She’s recently added an official intern and staff members, and she and her husband Andy (who is publisher and co-founder of the faith-based YM360 and Iron Hill Press) are looking to expand into other areas.
For her business to succeed, Blanks said that daily diligence and connections with others is important. “It’s not just posting every day, but also growing a community through hashtags with similar people,” she said. “Those people know people, and it goes from there. Connections and relationships are important in any content-producing job.” Another step in her growth is to build on her reputation as a Christian influencer. “I’ve established myself as faith-based, whether that means using Bible verses or encouraging words. I want to continue growing in that way too,” she said.
Family Foundation. According to Blanks, the support of her husband and other family members has been key to her success and also a challenge for balance and perspective. She and Andy have four children, 17-year-old Saysay (Sarah Francis), 16-year-old Abby, 13-year-old Caroline, and 7-year-old Paul. They, especially the teenagers, have given Blanks a unique perspective on having a career based on social media. “It’s a fine balance with family, and I have to respect their teenage wishes,” she said. “Younger children don’t seem to care, but I’ve had to learn that teenagers don’t always want their names, pictures out there…It’s learning to balance privacy with being honest about what our lives are like,” Blanks explained.
Blanks learned many of her lessons on family and faith from her grandfather who was a pastor at Dawson Memorial Baptist Church in Homewood as well as her parents and other relatives who were strong Christians. “Andy and I have sought counsel many times from our family, and we’ve tried to bring that into our own family,” she said. Blanks came to her own faith at the age of 8 while attending a Girls in Action (GA) camp, and her church and youth group became vitally important in her life. “My involvement in the youth group was huge,” she remembered. “I just had a solid group of friends, we could hold each other accountable, and it helped me grow so much in faith.”
Faith-Based Influence. Today, Blanks tries to incorporate her faith in an industry that might on the surface seem antithetical to such values. When Blanks was just entering the blogging side of her business, she admits she questioned whether being a Christian would hinder her success. She had a conversation with a friend that still resonates with Blanks. “I wondered if my faith was going to limit me and she asked me: If you didn’t have faith as part of you, wouldn’t that take away who Brendt is? That really clarified things for me,” she recalled. Blanks wants people to receive positivity from and be encouraged by her blog and social media accounts. And she wants them to wonder where her positive and affirming attitude comes from. “And then when they see something that is more overt about my faith, I want them to be able to say more and ask me about it,” she said. She adds that she’s asked the question, “Can I pray for you?” on her accounts and knows that some followers have no experience with prayer or other spiritual matters. “It’s led to conversations and it’s such a cool fruit of this,” she shared. “It’s amazing how God can use any avenues, even social media.”
Cheryl is a freelance writer and book author who lives in Hueytown. She’s married with three daughters and six grandchildren.