“From Avocation To Vocation: How I Turned My Hobby Into A Career” With Vered DeLeeuw

…Once your passion becomes your full-time job, you won’t always feel so passionate about it anymore. As mentioned above, sometimes I just tire of cooking. So I found ways to take a few breaks from cooking each week. It’s important to realize that doing it full-time will make your passion feel like a chore at […]

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…Once your passion becomes your full-time job, you won’t always feel so passionate about it anymore. As mentioned above, sometimes I just tire of cooking. So I found ways to take a few breaks from cooking each week. It’s important to realize that doing it full-time will make your passion feel like a chore at times, and it’s also important to find ways to overcome that.

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 Vered DeLeeuw. Vered has been following a healthy real-food diet and blogging about it on HealthyRecipesBlogs.com since 2011. She has taken nutrition courses at the Harvard School of Public Health and has earned a Nutrition and Healthy Living Certificate from Cornell University. Her work has appeared in several major media outlets, including HuffPost, Healthline, Today, Women’s Health, Shape, Reader’s Digest, and Better Homes and Gardens.

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

I was born in Jerusalem to an Israeli mother and a Dutch father. I grew up in Jerusalem, visiting Holland every summer. In 1999, my husband received a job offer in Silicon Valley and we moved to the United States. We’ve been here ever since.

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?

It wasn’t really a moment. I think this is true for many entrepreneurs. You start something almost as an afterthought, and then it grows into something much bigger. I started Healthy Recipes Blog purely as a side gig. I never thought it would become such a successful business. I suppose the ah-ha moment did arrive a few years after I started the blog, when it started getting traffic and readers. That’s when it occurred to me that I could treat this hobby of mine as a business and see how far I can take it.

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 wasn’t looking for the “next big idea.” I simply took something that I loved doing, and was doing anyway (healthy cooking) and started taking it more seriously. I often thought about my grandma Chava. She was an amazing cook, but outside of her immediate family, no one enjoyed her talent. I wanted to be like her, but more. I wanted to share my discoveries (you can cook healthy AND delicious recipes) with the world.

If you have something that you love to do and you’re passionate about, chances are, there are other people out there who would take an interest. So find a way to share your talent with others. For me, it was starting a cooking blog. For you, it could be finding a way to manufacture something and start selling it on Amazon.

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?

Start your business as a side gig. You don’t have to fully commit right away. Test the waters and see if there’s interest in what you have to offer. It took me several years to take my blog from a hobby into a profession. And I don’t regret starting out slowly and taking my time.

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?

This is my favorite question so far in this interview, because it’s so very true. When I started Healthy Recipes, I LOVED cooking. Adored it. It was my favorite thing to do. My family even bought me a poster for the kitchen that said “Mom Cave.” It was definitely my happy place.

Eight years have passed, and now I cook for a living. And although I’m not a professional chef, I completely empathize when I read an interview with a chef and they say that they can’t stand cooking at home and that all they want to eat at home is fresh crusty bread and soft butter!

The thing is, I don’t dread cooking for the blog. It’s extremely creative and I deeply enjoy the process. Selecting a recipe, perfecting it, photographing and filming it, writing it for the blog. I still love doing that. But when I need to cook for my family in addition to cooking for the blog, it sometimes feels like too much.

My solution is to focus on creating recipes for the blog that my family can also eat for dinner — so you’ll find lots of casserole recipes on my blog — they reheat well, so I make them, photograph, and then they can feed us for a few days.

We also instituted a weekly night where we order in and relieve me of cooking duties. And another night where my husband cooks dinner.

These solutions are obviously specific to me and my situation. But it’s true that once you turn your passion into your job, even your passion can sometimes feel like a chore. If we’re trying to apply my way of coping to a broader range of situations, I would say that what I do is essentially taking a break once in a while and enlisting other people’s help in order to do so.

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 the freedom. I used to work in Corporate America, and while I did enjoy the interaction with my coworkers (well, with some of them), the lack of freedom really bothered me. My husband worked as a full-time employee for many years, and I often lamented the way his job used to take him away from his family for at least nine hours each day. I love being my own boss and deciding my own hours.

The downside is stress. It’s a different type of stress than that of being an employee, but it’s stress nonetheless. I own a small business and I used to do it all by myself — creating, marketing, and the technical side of things.

I slowly realized that even perfectionists need to learn to delegate. So I’m learning to enlist the help of people. I now have a wonderful contractor that helps me as needed with maintaining the technical side of my website. And in the near future, I plan on getting help with marketing and possibly with content creation.

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

The workload is mind-blowing. I work 12 hours each day, and a few more hours on the weekend. I’m never truly “off,” though I really try to be when we go on vacation.

I’m reluctant to complain about it, because I LOVE what I do and literally jump out of bed each morning, eagerly awaiting the tasks that are on my list for that day. But the reality is that I work significantly longer hours than I expected to work when I started this business.

