By Jackie Walsh
Meet Katie Reilly: a Chicago- based content creator who documents on TikTok everything from her grocery hauls to her quest to find the best donut in Chicago.
The passion project began when she was looking for a way to fill her time during quarantine in 2020 and evolved into her online community of over 48,400 TikTok followers with her social network diary of daily adventures.
Reilly travels to donut shops across the city, ranging from local spots like Doughnut Vault in River North to chains like Dunkin’ Donuts. Reilly said she visits Firecakes most often, as it is conveniently located right outside her apartment in Lincoln Park.
Before the release of her upcoming podcast, “Floor Time Pod,” later this month, here is everything to know about the self-proclaimed Chicago donut queen and Northwestern University alum.
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Can you give some background information about who you are and what you do?
I went to Northwestern for undergrad and graduated in 2019. I studied journalism, but I didn’t want to do journalism in a traditional sense. I started working (as a business development executive) at Morningstar, which is a financial service company, in 2019. Not to be confused with MorningStar Farms, which sells veggie burgers. It is fun, and it has given me a sense of community. I like that I can have a full-time job and make content.
Working as a business development executive for a financial services firm is different than content creation. How do you balance the two?
Yes, if you are making content, it makes sense that you work in a cool, creative job. I do not do anything cool. I guess it is cool to have a job that is challenging, but I still feel creative and fulfilled doing content.
When did you start creating and posting content on social media?
I started on TikTok. In college, I wanted to start a YouTube channel, but I never did. All the excuses for why you don’t start something, I was making them. And then deep in COVID at the end of February (2020), I was at a loss for what to do with my free time, and I was depressed. I filmed myself making my bed and did a voiceover about being depressed and how I liked watching other people do normal activities. So, I was going to share what I was doing, and it just started from there.
Your content often features donuts and documenting your trips to donut shops in Chicago. How did that start?
It is so funny how to describe how I got to this current moment of being a donut influencer, for lack of better words. I was trying to think of a fun thing to do to get people to come back to my page. So, I posted that I was on a quest to find the best donut in Chicago. People wanted to stick around for that.
What do you think is the impact of your content?
I get a donut, I eat the donut, and I don’t really say anything (about diet culture). But then someone will comment and be like “Wow, it is so inspiring to see somebody eating my fear food.” That wasn’t my intention, but I am glad I can help someone feel more at ease about their own struggles without having to be so explicit about it. If I make you feel more comfortable for doing something alone or eating donuts or making your bed, I feel like I am doing something for you.
How long into posting content did you realize you were building a community that resonated with you?
I felt it pretty early on. I am really proud of how highly engaged my audience is. I have 6,000 Instagram people, but half of them watch my stories every day and message me excited about what I am doing. I want the community more than the followers.
What is next for you? Do you have any upcoming projects?
I am hoping to launch my podcast in February. The root of what I like to do is helping someone feel less alone. I want every episode to feel like you are welcomed. Once you get a bunch of episodes under your belt, it is such a cool way to form community. Inside jokes, references to stuff we talked about last week, it just feels like you have a friend. That is why I even considered it because it felt like another way to strengthen this community, whatever it is.
Jackie Walsh is a sports media graduate student at Medill.