Hi friends! We are back with another week of the Food Blogger Pro Podcast! This week, Bjork is talking with city girl turned country blogger Molly Yeh from My Name is Yeh.
On the last episode of the FBP podcast, Bjork interviewed Kelly Senyei from the long-lived food blog Just a Taste. They talked about so many great things, including how she manages to do it all while being a solopreneur. To go back and listen to that great episode, click here.
Becoming Saveur’s Blog of the Year
So what do you do when you live on a farm in North Dakota and your husband spends all day out in the fields? You make cakes. And macaroni. And everything else delicious on the planet.
Such is the life of blogger Molly Yeh. While her husband works the fields of North Dakota, Molly brings us beautiful, delicious recipes from her kitchen, as well as stories from life on the farm. Her unique angle makes for quite the intriguing blog experience, and has helper he become the blogging powerhouse she is today.
In this awesome episode, Molly shares:
- What it’s like to be a food blogger living in the middle of nowhere
- What it means to be the most extreme version of yourself
- How journaling led her to start a blog
- How she balances posting food and lifestyle posts on the same blog
- Her tips for photography and photo editing
- How she deals with trolls (it has to do with butts!)
- How interacting with the blog community has helped her find success
Listen to the Food Blogger Pro Podcast below or check it out on iTunes:
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Bjork Ostrom: Welcome to episode number 13 of the Food Blogger Pro Podcast. Hi there. My name is Bjork Ostrom. If this is your first time listening to this podcast you might be wondering what it’s all about. Simply put, it’s a podcast about two things. The internet and food and how people are combining those two things and using them to build a following and often times build a career. The name, Food Blogger Pro, what is that all about? It comes from the community website we started to build over two years ago. It’s really like a community website and a learning website where people from all around the world come together and they learn about building a food related brand online. You can check that out at foodbloggerpro.com. We use this podcast here to interview inspirational individuals that are doing just that, building something online having to do with food. I can think of no better person to talk to about that than Molly Yeh of the blog My Name is Yeh.
Molly recently won Saveur’s 2015 Food Blog of the Year Award and while I could spend lots of time explaining the rest of her resume, I think that the award speaks pretty strongly about her credibility and her talent. Let’s go ahead and jump into the interview. Molly, I’m really excited to have you on the Food Blogger Pro Podcast today. Welcome.
Molly Yeh: Thank you. I’m really excited to be here.
Bjork Ostrom: Usually with these podcasts what we do is we’ll have somebody log into Skype and we do a Skype interview but today we were emailing back and forth and I’m guessing you’re using your phone. You said, "The internet is down" which seems like a very fitting story for the farm life food blogger in the midwest. The question that I want to lead off with, is it hard to have a food blog, to build a food blog when you’re living life in the midwest in North Dakota? What is that like?
Molly Yeh: It was actually easier for me. I used to live in New York and when I was living in New York I had a tiny little kitchen and I was always running around to try different restaurants, or go to concerts, or museum galleries and what not. There was always something to do. Actually now, living in the middle of nowhere, I feel like I have more time to focus on the blog. Today’s just sort of an anomaly. Not having internet is not good but that’s not usually the case for the most part.
Bjork Ostrom: It’s not an every day thing.
Molly Yeh: It’s not an every day thing. Normally it’s pretty good actually for living in the middle of nowhere. I like being here because I have no distractions and I work the best when I literally have zero distractions.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah it makes sense. I was reading a couple of other interviews that you had done online, and that was one of the things you’d mentioned. You said that when you had moved from New York to North Dakota that you were able to focus more which makes a lot of sense. I kind of want to get into your back story a little bit but do you feel like that move, that part of it was the story itself? In one of the interviews you had done that I was reading you had said that really you had noticed that your blog started to really develop once you had made that move. Do you think that tied back to your ability to focus or the story that you’re able to tell and how you’re able to tell it differently or maybe both?
Molly Yeh: I think it’s sort of just a perfect storm of a bunch of different factors. There was the fact that I had the time to focus and not a whole lot of other things to do here so I was able to put my energy into my photos and into the blog and gaining a following. Meanwhile people cheering about this weird story about this person moving from New York to Grand Forks North Dakota. People started asking me about that and using that as a hook to some of their stories. It all just sort of happened at once and it was definitely both of those factors that came into it.
Bjork Ostrom: Absolutely. One of the things that I know that you feel like is important that I’d be curious to know about and I’m going to pull up this quote here because I think it’s such an important concept. You had said that, "One of the important things with building a blog is staying true to your voice and being the most extreme version of yourself." What do you mean by that? What does that look like?
Molly Yeh: It seems like when you’re living your everyday or day to day life and you’re going through the motions of your morning routine or your special lunch or your work day, it seems so normal to you. Every day I wake up and we have chickens now, we’ve had them for a month, so I go and I check on my chickens and that’s just become a normal morning thing for me but I feel like it isn’t normal for somebody living in a city or for probably most people that I know. Focus on your little things that you love to do every day and tell people about them and share them with people because those are really interesting things even though to us that might be a normal thing.
