Welcome to episode 67 of the Food Blogger Pro podcast! In this episode, Bjork talks with Amy Roskelley from Super Healthy Kids about scaling her small business into a thriving brand by building a team.
Last week Bjork interviewed Lindsay and Alana from Pinch of Yum about about creating killer recipe videos. To go back and listen to all they had to say, click here.
Scaling a Business by Building a Team
So many bloggers dream of building a team to help them run their blog. However, it often gets put off in the name of waiting to find success. Unfortunately, putting off on growing a team can hamper your ability to find “success,” while choosing to grow your team can really propel your forward.
Amy from Super Healthy Kids plodded along quite well with her blog for many years before starting to build a team. However, after she joined a partnership with her now-co-owner Natalie, she found herself free to pursue more of the things that she was really good at. Each subsequent hire has allowed Amy to fine-tune her skillset in certain areas while letting others do the work she wasn’t as passionate about, but they were.
Since building a team, Super Healthy Kids has grown in amazing ways, and today Amy is here to tell us all about it.
In this episode, Amy shares:
- How her blog supported her larger vision for her business
- Why it took her so long to turn a profit
- How she secured a consistent revenue stream with a membership aspect of SHK
- How she found and hired her business partner
- How hiring someone else to do a specific task liberated her
- What the turning point was that took her from “getting by” to “wildly successful”
- Why she needed to separate work and the other parts of her life
- How her revenues have increased though traffic has gone down
If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions for interviews, be sure to email them to [email protected]erpro.com.
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Bjork Ostrom: Welcome to episode number 67 of the Food Blogger Pro podcast. Hey there, this is Bjork Ostrom, coming to you from Saint Paul, Minnesota, and today we’re talking to Amy Roskelley from Super Healthy Kids. She’s going to be talking about what it’s been like to build a super healthy business. She’s going to talk about building it in the early stages as a solopreneur, transitioning to bringing on a partner and then what it’s been like to bring on a team. Talking all about what it’s like to transition from the content creator, from the solopreneur to really starting to work with other people that are taking on those positions within your organization. Then also passing on some of the entrepreneurial duties as well. What does that look like to bring in a CEO and have somebody that is helping out in that position.
It’s a really a fun interview as we talk about … Before we start asking questions and get into, I’ll share a little bit about our back story where we were able to connect as we went on this trip and sat down and chatted with Amy. I knew some of the insights and ideas and thoughts that she had around growing a business, specifically a food related business would be really helpful for the Food Blogger Pro podcast audience to hear. I’m so excited to have her on the podcast today. Without further ado, let’s jump in. Amy, welcome to the podcast.
Amy Roskelley: Hey, thanks for having me Bjork.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, super excited to chat with you. The lead up to this conversation happened, it was maybe a couple months ago now when we were on a bus in Winnipeg of all places. I happened to sit down next to you, we were doing some oat fields as food bloggers do, and just had a great conversation. I said, “Man, Amy I’d love to have you on the podcast if you’d be up for doing it.” I’m really happy to have you here, finally to chat about Super Healthy Kids. This will be fun, I think.
Amy Roskelley: Well, and I was excited to have those conversations with you, because you asked some really hard questions. There’s so many times that I go through life not really self-reflecting or self-evaluating. Sometimes I don’t know answers to things you’ve asked, and in the months since we talked I thought a lot about our growth as a business and where my position is in that so …
Bjork Ostrom: Oh, interesting.
Amy Roskelley: Yeah. I’m excited to share with you all the things I’ve learned about my own self.
Bjork Ostrom: This will be not necessarily an initial conversation, necessarily. It could be like a post interview follow up. It’s something that we’ve never really done before, it was a one on one interview and then now we get to do a follow up for it.
Amy Roskelley: That’s right.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. For those that aren’t familiar, talk a little bit about Super Healthy Kids. One of the things that I found fascinating was, you’d worked on it for a really long time before you really saw any profit from it. 5, 6 years, that’s a long time to continually work on something and invest and do it. Talk about the origin story of Super Healthy Kids.
Amy Roskelley: Okay. It was 2007, and my kids were little. They were probably 5, 3 and 1. I was, I’m working part time for the health department and trying to decide if I wanted to go on for more education or stay at home with my kids and those kind of thoughts that you have once you’re in that position. I had been thinking for a while that I wanted to start a business. I was teaching my kids about nutrition because I had graduated in health education. I kept thinking about a plate made for kids that would just showcase to them what a balanced meal would look like. I started to figure out how I can manufacture that and at the same time blogs were just coming onto the scene.
