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Jory Des Jardins on finding her voice — and creating a community

Jory Des Jardins

Jory Des Jardins

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Updated: July 21, 2013 9:59PM

It was early 1994. I had graduated from the University of Illinois and was headed to New York City with my short resume, the address of a friend’s aunt’s apartment where I would stay for a few days, and $60.

My dad was a lifelong Chicagoan and found it annoying that I wanted to be anywhere but here for my career. When he dropped me off at the airport, he half-joked, “If you run out of money, don’t ask me for any. Just come home.”

I laughed nervously. I knew that if I couldn’t establish a media career in NYC, it would mean failure to achieve the life I wanted.

Somehow I made it work in New York for a few years, and then later in San Francisco during what we lovingly called the “Dot Com Bust.” Despite the harsh realities of exorbitant rents and inevitable pink slips, I had always believed that I needed to live on the coast in order to be on the bleeding edge of the media world.

But over the years, the rules changed. In 2004, I started blogging, and I realized that I didn’t need to live in the asphalt jungle or Silicon Valley to enjoy a digital media footprint. To have a voice. To be seen.

“This seems too easy,” I thought, sharing stories and having conversations with people who were moved by my words and encouraged me to keep going in whatever direction I wanted. It was work, but work that I loved.

The rush I got from blogging was so powerful that it became my path. And that path led me to like-minded people. In 2005, I quit my job and joined forces with two other women to create a media company called BlogHer for women (and men) whose lives were being transformed by blogging. Soon, we witnessed thousands of members embracing this platform, discovering their powerful voices, building careers, communities and causes and — for some — garnering a source of income for everything from Jimmy Choos to their kids’ college education.

My love of social media took me around the world, meeting digital influencers, and even back home, where I would rediscover old classmates and friends. My dad passed away in 2005, but I know he’d say, “By golly, these bloggers live all over the place!”

As BlogHer grew, I watched as millions began to share, Tweet, Pin and embrace this new era of transparency and authenticity. I marveled as newsmakers and tastemakers from Martha Stewart to President Obama took the influence and reach of our audience seriously enough to speak at our annual events, where thousands of bloggers, brands and women in social media gather to discuss, inspire and connect with each other. This year, Facebook CMO Sheryl Sandberg and “The Walking Dead” producer Gale Anne Hurd will join us in Chicago on July 25 for BlogHer’s annual conference — and I intend to live-Tweet it all.

I’m coming back home with the usual stress that comes with planning an event for thousands of highly passionate (and opinionated) digital influencers. But I’ve also got a deepened sense of excitement. It’s as if two people I’ve loved — but assumed could never co-exist — are sitting together on the porch, asking me if I want to come join them.

If my father were alive today, I think he would be amazed to know that I pursued my dream and didn’t run out of money; I just wanted to come home.

BlogHer ’13 is taking place July 25-27 at the Sheraton Chicago and McCormick Place. To learn more about registration and the agenda, visit

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