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?

Not really. I dislike “real jobs.” I think some people are just fiercely independent and thus better at running their own business. I had many moments when, at 10 pm and with still a few things to accomplish that day I was like “OMG, I’m exhausted. I can’t take it anymore.” But it was never a matter of “I need to get a real job.” It’s more of “I need to delegate some of these tasks.”

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

I received an email from a reader. She told me she’s a mom and a grandma and a severe diabetic. She was so grateful for my recipes, saying that she finds it difficult to eat healthily but my blog makes it easier. I showed the letter to my husband and he said, “Wow, you’re helping people.” That brought tears to my eyes. I’m just as selfish as anyone else. I didn’t start my blog to help people. But the reality is, it does help people, and it feels amazing to know that.

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?

I was working on a low-carb cake recipe, trying to adapt an old recipe that I used to make. I somehow got the ratios wrong, and the cake EXPLODED in the oven. I can’t even begin to describe the mess, and let me tell you, in hindsight it may be a funny story, but while it was happening, I was NOT amused.

I cleaned up the mess and got right back to perfecting that cake recipe. I learned that mistakes happen, that I should expect them to happen and just move on and persevere. I also learned that I have to try each recipe several times before I publish it!

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

My children. I have two daughters. I want them to know that they can do anything they want to do. I want them to be independent and successful. As parents, there’s nothing more important than leading by example. When they see me work hard and succeed, they know they can do the same.

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

As mentioned above, after receiving an email from a grateful reader, I realized that my recipes are helping people to be healthier. This realization was one of the highlights of my career as a blogger. My mother has diabetes and my husband has high blood sugar. I know how difficult it is to refrain from eating sweets and refined baked goods. But the disease’s complications are horrible. So if you can teach people how to enjoy tasty treats without ruining their body, that’s an amazing thing to do. And I don’t take it lightly. I work with a registered dietitian that reviews all my recipes to ensure that they are indeed healthy.

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

  1. Getting a business off the ground takes time. I started my blog in 2011. It really took off in 2018. So that’s seven years. Granted, I only started taking it seriously in 2014. But people who start a business need to be patient. Overnight successes are rare.
  2. You will work extremely hard. I think this is what took me by surprise the most. I work longer hours than I ever worked as an employee. And while doing something you’re passionate about it very rewarding, people need to realize that starting a business is a major time commitment.
  3. It’s nearly impossible to take time off. As a small business owner, especially if it’s just you running the business, you will find it nearly impossible to truly disconnect. I work every day, including weekends. And I sometimes work a couple of hours per day, even (when I am) on vacation, although I try not to.
  4. Don’t try to do it all. It’s important to enlist the help of others and delegate as many of the tasks that you feel comfortable delegating. There are only so many hours in the day, and you need to sleep and spend time with your family. So as soon as you have the budget, enlist the help of others.
  5. Once your passion becomes your full-time job, you won’t always feel so passionate about it anymore. As mentioned above, sometimes I just tire of cooking. So I found ways to take a few breaks from cooking each week. It’s important to realize that doing it full-time will make your passion feel like a chore at times, and it’s also important to find ways to overcome that.

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 want a “kindness” movement. The world is harsh, especially the online world. But we humans crave kindness. I want to see people being kind to each other instead of tearing each other down. And it’s not even altruistic. It actually feels good to be kind. It feels good to make someone’s day with a kind word, a smile, a gesture. It can be the smallest things. I make it a point each day when I drive to be kind to at least one other driver. Being kind and generous makes the world a better place.

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

I believe this is from Arianna Huffington: “You have to do what you dream of doing even while you’re afraid.” I can’t think of a better life lesson. We’re all afraid (at least I am!). The world is a scary place, people can be harsh (Jean-Paul Sartre was the one who talked about other people’s judgment as hell, wasn’t he?). The more high-profile you become, the harsher the critique you draw. But you cannot let fear hold you back. Whether fear of judgment, fear of failure, or any other fear, you have to reach for your dreams and try to make them happen. Wondering “what would have happened had I dared” is way worse than facing critique or failure.

This has been relevant to me because I have an online presence, and I’m a very private person. I had to learn to deal with my fear of public exposure, my fear of other people’s judgment, and my fear of failing in public.

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.

Most definitely Arianna Huffington. She is my hero and my inspiration. A strong, independent, powerful businesswoman that came here as an immigrant and built a huge empire all by herself. It’s beyond admirable. My daughters adore her too!

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

— — — — — —

About the author:

Phil La Duke is a popular speaker & writer with more than 400 works in print. He has contributed to Entrepreneur, Monster, Thrust Global and is published on all inhabited continents. His most recent book is Lone Gunman: Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence Prevention listed as #16 on Pretty Progressive magazine’s list of 49 books that powerful women study in detail. Follow Phil on Twitter @philladuke or read his weekly blog www.philladuke.wordpress.com

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