Katy Coffield of Foodie Tribe: “Owning your own business is stressful”

Owning your own business is stressful. Yes, it’s awesome owning your own business because you are able to balance your work and personal life, but at the same time, it can be stressful trying to learn how to scale your business, bring on new loyal team members, and make sure you are doing a great […]

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Owning your own business is stressful. Yes, it’s awesome owning your own business because you are able to balance your work and personal life, but at the same time, it can be stressful trying to learn how to scale your business, bring on new loyal team members, and make sure you are doing a great job with your current client base.

As a part of our series about entrepreneurs who transformed something they did for fun into a full-time career, I had the pleasure of interviewing Katy Coffield, Co-Founder and CEO of Foodie Tribe.

While working full-time, Katy created a blog based out of Miami where she would get together with local bloggers and create content around food and restaurant life. When she would attend foodie events, she would see many agencies running into the same problem — there were always people missing from the table. There was never a guarantee that the bloggers would show up to a media dine. That’s when the idea clicked. From one day to the next, an innovative idea was born: Foodie Tribe, a digital marketing agency that is focused on influencer marketing, digital and social media content writing, creative branding design, and public relations for food & beverage brands.

Over the last five years, Katy and her team at Foodie Tribe have collaborated with brands like Food Network & Cooking Channel South Beach Wine & Food Festival Presented by Food & Wine, American Airlines, Litehouse Foods, Little Potato Company, Florida Milk, McDonald’s, Sonoma-Cutrer, Sapporo, among many other Fortune 500 companies. Foodie Tribe is comprised of an executive team and more than 2,000 content creators that have a serious knack for food and advertising. Their expertise is in marketing food & beverage brands, products, and services — whether it’s through influencer campaigns leveraging their Tribe of 2,000+ creators, or a more traditional digital marketing approach, Foodie Tribe always delivers.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?

Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me about my business journey! A little bit about me, I was raised both in Miami, FL and in Connecticut and always had a knack for writing and marketing. Growing up, I had this idea of being a doctor, but that idea quickly changed when I decided that needles weren’t my thing. Going into the University of Miami (UM), I did a lot of research into different majors and landed on Public Relations, which allowed me to use my creativity, but at the same time, taught me how to keep things organized. At UM, I was tasked with starting a blog, and that is when RandoMiami was born, a blog focused on Miami culture and the restaurant scene. I continued writing for the blog as I started my career, and one night after work, Foodie Tribe was born. An agency that was created to help PR agencies ensure they would get bloggers at their media dines in Miami. Very quickly, we moved into other cities beyond Miami, expanded into projects beyond restaurants and moved into partnerships with CPG brands.

What was the catalyst from transforming your hobby or something you love into a business? Can you share the story of your “ah ha” moment with us?

My ah ha moment was when my current employer wanted to move me into a different department that was going to require me to travel more than I really wanted. With one baby at home, and the hope to continue to grow my family, I decided to take Foodie Tribe full-time, which at that point had been a business I was working on the side for two years. It was definitely a leap of faith, going from a steady full-time job, to working completely on my own, a passion project of mine. Best decision I ever made.

There are no shortage of good ideas out there, but people seem to struggle in taking a good idea and translating it into an actual business. How did you overcome this challenge?

I honestly didn’t think too much about it. I started Foodie Tribe because I saw a need in the market. PR agencies were inviting food bloggers to media dines, and they weren’t showing up. Therefore, I saw a need, or a pain point, and created a business to help fill that void.

What advice would you give someone who has a hobby or pastime that they absolutely love but is reluctant to do it for a living?

Just do it. The more you overthink it, the less exciting it will be become. Doing your own thing gives you the push you need to MAKE it happen. When you work for yourself, you have to bring in new clients, new projects, etc. or else you won’t make ends meet. Giving yourself that extra push will get you to where you want to be!

It’s said that the quickest way to take the fun out of doing something is to do it for a living. How do you keep from changing something you love into something you dread? How do you keep it fresh and enjoyable?

