141: Hustling to Build Two Full-Time Businesses with Alexis Joseph

Food Blogger Pro Alexis Joseph Podcast

Welcome to episode 141 of the Food Blogger Pro podcast! This week on the podcast, Bjork talks with Alexis Joseph about building two thriving full-time businesses.

Last week on the podcast, Bjork chatted with Nathan Barry from ConvertKit about how he started his career and pivoted to focus on selling software. To go back and listen to that episode, click here.

Hustling to Build Two Full-Time Businesses

Alexis is the definition of a #girlboss. She’s the co-founder of a thriving restaurant, the author of a successful blog, and a registered dietitian.

How does she find time for it all? Good question. She’s here today to share all about it. You’ll learn about what she does in a typical day and how she balances it all.

In this episode, Alexis shares:

  • How she got interested in nutrition
  • When and why she started her blog
  • The things that made a difference in her blog
  • How she started viewing her blog as a business
  • Where her blog name came from
  • How she decided to open a restaurant
  • How she keeps up with her customers
  • How she balances a full-time blog and restaurant
  • What her typical day looks like

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If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions for interviews, be sure to email them to [email protected].

Thanks to our Reviewer of the Week, Regan Jones from Blog Brûlée, Healthy Aperture, This Unmillennial Life, and The Recipe Redux! If you’d like to be featured, leave a review for us on iTunes and include your name and blog name in the review.

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Bjork Ostrom: In this episode, I talk about making sure that your images are really clean for Pinterest, and we talk to Alexis Joseph from Alchemy Juice café and Hummusapien – How fun is that to say? – about what it’s like to run a successful restaurant, along with a successful blog.

Hey everybody, this is Bjork Ostrom. You’re listening to the Food Blogger Pro Podcast. The Food Blogger Pro Podcast is brought to you by WP Tasty, which is our site for WordPress sites. If you have a WordPress site, whether it’s a food blog or not, you can check out WP Tasty. Right now, we have two plugins, Tasty Recipes, and Tasty Pins. The weekly sponsorship here on the Food Blogger Pro Podcast from WP Tasty, is called the Tasty tip, because we don’t spend a ton of time talking about Tasty Recipes or Tasty Pins. If you want to learn more about those, you can go to wptasty.com, but we do spend time talking about one actionable tip that you can take away and apply to your blog. Sometimes it has to do with Pinterest or SEO, other times it doesn’t have anything to do with those. But today, it does have to do with Pinterest.

The Tasty Tip for today is making sure that the images on your blog posts are really clean when it comes to Pinterest. Here’s what I mean by that. When you go to a blog post and you click the Pin button, now the Pin button that I’m talking about is the Pin button that is the one that brings up all of the images on the post, not the individual Pin button on an image. When you click the Pinterest button that brings up all of the images, that should be a really clean result. Here’s what I mean by that, oftentimes on a blog post, there are lots of different photos that could be pulled up when you click that Pin button. But, for a recipe blog or a fashion blog, or a DIY blog, what you really want to be presented is the content from that post.

If you test this out on your blog by going to a page, going to a post, and clicking that Pinterest button, what you see is maybe your profile image. Maybe there’s some social media images that come along with that, lots of content that doesn’t relate to that actual post. That needs to be cleaned up, and the good news is it’s relatively easy to do that using a little piece of code that you add to the image html that is the no-pin code.

Now, if all of that sounds super complicated and totally overwhelming, not a problem at all, if you work with a developer they can do it. Or, you can go to wptasty.com/nopin. That will redirect you to an informational article that shares how to do that, where you can learn more. I won’t try and explain any html on the podcast, I promise, because that would be overwhelming. But I wanted to give you that quick tip so you could apply that to your blog, if you need to clean up your Pinterest images.

Again, the way you can test that out is just using the Pinterest button that pulls up all of the images and gives you the option to pick from one of those. What you want is the only images that should display are the images related to that blog post or that article that you want people to share in Pinterest. So that is the Tasty Tip from WP Tasty. If you haven’t checked out WP Tasty, you can go to wptasty.com, that’s WP for WordPress, and learn about what we are doing there with Tasty Recipes and Tasty Pins.

On today’s podcast, we are chatting with Alexis Joseph, and she’s going to be talking about what it’s been like for her to run a successful restaurant café, it is called the Alchemy Juice Café; along with a successful blog, Hummusapien. She’s going to talk about what her day looks like, how she structures her time, what it’s been like to work in those two very different industries, and the things that she’s learned that has helped her grow along the way. It’s going to be a great interview, and I’m excited to share it with you. Alexis, welcome to the podcast.

Alexis Joseph: Thank you so much for having me.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. We chatted about a few things here, before we pressed record. I’m excited to jump into those. I’ll leave that as a cliffhanger, here, for people that are tuning into the podcast. But before we dive in, I always want to take time to hear a little bit about somebody’s story when they’re on the podcast. Especially when it’s a story that’s unique and interesting like yours, where you are working in the niche field of nutrition and healthy living. But I’m guessing that maybe your path that you started isn’t one that you thought would lead you to where you are right now. So, let’s rewind the tape a little bit, and hear about when you first stepped into this journey and took this first step on this path. Where were you and why did you decide to get into nutrition, get into the space of food and healthy living?

