Meet the bosses of #foundforaged on Instagram: Kyla Herbes, Laura Irion, and Grace Ray. If you haven’t already searched through all the gorgeous imagery of #foundforaged, then follow Kyla, Laura, and Grace right this very second and take a peek. As I write this now, #foundforaged has 2,729 submissions. (UPDATE: 3,156)

What I absolutely love about this project is how inclusive it is. #foundforaged could be anything: a few beautiful vintage wooden spools of thread, a couple of smooth river rocks, or a neatly arranged collection of Fruity Oh’s from Trader Joe’s. The latter was my own submission. Ha.

My point is, #foundforaged is something that anyone can contribute to. Kyla, Laura, and Grace are able to connect with others who share their aesthetic and draw fresh eyeballs to their blogs. Thank you so much for participating in this little interview, ladies. I dare all my readers not to snort coffee out of your nose while you read this.

1. Who are you and what do you do?

 KH: My names is Kyla Herbes and I’m the Creative Director at a small advertising and marketing agency in Chicago. {Read Kyla’s blog, House of Hipsters.}

 LI: I’m Laura Irion. My primary job is stay-at-home-mom to three kids. I’m also a blogger, and am in the process of starting an interior styling business. {Read Laura’s blog, Avery Street Design.}

 GR: My name is Grace Ray.  I am a blogger, a lifestyle expert for a small television show and a proud new owner & creator of a small business, graceful heart design. {Read Grace’s blog, The Big Reveal.}

2. What brought the three of you together?

LI: I’d have to say it was Instagram!

KH: About 7 years ago or so, Laura and I were neighbors that would say hi in passing. She moved, I moved, and we kinda lost touch until she found me on Instagram. She saw in my IG profile that I had a blog, read it and loved it. I was busy with life and had taken a break from writing (meaning I was frustrated), but she convinced me to continue even though I only had 12 views a month (from my mom and husband). I’m glad she did.

LI: When I found Kyla’s blog, I hadn’t realized she’d taken a hiatus from it. I just loved it, started tweeting about it & basically gushing all over her about it. I didn’t verbally encourage her to pick it back up…my guess is she subconsciously realized that the kind of enthusiastic fangirl response I had was something others would have too.

KH: One day she told me to check out a blog named The Big Reveal. I was hooked on Grace instantly. Her voice is so genuine and real. I love the way she writes.

LI: I “met” Grace because I saw her leave a comment on the Instagram feed of a calligrapher we both followed. Grace said, “Can you make me a print that says, ‘Hollah?’” and I immediately thought, “Is that how you spell ‘hollah?’” hahahaha. (The question has since been settled). I looked her up and loved her blog and started stalking her from there. I was lucky that both of these girls reciprocated my advances instead of filing for restraining orders. I’m not sure how they found each other but I know I saw them talking on Instagram before I ever formally introduced them!

GR: Yes, Laura started following me on Instagram.  I always check out the feeds of people who like my photos or follow me and when I saw Laura’s feed I literally pondered out loud “why is this girl following me?” I remember just being in awe of her gorgeous, curated feed. Shortly thereafter, she left me one of the most genuine & encouraging comments on my blog post about a wee little potting bench I put together.  What she didn’t know was I was deeply struggling with the decision to leave my career and take this creative journey and her comment was one of those revelatory moments where I thought I can actually do this.

Laura formally introduced me to Kyla when she invited us to collaborate on designing a lakeside cottage for her blog. We instantly found a connection and really haven’t stopped since. My husband is grateful we have unlimited texting, because the group texting is a bit of a problem. There are some days when I pick up my phone and find a string of 35 texts and think how did I miss this all in the 5 minutes it took to pour my coffee? 🙂

KH: Yes, that text thing really happens. My husband was holding my purse in the car the other day and he said, “Your purse is vibrating…a lot.” My response was very nonchalant, “Oh, it’s probably just Grace and Laura.” I was right.

Click here to follow Grace on Instagram for more. Photo by Grace Ray. Click here to follow Grace on Instagram for more. Photo by Grace Ray.

3. Why did you decide to create #foundforaged?

GR: As our friendship grew, we were constantly bouncing ideas off one another for our own blogs and for collaborations with each other. For a while there, Kyla had really become the queen of linky parties, and she mentioned the idea of us starting one together. In the course of talking about that idea, we decided to also create this hashtag challenge that while based on the same foundational principles, was also its own completely separate entity.  At least for me, I know it was about that time that I had started to really understand the beauty of the Instagram community, how connected & supportive the people are, and how hashtags were another way to unite people with similar ideals & aesthetic principles.

KH: It started with talks of attending Alt Summit, a linky party, an Instagram hashtag, and how to become bigger. How to gain followers. How to be heard. How to be successful. We realized we had smaller blogs but had a louder, more powerful reach if the three of us built a brand called Found & Foraged as one strong voice. A voice that we hoped resonated with other bloggers and Instagrammers to showcase what Found & Foraged meant to not only us, but to them.

