Taryn Kelly got famous with her blog “I Heart Stance” and later was invited to work for Speedhunters. Right now she’s establishing her project Japan Car Culture and work for Blackbird Automotive in Hong Kong. I had the opportunity to talk with her. We discussed Japan, car culture and inbound marketing.
– Where are you from?
– I was born in Papakura in Auckland, New Zealand, but the town of Whangarei (further up north where my parents now live) feels more like ‘home’. Three months ago I moved to Hong Kong where I’m living at the moment.
– What was your priority, choosing a city you want to live it or choosing a job that suits you?
– Due to the nature of the industry I work in I think I’ll always have to be open to the idea of living anywhere. Being less tied down opens up more opportunities – of which there are very few when it comes to the realm of automotive media! Work is the priority, or at least it is at this stage in my life.
– What do you drive now or is it public transport for you in HK?
– I’m ashamed to admit that we don’t have a car here in Hong Kong and don’t have any plans to get one either. I really thought that having our Datsun 280Z back in New Zealand would make me feel okay about this, but as it turns out it really isn’t helping at all! It’s only temporary though; I know the time will come when driving and modifying cars will become a big part of my life again. That thought is keeping me sane, for now anyway.
– What are you working on at the moment?
– I moved to Hong Kong for a new job, working as the Social Media Manager for Blackbird Automotive. I also run my business Japan Car Culture on the side. Both these roles have been keeping me pretty busy since I got here!
– I’m following Blackbird for a year or so, maybe you can share some plans of their latest developments? What can we expect from this project in a year or so?
– There are some exciting things in the works for next year but you will just have to wait to see what they are! We recently just moved into a beautiful new office though which is pretty exciting. It’s filled with the most beautiful books, art and scale models with parts of Formula 1 cars on the walls, and the entranceway/reception area is designed to look like the interior of the Death Star – I’m not even kidding.
– How would you describe yourself?
– I’m a pretty normal person and I was fortunate enough to have a wonderful upbringing, which set me up with some great values and morals. Treat others how you’d like to be treated, never stop learning, don’t worry, be happy; all the basics like that. I’m an optimist and a realist; I think it’s important to always try and see the best in every situation, but at the same time to have realistic expectations.
– What inspires you?
– While I say I had an amazing childhood, it was also quite sheltered. I grew up in the countryside and always lived in relatively small towns, so it wasn’t until I moved away from home to live in the city as a young adult that I really started seeing the bigger picture in life. Photography was the first thing I ever felt passionate about, but it wasn’t until I started taking an interest in cars as a young adult that I realised that the combination of these two hobbies was something I really loved, and potentially something I could try and make a career out of.
In terms of a deeper source of inspiration, for some reason I’ve always been able to appreciate my life for what it is. I think people spend too much time worrying about unnecessary things and focusing on the things they don’t have, instead of what they do have, which is usually quite a lot. I like cars, but I’m generally not a materialistic person. I’m inspired by the fact that I got a great chance at life, and that makes me want to do my best every day. Although maybe I’m also inspired by the thought of one day having a nice, big garage with a few vintage cars in it, a little garden and a nice coffee machine. Yeah… that would be nice. See, my goals are pretty realistic!
– What is your relationship with Japan?
– I became fascinated with Japan back in 2010 when I became interested in cars. Originally the main drawcard was the car culture, but after going there for the first time I fell in love with the country as well. The people, the cuisine, the history; it’s just a really interesting and unique place. I’m not sure I could live there as the culture is so different, but ideally I’d like to be able to visit at least once a year.
– Best thing that happened to you in Japan?
– I have so many amazing memories there, but nothing really compares to my first visit. It was my first big overseas experience, and I don’t think I’ll ever experience that level of excitement again. I guess that’s part of the reason why I kept going back; chasing that original feeling of wonderment. It’s funny as the things we’ve done in Japan since then were so much cooler, but it just never quite felt the same.
