Stephanie is a New York Times Best-selling Author, slow cooking expert, and is The Mommy Blogger Next Door. In 2008 she started blogging with absolutely no money down, and has made a full-time living ever since, from home, in her fuzzy slippers.
Click to tweet: Fire Nation, Stephanie shares her incredible journey on EntrepreneurOnFire today!
Worst Entrepreneur moment
- Stephanie was at a conference (Blogher) and feeling great. Then a WordPress ‘pro’ knocked her down a peg or two with some pretty annoying comments. It ruined her conference, and almost ruined her biz!
Entrepreneur AH-HA Moment
- You can start your Entrepreneurial venture for free, Fire Nation, and Stephanie will show you how!
What has you FIRED up?
- Believe it or not… TV!
Small Business Resource
- Pic Monkey: Editing your photos is easy with PicMonkey! Add filters, frames, text, and effects with our free online photo editing tool!
Best Business Book
- The 21 Success Secrets of Self-Made Millionaires by Brian Tracy
John: Stephanie is the New York Times bestselling author, slow cooking expert, and is the Mommy Blogger Next Door. In 2008 she started blogging with absolutely no money down and has made a full time living ever since from home in her fuzzy slippers. Stephanie, are you wearing fuzzy slippers right now?
Stephanie: I am.
John: Stephanie, take a minute to fill in the blanks from the intro and then give us a glimpse into your personal life.
Stephanie: Sure. First off, I want to thank you for having me. I've been listening from afar for quite awhile so this is awfully cool for me. And usually, I talk slow cooking and all things crock pot during interviews so this is one of the first interviews I've done where I sort of put on my business hat. I've been hesitant to do so because honestly, I spend most of my days in slippers being a mom. But I lucked out in that I am able to stay home full time with the kids while making a pretty lucrative income for myself.
And so what happened was 2006, I needed to quit my job. The baby at the time was getting sick. She was vomiting and I thought it was daycare germs. So I quit. We live in San Francisco and so I needed to make money quickly. I should pause, though, and tell your listeners that she’s totally fine, now. She’s ten, she’s strong, she’s a gymnast and probably the healthiest of all of us. She had celiac disease, which is a gluten intolerance. And of course now, gluten is everywhere and so everybody knows about it. But at the time, it was kind of a hidden thing, or not quite talked about as much. But anyway, totally fine, totally gluten free and she’s good.
But I had this fire in my belly and I needed to make money fast, from home in a legitimate way. So I started living this kind of secret agent life where I was answering things that I saw on Craigslist and in the back of parenting lists of “you too can work from home.” And yeah, they were scams. So I started doing research on blogging and realized there were people out there and they were making money. And so after a little bit too much wine, Christmas or so of 2007 I joked with my husband that I should start a blog. And these cooking blogs are doing really well because they’re tightly focused, your SEO is through the roof, but I don’t really cook. The only way I cook is with the crock pot.
And it just kind of came together with that. And so 2008, I launched a year of slow cooking on a free blog spot blog, and within a year had a New York Times bestselling cookbook.
John: And what I want to say, Fire Nation, to kind of step off here is Stephanie got this rolling in 2007. When was the first time that you would consider that you actually started generating significant revenue?
Stephanie: That first year, I made six figures. So I've done well. And what started off was ad revenue. Ad revenue was quite high back in the olden days. And now, of course we all know that it’s not as lucrative as it used to be but I have multiple books, an eBook, and meal plans and that’s currently how I'm monetized.
John: So I do want to take a step into the generation of revenue in 2015. So take a second right now –
Stephanie: It’s different. 2010 was a really good year.
John: That’s what I want to talk about, actually. Kind of take us through the evolution of your blog. You kind of brushed over real quick and I really found that interesting about how ad revenue on the site used to work. Kind of take us to that evolution and to where you're at now with specific revenue streams.
Stephanie: Sure. In the beginning – and I still have multiple ad placement on the site and multiple ad networks. So the primarily our focus through blog her ads and then I supplement with Ad Sense and Gourmet and Burst and whatever things. I can’t figure out DFP to save my life so –
John: What’s DFP?