My sister came to me and said, “You know, you’re a year away from actually having a product to sell. You really should just start building an audience using a blog.” Not knowing what a blog was I’m like, “Yeah, whatever it takes I’ll start doing it.” Of course back then blogs were more like diaries and so. It was pretty easy to start and pretty easy to publish a lot of content because it was just more, “Here’s what my kids ate, maybe your kids would like it too.” There wasn’t a lot of effort that went into every blog post, so I was able to publish every single day.
Bjork Ostrom: It’s interesting, I’ve heard a few different people say that, especially people that have been blogging for a long time. That early stages, and part of it was because there probably wasn’t as much content so you could get a following and get people interested in the content, because there wasn’t as much out there. You could do the point and shoot shot of the meal that you had and then a little write up and say, “Here’s what we ate,” and then publish it.
Amy Roskelley: That’s what I did. I did that for 6 months. Then the day that I received my first shipment of product, I already had people to buy it. It was just the perfect storm. I didn’t sell a lot. I mean, you already said, I didn’t make money for 5 years. I bought 2,000, I manufactured 2000 plates and it probably took me 3 years to sell all of those. We had then in the garage for a long time. I did start to build an audience. Then what I found interesting was I really didn’t enjoy selling physical products, that I loved blogging.
That was a turning point where I decided to put more effort into creating content. I saw just opportunities from that early on, because with brands that would reach out to you or advertising or whatever. Bear in mind, I put a lot of money into the business because I had a physical product and so that’s why it was hard to make a profit early on. I would make money from the blog and turn it over and put it straight into building the business.
Bjork Ostrom: I’m curious to know, when you talk about having the plates, which I think is such a great idea. It’s the equivalent of maybe the save share spend piggy bank, right? For kids, where they drop a quarter or whatever it is, and each one accepts it’s a plate, where it’s a visual representation. It’s so hard to explain to kids or adults, for that matter, what types of food you should be eating. This is a great representation of it. You have these plates, it’s a great idea. For that initial round, was that encouraging that people were buying it or discouraging because people weren’t buying them as quickly as you had hoped?
Amy Roskelley: I’d say both. I remember setting goals, I loved to set goals that I remember thinking, “If I could just sell five plates a week then I’ll feel like this is a success.” I remember getting to that point and thinking, “Even though I’m just making a dollar, two dollars here and there,” I felt like there was potential that if I … This is where we’ll go with this conversation. That if I have the right people on my team, that I could market it better and save money on manufacturing. Just, there was a lot of things I could do to make it more profitable, and just the fact that few people were purchasing them was just hopeful to me. I am super optimist and so I just thought, “Yeah, if this continues and I get the right people, then we can make money there.” It didn’t help that, in 2011, the USDA changed the pyramid to the plate. Now, the plate now-
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, it’s like a very real representation of what’s right.
Amy Roskelley: That was really good for our plate business.
Bjork Ostrom: Sure. You had talked about the initial sales being proof of concept, is that right? A sale would come in, and it’s not necessarily something where you’re like, “Hey, now the business is taking off,” but it’s proof of concept. People are interested in this, I just need to get it to a point where I’m able to transition it and get the right people on board, as you had said. There continues to be this distant optimism, or maybe it’s a very present optimism but it’s far off. Like that point where you would transition. I heard this said the other day, with startups and businesses you can see a light at the end of the tunnel but you don’t know if it’s the end of the tunnel or an oncoming train. What was it about working on it that kept you motivated to push through year 2, year 3, year 4, where you were continuing to work on this idea and stick with it to a point where eventually it became profitable?
Amy Roskelley: I think there’s a couple things. One, I definitely enjoyed the work. I loved blogging and I liked connecting with people and fostering a community. That’s what I found I really like about having an online business. Having having the immediate feedback, I was thinking this morning like as far as if you can measure success. I think that’s why we as bloggers are still addicted to Google Analytics. Because you put out something and you have immediate feedback of whether people are responding to that. That has been the case from very early on, I would put out content or share our product in a way that was different, and if I had immediate feedback then it would keep me going. Even if it wasn’t big profits, it just kept me going.
I think another thing, just the facts that my income was not necessarily … I mean, we don’t make a ton of money. My husband’s a registered nurse. At the same time we made enough that I was able to quit the health department and just stay home and do it, which was important for me because my kids were so little. It was hard to leave every day. At the same time, I loved to be busy, I loved to work. It was never meant to be passive income for me. I’m just like I just want to be doing something all the time. Sometimes I say, I mean the alternative was to clean my house, and I didn’t really want to do it. I would rather write, I’d rather cook and I’d rather write contests than some of the other household responsibilities.