Alexis Joseph: Yeah, so I always kind of tell people that my first love was food. Food only, and then writing happened after that, and nutrition happened way later. So I always kind of hold food the closest to my heart, if that makes sense, and that’s kind of what I have always came back to, and finding the joy in that and seeing where that takes me in other areas.

I didn’t really delve into nutrition until I actually took a trip to Israel in college, I think it was in 2010. Got super inspired by the culture and the people there. I read some books that, looking back now, I actually probably wouldn’t have read. But just, you know, got really, really inspired about helping people battle chronic disease with nutrition, or reverse chronic disease with nutrition, specifically plant-based diet. That’s kind of all meshed together with my interest with food, and with writing, with the blog. I switched from business to dietetics, and that was kind of what set it all off, was actually that trip.

Bjork Ostrom: What was it about the trip, specifically, that impacted you?

Alexis Joseph: I grew up eating well. My mom cooked every night, but it was pretty traditional. We would never have a meal that was vegetarian. In Israel, I actually met a gentleman who … It was so funny because I remember him being like, “Do you Know the brand Bob’s Red Mill?”

I was like, “No.” Now it’s like, “Oh, Bob’s Red Mill.” But, yeah, I actually met a guy that was newly vegan, and my mind was just blown. I started reading about reversing disease with plants. It was always, for me, it was always from that standpoint of being, really, this fascination that you could take hold of your health in this way, and obviously a lot has changed since then. If you know my story, that’s another topic.

But, yeah, really, obviously just the produce over there and just the food, and really the culture around food. It’s a lot different than American. It’s a lot more spontaneity and lightheartedness and soul with food over there. But, yeah, it really was the culture and the people I met, and my eyes opened to some things that I really wasn’t aware of.

Bjork Ostrom: The other thing I’m just curious, and you probably aren’t excited to talk about this, if you weren’t excited about what they are now, but what were the books that you read? And curious to know why you wouldn’t read them now or suggest them?

Alexis Joseph: I’m glad you asked. One of the books was Skinny Bitch. This was also, I don’t even think Instagram … No, Instagram didn’t exist, so it was like another world. It was when blogging was still … This was before I started the blog. It was such a different time. So I read Skinny Bitch, which I just thought was like the Bible, you know?

Then I read, what was the other? I think I read The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan, which actually really liked that book. But, I read some things that were just super, super fear-mongering, and super cherry-picking evidence. My philosophy now is just so much looser, and finding joy in food, and food freedom, and definitely not to that extremism, hate yourself if you have a sip of milk kind of a situation. But, it’s always funny looking back to how I would have. I was young and free about reading some crazy book, but …

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, but it’s interesting. I think sometimes that’s what it takes, where you have a huge correction and then maybe find a middle ground after you get further down and develop your own opinions. But I think sometimes what’s so appealing about some of those books, whether it be food or finance, or family, or faith, to have something that is so extreme is pretty sticky. Like it’s clearly defined and there’s a hard edge on it, and it’s easy to follow that. But I think once you get into it and you start to develop some expertise and opinion, then your opinion gets more nuanced and doesn’t have to have as hard of an edge, which it sounds like maybe happened with you.

But before we get too far ahead of ourselves, so you did this trip, you come back, you make a pretty big decision to switch your focus. So you said you went from business to dietetics. Then, what does that look like in terms of making that decision and making that switch? At that point, did you know then what your path would be?

Alexis Joseph: Well, I kind of always thought that my career would be maybe something with marketing and media, writing, business. I grew up always loving to write. My grandpa was a professional writer. He actually wrote books on grammar. So, I grew up with that in the back of my mind and just loving that creative outlet. But, obviously, dietetics is a huge switch. That’s like a four-year undergrad, and you have to do a yearlong internship, and all this. It has a lot more to it. But, I just totally blanked on that original part of your question.

Bjork Ostrom: Well, just wondering about what the change was like. So, you make that switch and when you’re making that switch, are you intentionally saying, “Okay, I know that I am interested in this, obviously.” But did you have an end goal in mind of where you wanted to go with that?

Alexis Joseph: No. Totally not. I just thought, “You know what, why does this only have to be a hobby? I can feel this crazy fire in my soul, this tangible passion about nutritional wellness, so why not study it?” You know?

Bjork Ostrom: Got it. I think that’s, for a lot of people that are at that point in their career, or in college, they say, “Okay, I’m interested in this. I don’t necessarily know what I want the end goal to be, but I know that I’m interested in it, so that’s what I should study,” which makes a lot of sense.

So, fast-forward, then. You are wrapping up your career as a student and starting to look at what the next step is. What point along the line did you start your blog, and what was the intent with that?

Alexis Joseph: I started the blog, really, I think I was in Israel in July and I started the blog around the time when I got home. I was a total fan girl of Oh, She Glows, and back then followed so many different blogs. My dad was like, “Okay, you love to write, you love food, why don’t you start your own blog?”