Stephanie: DFP is the Google algorithm where it figures out what CPM is the highest at that nanosecond –
John: Like optimized CPM, basically?
John: Got it.
Stephanie: My brain doesn’t work that way. So I am a writer and that’s really what I like to do. And so the fact that I can write all day about crock pots and what things moms are interested in and get paid for it is absolutely awesome. But really what the turning point was and how I ended up with such high traffic and such notoriety was in February of 2008. So the resolution was the year of 2008, February of that year I made crème brulee in the crock pot, which is awesome and I got kind of high and mighty about myself. And the Rachael Ray show was playing in the background. And at the end it said: do you have something to share with Rachael Ray? Email a producer and you, too could be on the show. So I'm like: uh, yes, I made crème brulee in the crock-pot.
So I broke all internet etiquette rules and I typed in all caps, and I'm like: I am awesome, I am the best, I should be on your show. And a few weeks later, a producer called. It said unknown caller in the caller ID and I had the baby home with me and she was a little fussy. So this lady said – you know how you put on that telemarketer voice? I'm like: hello. And she says, “This is the Rachael Ray show calling. Do you have time to talk?” And I'm like: oh, yes I do.
John: You went from telemarketer to bright and cheery in one second.
Stephanie: Oh, absolutely. And so the baby is still fussing in the background and the producer’s like: you're busy; I'll let you go. And I'm like: no. So this isn’t going to be written about in your parenting books, but I plopped the baby – who was about three – in a dry bathtub with a can of frosting and a spoon and I walked away.
John: You said “drr” and I thought you were going to stay drawer so that’s bad. Dry bathtub is better.
Stephanie: A dry bathtub, yes. So she’s going to town with vanilla Pillsbury frosting. And then I was able to talk to the producer, and a few weeks later I was on the show. And then after it aired, that’s when cookbook publishers began emailing. I had a literary agent and so we negotiated a nice deal. And that book spent six weeks on the New York Times bestseller’s list.
John: That’s phenomenal. Sophie, let’s keep moving forward because I love the story and I love the way you're telling it. You went for it. I love the quote “fortune favors the bold.” You were bold and then Rachael Ray called you, made it happen. But here we are in 2015. You’ve seen a big evolution of your business over the last eight years. What is working for you right now as a content producer on your blog?
Stephanie: Sure. As a content producer on the blog, I'm actually not blogging as much as I used to. So on the site there’s already a good thousand free recipes. So now I'm just recycling what’s already alive on the site and pushing it through the newsletters, Facebook, Pinterest, all that kind of thing –
John: And Stephanie, we can say repurposing; not even recycling.
Stephanie: I did, didn’t I? Did I say recycling? Repurpose. I don't know.
John: Yeah. We can repurpose that.
Stephanie: Yeah. Absolutely. That’s exactly what I'm doing . And for the website, what I'm realizing is that when I do repurpose, I mix it up a bit to help with the Google box so it looks like it’s brand new content. So rewriting a bit, freshening it up, making it seem more 2015 versus 2009; that kind of stuff helps. Tagging the photos properly and maybe optimizing them a bit better for Pinterest.
John: And plus, Pinterest and Instagram wasn’t around in 2009 so you are actually putting that content out there for the first time on those platforms, which is actually critical. Have you ever used any of those tools? I can’t think of the names off the top of my head, but basically you can just plop in your article via like a word doc or anything, and they will mix it up for you and it will –
Stephanie: You know I did. I played around with that a bit because I've got a housekeeping website and it’s totallytogetherjournal.com. And I played around with it. I like writing, so watching it dissect and kind of screw up my writing really upset me. So I personally am not fond of that. I would rather rewrite it all.
John: What were a couple of the tools that you did use, specifically?
Stephanie: I think it was like Unique Article Generator. Does that sound right? Or Unique Article Wizard.
John: If you Google stuff like that, too, it will just come right up, Fire Nation. If you want to check out basically repurposing a current blog post, that type of thing, there’s a lot of different mixers that come up; some better than others. You’ve got to test them out for yourself. Now Stephanie, you are at 2015. Just speak right directly to the point. What are your major revenue generations right now? Money coming in the door.
Stephanie: Sure. So still ads, book royalties, book advances, meal plans, and magazine writing.
