Have you ever found yourself feeling down and wanting to be uplifted by a good story? That’s where Love What Matters comes in. They’re a first-person storytelling platform that brings together millions of people to experience life through the words of random strangers.
What started as a creative outlet for Colin Balfe, Founder and Chief Content Officer, turned into a global content brand reaching over 10 million pageviews per month, 114,000+ YouTube subscribers, 520,000+ followers on Instagram, 250,000+ email subscribers and over 8 million followers on Facebook. We sat down with Colin to learn more about how Love What Matters came to be.
Note: Responses may have been edited for clarity.
What motivated you to start Love What Matters?
My mom – she passed away from ovarian cancer and was the inspiration behind Love What Matters. During my last few visits with her, despite her situation, she still put her children first and was worried about how her death would impact me. She knew that when she died, it would be hard on me. She kept reminding me that as her most sensitive and creative child, I should find a way to use her death and my grief to create something beautiful. She had no idea what it would be and neither did I. Everytime I would see her, she would reiterate this. I was a mess when she passed.
When you lose your mom, you lose your North Star. I was craving meaning. As a result, I paid more attention to life and realized that other people must be dealing with similar emotions and situations of grief, loss, heartache, etc. I started building and experimenting on social media. I had a Facebook page where deeply meaningful stories were shared and with those stories, I started gaining 50,000 to 100,000 followers a day.
What’s the story behind Love What Matters?
When Love What Matters started growing, my brothers were shocked by the level of growth I was experiencing and were a great resource for me to go to. They own and operate Red Seat Ventures which partners with talent, brands, and influencers to fund, build, and operate unique businesses. They’ve been incredible when it comes to helping me with the business side of things and making sure we’re monetizing everything effectively and efficiently. With their help, I’ve been able to focus on the creative side and work on the content and storytelling.
For the first two years of Love What Matters, I was focused entirely on building the social media platforms of the business (Instagram and Facebook) because I knew I was going to be relying on those to push traffic. I knew that this was going to be painful because there isn’t going to be a lot of money coming in but it’s going to be worth it in the long run. Thankfully, we had brand partners coming to us even with just our social platforms because we were breaking all these news stories and other publishers started to pick us up like Good Morning America. Once we had the website launched, I went out and hired our first editor and it was just her and I for the first year and started growing the team from there.
What vision did you have for Love What Matters when you first started and how does it compare to what it is now?
I thought it was going to go on a non-stop upward trajectory that never ended. I had never been an entrepreneur or started a business before so I think that was a naive assumption. It’s been a rollercoaster starting Love What Matters – experiencing the lows makes you appreciate the highs even more. We’ve come across many challenges like going from our popular social media platforms to figuring out how we translate what’s worked to our website.
We started sharing stories on our social media platforms and what really resonated so well with our followers was that it was first-person storytelling – not everyone was doing that. When we launched the website, we weren’t sure how it was going to work. Are we going to be a traditional news publisher (i.e. NBC News) or double down on our niche of first-person storytelling?
We went forward with the first-person style and it’s worked really well for us. The viral success we had in the beginning of social media, we hoped would translate to the website as well. We didn’t know what to expect and hoped for what it is now. To credit my editorial team, it goes back to the storytelling. It’s the stories that we share that keep users wanting to read more. We’ve done a lot of things I wanted us to accomplish like publishing a book and starting a few podcasts.
I’m proudest of the communities we’ve built, strangers united by powerful and impactful experiences, underserved people connecting around mutual challenges, hopes and dreams. These communities include Adoption, Mental Health, Infertility, Addiction, Grief, Special Needs Parenting, LGBTQ+ and many more.
We just launched a new podcast about the transformative power of kindness.
I’d love to eventually launch a streaming television channel whether that’s through YouTube or Pluto. We haven’t gotten there yet but we’re going to invest more time in our YouTube channel and figure out how to take our storytelling to video. I see a massive opportunity there.
Who were the people who have been the most helpful in getting you to where you are today?
Our first editor, Eliza Murphy, put us on the map. One of the most read stories of the year, we had in our first year which is incredible to be ranked with legacy publishers! In fact, we had two stories on the Chartbeat List of Most Engaging Stories that year.
Our current managing editor, Sophia San Filippo, does an incredible job making sure everything is running and we’re optimized for Search, our team is trained, etc. She’s done an extraordinary job at keeping this massive organization going.
If you had to do it all over again, what would you do differently?
If I had to do it over again, I think we would work on video from infancy. It’s hard because you can’t do and be everything to everyone as a product and person. I think the reason we’ve been so successful is because we’ve been hyper-focused on incredible written word storytelling and I think had we tried to do video alongside it we may have fumbled the website storytelling more.
Clearly, there was a reason why we didn’t do it from the beginning.
What’s the one thing you’d tell your younger self?
If I was talking to myself in my twenties, I’d tell him to relax. Your twenties are meant to try as many different things as you can. Try as many things as possible and continue to learn as many things as possible – you’ll figure it out.
You can fail as many times as you want in your twenties because it’s a great opportunity to learn from it all.
Interested in reading real stories by real people? You can explore countless stories filled with hope, support, kindness and compassion at lovewhatmatters.com.