Samantha Binkley of ‘Healthy On You’: “Be passionate”

Be passionate: Live and breathe your product. In the time leading up to creating my organic spice line, I was looking for all kinds of ways to incorporate deep flavor into healthy foods. It was a constant pursuit. I did this with a side business of teaching cooking classes. Through the classes I would have […]

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Be passionate: Live and breathe your product. In the time leading up to creating my organic spice line, I was looking for all kinds of ways to incorporate deep flavor into healthy foods. It was a constant pursuit. I did this with a side business of teaching cooking classes. Through the classes I would have a dedicated focus group of people who wanted to cook healthy, loved flavorful food, but needed help in achieving it. So I would test my spice blend recipes out in our classes and the feedback from that led to many of the top performing blends I sell today.

As part of our series about how to create a trusted, believable, and beloved brand, I had the pleasure of interviewing Samantha “Sam” Binkley, a certified health coach based in San Diego, California, who teaches healthy cooking classes and founded Healthy On You®, an organic spice blend company. Her passion for pursuing a healthy lifestyle and healthy cooking inspired the development of her organic spice and salt blend line. Sam began her journey by teaching healthy cooking classes in 2015, with group classes open to the community. Always a spice lover, she would include spice blends in her recipes as a way to add flavor and healthful benefits to her dishes. When clients kept asking for more, Sam began to manufacture and produce her own line that is sold online and in retail stores nationally.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

The short version is when my daughter went away to college, I wanted to pursue my passion. In the beginning though, I didn’t know exactly what that passion was. I was no different than most empty nesters out there. I would call my daughter all the time, interrupting her day of course, but I just really missed her and wanted to connect. Then one day she said, “Mom, find your passion.” Believe it or not, the emotion I felt at that point was confusion, because she was my passion for so long.

So I honed in on what I was passionate about outside of family, helping others live a life full of health and wellness. And so, Healthy On You was born. Every position I had in my career and family life led me to creating Healthy On You®. I studied documentary film production at NYU, which taught me organization and storytelling. While in school I worked as a bookkeeper for a small video duplication house in SOHO. After college, I worked in advertising and marketing, where I learned to develop interactive marketing campaigns. Finally, when I left New York City and moved to San Diego I was a marketing director for startup technology firms. But although my jobs and the industry I was in changed quite a bit, through it all my passion for food and healthy living remained. I was cooking healthy recipes, making my own spice blends and hosting events, where I informally taught friends and families my tricks in the kitchen.

Little did I know, all of the skills I’d learned in my past roles would come together to help me make the plunge and become an entrepreneur: marketing, branding, accounting and entertaining. Without these skills, it would have been very difficult for me to pursue my passion and start my own business.

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

I have definitely made some serious marketing mistakes in the past, but I can’t really say any of them were funny! They were rather frustrating and sometimes angering.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

I think my company stands out because the brand is unique and multifaceted. Yes, I have an organic spice blend line, yes all my spices are named after popular songs, but the idea is to connect food with heritage and the nostalgia of music. So the brand experience is centered around taste, but also smells and sounds, which is unique for this industry. Growing up, and even stil today (although the music tends to be a lot different), music playing in the kitchen while we cooked flavor-rich foods was home for me. It’s what made me love cooking so much.

I try to make this connection with my customer outside of just the selling of my spice blends, by showing them how to use my product with my online cooking classes and library of recipes. Being in a class together, I’m able to connect with my Healthy On You community and watch them grow with their newfound skills in the kitchen. Plus, I’ve been able to attract so many customers who would have never called themselves cooks, due to how easy it becomes for them to make flavorful dishes with the spice blends. I truly don’t believe there is someone out there that cannot become a good cook if they are taught the basics and have the process simplified for them. My spice blends make it so that not everyone has to be a gourmet chef, or love spending hours in the kitchen, they just need to add a few shakes to their dish and they have the flavor in their dishes of someone who has spent hours in the kitchen trying to make their own blends and flavors. At all levels of cooking, the people who join those classes are my true brand ambassadors. They tell all of their friends about my products and help grow my community.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

As a spice blend company, I really like giving people a variety of ways to help them enjoy their home cooked creations. We are always working on developing new spice blends, but more importantly, we like to show our customers new ways to incorporate the Healthy On You products daily. This includes more virtual cooking classes and in-person classes (hopefully these will happen again in the future) to grow my customer base. My cooking classes have always been an integral part of my business, but expanding my reach to a wider audience has always been a goal. Looking into next year and what we have planned, this will become a reality!

