Behind the Bucket List: English Teacher and husband own popular social media brand

Matthew Bird and Brandon Shih

English teacher Marissa Farrell never thought that her hobby could have such a big impact on the St. Louis region.

“This sounds really weird to say, but we’ll go somewhere and people will recognize us. They’ll come up [to us],” Farrell said. “We went to Forest Park last weekend and someone was like, ‘Excuse me? Are you guys STL bucket list?’ And they [said], ‘Thank you so much for what you’re doing.’”

But it has made an impact. What started off with planning a short getaway turned into a social media community of people who love food, entertainment, and most importantly, St. Louis.

Farrell and her now husband, Lucas, lived in the county until they moved into the city four years ago. The young couple wanted a way to explore the city they called home.

“Living in the city as a young couple, we wondered, ‘What is there to eat, what to do?” Farrell said.

They researched and tried to find any resources they could. But they didn’t realize what St. Louis didn’t have until they planned a visit to the windy city.

“My husband, Luke, and I went on a trip to Chicago,” Farrell said. “We found a similar account that was Chicago Bucket List. And that’s how I planned our entire trip… We found all these restaurants and things to do. When we came back, we were like, ‘I wonder if there’s anything like that in St. Louis.’  And there really wasn’t anything.”

And just like that, STL Bucketlist was born.

We started the page. We were already taking pictures and sharing what we were doing [with our parents],” Farrell said. “It was just cool to post it on the Instagram account, and then it just kind of blew up over time.”

But, they faced a major challenge from the very beginning. Many of the places they featured such as restaurants; entertainment venues and museums were closed down due to the original COVID-19 lockdown.

“When COVID happened, our big focus was highlighting restaurants,” Farrell said. “I worked in the restaurant industry and of course, I couldn’t go to work. We were trying to highlight the curbside pick-ups and support local businesses.”

As the pandemic wound down, STL Bucketlist went back to, as their Instagram bio says, “highlighting people, places, and events that make St. Louis special.” The brand has been able to expand beyond just social media. They started a blog, and continue to host a yearly “best of ” style award show and produce a podcast. “My focus has been integrating more charitable work into our [brand],” Farrell said. We just started ‘the bucket list gives’ initiative. So we’re wanting to bring on a nonprofit once a month for our podcast. And then we
want to go into the field and do the work with them.”

They recently highlighted the St. Patrick Center. It is an unhoused shelter in the heart of downtown St. Louis. Farrell doesn’t only work on their philanthropy; she also produces content. She co-hosts the STL Bucketlist Show, the brand’s podcast. It has had guests such as Michelle Li, journalist and co-founder of the Very Asian Foundation; Nikki Glaser, Comedian and TV Persona, and Maxine Clark, Build-a-Bear Founder.

“We will never say anything bad about a place; that’s just not our style.”

— Marissa Farrell

Over the summer, she writes for their blog and the English teacher inside of her comes out.

“I do a lot of our writing. So what you see on the websites, I’ve written some blogs., I’m an English teacher, and sometimes Luke sends me something. I’m like, oh my gosh, we have to touch this up,” said Farrell

What started as the couple sharing their love for St. Louis has grown into a beloved brand. While the business takes a lot of her time, she still is a teacher first.

“This school, this was like my dream job. Like I wanted to work in the Parkway School District. I love the values that this district brings,” said Farrell. “I always made this really clear [teaching] is my number one job. It’s my love, it’s my first focus. That’s what I do first. But then when I get off of work, we have a podcast that we record on Tuesday.” Her hope is that her connections through the STL Bucket List can have a positive impact on the Parkway Central community.

“We have a lot of connections obviously within the St Louis community. Anything I can bring to the school to help is important to me.”

Farrell hopes her connection with nonprofits can help to give students the resources to volunteer, specifically through Day of Service. She is also planning on bringing a new organization to PCH next year. It will promote female leadership and entrepreneurship as well as provide mentorships to female students.

Farrell is overwhelmed seeing the impact of her work on the STL Bucketlist.

“People will ask, where can I take my girlfriend on a date? I want to propose there… To see the impact [of STL Bucketlist] is amazing,” she said.