La Salle University, Arts and Sciences - Degree in Communication: Public Relations
Vittoria Woodill lives and breathes fashion on a budget for her lifestyle confidence blog, Polished for Pennies (P4P). Since September 2011, Vittoria has been documenting her fabulous finds, inspiration and resourcefulness through video and blog posts with themed months and photo shoots — what she describes as “tips and tricks to looking, feeling and living like a million bucks on a few shiny pennies.”
In college, Vittoria was a communication major who focused heavily on work outside of the classroom: she had a two-year stint as a Philadelphia Eagles cheerleader and would work up to three media jobs in one day. This sometimes meant traveling outside the city to work a radio gig and then commuting to work two different jobs in the same building an elevator ride apart. Later, Vittoria launched Polished for Pennies while working as an afternoon traffic reporter.
One of her first big breaks came when she answered an email looking for budding fashionistas for a TV segment. Although Vittoria’s blog was just shy of being five months old, she jumped at the chance and pitched her idea to the mystery client, who just so happened to be Tim Gunn and ABC for "The Revolution". Since appearing on the now-defunct style show, Vittoria continues to make occasional guest spots on CBS Philadelphia. More recent P4P victories include interviewing Spanx inventor Sara Blakely and being retweeted by renowned fashion designer Rachel Roy. Although surprised by a recent layoff, Vittoria is more determined than ever to grow her brand. “I’m looking at this period … to stay focused and dedicate the ‘off’ time I have now to nourish and grow the blog to be bigger than ever!” she confided. “Maybe even surprise myself.”
I’m following something in my heart that I can’t stop.
Until recently, you were a traffic reporter on TV in addition to managing Polished for Pennies. Can you talk about that gig?
At Tango Traffic, I was an afternoon traffic anchor from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday. The network is live 24/7 and serves viewers in the Delaware Valley region (Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey). I was responsible for reporting the traffic on-the-fly, without the use of a teleprompter or script, and engaging viewers through social media. I held this position for two years before being laid off in January. Hey! It happens.
I got the job through the former Program Director of a CBS Radio affiliate. I interned with him back in college and he was now the Program Director for Tango Traffic. After seeing an update on LinkedIn from him looking for talent, I quickly reached out for an audition even though I had missed the open call. He obliged and brought me in for a boardroom-style interview.
After making the call back, I auditioned with the other selected applicants. That same day, I still held a job at CBS TV in Philly and had to run from the audition to another shoot. As I was leaving, I blew a tire in the parking lot! PANIC MODE. After freaking out for a good five minutes in my Toyota Camry, I ran inside and explained my situation to the first people I saw: the bosses. Without hesitation, I was generously given the keys to the CEO’s car to head to my CBS shoot, which was about 45 minutes away. I went, filled up his gas tank on the way back, returned the car and came back to Tango with a brand new tire on my car and the job. True story. Just shows you the kind of company they are and the caliber of people who work there.
How did you come up with the idea for Polished for Pennies?
I created Polished for Pennies during September 2011 as an outlet to showcase other talents, thoughts and feelings I had for life and fashion beyond my role as a traffic reporter.
I wanted to tell my story: that of a hard-working gal from Northeast Philly, still living at home with her parents, Sallie Mae constantly knocking at the door, and one who prides herself on a professional appearance. I wanted to share my tips and tricks with others. Girls who were trying to look, live and feel like a million bucks on a few shiny pennies, just like me. I wanted to show others how I viewed my situation as always having some sort of "polished potential" and stress the importance of a full bank of self worth.
Can you talk about your typical job schedule, and what your day looks like?
Prior to the layoff, I'd wake up at about 9 or 10 a.m. and work on the P4P blog into the early afternoon. Then, I would get ready for Tango Traffic (I was responsible for my own makeup, hair and styling) and take off for the hour-long commute to the station. After reporting, I'd go back to working on the blog -- writing, editing video, scheduling photo shoots and pitching the website to media and retail outlets into the late hours. I also maintain the Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Pose, Instagram, Tumblr and Pinterest pages. My schedule is pretty busy and constant and A LOT of that is due to my attention to social media. I’ve got to be as up on it as I can!