Bjork Ostrom: For sure. It’s maybe a matter of strategically placing things that aren’t enjoyable on your to do list so then that other work seems more enjoyable. It’s interesting, it’s one of the things that I see as a common trait with people that we talk to, whether on a bus in Winnipeg or for this podcast. Is, so often our businesses, like somebody who has built a successful business or non-profit, or built a successful thing or whatever it is, so often it’s not a replica of something that somebody else has done, but more of like a reflection of who they are and what they enjoy. They can work on it and they can work so hard on it because it sinks up really well with what they’re interested in and what they enjoy, in almost in an addiction way. That it’s like, "God, I just can’t wait to do X, Y, Z.
There’s also the shadow side of that. There are things that aren’t enjoyable. In that phase, and even now, but maybe let’s focus on in that 5 to 6 year phase when you’re working on things in the early stages. Were there things that you didn’t enjoy that you did anyways, and what were those?
Amy Roskelley: That’s one thing I loved about being a solopreneur, is when I didn’t enjoy something I didn’t do it. I didn’t have anybody to answer to and I wasn’t on any schedule to be successful by such and such day, or I wasn’t paying anybody’s salaries. That was part of what I love about the early days, is I didn’t do things I didn’t love. Like I don’t love to be on Twitter, so I just didn’t do it. Sometimes I would post a lot to Facebook and some days I just didn’t feel like it. It was definitely driven by what I enjoyed doing at the moment. I can’t think of anything I didn’t really like doing, but there were definitely things I wasn’t skilled at doing.
From early on, well, I hired artists to make the plates because I don’t draw and build things like that. My sister was really key in helping me fix any website issues that I had. She’s she’s good with WordPress and we would trade for baby sitting. There were things I wasn’t capable of doing in the beginning and the things I didn’t enjoy doing. Which I can’t think of any, what that would be right now. If I didn’t enjoy it, I just wouldn’t do it.
Bjork Ostrom: Part of it is you have a limited amount of time and it doesn’t make sense to work on something you don’t enjoy if that limited amount of time can be spent on something that’s potentially equally as beneficial.
Amy Roskelley: Yeah.
Bjork Ostrom: At some point you, you had mentioned you’re solopreneur, at some point you transitioned from being a solopreneur to having a partner. Can you talk about when that happened and why you made that decision to bring on a partner in the business?
Amy Roskelley: Yes. One thing I’ve always been grateful for since the beginning of the blog is that we’ve decided to have multiple revenue streams. Just because especially in a healthy niche you have a lot of traffic and generally you have zero traffic in December. You can’t always count on one income stream. I had a physical product, I was doing sponsored posts, I had advertising. I was really interested in trying the membership idea, was to have subscription based digital products. One thing that I’m insecure about, is the fact that I got a degree in health education but what I really wanted was to be a registered dietitian, and I wasn’t. I thought to myself, if I’m going to create a subscription service where we’re you saying here’s a healthy way to feed your kids, I really felt like I needed somebody credentialed to create those meal plans and recipes and things like that.
Right at the same time I had a neighbor move in and she was a dietitian, and she was quitting her full time job. I said, “Oh, hey, how would you like to work for me and write some meal plans?” and she said yes right away. This actually for most of our hires after her, we usually, the way we hire is somebody just does a project for us or a few projects and then if we decide that we work well together and we really like them and their skills, then they become an employee. It started with Natalie, and so she started writing these meal plans and she got really excited about it. Then I said, “How about you want to write a few blog posts?” The first blog, it’s funny because the first blog post she wrote, it was the most viral post we had today.
Bjork Ostrom: You were like, “Hmm,” kind of a chin scratch moment of like …
Amy Roskelley: Yeah, I was getting older, I felt like she was definitely in more touch with the target audience.
Bjork Ostrom: Sure.
Amy Roskelley: It was also hard at the same time because I thought, like this is my space and I was under the impression people were coming for me. You know, not necessarily what I was giving them. For her to just jump in and write something amazing and have all these people love it, it was humbling at the same time, it was me realizing that this space wasn’t … I had built it not to be about me, but about our niche and about the parents and about the kids. After she wrote that post, she kept writing posts and it was only 4 or 5 months later where her and her husband came to me and asked if they could buy in to be 50/50 partners. Since I realized because adding her the growth was starting to be more exponential, it was just obvious to me that that bringing them on, her and her husband on, would just benefit the business more than anything.
Bjork Ostrom: I’ve heard this said before, and I am constantly trying to figure out as I observe other businesses. On one side I hear people talk about startups and building businesses and companies, and they say almost unquestionable you have to have some type of partner in order for you to quickly grow. Because you can have complementary skill sets, you can keep each other et cetera, et cetera. On the other side, I’ve heard the phrase, “The only ship that doesn’t sail is a partnership.”
Amy Roskelley: It definitely has to be the right person. I wouldn’t have jumped into a partnership without already having worked with her for 6 months. Because you’re right, we definitely have complementary skills. I can’t do what she does, she doesn’t even like to do what I do. I’ll do SEL and I’ll do Facebook and she enjoys creating recipes. We definitely have different skill sets and we’re always saying, “It’s like a marriage really.” In our partnership, even from early on, I had to just let go of a lot of things that I thought were important but weren’t because they were important to her.
