Flexibility. I never realised how much flexibility I would have with working for myself and that I could work around time with my family. It’s the first time in my life where I feel there is an easy balance between motherhood and work.
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 Samantha Milner. Samantha is a food blogger by day at Recipe This and mum of 3 by night. She lives in a country cottage in sunny Portugal with her husband Dominic. Prior to this she worked for more than a decade in internet marketing. She loves chocolate, Netflix and travelling with her family.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?
I was born in 1982 in London, England but I was raised in Yorkshire. My parents were also entrepreneurs and were the first in the county to open a video rental business. Back then it was a completely new thing and you even paid a membership fee to be part of.
They ran their video rental business, along with other businesses until selling out to what became Blockbusters in the early 90’s.
I grew up in a small seaside town, that offered absolutely zero opportunities to young people unless they started their own business.
Learning from parents as a child and watching them start and grow businesses, gave me the urge to do this myself.
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?
I started out online like many others, by selling items on Ebay. It was before Amazon became popular and I remember selling a list of where to source cheap DVDs and videos. I sold so many it gave me Ebay Powerseller Status and gave me the drive to want to work online and be a stay at home mum.
I gradually made the move into internet marketing management and coaching, but it never gave me the wow factor. It was just like going out to work for someone else and it didn’t feel like I was building a future. So, in the November of 2015 we made the decision to start a food blog and that blog became recipethis.com.
We wanted something that would be ours and that we could be in control of and could grow at a steady rate. We had also had food blogs before but never from a business point of view.
As my husband Dominic is a chef and I am obsessed with food it seemed perfect.
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?
In the past I had built brand new blogs, got them to the point of traffic and income and sold them. So I knew exactly what niches within the food blogging niche would be successful and which ones are worth our time.
Our chosen niche in the food blogging world was kitchen gadgets and we started off by going through our air fryer back catalog and this in itself was a big traffic starting point for us.
While many food bloggers we know took years to drive traffic our first ever recipe went viral. Since then it has been a fantastic discovery of what recipes our readers are looking for and providing it to them.
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?
I would firstly look into if that niche is profitable and how you would build traffic and an income from it. I would be looking at how difficult it would be to make money from and how much competition is currently about.
It is amazing how many niches there are out there and if you have a passion for something, I would want to look at the ins and outs straight away, and then maybe a year from now it could be your full time job like it is ours.
I would also look at how you would grow the income side of your business and what income streams you could build over time.
For example are people looking to buy eBooks, physical products or just read and browse and never buy in your niche.
From my years of experience, I found that crafts, yoga, diet, fitness, pets and even your favourite sports team, were easy to way make a site profitable.
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?
I absolutely love my day job. It makes me smile every day. As a food blogger I love to write new recipes, test them out in our kitchen, try new ingredients I have not tried before and get my kids involved in the process.
I look at my 2-year-old and its amazing how many different foods he has tried for his age and how good he is at meal prep.
It also makes me smile every day that I can stay at home with him rather than going off to work and having to place him in nursery.
What I don’t like is the paperwork and the general admin stuff. I try to keep this to a minimum. Usually this just means each Monday, as well as the accounts once a month.
As long as I am not getting tied down by admin, I am thoroughly enjoying it.
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?
The income has to be a big factor. My husband worked on the minimum wage in England and we couldn’t afford our basic bills. Yet now as a food blogger we earn five times what we earned then.
The income of course allows us to not stress out and just enjoy running our food blog.
Something that I am sure many people can relate to.
I also love the freedom of control and knowing that I am the boss and don’t have to answer to someone else.
Can you share what was the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?
I was always surprised by the amount of hours and the amount of admin that went into running a food blog. I will often work 15 hour days, sometimes 15 days in a row without a day off. But because I truly love the work, I don’t mind.
Though if I could just write recipes it would be great, but of course with any business there is always admin tasks and other jobs that we don’t like doing.
But when I am in the kitchen recipe testing, I forget that it is work and think of it as a mummy in the kitchen cooking with her kids.
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?
I never had this. I started my first venture with Ebay while in my first year of university, so I never had a proper real job. I just had part time jobs to fund my education and while I was waiting to go to university. My husband would often say though that leaving catering for running a food blog is a lot better as you’re cooking for your family and your readers, who appreciate you a lot more.
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?
Not on our current food blog, but on a previous blog we made a terrible typo that still makes us giggle even now. It was back in 2011. It was a blog about our adventures living abroad and we were talking about a Chinese we had been to for dinner.
I said how delicious the “crispy dick” and pancakes were instead of calling it”crispy duck”. My dad read it and was rather concerned about what our readers would think. He was the only one that noticed and we changed it to duck ASAP and no one else ever knew.
Who has inspired or continues to inspire you to be a great leader? Why?
My Dad is my biggest inspiration as far as business is concerned. I watched him as a natural leader and business owner from the age of 2 onwards. I used to learn so much just by being in a work environment with him.
This meant that during my school years I was miles ahead of my friends when it came to maths and business. I could do profit-and-loss accounting by the age of 10 and loved nothing more than to do shop with my dad.
I still turn to him for advice now even though I have been running my own businesses since 2005.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
Many people have now followed my lead and started a blog in a niche that they love. They have managed to start, build and grow a blog in their passion and now get out of bed looking forward to working.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Just Do It. I wish I had started my food blog years before I actually did. I started in the November of 2015 but should have got going with it back in 2013 when it was first on my radar. But at the time I really didn’t think my passion would earn me a living.
- Passion Is Important. There are so many blogs out there today, where they copy other peoples content and have no real passion for their subject. This can only get you so far, instead you want to focus on a topic that you know a lot about and love talking about.
- That Blogging Is Fun. There is nothing better than spending the day trying out new recipes and learning about a new food for the first time. Or laughing as things go wrong. Or watching your children learn how to cook at such a young age.
- Time Is Precious. I missed out on so much with my first child Kyle. He was born long before I worked for myself and I was forced to put him in nursery at a young age. This is my biggest regret.
- Flexibility. I never realised how much flexibility I would have with working for myself and that I could work around time with my family. It’s the first time in my life where I feel there is an easy balance between motherhood and work.
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.
To start a blog costs less than $10 and how many people are there out there, that like me many years ago, couldn’t afford to pay the bills? What if they started a blog while they were looking for a job or as a side hustle.
What about the mom who feeds her kid on coupons sharing her journey out of debt? Or the person that can’t afford a house and instead
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.”
I have used the above quote many times over the years and it is so true. I am sure there are people reading this and other interviews from people in business but how many of them are action takers? How many people will think “I can do this now”. Instead of them being given the same information many times over the years and never doing anything with it.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.