I was like, “Okay.”

So started that in 2011. No one was reading it. It was totally just my own fun place to mess around, and little food diary. I really didn’t become serious about the blog until probably 2016, which is when I actually started making an income. But before that, I decided after undergrad to do a combined … So I mentioned you have to do that internship, I did a combined master’s and dietetic internship. During that two years, that’s when I was kind of thinking, “Okay I think when I graduate, I know I don’t want to do anything clinical. I really want to work with people and help people with nutrition, and maybe do some writing. Maybe I’ll write for a magazine.” Never did I think that I would finish school and Alchemy would happen. Like, literally, if you had asked me if I’d be running a restaurant, I probably would have laughed in your face.

Bjork Ostrom: I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a lot of people that are in that boat post-college, or post-life-as-a-student. The interesting thing is that you kind of have this different version, where I feel like a lot of people come out of school and they do something completely different than what their major was in.

True for me. I majored in management and retail merchandising, and now we run a membership site for food blogs. So it’s this totally different space. But there was this deep part of me that had always been interested in tech, always interested in design, so this avenue opened up and it made sense to go into that. It seems like that’s maybe the case for you, with didn’t necessarily see this path of running a restaurant. But there was this core interest in health and nutrition. When that opened up you’re able to walk into that and to really own that.

But, at the same time you had your blog happening in the background. You said around 2016 it was at the point where you were starting to take it a little bit more seriously. So, let’s dig into that a little bit. When you say, “Taking it seriously,” what did that look like? What are some of the changes that you made that helped to accelerate or that helped you to dedicate some more time to it and to really start doubling down on the success with your blog?

Alexis Joseph: I think, it was so interesting. The biggest change I made was buying a professional camera, obviously. It was just such a different time with blogging because it wasn’t like everyone had a blog back then. So I didn’t have as many “friends” in the industry to go to. I was kind of just winging it. But, getting a camera and actually utilizing Pinterest to its full capacity made a huge difference to me.

Then, I think also just changing how I looked at my blog, because I always thought of it as, “Oh, I have this silly little blog. I just kind of do it for fun.” Really, without even making any crazy changes, just changing how I looked at it and giving myself some more credit, and taking it seriously, like, “Okay, you’re putting all this time, and energy, and passion into it, why does it have to be some ridiculous dream to make it more of a career? Or more of a moneymaker, if you’re putting, like I said, so much time into it?” I had a bunch of student loans. I was in grad school.

I just really started challenging myself to make the most out of it. That’s kind of when … I don’t know, I don’t want to be cheesy, but I really feel like I was putting out those vibes to the universe. Things just started coming my way. Like, I don’t know, I remember the first time my vegan lasagna, it was in a slideshow for Huff Post Canada, or something. It was like the best day of my life, I felt. Like, “I won the lottery. I’m in Huff Post Canada.” I go, “What’s Huff Post Canada?” I thought it was such a big deal.

I stayed really consistent. I worked so hard on that damn blog when I was making nothing and giving everything, but I kept with it, just because I loved it so much. I didn’t have any intention of it becoming really much more than what I set out for it to be. But I think that’s the way for it to happen. I think you have to kind of almost not have those intentions in the beginning, so it can be real and you can do things the right way. I think just building that authentic audience from the beginning when I didn’t have any crazy motives really helped get me to the state today where I’m just so transparent with my readers, and engaging, and just real, and just putting it all out there for everyone.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, and talk about the name, Hummusapien. Hummusapien. Where did that come from? I love it. I think it’s a great idea, and I think you can explain it for those that are listening, because when you see it, it’s a super-creative name.

Alexis Joseph: So, it’s Hummusapien, like Homo sapien, but Hummus. If I had a dollar for every time I said that to someone, I wouldn’t have to blog.

Bjork Ostrom: I was just going to say, for Lindsey and I, it’s like Pinch of Yum, like pinch of salt.

Alexis Joseph: That’s so funny. I was a full-time nanny in grad school, in the summer, and I babysat these … I just forgot the word … Oh, these prodigy children. They were literally the most genius children. I mean, they were like 12. They weren’t toddlers, but just incredibly, incredibly smart young women. I remember sitting at the table, and the girl’s name was . I was like, “Sauna, I need a really good, puny name for this blog.” Because I’m kind of like, I love humor, and blah, blah, blah.

We were writing down names, and I would always open the refrigerator and do this weird dance in front of their refrigerator to them. They always thought it was so funny, and we were all talking about that and I was grabbing hummus from the fridge. She just blurted out, “Hummusapien.” When she said it, it was like the stars were aligning. It was just like, “We’re done. Pack it up.” It was totally this girl that I used to babysit for, not me at all.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, but great name, and a great story to go along with it, so it works. So, at what point do you start to consider the possibility of, along with intentionally hustling and building your blog, and getting some traction there, to open a restaurant location? Or, well, there’s multiple locations, but your first restaurant location? How did that conversation start and what was that decision-making process like for you?

