Covering Cleveland with Courtney
Updated: 2 days ago
Courtney Ottrix - Founder + Curator of Courtney Covers Cleveland
It is no secret that Cleveland is full of incredible attractions, events, and people. There is always something new to see and do and explore all that the city and its communities have to offer. Courtney Ottrix of Courtney Covers Cleveland is the perfect example of all that makes our city special and how highlighting the hidden gems can make such a difference to an entire community. There is immense power in sharing about what makes us passionate, and the internet is a huge outlet to share our love for local people and local places.
Born and raised in Shaker Heights, Courtney attended Duquesne University in Pittsburgh and returned to Cleveland following graduation. After working for Monday Night Football on ESPN in college, Courtney eventually transitioned to working in production and game operations for the NBA on ESPN. Wanting to settle down a bit from the hustle and travel of sports, Courtney found a job at a local non-profit. Doing this, Courtney realized that she was spotlighting so many international business owners and decided that she could also be doing this for all of Cleveland. Courtney thought specifically, “Who is doing this for the black and brown community? Who’s sharing our businesses? Who is promoting us?” And the idea for Courtney Covers Cleveland was born - to share hidden gems and small business throughout Cleveland.
As someone who is naturally curious and always interested in trying new things, she found herself out at restaurants, coffee shops, festivals, and events where she was exposed to new foods, people, ideas, and cultures all within the Cleveland area. She thought, “I wonder how many people would see Cleveland differently if they just tried new things.” Courtney began sharing her visits to businesses in the city and encouraging others to check out coffee shops, restaurants, and stores that she posted. “People started calling me ‘Courtney Cleveland’ and one day someone was like ‘You should start a blog!’ and I remember the post that I made that had all these name ideas on it and I went with Courtney Covers Cleveland, and I cover cool people, cool places, and cool events,” she shared.
After getting to a point with her passion project, she was looking to make it more than a hobby and was beginning to receive invitations to events. Courtney saw her chance to take the plunge into blogging full-time. “I couldn’t give it the time or energy that it needed. But I was tired of young professionals complaining there was nothing to do in Cleveland. At this point young professionals were getting married, having kids, buying homes and people were trying to move to DC, Chicago, etc. and I was like ‘Guys that's not even practical, you want to be in Cleveland.” Once Courtney went to Covers Cleveland full-time, things really took off! Courtney described the feeling of seeing it all work out and finally seeing her hobby/passion project itself as a business. She has also been able to expand to Courtney Covers It All, where she visits and promotes even more events and businesses from all over the world.
With sharing your life online as a career, there can come common struggles as with any creative field. Courtney shares that she is no stranger to the imposter syndrome, negative feedback, and work-life balance struggles that come hand and hand with sharing it all, all the time. Touching on her experience navigating this online network, Courtney said, “As Instagram grew, tons of other accounts were doing the exact same thing but they were kind of doing it better. And I remember thinking oh my god, do I need to change or pivot? I was still working in sports, and although this was my full-time job, I also have kids so I was not as consistent or covering as much. So I started doing Codi Covers Cleveland focusing on kids, and Courtney Covers Events and started to branch off to create other experiences.” One of Courtney’s most impressive events is her signature Ladies Night events where she brings together hundreds of women and spotlights women-owned business vendors for a night of connection and fun. Courtney has always seen her business as so much more than just an online account and being able to connect people with each other is what drives her to continue innovating and shake off any feelings of doubt.
We touched a bit on individuality and how well Cleveland allows for all people to enter a space with their ideas and be a part of a community that is doing the same things without making anyone feel less than another. It can be hard to compare our paths with others doing similar things but as Courtney so clearly understands, there is plenty of room for everyone to be themselves and bring their own flare to the field they are in. Courtney shared about getting through her feelings of self-doubt and explained it best, “I have my own thing and it’s so different from what everyone else is doing. I do have an audience and community that really values what I bring. They can do theirs and be equally great, or better, or have more followers but it doesn't take away from what I’m building. I don’t equate followers to success. There is so much room for everybody and everyone does business differently."
Courtney talked about how what she shares allows her to be herself. She gets to explore things she and her family are truly interested in and it allows for her to show off her authentic self in her content. It also means that she gets to share the highs and lows of everyday life with all of her followers. She told us about some time off she took from her social media earlier this year and how many people reached out to give her words of encouragement and share their support for whatever she may be going through. “The community I built on social media is amazing. I found friends, I found community. You find a commonality in social media from this audience and it's like I feel seen, I feel heard, I am not in this alone,” she shared.
As you would expect from anyone sharing their life online, Courtney’s job isn't without its difficulties. Although her community is positive and full of encouragement, she shares about the small group of followers that everyone with an online presence tends to encounter. “They feel entitled to every aspect of your life. I share a lot but I share what I am comfortable sharing and there are some things I just don’t want to talk about. Or the expectation of posting every day. Some days I just need a mental break. I’m still human,” she shared. This also extends to the partners she works with. Courtney’s boundaries really come into play as she is the sole person running her business and communicating her personal needs with those she is working with is the only way to maintain both a positive community and her own mental and physical health.
Above all, Courtney is endlessly grateful for the structure and flexibility that comes with her work and wouldn't trade her online community for the world. She talked about how great it can be to have time for her family and no longer feel the pressure that can sometimes come along with a traditional 9 to 5 while also touching on how a lot of flexibility then requires a lot of self-reflection to keep things on track. “It does require discipline but because it is passion-driven, it doesn’t feel like work,” she shared. “Sometimes I wake up early, make my coffee and work- then get the kids ready for school before 8am. Other days I’m cooking dinner, getting the kids ready for bed, then working past midnight. No two days are the same, I just do what I need to do when I need to do it.”
