Emma Cortes Ellendt works with global brands and shares her story as a first-generation Filipino American along the way.
Emma Cortes Ellendt studied business as an undergraduate at the University of Washington (’14, ’19), but she didn’t know that she was on her way to becoming an entrepreneur and content creator. A lot has changed since then. We sat down with Ellendt to talk more about why she started her blog Emma’s Edition, what she learned from corporate lay-offs and what balance in her work looks like now.
This conversation has been edited for clarity and length.
How did you initially discover content creation?
I attended multiple job fairs during my senior year of college and ended up interning at PepsiCo., where I explored the consumer packaged goods industry. I saw other women of color who worked day jobs and shared their outfits, which inspired me to start my blog Emma’s Edition as a place to share my style and love of fashion.
During the early days of having a blog, I shot outfit photos with my friend Holly, who usually took photos of cars. In 2016, I attended my first blogging event, which was where I met someone who had taken their blog full-time. I started to take my blog more seriously by posting consistently.
I worked full-time at Boeing and during that time, I went back to the University of Washington to get my Master’s in Communication and Digital Media. I loved my coursework and it made me feel like I could turn content creation into a career.
What was the catalyst for taking content creation full time?
Growing up in an immigrant household, you value stability and security over everything. When COVID-19 hit, lay-offs began, and the supply chain industry was one of the first areas to be affected. I was in shock [when I was laid off] because I had been promoted the year before and had gotten a pay raise after finishing my grad program.
Looking back, it was the best case scenario for me. I felt financially prepared to take the leap into full-time content creation because I had a 6-month emergency fund and had hit my financial revenue goal for that year.
What did you learn from getting laid off?
Being laid off teaches you that you’re resilient, and it also invites you to define success and happiness on your own terms. I realized that I wanted more control over my own time. I wanted to be able to work from home, have the flexibility to work out when I wanted, and choose my own projects.
Why is it important for creators to have transparent conversations about compensation?
When creators talk openly about compensation for projects, it gives them more power and information to make informed choices about how they want to price themselves. We also live in a digital age – every brand knows how time-intensive it is to create content, book models, edit photos and videos and more. So many creators do this on their own and produce high-quality content on a micro-scale, and it’s a valuable service they provide to companies or brands.
How do you share parts of Filipino identity in your content?
Growing up, I didn’t see a lot of women of color integrate into mainstream media. As a content creator, I’ve realized that there’s space for us to share our stories. Sharing my work and identity comes naturally, and my community resonates with my stories about being a first-generation Filipino American. When I got married, I shared that my husband wore a barong and I wore a traditional Filipiniana dress with butterfly sleeves. Filipino women in my community resonated with the idea of incorporating Filipino culture into their major life events, which was really heartwarming.
How do you find balance among your work as a content creator, family, and personal projects?
Oprah says, ‘you can have it all, just not all at once.’ All my career goals will come true, but they can’t all happen at the same time. Knowing that gives me time to start a family and focus on what I want. It also helps to communicate your intentions to loved ones, whether they are friends, family or partners.
As you reflect back on the business you’ve built, what’s been one of the biggest lessons?
Whether you’re working in a creative or corporate space, allow yourself to evolve. It’s OK to change career paths and trust yourself in the process.
About the author: Aleenah Ansari (she/her) is equal parts storyteller, creative problem solver, and journalist at heart who’s rooted in the stories of people behind products, companies, and initiatives. She writes about travel, entrepreneurship, mental health and wellness, and representation in media for Insider, The Seattle Times, Byrdie, and more. You can usually find her searching for murals, reading a book by a BIPOC author, or planning her next trip to New York. You can learn more at www.aleenahansari.com.