Alexis Joseph: So, I met a gentleman named Abed Alshahal in college. He was a nutrition major, and we become friends. We would always study together, and I started working at one of his family’s restaurants in grad school. I was serving. It was called The Crest. So, him and his brothers had this restaurant group that his dad had started. He had immigrated from Lebanon and came from nothing, and started with a convenience store, and had built a few restaurants around the city.

So, we become really good friends, and, again, I was serving during grad school. I would help out with the menu a little bit. I didn’t really think anything would go past that, but we always joke. We’d be walking around campus, and we’d be like, “Why is there nowhere to get a good smoothie. This would be amazing. Blah, blah, blah.”

He was going to go pre-med. He ended up staying in the restaurant industry with his family. But, I finished school and he had been working on this idea that I wasn’t really involved in, because I was finishing school and taking my RD exam. He reached out to me and was like, “I have this business proposal for you.”

When he laid it out, I was like, “Yeah, right.”

Like, I remember my best friend being like, “Yeah, Alchemy might happen, but what are you seriously going to do?” We just didn’t think that it was actually going to happen. So, the day Abed teamed up with a gentleman who owns a bunch of property down here on the South Side where we live, and it’s really awesome because it’s close proximity to a children’s hospital, so bringing healthy food to an area that really needs it. I got involved in that way.

I could say I’m lucky. I could say it was the universe. But, something brought us together. He had the resources and I had the food knowledge, and the marketing, and all that jazz. I had no management experience, really, in restaurants, so I really learned so much on the fly about restaurants. But, it was very much in their court and I was along for the ride, if that makes sense.

Bjork Ostrom: I would love to dig into that a little bit. So, your role, official, is Director of Business Developmental and Brand Integrity, is that right?

Alexis Joseph: Yeah. We always joke that I have like 80 titles.

Bjork Ostrom: I want to unpack that a little bit. So, let’s talk about the business development part. What’s that look like as it relates to Alchemy?

Alexis Joseph: Business development is really … We always talk about Alchemy as pushing the limits as far as what we like to do. So, even with the model itself it’s kind of like this dietician crafted menu. We integrate nutrition counseling there. Really, we say integrating healthcare and food because we have these onsite services. So, I’m always working on the next big thing for the concept.

Well, right now we’re working on the second location, so that’s development in itself. But it might be even something like helping to centralize our juice production, or helping to create new prepared meals that we want to do, helping to redesign the website. Really, like moving us forward beyond … The restaurant industry is a grind. It’s just a day-to-day grind. I, in the beginning was just in that, day-in and day-out. Of course, that happens to us all sometimes, but right now really having that bird’s eye view of what can we do to push this concept forward and to continue just to challenge ourselves.

Bjork Ostrom: And how about the brand integrity piece of your title, what does that look like?

Alexis Joseph: My role, it’s funny, because my role is kind of like what do I not do? With brand integrity, it’s kind of my favorite piece because it links so much to the blog stuff I do. So, brand integrity is really making sure that everything we do is in line with who we set out to be, and to hold everyone, and hold our food, and hold everything we do to a high standard of quality. Are we tied to our mission? Are we maximizing our local sourcing? Are we using non-GMO canola oil when we fry falafel? All these little things that other people might not think of, but everyone knows Alexis is so anal about X, Y, and Z, and we have to do all these little things. That also goes into, like obviously I run our social media. I helped redesign our website, the photography. We’ve never really paid for marketing, so obviously I do a lot of our marketing. So that’s kind of what I’d say what that all falls into.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s actually one of the areas that I want to talk about, and I was really interested to hear you explain is, I think people that listen to this podcast have heard us talk a lot about what it looks like to market your blog. But, there’s also this entirely different world of marketing as it relates to a physical location. Can you talk about that a little bit? For context, people that are listening, I would guess that a lot of them are interested or have thought about the possibility of opening a restaurant that either compliments the work that they’re doing online, or is the main thing, and then the work that they do online helps drive people to that place. So, can you talk about some of the things you do from a marketing perspective, and things that maybe would be a little bit different, or maybe the same, that you would for your blog?

Alexis Joseph: Yeah, I think that what I learned from my blog helped me immensely with the marketing piece of Alchemy, because I didn’t have any formal education in marketing. Although, I feel like, how many of us had formal education in blogging? Probably not a lot of us, so … It’s common these days.

But, marketing for the business is so much of keeping up with the trends. It’s very different from the blog world because even if your restaurant has a certain niche, we’re in such a bubble of health and wellness, or I am at least. You have to remember that we are a small percentage of the population, and your restaurant’s not going to be a line out the door because you’re serving a super-food latte that everyone on Instagram would freak out about, because that’s not the world. So, it’s so much about really looking at the market that you are in and how to tailor it to that, and knowing how to drive sales, constantly, in new ways.

It’s just a lot to keep up with and there’s a lot of competition. So, we might add an amazing dragon fruit smoothie bowl to the menu that nobody’s doing. Months later it’s like, “Okay, it’s getting cold out and we’re a smoothie bar. Let’s make new lattes.” Or, next year the trend is that no one wants fruit in their smoothies, so we make the veg head smoothie. It’s really keeping up and staying current with your customer base. And, also it’s funny because I feel like the blog world totally keeps me on my toes with what’s in style with food. Even our donuts are made with almond flour, they’re gluten free, because we all know that that’s huge right now.

