Day Job to Dream Job
Jan 20, 2020 12:32PM
By Carrielle Sedersten
Sara Sabaliauskas may come off as bright, fun, and bubbly (she is all those things and more) but don’t be fooled by her girly exterior. Sabaliauskas is an entrepreneurial force in the social media world. From tomboy soccer player to grad student to city employee to one of Omaha’s top social media influencers.
Her brand Sabby Style is primarily fashion-focused with a bit of lifestyle and life moments sprinkled in. Her signature is mixing colors, prints, and price points.
It all started in January 2013 when Sabaliauskas landed a job working for the city of Bellevue after getting her master’s degree at the University of Nebraska at Omaha in public administration. Having spent most of her life wearing school, sports, or work uniforms, dressing professionally did not come easily at first.
During one of her first days on the job, she looked around the office and thought, “I just really don’t think I can wear a sad, dowdy black pantsuit every day. [...] I want to feel empowered and confident and put some excitement into my morning and into my day.”
So she went to JCPenney and, with a budget of $150, purchased office-appropriate pieces like colorful sweaters, striped printed blouses, and bold jewelry that made her feel good.
After her wardrobe overhaul, Sabaliauskas showed up at the office dressed for success in her signature lively style. One day, she decided to a take picture of an outfit she loved in the bathroom mirror, with the flash on (a total faux pas in the influencer world), and she posted it to her private Instagram.
The more her confidence grew, the more outfit photos she posted on her account. Eventually, she switched her account from private to public after many of her friends encouraged her to do so. And they were right. Within a year, her Instagram account grew to 10,000 followers. That’s when she decided to launch her blog, Sabby Style.
With close to 100,000 Instagram followers now, Sabaliauskas attributes her popularity to a number of factors. “Back in 2013, there weren’t many Instagram users, and the platform and blogging itself were still pretty new,” she said.
With no prior experience in social media marketing or marketing, she learned as she went through trial and error. She engaged with the accounts where she took outfit inspirations from and actively commented on and supported their accounts. These social media mavens returned the favor, and the result became more and more followers.
Some of her greatest teachers and cheerleaders are fellow bloggers Kelssey Layton and Cortney Dryden, who she met at a RewardStyle conference in 2017—an affiliate marketing platform that allows people to shop products in Instagram photos through the LIKEtoKNOW.it app.
Layton, Dryden, and Sabaliauskas speak every day to get opinions on their content and help each other with any questions or issues they may run into. “There’s enough room for everyone at the table,” Sabaliauskas said. “We’re not competing against each other. I don’t think I would be where I am without them.”
In June 2016, three years after starting Sabby Style, Sabaliauskas knew the time was right and quit her day job to blog full time. Now she runs her business solo, working more than 40 hours a week.
“People always ask me how I gained so many followers, and to be honest, I got in when the ‘gettin’ was good’,” Sabaliauskas said. “In 2013, there weren’t many users, and the platform and blogging itself were still pretty new. You didn’t have to have the perfect, curated feed that you do now. It was more light-hearted. It was fun. The Instagram feed was still in chronological order, which was super-beneficial for growth. I didn’t feel the pressure back then because social media influencing wasn’t my job.”
She previously worked with professional photographers to take her photos, but these days she enlists the help of her immediate family members and close friends for that job because she likes to have full artistic control when shooting and editing her photos.
Any brands Sabaliauskas works with or campaigns she does have to be something she can tell a story about. “I hosted a ‘Kendra Gives Back’ event at Village Pointe Kendra Scott store that benefitted the Little White Dog Rescue organization, which is where our oldest dog, Roger, is adopted from,” said Sabaliauskas. “They brought a bunch of dogs and had volunteers at the store to help spread the word about rescue and adoption. A percentage of sales during the event went directly to LWDR.”
She generates the majority of her income from ongoing, long-term partnerships with national brands. She works with at least five brands a month and is particular about the Omaha businesses she works with. Some of her local partners include Garbo’s Salon and Lovely Skin, as well as Village Pointe.
The industry standard for an Instagram post is $100 for every 10,000 followers. However, there’s no set salary because every partnership is different and it varies depending on what the brand wants and how much time it takes to create the content.
“I can do as many posts as I want, and I can charge x amount of dollars per posts,” Sabaliauskas says. “It’s really up to me. I could make $300 that month or I could [make] $1,500. It depends.”
Sabaliauskas never intended to blog full time when she started posting her outfits on Instagram seven years ago or expected how her social platform would evolve into a community full of support.
It’s much more than just cute outfits and must-have products—it’s love, encouragement, and the friendships she’s found along the way. Sabaliauskas is thankful for her journey and looks forward to doing more consulting and helping other people grow their businesses and social presence in the future.
Visit sabbystyle.com for more information.This article was printed in the February/March 2020 edition of B2B. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.