Ok let’s now jump to the core part of our interview. In a nutshell, how would you define the difference between brand marketing (branding) and product marketing (advertising)? Can you explain?

Brand marketing is a feeling. It’s what I want people to feel and connect with when they come in contact with my brand. All the attributes I mentioned about being a complete sensory experience and making cooking simplified, yet flavorful, are important aspects of my brand. That is what brand marketing is all about.

Advertising is product focused. What my products can do for you. Can they make you feel like the best home cook out there? Absolutely. Can they help you get dinner on the table that tastes better and wins applause from your family? Sure can! Advertising is my vehicle to get you to know we exist and we can change your life by solving a problem many face daily.

Can you explain to our readers why it is important to invest resources and energy into building a brand, in addition to the general marketing and advertising efforts?

Branding is what the customer sees when they see your product and is what leads them to decide whether they need your product enough to buy it. My experience is all about brand building and when you have a brand that you are passionate about and truly believe in, the work is easy. I live and breathe my brand. I use my products daily… no joke, there is not a meal made in my house without them. Now that we are all used to having that kind of flavor in our dishes, I think there would be an uprising in my house if I suddenly stopped. But other than just using them myself, I am showing others how I use my products, a component of my marketing. I am constantly developing and sharing my recipes with my spice blends for customers to follow. It’s larger than brand building, it’s actually my lifestyle. And if people decide they want that lifestyle too and it’s appealing to them, they are hooked on your brand.

My marketing and advertising efforts echo that mentality. They have been crafted to get the word out about my lifestyle/my brand. Think of it like a car with a passenger. The passenger is in charge of driving the car. The passenger is my marketing/advertising getting my branding/product (the car) to where it needs to go.

Can you share 5 strategies that a company should be doing to build a trusted and believable brand? Please tell us a story or example for each.

Do Your research: Know the competitive landscape and how your products are better/different. Before creating my brand, I tried every brand of spice out there. I really did. I needed to know exactly what the market lacked and the niche I would fill with a new product. That’s important.

Be passionate: Live and breathe your product. In the time leading up to creating my organic spice line, I was looking for all kinds of ways to incorporate deep flavor into healthy foods. It was a constant pursuit. I did this with a side business of teaching cooking classes. Through the classes I would have a dedicated focus group of people who wanted to cook healthy, loved flavorful food, but needed help in achieving it. So I would test my spice blend recipes out in our classes and the feedback from that led to many of the top performing blends I sell today.

Be honest: Share your real stories and the problem you were trying to solve when you developed your product. At the end of the day, it is not actually about the product so much as it is trying to solve a consumer’s problem. The problem I focused on was/is how to make healthy food taste better — an age-old problem with no easy fix… until now of course!

Inspire your audience: In my business, it’s not enough to simply launch a product. You have to inspire your customer with new ways to use your product and get them to interact with your brand. I offer virtual group classes to support those who want to learn to cook, love cooking and want a community as passionate about food as they are and/or want to cook healthy, fun and flavorful meals. And for those who don’t attend my classes, I make sure to keep an expansive library of recipes they can follow on my website.

Keep Learning: I am learning every single day of the job. Me as the Healthy On You CEO today is a completely different CEO than two years ago, or even two months ago. As my business has continued to grow and evolve, so have I. I’ve had to be a sponge and learn about new areas of business I never thought I’d be involved with. I think that’s what keeps it fun though! It is an amazing learning experience!

In your opinion, what is an example of a company that has done a fantastic job building a believable and beloved brand. What specifically impresses you? What can one do to replicate that?

