Bloggers Influence Fashion Fans to Shop Here
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Three times a week, Lauren Cercel and Karen Fortunato sit before a camera and film themselves for their more than 7,000 followers on YouTube who trust their opinions on fashion.
One of their most recent videos highlights the women’s “spring essentials.” Among the products they deem a must are a MAC lipstick in the shade “chatterbox,” Versace gray and black cat-eye sunglasses, and a kimono trimmed with fringe from Xhilaration at Target, Cercel says.
All of the products featured are linked under the video for viewers to easily find online.
“Before I even started on YouTube, I would get a lot of questions like, ‘What’s the best foundation?’ ‘What do you like?’ ‘Where do you go to get your makeup?’ And I thought this is a good way to channel that and talk about it,” Cercel says.
Cercel worked as a travel agent 18 years before starting 2 Orchids and Fortunato 15 years with a major airline. Both traveled extensively in their careers, which helped them broaden their views of fashion and beauty trends in the global marketplace. They paid attention to what was trending in other countries as well as at home.
The women residents of Poland, share similar tastes in fashion and beauty. The similarities were so great that their husbands suggested they start a business together.
The 2 Orchids blog and YouTube Channel, as well as other social media channels on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Snapchat, provide them platforms to share their takes on fashion, beauty, home décor, food and spirits and DIY projects.
“It’s whatever we feel strongly about,” Fortunato says. “If we look at an article or see something on TV and we get excited about it, then we want to write about it in our blog.”
Their followers range from teenagers to women in their 70s, Fortunato says. High school girls often approach her because they recognize her from 2 Orchids. So do their mothers as well as their grandmothers.
“Anything we put out on the internet is something we’ve used, something we’re passionate about and something we like,” she says. “We’re really honest about our product reviews and I think that’s why people trust us.”
One of 2 Orchid’s latest posts under the “Style” tab at the top of the website features women’s clothing trends from 850 Blues Boutique in Boardman.
The post has seven pictures of clothing one can find at the boutique – frayed-hemmed jeans, cold-shouldered tops and embroidered denim jackets. A brief description is below each item on how-to-style and what makes it unique.
“I love when they’re in my boutique to review different trends,” says 850 Blues Boutique owner Kristyn Mancini. “It gets the word out for people who haven’t been in the store before.”
Mancini opened her shop in 2010 with all of her business coming from customers nearby. In 2017, 2 Orchids showcased the boutique’s trendy clothing and Mancini saw an increase in customers stopping by and telephoning. Especially noticeable were the customers from out of state interested in her products.
“Since they reviewed my products, I had phone calls from out-of-state viewers wanting to purchase my products,” she says. “I never had an online website to sell my products on before, but they definitely got me to open my online store.”
850 Blues Boutique now sells all of its clothing in store and online across the United States.
“It’s so important to support local businesses and that’s what we’re all about: getting more involved with them,” Cercel says.
Another women’s clothing store in Boardman, Grey Boutique, has had its merchandise featured on the 2 Orchid’s social media channels before.
Owner Amy Abruzere recalls a woman coming into her boutique for a sweater that Fortunato wore in one of her posts and receiving phone calls for the same item from a customer in Tennessee.
“It’s helped us get more local customers as well as online sales,” Abruzere says.
Abruzere, who read the 2 Orchids blog after she heard Fortunato and Cercel feature her items, says, “It’s refreshing that they hit all topics. They do beauty, fashion and vacation spots. It’s very organic.”
Some of the videos on 2 Orchids’ YouTube channel cover topics from the blog posts, while others are vlogs where Cercel and Fortunato film in a more relaxed setting that shows them in a day around town.
“To people watching, it shows them what Youngstown is about. Now they’re getting to know about a part of the country they never really knew existed — except maybe knowing it was between Cleveland or Pittsburgh,” Fortunato says.
“Wherever we are, it’s free advertising for the local businesses,” Cercel adds. “We’ll say where we’re going and if it’s a restaurant we’ll show the food and then we’ll get comments on a post like, ‘What is wedding soup?’ ” Cercel says with a laugh. “These are things people have never heard of.”
One of 2 Orchids’ followers on YouTube, Tikaa Cone, accidentally came across one of their videos a couple of years ago when she was looking for beauty tips from female YouTubers , closer to her age, in their 40s, she says.
“I want to watch someone relatable,” Cone says. “They are normal women who like to do beauty and skin care tips. I can relate to where they are in life and what they do.”
Cone, who lives in Houston, and has bought products 2 Orchids has reviewed, specifically beauty products and wine. “I watch and I’m like, ‘Oh hey, that sounds great. Let me try that,’ ” she says.
Essentially, Cercel and Fortunato hope that as they share their lives and offer tips on lifestyles, it will help women become more confident in their choices.
“We let them know to be comfortable in their own skin by showing them what they can do to feel better,” Fortunato says.
Pictured: Lauren Cercel and Karen Fortunato run the 2 Orchid’s blog and YouTube channel.
Copyright 2023 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.