Inside Influence: One On One With Mary Shenouda

I spoke to Mary Shenouda, the private chef and social media influencer known as @paleochef, about her best advice

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Adam: Thanks again for taking the time to go behind the brand. First things first, though, what is something about you that the many people who follow you don’t know?

Mary: Trick question? *wink* My readers know a lot. And what they don’t know is by design as it’s important to keep a level of privacy for yourself, and for friends and family who may not have chosen a public life. There are somethings that aren’t front and center though that are fun/funny, like how I once hand modeled for an Al Gore app or officially crashed a wedding or tap my nose when I can’t remember something.

Adam: How did you become an “influencer”? What is the inside story?

Mary: Certainly not on purpose. When I quit my corporate job to become a private chef, I shared that openly on my Instagram, and every high and low that came with that transition. I would share my adventures with clients, while keeping who they were private, of course. Naturally sharing food, food products, services, mindset, etc. as I went along.

Over the course of a couple of years that garnered an audience that trusted me just by the nature of how I was sharing as openly as I could. Nothing I was posting was paid or sponsored, and my audience wasn’t huge like some other folks, but there was that trust in that if I shared what I liked and why, my readers would give it a try too.

Adam: What advice do you have for those interested in working with influencers? How do you do decide who to work with?

Mary: The first thing is to make sure what you’re doing or providing aligns with the person you are reaching out to for a collaboration. Follow their content for a while, get to know it well before you throw out a pitch o them. Fostering a relationship is huge, even if you don’t end up working with them, showing respect for their time, business, and that they are human. A. It is just the decent thing to do and B. it may turn into an opportunity or an introduction to something that does fit in the future.

I decide who I work with simply by loving their product or service as an existing customer first, and being enthusiastic about helping them find more customers and helping customers find a cool company.

Adam: What advice do you have for those interested in becoming influencers?

Mary: Decide what you want to represent early, write it down almost like a code of conduct for your business and the tone you want to set. Then, consistently post in that fashion, being obsessed with your craft, and be patient.

Adam: What is the biggest misconception about the influencer world and life as an influencer?

Mary: That they all get paid to post things and travel the world. Sure, there are many that are making a good living doing sponsored posts and affiliate marketing. But, there are some influencers that happened upon becoming considered an online influencer and don’t get paid to do so.

Adam What has being an influencer taught you about branding and marketing?

Mary: Turning that around, branding and marketing has taught me that I don’t have to comprise who I am or what I choose to work on simply to be an influencer. There is an audience for every type of brand, and the more yourself you are from the start, the more fun and love you will have as it grows.

It would be a shame to market a specific way because you think you have to or you see someone else doing it a certain way, only to gain some success and realize it doesn’t align with your core values… and starts to feel like a job.

Adam: What are your hobbies and how have they shaped you?

Mary: Cooking, of course. It’s my art, my meditation, my challenge to make something new and different each time, adapting whatever is available to me, then delivering it in the best way possible. It teaches two main things, first to master improvisation and second that good things take time and attention.

Adam: Who have been the biggest influences in your life and how do you pay it forward?

Mary: My Mother is my biggest influence. My parents immigrated here from Egypt the year that I was born, leaving behind their whole world – family, friends, culture, etc.

She managed to have a thriving career: three kids, be involved in the church and the community, there for breakfast and for dinner each day, all with a smile on her face and a heart full of love. She taught me inclusivity and that you must take care of yourself first so you can better provide for those around you.

I pay it forward everyday in both the work I do online, as a private chef, and through various charities. 

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