It’s just so much more than you’d expect, because even things like, we want to have more males in our store because we don’t really want to have that feminine persona for the juice … It’s not even a juice bar, it’s a café. For me, that can be hard to separate sometimes because Alchemy’s personality is not Hummusapien or Alexis’ personality. It’s its own thing. It’s different. It’s unisex. We don’t want it to come off as pretentious, or …

Not that I’m pretentious, but that obviously that the healthier restaurants can have a little bit of that. You know, you walk in, you’re like, “What is half this menu? This is kind of scary.” So, Alchemy really prides itself on approachability, and accessibility, and just being a place that anyone can dine at and you can all sit at the same table. So, for us that means having a turkey sandwich, and it means having gluten free bread. It means having dairy and non-diary items.

So, it’s just a lot about, for us, keeping up with who our customers actually are, versus who we’re targeting, and challenging ourselves to stay innovative and to not get bogged down by what everyone else is doing. Similar to the blog world because you got to just stay in your own lane. You can’t do it all. That’s just, it is what it is.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, for sure. When you say keep up with your customer base, how do you do that? Is it having conversations with them? Surveys? What does that look like in terms of keeping up with your customer base? Or is it more of a sixth sense thing, where you kind of have this gut intuition?

Alexis Joseph: I think a lot of it is definitely having those customer conversations. When we train we say that we’re in customer service first, before food service, and really getting to know our people. We have people who have been with us for four years that have came since the beginning. But really thinking like, obviously you’re going to target the people that want this kind of food, so obviously people that want a smoothie bowl are going to come to Alchemy. How do we get the businessmen who would love our roast beef sandwich but would never come because they think all we have is juice? And how do we create a marketing campaign that’s not feminine and that’s not unapproachable to get more people in the shop, to see that we have so many things that aren’t just like a kale salad?

It’s hard to get out of that box, because you might assume, “Oh, I’m going to open this place and who wouldn’t want to eat all this healthy food?” But, healthy food’s expensive, and it’s trendy. There’s always that like, “Oh, are people always going to want to be eating these bowls? Or is one day everybody’s going to be like, ‘Smoothie bowls are terrible for you!’” But we’re so dynamic. There’s so much beauty in keeping your menu in sync to what you do, but we’re not above trying something new with our customers, and we’re just always open to change because you have to hustle in this industry, and you have to be keeping up with what people want.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. So you talk about this industry, and let’s say we’re continuing to speak to those people that would be interested with at least playing around with the idea of opening up some type of food service restaurant, café, juice bar, whatever it would be. What would your advice be to those people that are interested in stepping into that world? Because I’m guess there’s a lot more than you’d expect, if you’ve never done it before.

Alexis Joseph: That’s such an interesting question. I’m trying to think. I feel like one of the things I’ve learned, and you might not expect I’d say this, but finding the right location is so important. There’ve been so many times where we thought we’d put an Alchemy somewhere, and we didn’t for a variety of reasons. We look back and we’re so glad we didn’t. Just knowing the real-estate around you and not being afraid to try to make a deal and to spend so much time looking at the market and thinking of where you’d want to open.

We’re kind of like out on the south side of Columbus, in an area that’s totally being re gentrified. Five years ago it was a totally different space, and we got a really, really, really good deal on rent because the area was so up and coming. Looking back, we would have paid triple that to be somewhere else with no more business. Obviously you pay for location and you don’t want to open up in the middle of nowhere. But, it’s definitely not a smart move to just pick the hottest area and pay top dollar for real-estate. And, thinking about lease deals and trying to get the longest lease you can, because we all know how that goes, and those turn over. But, I don’t know, I feel like that’s something out of the box that people don’t think about that’s been so, so important for what we do.

Also, along that, adapting to where you are. So, we will change our menus and change our offerings based on where we are. Like what we’re doing for the second location, we’re offering lunch, and eggs, and those kind of things because there’s less grab-and-go traffic. It’s people that, it’s a smaller community. They want to sit down over coffee and have brunch. So, not being afraid to just really stay dynamic with your brand.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. When you think of back to that first year of opening up Alchemy, what was one of the hardest things that surprised you about the process?

Alexis Joseph: I think just how overwhelmed I felt in managing people, and feeling all those pressures all at once. It’s like having a blog; it doesn’t sleep. But, when other people’s income, and there’s so many things dependent on how your store is doing. In the beginning, we were not making a ton of money. There were times where I was like, “Oh my God, like I don’t even know.” I just assumed that it would be so, so busy. In the beginning, it took us a while to grow. It was an interesting area and we were young, and one of the first people doing it. It was very tough in the first year. But, just definitely that all-consuming feeling of just the pressure, and I am someone who gets very easily stressed out. So, it was really, really hard for me to just be constantly, you know. Every day in the restaurant, it’s like you do so much and then you have to do it all over again, and again, and again, and again every single day. It doesn’t ever stop.

