Even though Gwen Dickmann Hefner ’07 struggles with the term influencer, there’s no denying the impact she has on an audience.
“That word feels very shallow to me,” she said. “My goal is to inspire people to find their own style.”
The 36-year-old from Kansas City, Missouri blogs about home renovation, gardening and entertaining. She is known online and across social media as The Makerista. With nearly 100,000 followers on Instagram and a desire to share ideas for beautiful living, she describes herself as “a modern traditionalist who loves color.”
She also runs a subscription site called Thrift Club for those passionate about “thrifting” – the repurposing and sharing of great finds at second-hand shops. She remembers leaving campus on the weekends, driving to Des Moines and spending hours looking for any hidden gems at “junk shops and thrift stores around the city.”
Hefner studied music at Simpson, her initial dream to become a professional vocalist. But eventually, she admitted that the world of opera wasn’t what she was thinking about most of the time.
"Honestly, I woke up one morning and realized my roommate, who was also a music major, would get up every day and she would get on operanews.com," she said. "And every morning, I would go to style.com."
With graduation fast approaching and the deadline for applying to graduate music programs looming, she knew she had to make a new plan, and fast. She enrolled in a semester-long program in New York City known as The Fashion Experience. She interned at a high-end fashion label for several months right after finishing her degree.
That exposure, combined with a position at a local magazine in Kansas City when she moved back home, helped Hefner leverage her fashion knowledge and marketing talent to build a successful brand. A brand that the national media and other companies are keen on associating with.
Hefner says design and renovation projects shouldn’t be about wanting what someone else has, but discovering how to reimagine your own space in a new and different way. It’s not about a price tag. It’s about seeing potential.
"I just think beauty can be found everywhere,” she said. “And I'm always searching for that."
Story first appeared in the spring 2021 issue of The Simpson Magazine