I’m so excited to be continuing with my Woman Crush Wednesday series, where I’m interviewing and featuring bad-ass boss babes! Today we’re chatting with Kara Harms, the founder and editor behind the travel and lifestyle site, Whimsy Soul.
When Kara and I first met over drinks a couple years ago, she adamantly told me that I needed to leave Google and do my blog full time. Since then, she’s become one of my closest and most supportive blogger besties, constantly cheering me on and sharing feedback and advice. Kara is the ultimate example of women supporting women, and I appreciate her and our friendship so much.
Our friendship is rooted in collaboration over competition, and I feel like it’s such a good example of how finding your key people in your industry that you can trust and brainstorm with is so important. We share a ton of insights, strategies, and analytics with each other that help the other person learn and grow, and I always feel so inspired after our boss babe chats and brainstorm sessions. If something gets me down (like a snarky interaction with a fellow blogger, or having a brand deal I was really excited about fall through), Kara is the first person I text and she always pumps me back up and helps me get back on track.
Another thing I love and admire about Kara is that she is SMART. Like, such a business-minded girl boss. She’s a solid negotiator, and she’s always thinking about longterm strategy for her business.
Kara has such a great story, from how she moved to SF on a whim (get it, because she’s the whimsy soul??), to how she started her blog and turned it into a thriving business, and I’m so thrilled to introduce you to her!
For those What The Fab readers who haven’t seen you tagged all over the place in my Insta Stories from our girl boss brainstorm sessions and hangs, can you please introduce yourself?
My name is Kara, also known as “The Whimsy Soul.” I’m a Midwest gal who ran away to San Francisco about 5 years ago to escape winters and I blog full time with my husband, Robin. I’m super passionate about helping empower women to explore the world around them, feel confident in themselves, and find the everyday magic in life.
Life is short, it’s better when you fill it with whimsy.
Tell us about Whimsy Soul. When/how did you start it? How has it evolved over time?
We had just moved to San Francisco and I was trying to find a job on a social media team for an ad agency. That’s what I thought I wanted to be when I grew up—working in an ad agency. I kept getting asked over and over again to show examples of channels I ran & grew, communities I fostered. But this was in 2014 in the baby age of social, and I was fresh out of college, so I had NOTHING real to actually show. So I decided I would make myself a blog to get a job.
I have a vivid memory of sitting on our futon mattress on the floor of our empty apartment (we had barely anything at this point because we were broke AF) and brainstorming names for a blog. Once I came up with “Whimsy Soul” I made a logo, set up a website and started writing. It didn’t take long at all to fall in love with blogging. I LOVED building a small community of women who benefited from what I was making. It felt (and still feels) amazing to make those connections and inspire others.
Oh, and I got a job. Showing off my Instagram profile in interviews helped me land the gig, but I knew within a few weeks of starting Whimsy Soul that I wanted my blog to be my full time job. In 2017 I made that happen.
You’re originally from Wisconsin, and moved to San Francisco without ever having visited the city. How did you make that decision and what was that move like?
We moved pretty recklessly, honestly. We had no jobs, no apartment lined up. Nothing. I don’t think I could do a move like that again at this age, but I was 23 and fresh out of college so I still had that stubborn, young person belief that I could do anything want and it would all work out.
Robin and I were still living in Minneapolis, where I went to college, and we knew we didn’t want to stay there. We landed on San Francisco because there are just so many job opportunities out here, I was pretty sure I would be able to find a job quickly compared to small cities like Boulder or Austin that we were also looking at. Plus, no winters!
Moving was probably the hardest thing I ever did. We didn’t know anyone our age in the city and we spent almost all of our savings on our apartment, so we were just getting by paycheck to paycheck. It was lonely but I eventually made friends, got better, higher-paying jobs, and filled our apartment with actual furniture instead of sleeping on a futon mattress. And now San Francisco is truly home. Reckless young Kara knew it would work out and I’m really thankful for her.
Did you always know you wanted to have your own business? How did you transition to blogging full time?
OMG yes! I think I popped out of the womb as an entrepreneur. I remember doing things as a kid like mixing shampoos together and “rebranding” them to a brand new shampoo and trying to get my family to pay me for it.
I started my photography business at the age of 17. I did senior portraits, family photos and wedding photography for about 8 years. That journey taught me a lot of lessons and made it easy to pave a path for making Whimsy Soul successful and a business.
You talk a lot about body positivity on your Instagram, @thewhimsysoul. What was your self-love journey like, and how did you come to be so confident in your own skin/body?
I have eczema and while I have mostly grown out of it as an adult, I spent most of my childhood covering my body up to hide huge rashes. I had rashes everywhere – my arms, my legs, my fingers, sometimes even my face. Kids can just be so mean and I would get teased a lot for my skin.