Bjork Ostrom: How did you deal with the pressure? What were some of the ways that you figured out to work through that and handle it? Or maybe not handle it?

Alexis Joseph: Yeah, that’s a good question. I think, I mean, obviously, having Abed and having the support of other people around me. But I really think that my passion for what we were doing is what … Or, our passion, I should say, is what sustained us then, is 100% what’s sustaining us now. If you have the money and you can open a restaurant. But, to sustain a restaurant and to make it successful, you have to have passion and purpose. I so firmly believe that, if you want to really make a difference. I think that in the beginning, that just was what kept me holding on. When someone would pick up a salad and be like, “Oh my God, I eat this every day. It’s so good.”

Like that one comment would just make my day, and I’d remember, “Okay, this is why I’m doing this.” I always said, “Nothing good comes easy,” and I’ve had my fair share of challenges in life. I think that I had always just looked at this, and I still do, as a humongous challenge and sacrifice, oftentimes. Because not everyone wants to do something like this, and that’s totally understandable because it’s a ton of work. But, some people do and if you have that personality where you’re like, “Let’s go. Let’s take it on each and every day and hope that we can make something beautiful out of it.” You got to keep the faith, I feel like.

I also like, mental, “Let’s go, even though … ” It’s so funny because when we opened Alchemy I wasn’t drinking coffee at the time. That was such a stupid decision, but I remember we opened and I was drinking so much coffee. All the other restaurant owners are smoking, and everyone’s like, “You don’t smoke?”

I’m like, “No, I don’t smoke.” Like, “Do you know what this is?” But I would just drink so much coffee. It’s so funny.

Bjork Ostrom: It’s interesting, you know. I think that applies to building a website, or a blog, or just a business in general, or a non-profit. Like, if you’re going to build something, if you’re going to create something from nothing, you have to have this drive, and passion, and purpose that pushes you through the times when you feel super-strong resistance to doing. Because if you’re just doing it to create a really good income, you know that, like for you, you would have quite within that first year because that can’t be the sole purpose of what you’re doing. And yet, I think it’s important for that to be a piece of it, because it can’t just be strictly passion, either, because you have to pay the bills. There has to be that balance between passion and profit that continues to push you forward.

So, for you, when you reflect on who you are, and I think self-awareness is a huge piece of understanding business building, or restaurant, or blog, or whatever it would be, do you have any insights into what drives you, as it relates to, both from the health side, but also from the business side? Like, what is it that’s driving you to be successful, or to build to something?

Alexis Joseph: I mean, I honestly would say that it’s this … I’m going to use the word passion, but I feel it so physically. You could say productivity, purpose. When I’m in the restaurants and I’m just getting things done, even if it’s just … For example, our prep person and our juicer quit on the same day, so that was entertaining.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, that’s fun.

Alexis Joseph: I’m making a bunch of salad this week, because that’s what we do. Getting back to the basics and just looking around at our staff and how much we’ve grown, and even the little things. We used to keep our own milk in glass bottles. I have no idea why we did that. We went to New York. We found these liquid dispensers. I was just staring at our liquid dispenser, and I’m like, “We have come so far.” Obviously Alchemy’s profiting now, and I feel so proud to have built something that is really making people’s lives easier and healthier, and more delicious, obviously.

I’ve just always been someone that’s so fueled by that feeling I get when I’m feeling what I’m feeling. Just that feeling of passion and that you’re making a difference, and doing something you love at the same time, which there’s literally, there’s just no better feeling in the world for me.

Bjork Ostrom: One of the things that we were talking about before we pressed record was you had talked about you’re starting to talk a little bit more, and be a little bit more transparent in some of your history, or your story as it relates to growing up and finances, and how that impacts your hustle, and your willingness to work super-hard. I think that’s always an interesting thing for other people to hear, and probably something that a lot of people can relate to. We didn’t get super-far into it, because I love to save that type of stuff for the actual recording, so would that be something you’d be willing to talk about? Because I think people would really appreciate that and relate to that.

Alexis Joseph: Yeah, for sure. One of the questions, hands down, that I get asked most often is how I balance Alchemy and Hummusapien, because they’re both full-time jobs, obviously. I feel like the reason I do that day-in and day-out is because of that hustler mindset, and just because I’ve never not had more than, probably, at least two jobs.

Yeah, to give a little background, first of all, I had an amazing childhood. I have amazing parents and love them to death, but we definitely had a lot of financial issues. Probably when I was around 13, my parents pretty much slowly lost everything. Just, kind of throughout mostly college, but just a lot of financial stress, helping out my parents with bills, tons of student loans, bankruptcy, and just really dealing with things that I never saw coming made things very, very hard. I obviously paid for every from since early college.

I hustled because I had to. I didn’t have anyone I could go to help me in any way. So many people are in the same boat. Obviously, so many people pay their way through school and all that jazz. PS, also, my dad had stomach cancer and a stroke around this time, and just a lot going on. I had some addiction in my family, not me personally, but I dealt with some family members with addiction issues, so it was just lot for me to handle. But, I used to look at it as this super negative in my life. I had a terrible credit score that really wasn’t my fault, that I won’t get into. But, I feel like I had all of these challenges that I didn’t deserve, and I was like, “Why did this have to happen to me?”