Bjork Ostrom: Do you have an example of what that was?
Amy Roskelley: Let’s see. In the very beginning I was really against having a lot of ads. Of course I had ads on my side bar but when you brought it into mobile they were only on the bottom for they were never in the way. Having Natalie on board, she really was interested in getting more revenue from advertising even if that meant putting some ads in our content. I wanted to push back and for a while I did, but when I realized how important that was to her and like in a marriage, I might think another thing but because it’s important to her I’m just going to let that go. Because she felt very strongly about it. Now, a couple of years later it’s not a big deal. I’m like, “Oh yeah, of course we have in content ads. Everybody has in content ads.” It’s just one of those things that you just let go.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. I think that’s maybe an example of the benefit of a partnership. In that maybe somebody has an opinion, you don’t feel like you would want to do that. If it was just you that’s what it would be, right? You would just make the decision and potentially it’s a beneficial thing down the line. I think what’s interesting is the way, in a way I think what we’re doing I think of it as solopreneuring, but I’m like, “oh, actually Lindsay and I are pretty strong partners.” Maybe I focus more on the things for Food Blogger Pro with the podcast and membership site and things like that, she focuses more on Pinch of Yum. Then we’re each partners in each of those businesses. Usually I would think, “Man, it’s really hard to have a partner for multiple reasons,” but at the same time I think in what we do, it’s built in. It’s interesting to hear other people process through that.
If you had one piece of advice for somebody who’s thinking about bringing on a partner or they are in the process of starting something with a partner, what would your advice to them be?
Amy Roskelley: Just have clear responsibilities. It’s taken us a while to get here, and because we’re fairly a small company still, we do have our hands in every pot. There has to be one person in charge of each thing. Because otherwise we’re stepping on each other’s toes and just getting in the way really. At the same time I think it’s important for a business owner, even if you’re a half owner, to be able to have ownership over a segment of it. Just so you feel, I don’t know, I think it’s important to feel important. I’m over our membership area, and I feel like I’m building that community of customers and curating the team to provide the right recipe. Natalie on the other hand, she does all the blog content and she does the plate sales. I actually turned all the plates sales over to her because she is a dietitian and most of our customers are professionals and they purchase them for their clients and things like that. She’s good over there.
We just went through a whole redesign of our physical products and she took the lead on that even though she would ask me for feedback or whatever. It’s so nice to not have to worry about that side of the business at all. She is completely responsible for that. Then, she likes that I am responsible for the Member Area because she didn’t want to be in the kitchen making 28 new recipes a week, and that was okay with me. We’re responsible for our own things and I think that’s important in a partnership, that you have your thing. You get feedback from your partner but ultimately the decision on the meal planning side comes down to me.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. It seems like a two part thing. That the first part is almost a defining what you’re good at and what you enjoy working at. I imagine this list of 3 different things, “What are you good at?” The list, I enjoy doing. What is your partner good, what do they like? Then, what do we actually need to get done? Then as much as possible, you can match up those skills to what needs to get done. Then I would assume there’s a few things left over that maybe nobody really enjoys, HR, or something like that. There are people that enjoy HR, but just for example’s sake, that maybe somebody owns then and takes on. I think that’s really good advice because if you start to overlap too much, I think that’s where some of the tension can come in, where two people are working on the same thing.
Amy Roskelley: Absolutely.
Bjork Ostrom: You bring on Natalie, Natalie is your partner. At that point is it the two of you, and how long is … is it just the two of you before you have your first real hire? I’ll just ask that and then I’ll ask a follow up question.
Amy Roskelley: Okay. We had to, and I was thinking about this last night. I feel like there’s two different hires that we do. One is reactionary, when things get too complicated or too busy. One is for the intention of growth. Our very first hire was reactionary, just because the plates were selling faster. I had them all in my garage and I would literally hand bubble wrap and address, like everything all the plates and … One day I was just so overwhelmed with a big order and I had some meal plans to write. I just did a quick Facebook, like emergency, like, “Anybody looking for a job?”
Bjork Ostrom: Emergency, started off like that.
Amy Roskelley: Yeah, literally emergency. Starting today, I will hire. Lucky for us, the girl that responded to my thing has actually stayed with us the whole time.
Bjork Ostrom: Oh, awesome.
Amy Roskelley: She’s been amazing and she does all our shipping. That was for me the biggest relief. After getting rid of that task, getting rid of that job, I did feel more creative after that. I did feel like I could grow the business better. Just because I wasn’t strapped with this task. Because it just became too much. That was our first hire, a shipper.