Laura is constantly finding and foraging for amazing things in her backyard. She can create these crazy, cool DIYs and home decor with sticks, leaves and flowers. Grace has this uncanny ability to shop her home and create unique vignettes and DIYs. Even Nate Berkus has retweeted her. (I have evidence, I screen captured it.) I’m the shopper. I do a lot of vintage shopping in antique stores, estate sales and flea markets. I love mixing old and new to create unique one-of-a-kind, unique spaces.

LI: After Kyla threw out the idea of doing a link party, we started brainstorming what to name it. Found & Foraged was thrown out and I think we all instantly knew that it was perfect. It encompassed so much, and summarized each of our aesthetics even though they’re all very different. We knew it was a concept we could all feel passionate about. I’m not sure exactly when or how or why we decided to make it an Instagram thing as well as a blog thing, but I know that my passion was Instagram so I was immediately super excited about that part of it.

GR: In addition to building a community, the personal “why” for me is that I wanted to become a better curator. Laura once said that you only have the last 6 pictures of your feed to capture someone’s attention and I remember that concept blowing my mind (for future reference, my mind is very easily blown). I had been in this mindset of just the individual frame, but suddenly I realized the need for connectedness, the flow and curation of the image. It has been incredible to see how each of our feeds have gotten better as a result of this hashtag. I think if you scroll back through, you will find a discernable shift. And, a byproduct is we have super nerdy conversations now about what pictures we are taking and how we sometimes even pretake a few pictures to try to build a series. #nerdalert

Click here to follow Kyla on Instagram. Photograph by Kyla Herbes. Click here to follow Kyla on Instagram. Photograph by Kyla Herbes.

4. Did you know it was going to be this successful?

KH: Is it successful? Ha! I mean, yes, to me it’s successful, but what is considered successful? We saw it grow…rapidly…but we put a lot of work into it as well. We reached out to every amazing Instagrammer we knew or followed and spread the word. More guerrilla marketing style. It’s not quite 3 months old, and I’m amazed at not only the quality of work but the quantity as well. Once we had over 1,000 tags, we were still spending day and night inviting others to tag #foundforaged. We didn’t stop, and we won’t stop. Do I need to hashtag that? #cantstopwontstop ??? I think it’s successful because we have fun with it as a group, and we love to be a part of the discovery of new Instagrammers. A good chunk of who I follow is from Found & Foraged.

LI: Nope! But I also had no idea what “successful” meant as far as hashtags go, so we really didn’t have any goals or expectations. I just thought it would be fun. I realize now how powerful it can be to bring people together, but I didn’t know it at the time. I didn’t spend as much time as Kyla did specifically promoting #foundforaged on Instagram, but I spent a ton of time ON Instagram…liking, commenting, posting, and generally being really engaged with the friends I’ve met there. I think it spilled over. By the time we launched it, we had people that were genuine community to us that we had met and cultivated relationships with over time, so they were excited about what we were excited about.

GR: I honestly don’t know what successful means on Instagram. But, in terms of accomplishing what we set out to, I think we hit it out of the park.  The people that participate in #foundforaged are so supportive, so engaged, and encouraging to one another.  I remember the first Saturday we posted our picks for the week texting with one another and being in awe of the response. I think we were all so deeply touched that people embraced this concept and holy cow, there are some incredible, stunning pictures on that hashtag. I get inspired there daily.

5. What effect has #foundforaged had on your blogs?

KH: For me personally, I don’t see much traffic come in from Instagram, but I don’t really promote my blog through it anymore. It’s almost a separate entity. However, a lot of my traffic goes to my Instagram account. My feed was becoming too promotional and I didn’t like that. I wanted pretty imagery. I really only started in this new direction a few months ago. We had this whole Google Chat one night and Laura clued us into hashtags and the power they can have. How you can expand your presence by using them. How you can get featured by larger accounts and brands. I suddenly started taking my Instagram feed more seriously. I upped my game so to speak. I represent Found & Foraged on IG, and my blog represents it as well.

GR: I don’t know that Found & Foraged changed what I was doing on my blog, but it did give a name to the design philosophy & aesthetic I already had. There was something very validating and empowering about that. Not to mention it just sounds much cooler than “junk I pulled out of my basement.” 🙂

I definitely agree with Kyla that it has made me view my Instagram in a whole new light. I used to post whatever I could as a promotional tool for my blog and it felt & looked gross. It was so hard going from having a personal Instagram account to one related to my blog and I definitely hadn’t gotten through the growing pains yet!  It definitely played a role in my shift to seeing Instagram as its own separate community that really needs different things than the people who follow my blog do.