Every day I wake up excited to “go to my office.” Even though my entire team is remote, I rent an office in a shared workspace, so that I am around people all day. And every day is different. Not only do we work with really awesome food & beverage brands, but new opportunities pop up all the time. Since I am the sales rep of the company, I get the opportunity to chat with these new or veteran companies each day.

What is it that you enjoy most about running your own business? What are the downsides of running your own business? Can you share what you did to overcome these drawbacks?

I love that I can make my own schedule and really decide who I want to bring on as a brand partner. We have worked with many brands, but not all are the right fit for Foodie Tribe. We make sure that the brands we collaborate with fit our brand beliefs and values, so that when we pitch the campaign to our Tribe of influencers, they feel just as passionate about the brand as we do. I wouldn’t say there are drawbacks really, but more of learning curves. Especially for growing companies like Foodie Tribe, this is the first time I am operating my own show. I take many things I have learned along my career and put them into practice with my own business to continue pushing it forward.

Can you share what was the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?

It’s more fun and exciting than I ever could have expected!

Has there ever been a moment when you thought to yourself “I can’t take it anymore, I’m going to get a “real” job? If so, how did you overcome it?

Nope. Not one day since I took Foodie Tribe full-time more than three years ago.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

It’s not really a mistake, but really something I learned very early on. When I was just starting, I didn’t really know how much I should be charging as an agency fee. Many people weren’t too keen on giving me free advice, so I started out really low, and quickly learned the worth of Foodie Tribe’s services.

Who has inspired or continues to inspire you to be a great leader? Why?

I grew up seeing my dad as a great team leader. Always knowing how to get his employees ramped up and ready to go. I want to make sure that I am a leader that not only leads by example, but someone that my team really feels they can get behind.

How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

We have several groups that we promote to our Tribe throughout different times of the year. For example, The Little Lighthouse Foundation and No Kid Hungry, two non-profit organizations.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. Owning your own business is stressful. Yes, it’s awesome owning your own business because you are able to balance your work and personal life, but at the same time, it can be stressful trying to learn how to scale your business, bring on new loyal team members, and make sure you are doing a great job with your current client base.
  2. Work smarter, not harder. When I first started my business, I was completely on my own. Managing the sales process and agreements, leading the campaign process, speaking to influencers, doing the reporting, and all of the administrative tasks. I quickly learned that I needed a team to help support me, and delegate certain tasks to, and I also quickly started to up my tech stack, so that my team was working smarter and not harder. Efficiency is king.
  3. Understand where you aren’t strong. Clearly, you can’t be great at everything. I quickly understood what I was good at, and where I needed to hire to continue to grow my business.
  4. Vacations are hard to come by. I always thought that since I was running my own business I could vacation whenever I wanted. Even thought that is technically true, when you’re building your dream, it’s hard to take down time.
  5. Be ready to adapt. I really learned this lesson last year when the pandemic hit. Instead of falling, 
    Foodie Tribe had its best year yet. It is the year we brought on the most clients, added the most people to our team, and added three more services to our offerings (branding + design, social media content + management, and public relations + media communication).

What person wouldn’t want to work doing something they absolutely love. You are an incredible inspiration to a great many people. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

I would love to truly empower women in the U.S. and beyond to know that they CAN own their own successful business. I have run into many sales calls where the person on the other end of the phone doesn’t take me seriously and tries to question my expertise throughout the conversation. What I have learned is to not take things personally and let them know after the conversation that you appreciate them for their time, but this isn’t the right partnership for me.

If those conversations would have happened five years ago, I would have taken it personally, and really been affected. But I follow strong women and have really pushed myself to embody those same thoughts of empowerment and confidence. I would want to help other young women feel the same confidence I feel now — five years in.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“No regrets in life. Just lessons learned.” — Owning your own business is all about learning lessons. You won’t always make the right move, or say the right thing, but you can always learn from your mishaps and do things the right way the next time.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

I would definitely want to have lunch with Oprah and learn about her story firsthand. She has accomplished so much as a female in her industry, and just in general. She IS female empowerment at its finest.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.

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