John: So you write for magazines and they pay you?
John: Perfect. So this is what I want to do next. So you take off your fuzzy slippers, per se. And this doesn’t happen to us often. I don’t take off my mesh shorts very often, either. It’s kind of my comfort zone.
Stephanie: Wait, what did you call them?
John: Mesh shorts. It’s like basketball shorts.
Stephanie: Okay, that’s weird. Okay.
Stephanie: Okay. Well – okay. You wouldn’t know this, but when you go to the lady doctor, sometimes they give you shorts.
John: Are they mesh shorts?
Stephanie: I don't know what they are. You throw them away.
John: That’s awesome. I love my mesh shorts. That might be a Northeastern term, I don't know. Some people might call them tennis shorts because people call them tennis shoes. You love your fuzzy slippers.
Stephanie: I do.
John: But let’s say you take off those fuzzy slippers and maybe you kick on a pair of shoes, sneakers, kicks, high heels. And you go to a networking party. Someone comes up to you and says, “Stephanie, nice to meet you. What do you do?” Now, in ten seconds, just ten seconds, how do you respond?
Stephanie: I usually say I write cookbooks and I run a website. And that’s because the networking that I do usually isn’t in the social media realm, and it’s usually like going out with my husband and he’s an engineer, so nobody really understands the online world. When I do social media events or different things like that, then it’s much easier to say that I run a website and I write cookbooks. But usually, most people that I meet on the soccer field or at PTA, mostly are just interested in the cookbooks.
John: Love it. That’s what I think a lot of us struggle with, myself included, is how do we break down quickly what exactly it is that we do so that people who are mostly used to the traditional lines of work, so very interesting. I love that answer. To the point, direct. And now Stephanie, we’re going to talk about your journey. And I want to talk about the range between 2007 and 2015 in specific moments within those eight years. What you would consider your worst entrepreneurial moment. So Stephanie, take us to that moment in time and tell us that story.
Stephanie: My worst moment was actually in the fall of 2008. And while I had already had a bunch of success and I had already been on television, I was at a blogging conference. I was actually at the Blog Her main conference and I was at a networking type cocktail social like you were describing. And this guy in a suit came over and asked me what platform I was using, and I said blogger. And the reason, of course, I had started with Blogger is it was very important to me to make my business from absolutely no money down. I still have that main site on Blogger, and at the time it was getting 15 to 20,000 uniques a day.
But anyhow, so I'm sure he was from some web hosting company. And so he wanted to know why I was still on Blogger. And so I was explaining it to him, and he sort of did this virtual pat on the head thing to me. Like: oh, that’s so cute. Well, when you're ready to be a real business, why don't you give me a call? And honestly, you can go from high to low in such a nanosecond that I ended up leaving, and I spent the rest of the conference in the hotel room sort of in the fetal position. Like I am a loser, I don’t belong here, I can’t relate to these people. And it was a definite low and it made me want to just sort of retreat and go back to teaching preschool.
John: We are such fragile creatures as entrepreneurs, especially when we are first starting. We might get some momentum going and we’re excited about it, but sometimes just that one pin prick can burst that bubble in such an easy way. And that’s why it’s so important, Fire Nation, that you're always surrounding yourself with positive people, with like minded entrepreneurs. You are the average, as Jim Roane says, of the five people you spend the most time with. You have to ensure that you are spending time with people who are giving you positive energy, not negative energy.
That doesn’t mean just spending time with yes men and yes women who are just like: oh, my God, you’re amazing, you're awesome. No. Constructive criticism is great, but coming from a place of positivity from the beginning. Now Stephanie, did you move into a place where you feel like you surrounded yourself with people that really did add to your positive karma instead of detract from it?
Stephanie: Absolutely. I spend most of my day only reading positive things. I stay away from the news and I stay away from gossip sites. Well, I really like TMZ but I don't think that counts as a gossip site. But just in general, absolutely. I find on a day-to-day basis that I'm just sort of steering clear from someone who has a foggy personality. It’s just not worth it.
John: Stephanie, in one sentence, what would you want Fire Nation to take away from that lowest moment that you had?