Bjork Ostrom: With that situation, knowing what you knew, let’s say even a day after or a week after, would you have made that hire more quickly, or did you feel like that was the appropriate time to do it?
Amy Roskelley: It was the best time, before that it wouldn’t have made sense because there was only a few orders a week. I had just had had a feature run in Family Fun Magazine. It picked up quickly and it wasn’t a gradual thing. I don’t think I would have done it any sooner than I did.
Bjork Ostrom: Okay, got it. You hire somebody to help with some of the operations, shipping things like that. Which I think is a common first hire and it makes sense, right? You as the runner of the company, it doesn’t make sense to you for you to always be also packaging up the things that you’re selling. You bring somebody on, that allows you to continue to do some content creation, some things that you enjoy a little bit more. At some point, then you realize again you have to bring somebody else on, so who is that next hire?
Amy Roskelley: The next one was another dietitian to write the meal plans. At this time we didn’t have a software solution for our meal plans, we did everything by hand. We calculated all the nutrition data, we hand row all the shopping list, and it was really time intensive. We took pictures of all the meals. Our next hire was a dietitian that could write the meal plans and the recipes for as so that we could put it together or package it for the customers.
Bjork Ostrom: Got it. With these hires, are these people that you are saying, I know that we’ll be able to, as a business I can project where we’re going in terms of what we’ll be able to create from income. I know that we can justify bringing this person on. Or is it like truly bootstrapped in the sense that you work, work, work until you get the business to a certain point you say, “Now we know we can afford to bring this person on. We’re going to hire them and then continue to build, and then bring somebody else on.” What does that look like and how do you process that from a budget standpoint?
Amy Roskelley: For all of our hires we did get to a point where we could support a new employee first. We bootstrapped for sure every hire that we had. We had the money coming in first, and like I said a lot of it was from blog revenue. Because that’s where we put a lot of our effort, and so the blog was funding these other ventures that we had.
Bjork Ostrom: That’s it, we’re in a similar point right now for Food Blogger Pro interview, where we have some side projects that we’re working on that aren’t profitable, that we’re putting money into it. As a business owner it’s interesting because you get to this point where you can say either we can continue to feed this cash cow and just continue to grow it and stay really lean, or we can focus on these other areas, bring people on, build these additional branches of revenue. How do you make that decision? Why did you decide to branch out into other things as opposed to continuing to stay a small team? Maybe just you and Natalie, or even just you and just grow like a really profitable business that just requires you to do all the work.
Amy Roskelley: Great question, because we’re going through that again right now. I feel like every time we get to a point where we finish a campaign or if we finish something and it starts to bring in massive amounts of money, we never take it. I shouldn’t say we never take it, we do take it sometimes. Most of the time we’re turning around and building something new with it. It is intentional and it is like it is us honestly, I’m not saying this to just be altruistic. It’s really because we think of these amazing things we want to provide our audience. I feel like, both Natalie’s family and my family, we don’t need to make a lot of money. We just get really excited about the work. We do like to just turn around and build something new.
Bjork Ostrom: For sure. I think it’s important for people to hear that because so often that is where people, and I can put ourselves into this category, well, like truly find happiness or joy or whatever it could be. It’s not in the results of the work, but it’s in the work itself. I think that’s a big realization. Because I would assume there are some people listening that maybe are doing the work and hating it, right? They see that light at the end of the tunnel and they’re hoping it’s not a train. It’s really important to enjoy the work and enjoy the process itself. At the same time there are probably things that aren’t always enjoyable, right? Like with anything. You can find yourself doing things that are difficult or hard, but I think it’s a really important take away.
Amy Roskelley: Yeah. Some things aren’t going to work out too. Like we’ll put a lot of money into something and maybe not have it be as profitable as we thought it. Right now we’re about to put a lot of money into a new project. Natalie just, so you know where we are now, Natalie’s husband actually quit his job at BMW to become our CEO. He’s really brilliant in business management and managing teams and people and things like that. With this last thing, me and Natalie, we get stubborn a little, we’re like, “No, let us just enjoy what we just finished building.” He’ll be like, “Okay, well, here’s the thing, let’s just go one more year, let’s build this new thing. One more year and if it doesn’t work out we could scale back and you guys can just enjoy the rest of your life.” Sometimes we have a little pushback but it always turns out good.
Bjork Ostrom: The nice thing about the just one more year, that you can always use that. It’s like the carrot on the stick, right? Like, “One more year,” two months from now, it can still be one more year. I want to go back a little bit, I’m just curious. At what point … We’ve talked about bringing on the staff, scaling up, building a team, and you say a small business. At the same time, like in our niche where we are, you have a decent team and it’s a big business compared to what’s of normal for a lot of people. Which is maybe them and a couple people helping out. First, how many people total on the team right now?