One time we rented a big house in the countryside and just lived there for a month. We had a JZX100 and we took it out on trips around the nearby lakes and twisty mountain roads. It was the start of summer so the climate was warm and perfect, and it was so quiet and peaceful out there. The house was next to a bamboo forest and a beautiful river, and our friends came to stay with us from New Zealand so we had some drinks and a BBQ on the outdoor fireplace. We tried to light the fire but we were failing miserably and smoke was going everywhere. All of a sudden this tiny little old lady just ‘pops up’ in the garden and motions at us to move out of the way. She took two fans out of her pocket and bent down and started batting at this fire like a crazy little animal and then suddenly – BOOF – it burst into flames! We all just stood there with our jaws hanging open like ‘What the hell just happened!?’ She must’ve been watching us through her window next door and decided that she’d had enough! Also one of my friends sleepwalked out into the hallway of a hotel we were staying in one night, and he was completely naked and got locked out of his room for like half an hour as couldn’t remember which room he was staying in!
– Place in Japan that you still didn’t visit, but will definitely go there next time?
– I have to admit, I’ve now done everything in Japan that I’d always dreamt of doing. This is part of the reason why I started JCC so that I can help other people instead! In saying that, I’d love to go back when the autumn leaves are at their peak, and I’d like to drive Irohazaka in Tochigi and climb up to the Yamadera Shrine in Yamagata.
– How did you arrive at the idea of JCC?
– My obsession with Japan got pretty crazy to the point where I was spending months there on end each year. During the times I was there especially I’d receive messages, emails and comments from people almost on a daily basis, asking for advice, mainly about event dates but also about many different topics. I started noticing that many people wanted help with the same things. Thinking back, when I first went to Japan it was completely unorganised; I didn’t have anything planned and had no idea what I was going to do. I just figured it was going to be really awesome, no matter what. When I got there I was lucky enough to get to one really good event out at Tsukuba, but apart from that I didn’t really get to see any other cool car stuff.
The trouble was, there was nowhere that you could get useful and accurate information specifically to help you have an amazing time in Japan. The only way was to physically go to Japan so many times, figure out everything the hard way and then start meeting people and making connections and learning more from there. Which was fun, but it was hard and I probably spent more money than I should have! So last year I started creating a business/content plan for a website that people could pay a small membership fee to access literally every piece of information they needed to have their ultimate car-related holiday in Japan. I launched JapanCarCulture.com earlier this year, and today it has over 100 members!
– I’d definitely like to become a member when I decide to go to Nippon country. By the way, great job on those introductory emails and materials, all this inbound marketing you do to promote the project, it’s your expertise or somebody is helping you? How much time and effort went into JCC project?
– Thank you for the kind feedback. JCC is solely my project, with the exception of my husband Pedey who has taken some of the images plus he shoots and creates our videos. My overall goal with JCC is to be able to help people have an amazing time in Japan, but it also gives me great satisfaction from a creative point of view. This is mainly because everything is done my way, but it’s also an outlet to share my photography and interests with others. The only thing I’m not one hundred percent happy with is the website layout, but I had to do what I could with the budget I had and the platform I chose. It took me around nine months to prepare the website for launch, but the majority of the information and content within it has been put together based on years of personal experience. All of our photography has been taken over a six-year period! As for the workload, at the moment I’m scheduling each week’s worth of social media content each Sunday night, and generally I spend a few nights a week sending emails; I update the event calendar once a week and sometimes I spend my Saturday putting together other content as well. I’d say at least half of my spare time is spent working on it. After eight months we already have 103 members which is very exciting.
– You’re not a Speedhunter for some time already, what’s your best memories from “those days”?
– I was fortunate enough to work for the Speedhunters project for three years. During that time I worked as a freelance contractor, so I had the freedom to roam around a bit and get out to some amazing events around the world, which was pretty special. But I think the best part of it was just being involved in the overall contribution Speedhunters has made to international car culture as a whole. Plus it helped me develop my shooting and writing skills and taught me a lot about time management.
– What’s your top tip for writing better content?
– Definitely focusing on your point of difference. Think about why people would read your article over someone else’s – what makes it special or unique? And what are they personally going to get out of reading it? If they’re not learning something, it should at least stir up emotions or leave them feeling inspired or motivated. Writing should be captivating, informative and accurate, which means fact-checking everything. If you’re writing a story, it needs to be structured with a solid beginning and ending. Whenever I write anything I always write the beginning and the end first, then fill in the middle.
– What automotive event you wish to visit in 2017?
– The Goodwood Revival in the UK!
– Why do you wake up in the morning?
– Because who knows what might happen that day :)