Last May, sophomore Colby Alvino wrote her first article for the Odyssey Online, “An Ode to Mellow Mushroom,” and within days, Mellow Mushroom contacted her and sent her coasters, stickers and other free items. That marked the beginning of Alvino's company, Bites and Sites

Bites and Sites is a marketing company Alvino founded in July 2016 that advertises businesses through articles she writes from an outsider’s perspective and publishes on her website, Facebook and Instagram.

After Mellow Mushroom contacted Alvino, her mother told her that she could be paid to write articles for other businesses. Alvino combined her passion for writing and the influence of social media to launch her company in three weeks.

“The Odyssey only gets published once a week, and I thought, ‘What if I want to do that more than once a week?’” Alvino said. “So I decided to make my own website, and I bought my own domain.”

It costs Alvino $12 a year to keep the domain for her company name. The creation of her website, as well as her social media platforms, were free. She charges $50 per article, and as soon as she is paid by the business, she uploads the article to her website and to her other social media platforms. The company’s Facebook page gets the most traffic, with more than 1,000 views per day.

Alvino started gaining clients by calling restaurants she was familiar with, including the Tobacco Company and Firebirds Wood Fire Grill. The Tobacco Company responded immediately, and Alvino wrote an article for it, outlining the history of the restaurant and popular items on the menu.

Alvino's second client, Firebirds, was the first business that challenged her to explain herself and her company.

“That was the first person I had to talk to on the phone about what Bites and Sites was, the first person besides my family and friends that I was talking about this company with,” Alvino said. 

Alvino also said she had been nervous but was treated as an adult in a professional business interaction. “It was cool because I felt like I had power over someone of power.”

The most recent articles Alvino has published are for two gluten-free bakeries in Richmond: Anna B’s Gluten Free and Nettie’s Naturally.

Alvino has written mostly for restaurants in Richmond, but she has also published an article for a dorm décor shop, Leigh Deux Dorm, in her hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina. Alvino wants to expand her outreach and write for small start-ups such as boutiques.

“Restaurants are great, but it’s not just Bites, it’s Bites and Sites,” Alvino said.

Alvino said she hoped to spend part of this semester and the summer upgrading her website, visiting businesses in person and putting a face to her company’s name to become more well-known around Richmond and Charlotte.

“It’s been really great advocating for myself and being my own person, and I love doing this,” Alvino said. “I’m having fun doing it, and it’s become like a job.”

Contact writer Stephanie Hagan at stephanie.hagan@richmond.edu.

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