Settling into a chair at a local coffee shop, Eric Thiegs is ready to tell a story.
What began with an idea as untamed as his brown hair has blossomed into a blogging business that reaches about 300,000 unique viewers every month.
As CEO of Dallastown-based Stage of Life, Thiegs is seeing a dream come to fruition, where lives are shared and language is expanded.
"While most social media sites condition people to truncate their language, our site encourages them to write more," he said.
Stage of Life is both a marketing agency and a free blogging community. Its website -- www.stageoflife.com -- contains 10 categories that correlate with life stages: high school, college, being single, planning a wedding, being married, having a baby, being a homeowner, parenthood, becoming grandparents and settling into retirement.
Editors: Megan Tyson, an editor for the college category, started working for Stage of Life as a Red Lion High School student, editing the high school category. It's been a great way to see how writing can change the world, she said.
"I've learned that writing can be an even more powerful form of communication (than) I thought before. Stage of Life is a great site (where) people from, literally, all over the world can come together and talk about life and their own personal experiences," said Tyson, a junior English education major at Shippensburg University. "It's great to read stories from other people to see how different the same thing can be from place to place."
Nearly 7,100 bloggers use the site each month, sharing their journeys and fulfilling Stage of Life's mission of "changing the world, one story at a time."
One of those bloggers is Elle Lamboy, campaign associate at the Cultural Alliance of York County and editor for the category catering to writers who are married without kids.
"It's a great place to share experiences and get feedback from other newlyweds," she said. "It really has everything you need on lifestyles, and there are some really cool coupons there, too."
Featuring the best: Each month, bloggers have the opportunity to enter the site's writing contest, in which the best bloggers are awarded a prize package and featured spot on Stage of Life for their take on a particular topic.
Hundreds of entries are submitted by bloggers ages 13 to 94 and reviewed by eight category editors, with 11 to 25 stories selected as finalists. Those finalists are emailed to editors, who then pick their top three. And Thiegs typically reads about 10 entries before a winner is chosen, he said.
As more young people have flocked to the site, so have teachers, he said. Thiegs' wife, Becky, is an English teacher at Red Lion High School, and she and other local educators have used the site as an extended classroom.
Thiegs is definitely pleased with the site's unplanned branding as an educational resource.
And like any story, he said, it has come a long way from its beginning.
Origins: In 2008, during an economic downturn, Thiegs left a 15-year marketing career to spend more time with his family. With that move, he left behind a rigorous traveling schedule that took him away from his wife and their two daughters, and he also gave up a six-figure salary.
"It couldn't have been a scarier time," he said.
It's a choice he couldn't have made without the support of his wife -- and her health insurance, he said jokingly.
"At the time, Stage of Life was a little idea, but ideas can change the world," he said.
"In April 2009, 105 people visited the site -- my mom, college friends, aunts, uncles and cousins," he said.
Since then, the site has grown to nearly a million visitors and has been featured on Time.com, ABC, FoxBusiness.com, The Wall Street Journal's MarketWatch, WITF radio in Harrisburg and more.
While the site continues to grow, it's not yet profitable. Instead, Thiegs makes money from the marketing side of his business, he said.
"I want this to be recognized as the premium blogging community on the Web," he said. "I'd love to see my company grow and become the family business."
For Thiegs, that would, indeed, be a happy ending.
-- Candy Woodall can also be reached at 505-5433.