Amy Roskelley: Full time, I think we have, I’m going to say 7 people right now. Maybe eight.
Bjork Ostrom: That’s awesome. Enough to pause and be like, “I think it’s 7, 8 … No, 7.” You know that you have a big enough team where you are have to re-pause and reflect on it. To go back to that 5 to 6 year mark, you had been working on it for a long time, was there something that changed in terms of how you looked at it that allowed you to turn things on and start to scale up? Or was it really paying your dues for a long time?
Amy Roskelley: Well, I think what changed, what I said earlier, was finally me realizing that people weren’t coming to my site because I was the owner. I like to think that I did it intentionally from the beginning, but I didn’t. I look at other websites or blogs who the person is their brand and I think I wanted that in the early days. I wanted to be an influencer more than I wanted to build the business. Once Natalie came on and I realized I would rather it be a business than have me as the influencer, and that’s where I think I let go of trying to be popular, if you will, and just trying to build something really helpful.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. It’s a really important decision that people have to make. Do you want to be the brand or do you want to build a brand? I think it’s possible to be the brand and build a brand, but it looks a little bit different, right?
Amy Roskelley: I just don’t think you could have as many people doing your jobs. Because if I am, and don’t get me wrong, I still sometimes wish, “Oh, maybe I should start a brand just as me.” Because I still have those feelings. If you are the brand, there’s just a lot of things that I don’t think you could pass off. Like-
Bjork Ostrom: Writing content.
Amy Roskelley: You always want to be the one engaging and writing content, right. Right.
Bjork Ostrom: Being behind the video, if you’re doing a video.
Amy Roskelley: Yes, yes.
Bjork Ostrom: I think a lot of it is long term too. Are you wanting to build something that in of itself is an asset, right? You’re building a business that maybe someday you’ll say, “Hey, I know that I want somebody to come along and purchase this website or whatever it is as an entity.” For some people there’s zero interest in that, but that’s also another thing to consider. What comes along with that is also this transition from being the influencer, the content creator to more of business manager or business leader. Can you talk about how you’ve made that transition and what that’s been like for you?
Amy Roskelley: Yeah. That’s the big aha that I’ve had for this last month, is that transition. I feel like in a sense, I’ve really wrapped my identity over the last ten years as an entrepreneur or a business owner. I feel like because of that, because I’ve made that my identity, now that if somebody else is the CEO and I have a partner, and we have all these people, that I feel like an empty nester in a way. Because I’m losing that identity that I thought made who I was. I’ve been struggling with what am I now? Where do I fit in this business? I think that’s something a lot of people don’t talk about when they grow. Is suddenly I’m not getting credit for building Facebook because it’s not me anymore, it’s a team of people.
At the beginning I was like, “Yeah, I did that. I grew Facebook to a million.” Taking that credit away is almost like a shot to my ego. Like, “Now what? If I wasn’t the one that did it, what do I get credit for?” The other half of my problem is I’m a real task oriented person. I loved finding content for Facebook, creating a blog post. Because you have a beginning and an end, and you check it off. Then when you’re a manager and you just have ideas and then other people do it, you can’t ever check it off your list because you’re not responsible for that anymore.
Bjork Ostrom: It’s very nebulous and it’s potentially you’d never have a day were you check off a bunch of things potentially. It’s more of pushing things along.
Amy Roskelley: Yes. I didn’t realize that’s why I had such trouble letting things go. Just like this whole self-awareness, knowing that I do need a list of tasks even if I have to make them up, just to, in that push along phase. I can celebrate the success of other people on our team who do something that brings us a lot of traffic and it’s not about me, it’s about … Then also, the last part of that has been, this transition has been also clocking out at the end of the day. I know you and Lindsay just talked about this on one of your podcast that I listened to. When you are the business owner, you’re on all the time. It just bled into our vacations and evening and 4 AM. It just was all day, never turning it off.
Turning it off at the end of the day and taking a vacation without my cell phone is actually really helpful, in that I’m not just a business owner I am also a mom and I am a wife and I’m a neighbor. I couldn’t do, I didn’t feel like I could do those things before. Now, that I’m letting things go to other people I feel like I’m in a place where I can have a set schedule.
Bjork Ostrom: That’s a hard transition to make too. I think especially in our culture, there’s a lot of pride in sacrifice to all ends in order to build a thing. I think there’s something really cool about that, but I think what happens is if you neglect to see the the human pie, or the human plate, to use the Super Healthy Kids analogy, of a business and an entrepreneur, that’s one part of the plate and there’s these other pieces that potentially could get neglected because of the things that you surround yourself with. At least that’s what I found. If I’m always listening to entrepreneur podcasts and start up podcasts and reading blog posts about growing your business, and it’s like suddenly that becomes this echo chamber.