Now, being laid off, my perspective really hasn’t changed; it’s broadened. I always wondered, “If I had more time, how much better could I make my site? My content? If I had the time to really immerse myself and celebrate the freedom of creating without time, what will come out of me?” I’m looking at this period as a time to do just that: stay focused and dedicate the “off” time I have now to nourish and grow the blog to be bigger than ever! Maybe even surprise myself.
Was there ever a moment in your career where you’ve thought, “I made it!”?
Appearing with Tim Gunn last year on "The Revolution" was definitely an "I made it!" moment. I responded to a Help A Reporter Out (HARO) email looking for someone who could talk about fashion for an upcoming television segment. The blog hadn't been around for that long, but I made my pitch anyway; what did I have to lose? To my surprise, I received a follow-up email from ABC and we coordinated the appearance from there. It actually went from a small segment to a full seven-minute feature about our Polished for Pennies Shopping Strategy, “Shop for What Pops!”
Thinking and wishing this experience would change my life and wondering how it could, I was nervous the entire train ride to New York City. But the second I appeared on stage in front of the cameras, everything clicked. I felt meant to be there and the segment went extremely well. The easiest thing to publicly speak about is something you truly know and believe in. So I believe the reason the segment went so well was because I truly believed -- and still do -- in my message, in my brand and in myself. At 24 years old, I was talking fashion on national TV with Tim Gunn and it was all based on what I had created! It was almost like an out-of-body experience. There was even a time when he asked for my opinion! Like, what?!
It was extraordinary and it did change my life. It brought viewers from all over the country to my site and grew my viewership from the fifties into the thousands. There are some amazing women out there and I was able to meet them through that moment. Incredible.
What challenges keep you awake at night?
When you want so much, see so much potential in yourself and your brand and are creative, it’s actually all the ideas and creativity that keep you up at night. Projects or stories you think of that second while laying in bed that you want to start, but your body is too exhausted to begin, or knowing you need sleep to work the next day takes over. So that’s the toughest thing; basically to not forget. I do have many notebooks and notepads by my bed, which helps.
Is work/life balance ever a problem with you?
Not really. Right now, my life is my work and I’m OK with that. I don’t deprive myself of a night out with friends or dinner with my family, but my thing has always been working. I’m following something in my heart that I can’t stop. This life seems balanced to me, considering where my priorities lie at the moment. At the end of the day though, I’m lucky to have understanding friends and a super supportive family, so I never feel too alone or one-sided.
What are some of the rules you live by?
Eat the donut! This may sound strange, but it’s a little something I say to remind myself to have a reward once and a while for just being me. They don’t necessarily have to be expensive things -- it can be a 70 cent donut -- but get it, eat it and enjoy it! You can find small moments of happiness in the smallest things, so find them and take a bite.
Other than that, “Hard work will pay off,” and “Faith, hope and love will get you everywhere that matters.”
What qualities does it take for someone to be successful in your position?
A clear vision, very persistent attitude, quick rejection bounce-back, but an even better work ethic. If you talk the talk, you better walk the walk. It’s that simple. If you have a dream, are confident in your skills, have respect for people around you and can actually do the work you say you can, YOU WILL SUCCEED. But more than anything, especially in this business, you have to always have faith.
What advice do you have for women who aspire to walk in your shoes?
Photos can sometimes speak volumes on a blog and they can have an easy air about them, but they don’t tell you the whole story. Take, for example, our photo shoots: readers only see the image that comes out at the end. They don’t see all of the hard work, time and thought going into every shot. So know, great things take very hard work to look easy and the work people don’t see, well, they really don’t care. They want the end result.
We all want everything NOW! So, believe in your gifts without reward, approval or acceptance from others. As long as you feel rich with confidence and pride, that’s all that matters. If you’re honest and true, your followers/supporters will be there.
Where do you see yourself five years from now?
I don’t like to think too far ahead, because you can never really plan things out. I just like to take things as they come. But my dream has always been to have a job where I just get paid to be me. So in one year or five, we’ll see where the wind takes me. Hopefully, the wind will blow me to the seat of my executive office chair of Polished for Pennies Corporation, with some killer pumps and cute coffee mugs.
-Interview by Kathleen Garvin