And then as I got older, I slowly grew out of eczema. One day I decided I was going to stop wearing baggy clothes and I wore a halter top to school. Mind you, halter tops were NOT allowed but my teacher was so shocked to see me dress “like my gender” that she complimented me. I felt pretty and important and like people finally saw me. Those years of my life really solidified the concept that my outward appearance is the only thing that mattered to be happy.
So come high school when I was dealing with weight gains (as most teenage girls encounter as we grow) it felt like at first, my skin didn’t fit in, and now my body shape didn’t fit in. I found myself obsessively working out multiple times a day. I didn’t eat carbs for a whole year. My body is built to be curvy, and that was hard in the 2000’s when the style was low rider jeans and tight tank tops. We didn’t have inclusive media like these days, so I always was battling with what I thought my body had to look like. I was always trying to get skinnier so I could be “normal” and accepted.
Honestly, blogging was a huge component to building a positive body relationship. I have spent the past 4+ years taking photos of myself basically every day which does wonders to help build self-esteem. But the most valuable thing was just talking to other women about body image. It was hard for me to talk publicly about being “Middle Size” and sharing my body image journey, but once I did, I started getting flooded with messages of other women basically saying “I feel this way, too”. The internet these days can be a really unhealthy place but having real conversations with others about body image, mental health and life struggles makes me feel like I found my tribe. I found a way to use social media for something positive for myself and for others. It’s made all the difference!
What’s your biggest piece of advice for people who are looking to turn their creative passions into their business?
Hustle and time. I know it’s said a lot, but empires aren’t built overnight. There is no such thing as an overnight success (unless you join the cast of The Bachelor, then you will probably get famous overnight, but that’s the exception to the rule!)
For years, every night and weekend I would come home from work and then work on Whimsy Soul late into the night. I sacrificed dinners out with Robin or happy hours with co-workers so I could pay for better hosting, or a blogging course, or a tool to help my business grow. Heck, we slept on that futon mattress for a whole YEAR before we bought a real bed.
These days, we still hustle. We work 10-12 hour days building our business up. Whimsy Soul is turning 5 in February and while in a way it’s a mini-empire, there are still SO many goals we want to reach and projects we want to accomplish. We know we have to keep hustling and in time, those goals will be met.
What’s the hardest thing about being an entrepreneur? The best thing?
My personal struggle is knowing when to turn off. When your business is basically about your life, it’s really hard to establish a work-life balance. I feel guilty when I’m not working and there’s ALWAYS something important to do, so it’s easy to overwork myself. I’m improving on this—I’m getting better at having set “hours” so I know when I can just relax, but it’s a work in progress.
My favorite thing about running Whimsy Soul is knowing that stuff I made—photos I took, words that I wrote—actually have a positive impact on others. Like, that’s crazy! This is just stuff that used to be all in my head, then I made them into something tangible and people LIKE IT?! I’m still in awe. Of course, things like flexible schedules, partnering with cool brands, and getting to work with my husband, are really awesome, but I love being able to point to my blog and be like “I made this, and it’s important to people.”
What projects do you have coming up that you’re excited about?
We’re working behind the scenes on some really big things we can’t share right now, but there is always something cool happening on Whimsy Soul. I’m super passionate about helping people discover awesome places to visit close to home and we’ll be featuring some really unique places on the West Coast this fall and winter. If you love to travel but don’t have the time or bank account to jaunt over to Europe every month, stay tuned on @thewhimsysoul! Also, check back on Instagram at the end of October for a very special project I’m working on with GoDaddy!
Ok, let’s do some rapid-fire fill in the blanks!
My favorite destination I’ve traveled to is Scotland. It’s just so magical.
My spirit animal is a cat.
The best perk I get from blogging full time is making a positive impact on others. And being my own boss means I never have to ask anyone for vacation time!
If I wasn’t a full time blogger, I’d probably be working on the brand side of influencer marketing. I love this industry!
If I could live anywhere in the world, it’d be Germany. Well, we LOVE living here in San Francisco—I think it’s one of the best cities in the entire world. But my husband and I have pipe dreams of moving to Munich for a few years. One day!
If you’re not following Kara already on Instagram, you can find her at @thewhimsysoul. She shares lots of great travel inspo (especially focused in the U.S.), body positivity, and pics of her cute cat, Twyla.
Have a suggestion for my next Woman Crush Wednesday feature? Shoot me an email at: [email protected].
Elise Armitage is an entrepreneur and founder of What The Fab, a travel + lifestyle blog based in California. At the beginning of 2019, Elise left her corporate job at Google to chase her dreams: being an entrepreneur and helping women find fabulous in the everyday. Since then, she’s launched her SEO course Six-Figure SEO, where she teaches bloggers how to create a passive revenue stream from their website using SEO. Featured in publications like Forbes, Elle, HerMoney, and Real Simple, Elise is a firm believer that you can be of both substance and style.