One of the ways that I’ve dealt with that is shifting my focus a little bit. Now, I’ll read books about relationships and marriage. That impacts how I think and makes it easier to say, “Well, it’s 6 o’clock then I’m done,” or 7:00, or 5:00, or whatever it is on that day. Do you feel like there was a mental conversation that you had with yourself or different realizations that you had that enabled you to make that change? Because before the change, there has to be the realization. I’m curious to know what that realization was.
Amy Roskelley: For sure the conversation was, “I can’t let this business define all of me.” I can’t let my only, at my funeral have them say, “Well, she was a business owner.” I said this to my friend the other day, I said, “I feel like the last 10 years, all I’ve been, or all I thought I’ve been is a business owner that it’s left me in this empty nest place where everyone is doing a lot of the work that I used to do, and I don’t know what to do anymore.” She said, “Well, I feel like the last 10 years all I’ve been is a mom, and now that my kids hate me right now and my … ” and she’s going through a divorce and all this stuff, she’s in the same crisis, she says. Because all of her focus was on being a mom, which I totally love. It just shows you that there has to be that balance because once you lose one thing then what are you? I don’t want to be just a business owner or just a mom or just a really good housekeeper. I want to be all of those things.
Bjork Ostrom: Man, I think that’s a really important takeaway. On both sides, right? I think it applies to people who are listening to this in the context of their business, or their blog. Like you said, it can apply in multiple different areas. Idea being to really balance that out. You should come up with some equivalent of a plate, maybe it’s like a computer desktop, like a wallpaper that you could have. This idea that it needs to be balanced and the reason being because inevitably there will be this point in your life where you will not be the thing that you’ve always been. At least not in the same way, right? You won’t always be the head honcho entrepreneur, you won’t always be the dad or the mom, at least in the capacity that you have. To make sure that you’re grounded in multiple different areas, I think is such an important takeaway.
Amy Roskelley: Well, and to relate it to growing a business, I always felt like I was the best at marketing. I always felt like if there’s a promotion I should be the one to push it out to our audience. Recently because we really assigned what we’re responsible for, I’m not over marketing anymore. It was hard for me to let that go because I thought, “I’m the one who talks to our audience, I’m the one who is the marketing.” I had a really hard time and some conflict in letting somebody else do that. I think it’s the same thing. It’s just you can’t be in one part of it and think that you’re the only one who can do that.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Part of it too, I think that’s always interesting for me to think about, is this realization that other people … I feel like I’ve realized this multiple times, that the people that I’ve worked with, once I’m able to pass that off to, whether it’s a full time employee that we have on the team or somebody that we’re working with in a contract position. Not only are they able to do it equal to what I’ve done, but a lot of times it ends up being better. Part of it is even just being able to let that go and say, “You can have this and take that this on,” I think is interesting.
I’m curious to know, what does it look like for you now Amy? What does an average day look like? What do you think, for where you are right now with a team of 7, 8, where do you find that your work is most impactful?
Amy Roskelley: Right now, so one thing about managing a team is you have to have really good communication, clear expectations and have a way for them to measure their success and be accountable for what they do. It’s really important to us, we started this maybe two years ago. I say I have 7 full time employees, but we actually have like 7 more part time employees. My team, my meal plan team, they’re part time. We meet once a week. Any time you can be, this is the problem with the solopreneurs, is there’s really no one to be accountable to and that’s definitely why it took so long for us to grow. Because once you would tell somebody what you were going to get accomplished that week, and then the next Monday when you had a meeting you had to have it done.
When you’re just answering to yourself, things get in the way and you don’t do it. Which is fine, I loved that part about being a solopreneur, but it also doesn’t move the needle very well. Right now we developed these score cards where just it has, for each employee it has what their job is, what the expectation is and how we measure the success there. We’ll review them or if we add assignments or take away assignments, each time we’re just reflecting back on that scorecard and saying, “Okay, let’s look at the content we found for Facebook this week, and what worked, what didn’t work.” Just a lot of evaluating and a lot of teaching. Every meeting we have there’s a mission moment where we talk about the mission of our business and then we have a training moment. It’ll be something new that, may be a new tool we’re using. Like when we started slack or base camp. A training moment then a review of what they accomplished that week and then there’s new assignments.
A lot of times I’ll be going through the week and I’ll just think of things that I need to teach our team. A lot of my time is in answering customer emails, just because I still can’t let that go. I’d like to hear what they think about our product and what’s working for them. I do like to be that touch point so that I can just keep an eye on how things are working for people.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, it’s great to be able to have a pulse on what their needs are or maybe where there is gaps in fulfilling.