LI: As an overall design philosophy, F&F does influence what I want to blog about. I feel a responsibility to not entice people to spend more than they have to spend, but to encourage them to look for beauty that’s already around them and new ways to use it. As far as the Instagram challenge goes, I don’t think it has much effect on my blog. I see almost no blog traffic from Instagram. (I’m sure I’m doing something wrong, haha!) It just seems like Instagram is its own little world, and a microblog on its own. I try to remember to promote blog posts on Instagram, but to be honest I’m a little bit shy about doing so. My Instagram still feels personal to me, and not professional (maybe my blog does too). It’s about artistic expression so I’m ok with it not creating traffic. I might also just be a huge slacker.

GR: Total slacker:)

LI: Hahahaha, yeah. Probably. 🙂

Click here to follow Laura on Instagram. Photograph by Laura Irion. Click here to follow Laura on Instagram. Photograph by Laura Irion.

6. Was this your first attempt at creating a hashtag?

KH: Besides making up silly sayings like #photoboothnerdery? Yes. Like I said, I didn’t really realize how powerful a hashtag could be! And until Found & Foraged, didn’t take Instagram as seriously as I do now. What I mean by that is I’m no longer posting photos of the naughty things my children get in to. I’m getting out my camera (And yes, I kinda cheat. I use a DSLR and lighting equipment to photograph almost everything I post.) daily which makes my heart sing. I’m curating my feed to the #foundforaged hashtag. Once you create it and others connect with it, you need to continuously nurture and support it. You need to believe in it.

LI: We all have our own little pet hashtags, I think, but this was the first time I tried to make one that I invited other people to use.

GR: Like Laura & Kyla, I had a pet hashtag #yearwithoutfear, but other than that I mostly used hashtags ironically. I thought they were unnecessary and, honestly, a little annoying.  I had no idea of the power of the hashtag (#areyoukiddingme?) Laura gave us a sneak peak at what later became a post about the power of the hashtag.  I started using them at first thinking of it just from the mindset of getting more exposure for my photos, but then at some point I realized the real beauty was the connection of like minded people.

7. What advice would you give to others who are thinking about starting their own hashtag?

 KH: Well, I probably just started to answer this above. But my advice would be to find a hashtag that is original and reflects you and what you stand for. (Search Instagram to be sure that a hashtag doesn’t exist already.) Remember it’s not just a hashtag if you want it to become successful. It becomes a passion. Something that is interjected into your daily life. Something that you start to live and breath. Something that you’re willing to work on until 3am when you know you have to wake up at 5am. And yes, that is what we’ve done. But Found & Foraged is not just a hashtag to us, it’s become one voice of a trio of bloggers that wanted to be louder, successful and build something great.

LI: Team up. I think it was definitely more successful because there were three of us doing it. We rolled it out slowly, over the course of several days, rather than all posting the announcement at the same time.

It also helps that Kyla made such a beautiful logo to go with it.  GR: Yay, Kyla! So it had a very formal, professional feel and we can still go back and tag friends on the logo post to let them know about it. And people could see that logo in the feed and immediately know what the tag was all about. It made it very official and made it seem intentional.

Invite people to tag their friends, ask people to join in as you come across feeds you love, and tag your IG friends and ask them to do it.

Lastly and most importantly I would say, don’t just do because you think you should, or to gain followers. Instagram is really personal, and has a way of knowing if you aren’t really passionate about something. We are all huge Instagram nerds. We spend way too much time on there. One time I spent 10 minutes arranging Kyla’s hand for a shot that I never even posted in my feed. KH: (It’s in my feed.) If Instagram isn’t really your thing, find something else to pour your energy into. Don’t do something that will fizzle because you aren’t enthusiastic about it.

GR: Oh, I agree with everything Laura & Kyla said. What I can add is you also have to think about your motivation.  Why do you want to start a hashtag?  Do you want to connect with other people? Group your own photos? Build your brand? Create a competition or challenge? I think it is really important to know what you are hoping to gain from it before you get started.

We wanted to gain a community and a community takes a lot of work.  We each try to go through the feed daily and like or comment on each picture.  We also each individually select our favorites for the week to feature on Saturdays. It represents a fairly significant time commitment and if we all weren’t deeply passionate about it, it would never work.

And, I definitely agree with Kyla on checking to see if that hashtag you are dying to use is already in play on Instagram. I had thought about using #tbr for my individual blog, The Big Reveal. Luckily, I checked first, because I discovered there were over 300,000 images, most of which involved nudity, and I would never want my name associated with that. I instantly texted Kyla & Laura and I think it was Kyla who said, “did you report them?” and I was like there are 300,000! KH: That wasn’t me. I laughed. I could never unsee that many pictures! We have had some good laughs over that one. #lessonlearned #nonudityforgrace

LI: [Insert monkey-over-eyes emoji here] 🙂

If you are feeling stumped for what to post on Instagram, then schedule a One On One Brainstorming Session with me. You will walk away with a content calendar and a clear understanding of how to grow a relevant following quickly.