Stephanie: Honestly, just stick with it. Because I was three quarters of the way through my goal and I wanted to quit, and I did not. And that perseverance, and that getting up and going is the difference. One of my favorite quotes is from Brian Tracy. And it’s “the difference between successful people and unsuccessful people is the successful people do the things the unsuccessful will not.” And it works for everything. It works for working out, it works for deciding whether or not you're going to have a salad or, I don't know, some sort of hot fudge sundae.
It’s just what would a successful person do in this situation? Which doesn’t mean that I don’t reward myself and I don’t have fun. But it’s a conscious decision, especially in business. It’s a conscious decision, minute by minute. I could goof off right now or I could write this thing that I've been putting off and I really should write it.
John: Well, guess what? Successful people goof off sometimes. Successful people reward themselves. That’s part of the balanced life that we’re creating, Fire Nation. So that’s an amazing question to ask yourself. You say: hey, what would a successful person do in this situation? Like I'm being asked to go have happy hour right now when I know I have a lot of important work to do. A successful person would stay in and would crush that work. But then the flip side, a week later you’ve done hard work, you’ve got a lot of success stacked up; then go have that happy hour. Reward yourself, make that happen because that’s important, as well.
Stephanie, I want to talk now about another story, another moment in your journey. This one’s going to be an aha moment, an epiphany. You’ve had a ton of these. But which moments in time do you think is going to resonate most with Fire Nation? Tell us that story. Take us to that moment.
Stephanie: I think when I realized that I could do what I wanted to do and what I was good at for free, and make money from it. I get bombarded – and I know you do, and I know your listeners do – with all of these programs that cost money and are expensive. And when I started out, I truly had no money. I had no capital. I needed to prove to myself, I needed to prove to my husband and I needed to prove to my three girls that I could do this on my own. I didn’t need Daddy’s help. I didn’t need somebody to swoop in and fix it for me. I could figure out how to do this by myself. And I'm proud of that.
John: Love that. And if you could just really have Fire Nation take one thing away from that realization that you had, that we can utilize within our journey, what would that be?
Stephanie: Probably to go for it and to be gutsy. If I hadn’t emailed the Rachael Ray Show, I wouldn’t have been on it. If I hadn’t hunted for a literary agent, I wouldn’t have found one. It took, I think, 47 rejections to find a literary agent and quite a few rejections for the first manuscript, which is the housekeeping journal for moms that was rejected numerous times. I kept going for it. And at the end of the day, who’s ever reading your email, and who’s ever reading your pitch is just a normal, regular person. The worst thing that can happen is they ignore you. So try again. Try somebody else. Go for it.
John: And how bad is that worst case scenario? They just ignored it; move on.
Stephanie: They just ignored it. Who cares?
John: Stephanie, in one sentence, what’s your biggest strength as an entrepreneur?
Stephanie: I probably have ADHD, but I think we all do, right? So I think that’s my biggest strength and I also think it’s my biggest weakness. So knowing that all of my bright, shiny ideas have a noodle of something there, and following through and just going for it; absolutely going for it.
John: It goes back to that perseverance on the things that, deep down in your intuition, you know are worth another noodle or two. And Stephanie, what is one thing that has you fired up right now more than anything else?
Stephanie: I was just filmed for a slow cooking 101 series on Grocker. That’s a web based television channel. But what’s interesting is the more I do TV, the more I like it. And I didn’t think I would. Because when you watch it, it kind seems phony baloney and artificial. But when you're actually doing it, that rush is fun. And, I like getting my hair done.
John: And you have to take off the fuzzy slippers, though.
Stephanie: I did. Well, you know what, I'm only five feet so in order to be higher than the kitchen countertop when I'm being filmed, I have to wear heels. That’s okay. Those are my big girl shoes.
John: Love it. So Stephanie, thanks for putting on those big girl shoes every now and then and we’re about to enter the Lightning Rounds. But before we do, let’s take a minute to thank our sponsors.
Stephanie, are you prepared for the Lightning Rounds?
Stephanie: The Lightning Round. Boom, boom, boom.
John: What was holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur?
Stephanie: My job. You know, my very first book that I ever bought on Amazon was in 1999, and it was Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad, Poor Dad. So I knew at the beginning there are jobs and there are businesses. And so I had that in the back of my mind always. But I had a job. So it wasn’t until I quit, because the baby was getting sick that I was able to move forward with that.