One of my favorite brands right now is Oatly. Oatly is not a new company, but I love how they revamped their brand and launched in the United States at a time when there was a huge need for alternative milk substitutes. Their packaging is what grabbed me at first. It has lots of writing in multiple fonts-big and bold print. It tells their story, what makes their brand and product different and why you should buy. It’s fun and simple branding, but it really works! I’ve been a customer for many years, so I remember when the only place I could purchase was online. Since then, I’ve watched as they’ve grown. At one point, I remember them having difficulties with distribution and it was impossible to get a carton for months! I don’t think they imagined their product was going to skyrocket as it did. Eventually, they were consistently on shelves and their ads were appearing everywhere. I get to say I watched their growth and was rooting for them the whole time. They didn’t disappoint!

In advertising, one generally measures success by the number of sales. How does one measure the success of a brand building campaign? Is it similar, is it different?

I think the most common way to rate the success of a brand is brand recognition in their category. There are marketing companies, who actually assess brand recognition success in their suite of services. Ultimately, I believe if a company has good brand recognition, you would be more likely to purchase from that company than one you have never heard of before. Trying to get customers to try new products they’ve never heard of/seen or that haven’t been referred to them is extremely difficult! Once you have a collective of customers who love and support your brand, they can really help boost your brand. Advertising supports the brand story to work with a proposed strategy to drive sales. The ROI is much clearer there. Brand recognition and advertising are different in that sense, but I don’t believe you can experience success in either area without the help from the other. .

What role does social media play in your branding efforts?

My business has had a presence on social media since the very beginning and I’ve come to realize that it has many functions throughout the development of my business. In the beginning, it was all about brand awareness; what my company does; how we can help you. Because we were a young company, very few people actually converted to a sale. But as time went on, the consistency of our posts really began to break through to our audience. We continue to grow and now generate sales primarily from that source. It’s been a journey and you really have to be in it for the long haul. But I would say, if you are selling a product or a service you should definitely have a social media presence to grow.

What advice would you give to other marketers or business leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?

Passion and drive are both great qualities when you are building a company and developing a brand, but it is tiring, especially when you are wearing many hats! Managing my time wisely and creating balance is challenging at times. I take the time though to assess where I am coming from, my successes and failures, and what I want to achieve with my company. Daily, I look at what is on my long list of “to dos” and I prioritize. It’s corny, but there really are only so many hours in a day. There will always be more to do and you will never get it all done, so being able to prioritize what requires my attention immediately (that day) is so valuable for me. It’s definitely tough at times, but taking a break and delegating has been my saving grace as well!

You are a person of great influence. 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. 🙂

The movement I am inspiring and hope to drive home to many is the need to eat healthier food. This is a life-saving adjustment that needs to happen in our country, especially now when we are plagued with viruses that prey on unhealthy people. Remember the old saying, “you are what you eat?”, it is true! And the list of sayings goes on trying to get the point across that what we choose to fuel our bodies with has lasting effects. That’s not to say it has to be all healthy all the time, but having that be your default can really impact your body and your life in positive ways!

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

I’m throwing all the corny sayings at you, but I find myself believing that “everything happens for a reason” quote more than I ever thought I would. It certainly helps ease the blow of disappointments I’ve faced throughout my journey as a business owner and almost always I experience the positives that come out of those “lessons”. It’s truly helped me realize that what is going to happen will happen and at the end of the day I can’t change that, so being adaptable and remaining positive has led me to believe I haven’t experienced any real failures. Everything someone else could point to as being a failure, I see as a success. Those are the moments you learn and your business (and yourself) is made better off because of it.

We are blessed that very prominent leaders in business and entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have a lunch or breakfast with? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

I would love to have lunch or breakfast with Michelle Obama! I really respect her and her work with children and healthy habits. Living a healthy lifestyle should begin at an early age and that was always her focus with her many initiatives as first lady. She inspired so many kids and families to eat healthy and that is what I aspire to do more of with my company.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

FB @healthyonyouspices IG @healthyonyou

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.

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