By Samantha Lauriello
Ten years ago, Lisa Sugar gave birth to a pop culture website based in San Francisco, while her childhood friend, Rebecca Gruber, became a new mother in New York City. At the time, the two women—both focusing on nursing their “newborns”—had no idea their worlds would collide to develop the global media company that over 100 million readers now know as POPSUGAR.
Gruber had moved to New York post-college to work in corporate public relations. After 10 years working for companies such as Delta, Macy’s, FEDx, and more, her phone rang with an offer that would change her professional life. She recalls: “I got a phone call [from Lisa] one day when my first-born was 10 months old: ‘Our board says we need public relations. That’s what you do. Do you want to come work for us? We’re in San Francisco, you’re in New York, you could work from home, you could be around your kid all the time and you could do public relations for our company.’” This call from Sugar and Krista Moatz (the POPSUGAR co-founder who is also Gruber’s sister-in-law) was the first page of Gruber’s new chapter. “I said ‘yes.’ And I thought: ‘Wow, work from home? Be near my kid? It’s everything I’ve dreamed of.’”
Within her first few years at POPSUGAR, the company opened their New York office, and Gruber took on running the POPSUGAR Moms vertical. “At that point I had just had my second child. I was immersed in the world of baby and parenting,” she says. “I just wanted to make a switch.” Today, the vertical is one of the most widely read on the entire site.
“We’re trying to be the ‘everymom,’” Gruber says of the POPSUGAR Moms mission. “We’re not trying to tell you the perfect way to be the perfect parent. There is no perfect parent out there and we recognize that… We’re in it together, to help you laugh your way through. We’re here to support, not criticize each other.”
One of the best ways the site supports its readers is through its popular personal essays that convey relatable tidbits of parenting life. “It’s the mom writing about how she was just stopped on the street by someone who told her to enjoy these days because they go by really fast,” Gruber explains. “And yes, although you’ve heard it a million times, you take it to heart the one time an 80-year-old man tells you because it suddenly strikes you how incredibly fast it does go.” Similarly, Gruber’s own essay on sending her son to sleepaway camp went viral in the camp community because the bittersweet milestone struck a chord. “[Camp] has been the best thing that ever happened to him or to us,” she says. “It tugs on my heart that he just went on the bus last weekend for seven weeks, but he is the happiest kid in the world.”
In addition to POPSUGAR Moms, the site has a total of 13 verticals, which all seem to support each other. “You could be a mom who only reads POPSUGAR Moms and get all of your kid-friendly recipe information, your hot toys of the month, your dose of humor, all of that, but you can also go over to Fashion and see what the hottest sunglasses trend is for the summer. You can find celebrity gossip over on Celebrity, and you can go over to Fitness and learn how to detox with smoothies in the morning,” Gruber says of the site’s synergy.
Though Gruber has held various roles in POPSUGAR’s parenting division for about eight years now, the site continues to provide her with new parenting ideas for her sons Zachary, 6, and Noah, 10. Between the countless recipes she finds and the technology tips she picks up from experts, Gruber brings her work home in a family-friendly way. “[My work] has definitely influenced my parenting, for better or for worse. My children might say for worse,” she laughs. “But also for the better, they do love all of the toys they get to test.”
When the family isn’t testing toys, Gruber and her husband enjoy taking their “sports nut” boys to play baseball. “I’ve been in New York City for 19 years and I still pinch myself and say ‘I can’t believe my kids are playing baseball in Central Park,’” she says.
Gruber’s love for her job is evident in her smile as she explains perks—such as getting to take her boys out of school for a day to meet Shaquille O’Neal during the office’s Toys for Tots drive—as well as when speaking highly of her innovative coworkers. “I love the people I work with here, within the company, but also within the parenting blogging world,” she says.
As for a career highlight? Having worked with Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!”campaign through POPSUGAR for quite some time, Gruber was invited to an event in celebration of the initiative. “While I was sitting there, I got tapped on the shoulder and told that Mrs. Obama wanted to meet me,” Gruber says, still in disbelief. Upon meeting Gruber, the First Lady embraced her in a hug.
“The weight of the office and the enormity of who she is and what position she holds was so amazing and so inspiring, and it truly was a highlight of my career,” Gruber explains. “And the fact that she recognized POPSUGAR and our work in the parenting community was the best feeling. It was validation of everything we’ve been doing.”
To learn more about POPSUGAR, visit popsugar.com!