But, looking back it’s totally what fueled me to be so hard-working, and I just grew to love that feeling when I was hustling and making good money. So when I first started making money for the blog and I was able to … I think I’m $8,000 away from, I had like $75,000 in student loan debt. Being able to use my blog to pay off those loans was so magical to me. I just thought, “I’m going to get out of this, and I’m going to do something huge with my life, and I’m going to look back and thank the debt, and think the credit-hard issues, and all these things that happened to me that used to cause me so much stress.” Now I look at them as like, honestly, like a blessing in disguise.

Bjork Ostrom: For people that are in a similar situation to what you were, and where it maybe feels like this mounting pressure, maybe they have a lot of debt and other situations outside of their control, maybe some within their control, what would your advice be to them to encourage them to continue moving forward? Did you have any mantras when you were there, or things that you told yourself that would maybe be good things to pass along to listeners?

Alexis Joseph: Yeah, I just always kept in mind that my destiny was in my own hands. I just told myself that I was allowed to live the life that I’d always imagined, and I really felt so true to that. I really believed and I still believe that whatever I want to do in life, that I can do, as long as I work hard for it. I didn’t always believe that, but once I actually started seeing the fruits of my labor, and actually believing more in myself, I realized that I think the mind is very powerful too. I think that having confidence can be so huge to get you through those times. But, for me, starting something out of passion that I didn’t even know would become a side hustle, and then a full-time hustle, obviously, that was so helpful for me. Just having anything you can do to bring in some extra cash. I’ve done it all. I was on Craig’s List in college doing whatever random stuff to make money.

Bjork Ostrom: I would buy and sell sneakers on eBay when we were first married. Lindsey gives me a hard time about that, often. Or, I’d buy wholesale from Chicago, and then sell sneakers on eBay, so yeah, for sure.

Alexis Joseph: That’s what it is. I feel like so many successful people have had to hustle, and they find creative ways to make money because you have to. I really believe that if you stay in a hustler mindset and you have some faith in yourself and know that you can have a bright future, and you deserve a bright future, and just keeping that belief, because when you lose that confidence it’s really hard to put your all towards something.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. So you have your blog and you have the restaurant launching multiple locations. You’re keeping up on social media, you’re doing blog posts, you have sponsored content, managing all of these different things. What does a typical day look like for you? Are you somebody who has this really rigid schedule and you say, “Here’s what the day look like”? Or are you kind of free-flowing and you know major deadlines? I think people always like to hear how other people work, so can you walk me through if there would be a typical day and a typical week?

Alexis Joseph: Yeah, I had an interview with Forbes a couple day ago, and it just got published today. The question was a typical day, so I have it all ready to go for you.

Bjork Ostrom: Perfect.

Alexis Joseph: So, I am extremely not rigid. I am totally free-flowing. I’m very flying by the seat of my pants, and I think there’s beauty in flaw now, but I know that it’s that looseness, if you will, and openness to change have definitely gotten me where I am.

On a typical day I work out in the morning twice a week. But if I’m not working out in the morning, I will probably wake up around 7, or 7:30. I’m not getting up at 4 am; no thank you. Obviously when Alchemy first opened I was at the store every day at 6. Alchemy’s been open for four years now. If you’re opening a new business, like my life was pretty freaking crazy. I was majorly hustling a few years ago. I’m still hustling now, but just as kind of a side-note, because Alchemy’s a bit older now. But, yeah, I wake up at 7 or 7:30, I make myself a nice breakfast, and I am usually at one of the restaurants or working somewhere by 9 ish. Usually while I’m eating breakfast and up until 9 I’m on my computer typing up loose ends for blog stuff. So, maybe I’m promoting a post, maybe I’m emailing a client, social media, doing all those things in the morning. Catching up on emails.

Then all day during the day I am bopping around for Alchemy or TRISM, or staying put in our offices and busting stuff out. So right now, it kind of depends what’s going on with the restaurants. But, pretty much every day I’m going to Alchemy, checking with our managers, seeing how everyone’s doing. Right now, our prep person just quit, so I spent a few hours today making our salads at Alchemy. Then I’ll usually be on my computer and I’m doing everything from working on the menu for the new concept. I have to order our point of sale system. I have to make sure our new manager is setting up interviews for hiring next week. We’re, right now, centralizing our juice production. So, I do a lot of logistical … I’m kind of like the glue, so I’m doing a lot of higher-level people managing; quality control all the time, so making sure everything’s functioning well and tasting good.

We just redesigned TRISM and Alchemy’s website, so I was working with our company on that. Throughout the day I’m doing social media stuff. I might have a marketing meeting. I might be working on redesigning our menu with our art team. So pretty much all day I’m very busy just doing God knows what for the restaurants. Like some days it’s like we’re slammed and I’m on the line making smoothies like a boss. I’m not above, like I will hop on the line any time. I love it. In the first year-and-a-half Alchemy was open, I was on the line all the time.