John: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Stephanie: My dad, when I was growing up, would always tell me – and this was probably dating advice, but he said never trust a salesman because they’ll take all your money and talk you into things you don’t want to do.
John: Great advice. What’s a personal habit that you have that you believe contributes to your success?
Stephanie: Probably goal setting and stick-to-it-iveness. I’m not in a very linear fashion; I'm kind of a ping pong ball. But when I do have a goal, I find a way to make it happen.
John: Do you have an internet resource like Evernote that you can share with our listeners?
Stephanie: Does PicMonkey count? I really like PicMonkey.
John: Of course. PicMonkey is amazing.
Stephanie: You know what PicMonkey has? It has this weight loss tool. So you can put up a family photo and then you can just shrink it. It’s awesome.
John: I did not know about that tool. But Christmas cards 2015, here we come. And if you could recommend just one book for our listeners, what would it be and why?
Stephanie: It would probably be one of the Brian Tracy books. And my favorite is 21 Success Secrets of Self Made Millionaires. It was one of the first books that I read and it was concise. And he went through these 21 bullet points. It’s the same sort of thing that you hear in other personal development books but it was very concise. And then there’s just something about Brian Tracy’s voice when you're listening to him on audio; it’s quite soothing.
John: Have you heard him on Entrepreneur On Fire audio?
Stephanie: I have not. I will look for that, John.
John: Stephanie, go get on that, girl.
Stephanie: All right. You have 956 episodes. I'm supposed to get some work done one of these days.
John: Fire Nation, I know you love audio so I teamed up with Audible. And if you haven’t already, you can get an amazing audio book for free at eofirebook.com. And Stephanie, this next question is the last of the lightning round but it’s a doozey. Imagine you woke up tomorrow morning in a brand new world, identical to Earth but you knew no one. You still have all the experience and knowledge you currently have. Your food and shelter is taken care of. But all yo have is a laptop and $500. What would you do in the next seven days?
Stephanie: Next seven days. I would start a for free blogger blog and I would immediately start shoving in as much content as possible. It would probably be stream of consciousness: this is what I'm doing, this is what’s going on. Start all of the social media channels that I can, and start reaching out to kind of the key players in that realm. I would also probably contact, through social media, traditional media and try and get some publicity in that way. And then repackage the blog posts into an eBook and use that money to have it properly edited and a good, kind of graphic design for the cover because covers are important.
But you know John, what’s really funny is you had given me this question in advance. So when I was working on it, I was talking to my husband who is a structural engineer, brilliant, entirely – incredibly successful. And so he looks at me in this weird look and he’s like: that’s what you would do? I said: yeah. And I'm like: well, what would you do? He said: I'd go on Craigslist and get a job.
John: What does he need any old job for? His food and shelter is taken care of.
Stephanie: What’s a job?
John: Love it. Well Stephanie, I want to end today how we started, which was on fire. With you sharing one parting piece of guidance, the best way that we can connect with you, and then we’ll say goodbye.
Stephanie: Okay. My No. 1 advice would be to go for it and to not believe that you have to spend money in order to make money. I don’t believe in that. I believe in putting it out there and monetizing and then once you have regular income coming in, then putting it back into the business. And as far as me, I am at stephanieodea.com – S-T-E-P-H-A-N-I-E dot COM. And if you do a forward slash fire, there is a page for your readers there, as well.
John: So that’s stephanieodea.com/fire?
John: Perfect. And that’s O-D-E-A, for O’dea.
Stephanie: O’dea, yes.
John: Love it. Well, Fire Nation, you're e the average of the five people that you spend the most time with. You’ve been hanging out with Steph D. and JLD today so keep up the heat and head over to eofire.com. Just type Stephanie or odea in the search bar. Her show notes page will pop right up. She has a gift for you, Fire Nation, which will be linked up on the show notes page. Or go directly to stephanieodea.com/fire. And Stephanie, I want to thank you for sharing your journey with Fire Nation and for that, we salute you and we’ll catch you on the flip side.
Stephanie: Thank you, John.
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