Amy Roskelley: Yeah. Feedback is everything to me. I do a lot of answering e-mails every day. I still, I’ve been making videos every week and so I have, just for our Member Area, and so I spend a lot of time getting those ready. Showing them cooking demos and meal preps. I feel like I still like to be the face of that over there. That allows me, I think that’s important too, to understand that that allows me to be the influencer that I was desperate to be in my area of responsibility, not the whole business.
Bjork Ostrom: Right. Finding essentially a kind of a subcategory within the business where you know that this is something that’s interesting to you and that you have a desire. I think a lot of what it is, isn’t necessarily, I mean you could frame it one way of being popular or an influencer. I think what you’d said before of the customer emails, customer conversations, I think a lot of it would maybe be connection too and this realization that connection is important to you. If you feel yourself removed from that then there’s this dissonance there. It’s interesting to hear you processed through that, it makes a lot of sense.
Amy Roskelley: Yeah, yeah, for sure.
Bjork Ostrom: Amy, I feel like there’s been so many good things that we’ve hit on. Really, in a lot of ways, something that people could apply if they’re building their business right now or for people that are in the beginning stages to process through and think about, as they think about what it might be like to build their business. One of the questions I love to end with, that I’d be curious to hear from you. Knowing that you have a lot of experience and a journey that you’ve walked along here, is if you were to go back you know to 2006, 2007, when you first started this and were to have a conversation with yourself, what would be the advice that you would give to Amy of 2007?
Amy Roskelley: What would be the advice? Do you know, it’s hard because there’s not a lot in the journey I would have changed. I felt like I had to do it the way we did just to get where we are, even though some things didn’t work out at the time.
Bjork Ostrom: It could also, it wouldn’t necessarily be, make sure to, whatever you do don’t go to McDonald’s on July 7th because you’ll get a really bad thing or fries. It could be even encouragement too. If you had to give yourself encouragement or inspiration.
Amy Roskelley: One thing that has surprised me is we actually, and your audience might find this fascinating, but we’ve actually had an inverse relationship with our traffic to our revenue. We hit a peak with our traffic, maybe two years ago and it’s steadily been declining over the last two years, but our revenue has gone crazy up. I think I would say to myself in the very beginning to not be so fixated on traffic. Because it’s more about being strategic and having, offering products that your customers need and and want. I think I would have saved a lot of time. Because I do get fixated on the quick. The quick traffic ideas and I probably spent a lot of time that now is irrelevant.
In the beginning it was popular to get on directories. You would list your blog on as many directories as you could, and those don’t even exist anymore. I think I wouldn’t spend as much time worrying about traffic, I would spend more time on developing helpful things for our audience.
Bjork Ostrom: I think that’s such a huge takeaway. It’s the difference between building traffic and optimizing traffic, right?
Amy Roskelley: Yes.
Bjork Ostrom: I think so often people are thinking about, “How can I get more traffic?” What I hear you saying is, man, if I started thinking about optimizing that instead of just building it earlier on then it would have been more beneficial for the business. I think that’s a great little nugget for people to take away and to process through with their own blog and their own business. I will leave it at that, but one last question. This one will be a little bit easier than the ones I’ve asked before. Amy, where can people follow along with you and follow along with Super Healthy Kids?
Amy Roskelley: We are superhealthykids.com, Super Healthy Kids on Facebook, Super Healthy Kids on Instagram. That’s where we spend most of our time, and just Healthy Kids on Pinterest and Twitter.
Bjork Ostrom: Awesome. We’ll be sure to include those in the show notes. I really appreciate you Amy, coming on the podcast and continuing the conversation, right? Not just having having the first one. It was really fun to follow up on that, talk a little bit more and I know that people will get a lot out of this interview. Thanks so much for coming on.
Amy Roskelley: Great. Thank you Bjork.
Bjork Ostrom: Hey, that’s a wrap for episode number 67. One more big thank you to Amy for coming on the podcast and talking about what it’s been like to build Super Healthy Kids through the years. Be sure to check out what they’re doing. It’s really fun to look at their business because it’s a little bit different than what you’d think of, especially if you think of a food blog. They’ve really transitioned into a solid business. They have products that they’re selling, they have physical products, they have digital products, they have the blog, they have the content. It’s a really diversified business, so it’s a great one to check out and learn about how to build a food related business in a really successful way.
One more big thank you to Amy and thank you to you wherever you are around the world listening to this podcast. We consider it a great honor and we want to make sure that we take time to say thanks for listening. Hey, if you have a moment, we would really appreciate it if you jump on to iTunes and leave a review for this podcast. What that does is that it allows us to show up a little higher in the rankings, it’s fuel for the fire. We have 100 ratings this week, we went into the triple digit mark which is really fun. If you enjoy this podcast I would really appreciate it if you’re able to hop over there, just take a couple of minutes and leave a review for this podcast. Thanks so much for tuning in and we will be back here same time, same place next week. Thanks guys.