Then, I come home and probably around six or seven, I will … I probably work out like five times a week. It’s a huge stress reliever for me. There’s actually a gym right above Alchemy, it’s super convenient. So I’ll go do something at the gym. Then I’ll come home and hope that we have leftovers. If not, I’ll make something, hopefully not too hard, that’ll last for a while, like lasagna or something like that. Then in the evening, I do a lot of catching up on blog stuff.

Pretty much on Sunday’s, I do mass recipe making and photographing. Then during the week, I’m editing pictures, or on Sunday, editing the pictures, getting up the content, emailing brands that I’m working with. On Tuesday night I do, “What I ate this week,” for Wednesday. I post four times a week, so really in the evenings I’m working on blog stuff again. Sometimes Alchemy stuff was well. Saturday’s kind of up in the air. I’ll take some time to myself, might be at the restaurants. When the new Alchemy opens, I’ll be there, for sure, all the time on the weekends. Then Sunday is a lot of blog stuff.

So, I definitely work a lot, but I also take time when I need to, and I honestly, like, writing is therapeutic for me. So, while there’s time I don’t feel like making like 10 loaves of banana bread, most of the time I feel very happy when I’m working on the blog stuff. I guess it doesn’t feel so much like work at night. Like, when people ask me how many hours a week I work, I have no idea because it’s like at night I don’t even feel like I’m working, but I’m on my computer.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. And I feel like that really is the sweet spot, isn’t it? It’s finding something that is work, technically, but doesn’t feel like work and it’s kind of that happy in between where you’re doing productive, important things. There’s this quote, LP Jacks, I don’t know who that is, but a business coach sent this to me, and I feel like this applies, it’s a quote. So it says, “A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his pleasure, his mind and his body, his education and his recreation. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence through whatever he is doing, and leaves others to determine whether he is working or playing. To himself/herself, he always seems to be doing both. Enough for him that he does it well.”

I feel like that applies to what you’re talking about, where it’s like, “What is this?” When people say, “How much do you work?” It’s like, “I don’t know, is it work?” It’s somewhere in between.

Alexis Joseph: That quote, wow. I’m going to have to have you send me that one.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, I will. It seems like it applies. So, I think to hear that, people will find a lot of inspiration in the hustle. I think it’s important to point that out, because from the outside, sometimes it can seem like it’s so simple. But then when you get an inside look, you know, “Okay, people are quitting.” Then you have to step in and be on the line, while also writing four blog posts a week, and working from six to ten when you get home. It’s not something that’s simple, and clean cut and easy, and it takes a lot of hustle. But, like you said, it can be done. With enough time, whether it’s a physical restaurant location that you’re launching or a blog that you’re building, you will find that traction and you’ll find success if you stick with it and continue to get a little bit better over a long period of time.

So, would there be any last piece of advice, Alexis, that you’d give to people that are interested in following in your footsteps, whether that be a restaurant or a blog? But people that are interested in hustling and working for themselves, and building a successful business?

Alexis Joseph: I mean, I would just say, “Just keep believing.” The moments where it’s 9:30 and the last thing you want to do is write about chocolate chip muffins, those will be the times where you look back and be so glad you stayed consistent to your audience. Whether it’s writing about food, or doing accounting, whatever it is, you’ll look back and thank yourself for putting in the extra time to get you where you are today. So, yeah, that’s what I would say.

Bjork Ostrom: Stick with it.

Alexis Joseph: Stick with it.

Bjork Ostrom: For sure. Alexis, where can people follow along with you? You can list all of the different places, both for your blog and for Alchemy. Then you mentioned TRISM as well. You can talk about that quickly.

Alexis Joseph: Yeah, TRISM is Alchemy’s sister concept. It’s an eater bar event space on Ohio State’s campus. But, my blog is hummusapien.com, and Instagram is @Hummusapien. Twitter is @TheHummusapien, because someone else took Hummusapien. Facebook, @Hummusapien. Then, @alchemy_juice on Instagram, and our website is alchemyjuicecafe.com.

Bjork Ostrom: Awesome. We’ll be sure to link to all those in the show notes as well. Alexis, so fun to talk to you, and thanks for sharing your story. Really appreciate it.

Alexis Joseph: You too. Thank you so much.

Alexa Peduzzi: Hey friends, Alexa here bringing you the reviewer of the week. But first, how inspired and motivated do you feel after that interview? Alexis is so cool, and I hope you guys learned a lot from her journey, and get inspired by her hustle. So, our reviewer of the week this week is Regan Jones, from things like Blog Brulee, This Unmillennial Life, Healthy Aperture, and the Recipe Redux.

It says, “Whether you’re a new, emerging, or seasoned food blogger, this podcast is for you. Each week you’ll find new information to help grow your skillset as a blogger and challenge you as a professional. I have learned so much already and continue to await every new episode.”

Thank you so much, Reagan. And thank you all for listening. We so appreciate you. The podcast, as Bjork has mentioned before, is one of our favorite parts of our week. We’re so thrilled and honored that you tune in each and every week. From all of us here at FBP HQ, make it a great week.

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