We asked Courtney about her coolest and most rewarding experiences since starting Courtney Covers Cleveland and she told us it's simply the fact that she gets to be herself! Courtney said, “The most fulfilling thing about Courtney Covers Cleveland is that I built this. This is mine, Courtney Covers Cleveland is me, and nobody else can be me. I get to share experiences that allow me to be authentic – as a wife, as a mom, as an entrepreneur, and as a Clevelander. I get to travel and enjoy things I would pay for...but now it's free or I get paid to do it. It’s crazy that I have influence that people trust, value and respect my opinion.” She added that it's rewarding to see how far things have come and how much further they can continue to go. She’s only scratched the surface; there's so much I'm not doing right and could do better to grow.
She also touched on the power that has come from her work in the community and how rewarding it has been to use her influence for good in her own city. She shared, “It has to be bigger than me. I love telling people to “support local” because I actually really support local. From coffee shops to small boutiques, I love supporting and sharing Cleveland business owners. When I reflect, I love that I can serve as a connector to the community and share businesses who might not have the same following or outreach.” Courtney has not lost sight of what is most important to her and despite the amazing opportunities that she and her family have been given through her work, she remains dedicated to paying it forward and including others in her success.
In addition to her full-time work as Courtney Covers Cleveland, Courtney also works for Major League Soccer on Apple TV and ESPN. We asked her to touch on how she juggles her various skills, passions, and projects along with all she has going on personally. She said, “I’m more structured and more disciplined. Ultimately everything I do aligns with my brand Courtney Covers something. I pick and choose what I share but I think I try to show that you don’t have to put yourself in a box, you can succeed at doing multiple things in various industries that you enjoy.” She also shared that through her expansion as Courtney Covers It All, she has been able to highlight various cities while traveling for MLS, the Super Bowl, ESPN’s Studio Show First Take, the NBA Finals and more. Combining her passions and building a brand that allows her to be authentically herself no matter where she is or what work she is doing has made it easier for Courtney to navigate her various passions. Sometimes she is CourtneyCoversDenver and other times she is CourtneyCoversBoston. One thing remains the same: no matter what, she is Courtney.
As anyone who follows Courtney would know well, family is a huge part of everything she does. While we have discussed many of her astonishing, professional accomplishments, nothing compares to her joy in being a wife to her husband Bryon Sr. and a mother to her four children Bryon Jr., Pauly, Bryce Cameron, and Codi Lynn. From sharing kid-friendly local activities to talking about her blended family, Courtney is consistently open and honest about all of her experiences, making her community that much more connected. She wrote about her blended family in her book Our Blended Family which can be purchased on Amazon here. We asked her about balancing it all and how she navigates a constantly growing and changing family as well as a growing and changing business. “I share the growing pains of having a college student, a high schooler, and a kindergartener. I do like getting to engage my community and get feedback to help each other out. As my kids grow, I grow. I’m experiencing things internally, externally, and also with social media. I evolve as life happens and the world teaches me how to pivot my business,” she said.
One of our favorite things to talk about with business owners and leaders is their goals for the future. It can be so inspiring to see how far they’ve come and then to hear about how much further they plan to go. Courtney is no exception to this. When we asked about her goals and the dreams she has for the future of Courtney Covers Cleveland, she told us, “I have a long way to go. First, I would love to take Ladies Night on the road and let other women experience a night out and how much fun it is and what that looks like. Secondly, I would love to have some sort of show. Where it’s a group of women talking about various things. Ultimately, I want a lot of what I do next to be very inclusive and very diverse because Cleveland has a lot of different people.” She also aims to do more within our community and in this upcoming winter she will be collecting and donating blankets to the homeless - Courtney Covers Cleveland, literally. She also shared with us about her passion for mugs and her hope of someday creating a mug line with different empowering and inspiring things to pass on to women every day.
We ended by asking Courtney what advice she had for anyone who may consider themselves multi-passionate. She immediately responded, “Go for it! As long as you have the capacity, you can do it. Don’t put yourself in a box. Know your limits but bet on yourself and take risks.” Seeing such incredible women reach places of success is an inspiration to us all and we are always curious about what words of wisdom help to get them through their day to day and have helped them on their journey. As Courtney continued on regarding balancing her career, family, online presence, and personal life, she had more to share about her experiences. “Failing in some areas is just part of the process. Commit to being a better version of you every single day in every aspect. I tell people I don’t believe in balance. I don't think I'm a good mom, entrepreneur, or all of these things at once. Sometimes I am a good mom in the morning and a good entrepreneur in the afternoon. I pick and choose how I spend my energy and my time.”
Courtney embodies all that it means to be Cleveland proud. She is also a proud member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. and Jack and Jill of America Inc. She is fiercely passionate and beyond determined to make her dreams a reality as well as uplift others in the process. She does such a phenomenal job of showing off what it means to be multi-passionate and successful in more areas than one. Her love for her family, her city, her work, and her life is evident in every single piece of content that she shares and Courtney serves as such a relatable and trustworthy influence to her community. She is ambitious, creative, down to earth, and thoughtful in all she shares and it is a pleasure to have such a wonderful woman showing off the city we love so much. We encourage you to follow along with her and her adventures on Instagram at @courtneylynnc & we can’t wait to see where Courtney’s hard work and big dreams take her next!