We had the great pleasure of chatting with Melissa DiRenzo of The Sweet Escape a couple of weeks ago about her new initiative The Happy Blogger Studio, a workshop series that seeks to teach creative skills to bloggers and small business owners alike.

Their first workshop is this Saturday and it’s all about getting acquainted with your DSLR and learning how to capture amazing photos for your website.

There is so much to love about this project – having left behind her 9-5 job to pursue what she loved most, Melissa is creating opportunities for local makers to share their skills with the Toronto community. She is developing fun and engaging environments that let individuals play with new tools, ideas, and techniques all while learning and meeting new people.

Learn more about Melissa, The Sweet Escape, and The Happy Blogger Studio in our conversation below:

What is The Happy Blogger Studio?

The Happy Blogger Studio is a workshop series that teaches creative skills (photography, styling, design etc.) for bloggers or small biz owners who manage their own branding & online media to help them bring their creative visions to life.

How did this project come to be?

We are all visual people and whether we admit it or not often make decisions or judgments based on what we see. I’m a graphic designer & art director so that’s definitely helps me when it comes to what my site looks like.  I’m flattered by the great feedback I get on my branding, photography, styling & design and I realized that not everyone has the skills, tools or education to make their awesome content, product or ideas come to life how they envision or look as professional as they want. So I decided to start The Happy Blogger studio to offer workshops to teach some basic skills to help people realize their vision and keep their readers/customers impressed by their professional looking sites….and do all this in a creative and fun environment.

How long have you been blogging as The Sweet Escape, can you tell us a bit more about that creative journey?

I started The Sweet Escape in March of 2013 with the commitment to post 5 times a week and haven’t skipped one day since. I’ve been a loyal blog follower since the early days and always thought it was something I would love to do and have as a true creative outlet. I saw all these other bloggers grow and have their life changed by their blogs and decided that I wanted to give it a shot. I had been unhappy in my good & stable ‘creative’ position for a while and wasn’t having luck finding another job that I could get excited about. So in August 2013 I decided to stop complaining about it and take the huge leap and quit my job. The plan was to put all my time and energy into my blog and use it to create my own creative opportunities and showcase my skills & creative passion in a way that a resume or portfolio just couldn’t. You can read more about this experience in this post of mine.

What has been one of the biggest surprises from starting The Sweet Escape so far?

Well the first thing is don’t be fooled by all the beautiful pictures and content, it’s a TON of work. I can assure you that I work much harder then I ever did at my 9-5. I kind of think of blogs as mini-magazines but you release a little bit every day instead of all at once. An awesome surprise is all the amazing people I’ve met, both readers and other bloggers. The blogging community is so close and supportive, it’s seriously amazing.

What is your vision for the future of The Happy Blogger Studio?

I envision The Happy Blogger studio to become a real community of people that want to share their skills and resources to help each other grow. Educating and sharing in the creative community can only help the community as a whole by increasing the standards and professionalism so that creators can make a better living for themselves. My ultimate dream would be to run an actual studio space for creatives to share and run the workshops from.

What can people expect to see from you in 2014? 

We are kicking off with our first workshop, which is called SNAP. CLICK. SHOOT: Learn to take better photos. It’s a DSLR intro class to help you get those fancy professional looking photos. As we get warmed up during the year people can expect some great creative workshops on topics such as styling for great photos, graphic design & branding skills, event planning & styling, social media tips, media & PR tips…and more! All in a really fun and creative environment.

Where can people find you and how can they get involved?

You can check out our website, www.happybloggerstudio.com for more details on how to register for our workshop or follow us on Twitter (@happybloggerTO) or Facebook to keep regular updates. We are just getting started and there will be lots more updates to come! If you have a great idea for a workshop you would like to either attend or teach, please get in touch via the Contact page on our website or email at happybloggerstudio@gmail.com. We are always looking for great collaborations!

Is there anything we didn’t ask that you’d like to share? 

There’s also a facebook group for local Toronto lifestyle bloggers to network and keep in the loop on local blogger-related events. We had our official first Blog Brunch Toronto in November and there will be another one scheduled in February. Stay tuned for details via the page.