Nikki Girard has always loved food. But she never thought that love would turn into an online business earning her thousands of dollars per month.
However, that’s exactly what happened in 2019. A wife and mom of two young boys, Nikki has spent the last few years balancing her family, her education, and a full-time job as an advocate for children and families impacted by the foster care system.
On top of all of that, she’s been busy creating an online business cooking and sharing her homemade recipes with her followers on social media.
Although she always received praise for her food photos, Nikki admits, “As a self-taught cook, I’ve always loved food, but I never really thought my hobby would turn into a full-fledged business.”
Still, Nikki trusted her gut, listened to her friends, and ventured into the world of online entrepreneurship.
How Nikki Turned a Hobby into a Food Blog and Online Business
The success Nikki has today with her growing food blog, What Yall Eatin’, is nothing she ever thought she’d experience. In fact, she professes it happened by accident.
“This all came about when I had some leftover ground beef in my fridge and thought to repurpose it into authentic Haitian patties,” she explains.
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But having never made these Haitian delicacies before, Nikki did the next best thing. Then she reached out to a close friend for feedback, and what happened next took her by surprise.
“Oh my God, Nikki, you need to sell these,” was the enthusiastic reaction she received after her friends and family tried them. But she still wasn’t sure.
Finally, after weeks of deliberating, Nikki decided to test the waters and run a patty sale on her personal Instagram page. She also wanted to gain insight into how much interest there was for her product in what seemed like an already oversaturated market.
The result? “The sales were incredible; far more than anything I could’ve ever imagined,” she said.
During her first month of sales in 2019, she earned $1,800. Recently, she made the same amount in a single weekend. “If I had the time, storage capacity, and an assistant, I could easily make $5,000 per month,” shares Nikki.
Since it’s not a perfect world, she only sells on weekends and caps her orders to a limited amount to avoid being overwhelmed — much to the dismay of customers who don’t place an order fast enough.
5 Tips for Launching Your Own Online Food Business
Whether you’d like to start a blog or need some tips to grow your online business, take a page from Nikki’s recipe book.
1. Take advantage of your current social media following
The people who have followed you from the beginning, and continue to follow you, should be the first customers you approach. Not only are they already invested in you, but that familiarity might also make it easier to evaluate their needs.
That’s how Nikki got started. Before she branched out and created a new account for her food blog, she was already promoting all her recipes and dishes on her personal Instagram account for fun.
“But after I received so much positive feedback from the patty sales,” she said, “I decided to create a second business page on Instagram dedicated strictly to my food blogging.” However, she continued to use her personal page to boost her blog and simultaneously promote recipes and patty sales.
She posts flyers, enticing food photos, and other content that has brought in a loyal and growing clientele that continues to support her. Nikki also engages her community through patty giveaways, sharing pictures of happy customers with her patties, and asking her followers what dishes they’d like her to create.
That’s a tip any aspiring online business owner can use. Asking your audience about their needs and including their pain points in the development of your product makes them feel heard and seen, and it’s one way to ensure they keep coming back.
2. Set the price that’s right for you
Before you begin selling your product, you need to find the right price. Part of that consists of knowing your market and choosing a pricing strategy that can drive your long-term success.
After a successful first month, Nikki began to see the viability of her business. She and her husband Jimmy had extensive conversations about how to settle on a fair price, and thanks to his business sense, Jimmy was able to help Nikki do that.
Her process included comparing prices of similar businesses as well as sticking to her belief of making something affordable that didn’t lack in quality.
Most Haitian bakeries sell a box of a dozen patties for $25 to $35. Using that as a framework for her prices, Nikki set her price to a dozen patties for $20 and six for $12. To protect her bottom line, she doesn’t sell her patties individually.
With minimal overhead and costs for ingredients, Nikki’s profit margins showed significant potential without needing to price her product unreasonably.
As she considers adding new products to her menu, she follows the same pricing process.
3. Take the right steps
Making money blogging is one thing, but before you sell any goods or services, make sure to find out if your state requires you to have a license or permit. The last thing you want is to get stuck with fines, fees, penalties — or worse, jail time — for operating “illegally.”
This is especially important if you’re running a food business. To protect herself, Nikki registered What Yall Eatin’ as a Limited Liability Company (LLC) in Florida. This protects business owners and their personal assets from personal liability.
Since LLCs separate individuals from their business, assets like your bank account or home can’t be used to collect on business debts in a lawsuit.
Nikki envisions a bright future for her business, so the benefits of an LLC — especially the protections it provides for small businesses — appealed to her.
In addition to establishing an LLC, Nikki applied for a permit from her state’s Department of Agriculture to ensure she didn’t have any issues running a commercial kitchen. It comes with a hefty price tag — upwards of $500 annually for baked goods like Nikki’s — but it’s easier for her business to thrive with this type of approval.
Depending on the kind of business you’re running, you might need to secure special licenses, permits, or insurance. Check with your state to find out what you need, which agency to contact, and how to apply.
You might also want to consult with an accountant or attorney to make the best decision for you and your business.
4. Brick-and-mortar isn’t the only way to go
“I think not having a brick-and-mortar location is one of my biggest assets as a business owner,” Nikki reveals.
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Having an online business means Nikki has little to no overhead expenses and no massive stock of supplies to keep up with. This helps her generate more profit and eliminate waste by providing a cooked-to-order product, even with the added cost of ingredients.
Plus, Nikki has limited availability. That works for an online business but wouldn’t bode well for a brick-and-mortar location.
When she first started her business, Nikki’s stay-at-home mom status allowed her much more flexibility. Now, her schedule has tightened significantly, making it difficult to host patty sales as often as she’d like.
But the seeming “exclusivity” of her once- or twice-per-month sales provides a momentum her online business can rely on. Plus, in between sales, she regularly posts recipes and tutorials to engage her followers with fresh, new content.
As you successfully grow your online business, it might make sense for the next step to be increasing your sales and building your brand by leasing a storefront or an office space.
Before you do that, though, assess the risk. Carefully consider all the ways it could affect you, your customers, and your bottom line.
5. Create a unique value proposition
For Nikki, it’s a flakeless take on Haitian patties, which she says are known to leave pastry flakes all over your clothes even with a single bite.
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To set herself apart, Nikki assessed all the complaints she heard about the original Haitian patty: too crumbly, the three-fold structure provides more dough than filling, and the dough handling isn’t always conducive to a patty with a good rise.
“I tried to come up with a formula for people on the go so they could eat my Haitian patties anywhere,” says Nikki. Her ability to create that has been her biggest selling point.
Perfecting her recipe was vital, so Nikki held focus groups with friends and family to receive feedback on her progress.
After changing the cooking temperature, the folding structure, and the way to lay out the dough beforehand, Nikki ended up with a flakeless patty that gives customers filling in every bite.
Consider what you’re selling and look at how you can improve or alter it slightly to make it unique. By offering a product that stands out from others like it on the market, you’re providing immense value for your customers, which can increase your profits and your reputation.
Create a Blog or Online Business That Works for You
Nikki had no idea her patties would take off the way they have until she took one small step.
“What started out as a tiny seed planted in my mind from someone who believed in me has now grown and evolved into a really successful platform for great food and good vibes,” she said.
When you start a business, one step is all it takes.
Depending on what services or products you’re offering, you might want to start a blog using WordPress or create an Instagram account to take advantage of IGTV. Maybe you want to set up an online shop on Etsy.
Whatever you choose, do what’s best for you and your business, and remember that your journey is your own. Your process doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s.
While there are some basic guidelines to follow, running a business isn’t a one-size-fits-all experience. Focus on creating a product that caters to your audience and works with your skills and goals.