Bjork Ostrom: I think that’s awesome. Lindsey talks about that sometimes. Lindsey, my wife, does Pinch of Yum and she talks about in writing or in story telling how you have to be 150 percent or 200 percent of yourself. I think what you’re saying is a great example of that where you find the things that you see as the normal every day things and you amplify them a little bit. You tell the story about things that you don’t think there’s a story behind which I think is really cool. I was just curious about that but before we get too far off on an tangent I want to back up a little bit. Let’s go to Monday August 10,2009, I think that’s the correct date. Do you know what that date represents?
Molly Yeh: Oh my God. Whoa Bjork.
Bjork Ostrom: We’re going way back. First blog post. Does that sound about right for when you published your first post?
Molly Yeh: Yeah I guess. Yeah you would know right?
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Tell me a little bit about that. What were you thinking back in 2009 when you first started? What was your hope with it? Was there any hope? What did you think that you were going to get out of it when you were first getting started?
Molly Yeh: I have journals, actual diary journals, that go back to when I was first learning how to write. When I was in elementary school and I was learning how to form a sentence I started my Hello Kitty journals from there. I never had a break. I would diary every day, every other day. Writing about the silliest things. I always did it and that was a passion of mine from the beginning to document and to write down my thoughts or dreams or crushes or whatever.
It was always something that I wanted to do to add photos to my blog and to add little images and stuff. I was really inspired by … do you know those Amelia’s Notebooks?
Bjork Ostrom: I don’t but I’ll check it out after. I’ll do some research.
Molly Yeh: Just fun little sectional diaries. Scrap booking and journal keeping was always a big thing that I liked to do. Then I think when I first discovered blogs I guess Rock Star Diaries was one of the first ones that I read. There were a few more that were just really inspiring to me and so I just thought, "Well this is fun. I can just put my diaries on the internet and include photos in them really easily." I just did it because it just felt really natural to me. It was an obvious solution to the fact that I wanted to add photos to my diaries and share them with other people and not really count on burying all my diaries at the end of my life and waiting for aliens to find them in the future. I felt like I could have a fun audience and of course for the first 2 years the audience was like my mom.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah that’s a common theme that we hear. It’s like when you’re first starting it’s relatives, friends and then random internet searchers.
Molly Yeh: I remember the first time I got a random person, stranger’s comments. One time I went to the Chipper Truck in New York and they commented and I freaked out. I remember sitting on my cousin’s couch in California. We were just sort of all hanging out on a family vacation and I had my computer with me. We had a free afternoon and I was just sitting there designing my first BlogSpot blog that had took me hours and I was getting frustrated because he wanted to go and hang out and go to the beach and do stuff. I was like, "Hold on, I have to get the font for my name because my name is Yeh." That’s how it happened and it really was just out of the fact that I loved to keep diaries and keep journals and I had no idea that it could become a job and that it would.
Bjork Ostrom: There’s obviously a big difference between … there’s similarities and I think there’s also differences between a diary and a blog. One in that a blog is very public. Have you run into any fear of publishing essentially your diary or diary-like writing online where anybody can access that? Was that ever something that you run into or is that something that you ever run into?
Molly Yeh: I think that there is such a thing as over-sharing and if I’m having a bad day I want to be sure that I’m still trying to see it in a positive light. Where the diary I might be complaining for pages and pages just because it’s a private thing and I know that I’m not going to be boring anyone. On the blog I really try to take a positive view. Almost like a "fake it til you make it" thing if I really am having a bad day then I’ll make a happy list or I’ll just talk about things that made me happy. I first do it in a way that it feels like I’m censoring myself or what not but at the same time I don’t want to bore people with my every day complaining.
Bjork Ostrom: One thing I think you do really well Molly is you share helpful content. Recipes, things like that and then you also share personal things. You share photos of the farm, you share photos of you visiting the little chicks and that’s not an easy balance to hold between those two where you’re sharing either just recipes that’s one extreme or just personal stuff. How do you find the balance between those and sharing your genuine self and being authentic but also continuing to share recipes being that your blog is primarily a food blog?
Molly Yeh: It is hard because there is a huge discrepancy between the traffic that the recipe posts get and the personal tractor adventure post gets. The personal posts get like, "Oh it’s a scratch into the traffic." I do those for me because I just think that they’re really important because I want to keep track of moments that I want to remember in my life and … It just happened in the beginning where the blog, I always wanted it to be a personal diary and whatever my life decided to be about that’s what I would focus on in the blog. For example, right now I’m really into food. I have been for the past few years, so that’s why the blog turned into a food blog. There’s always been that personal element that comes from my desire to keep a diary and to keep track of these moments. The food and the recipes have really become just my medium for being creative and just what I love to do. I think of my blog as a personal diary first but I’m sharing this thing that I love to do which is food.
Bjork Ostrom: It’s interesting because thousand intention decision in naming your blog My Name is Yeh. Real quick I’m curious to hear what are the different ways that you’ve heard people pronounce that? I’m sure it’s been …
Molly Yeh: Yeah, Yu, Ya.
Bjork Ostrom: But My Name is Yeh that’s right, right?
Molly Yeh: Yeah, yeah.
Bjork Ostrom: You’re intentional about naming that because you knew that you wanted to leave it open to any type of evolution that might happen for you in your interests or where you like to focus. Do you see that down the line being something that changes or do you think that you’ll be sticking with food for a while?
Molly Yeh: That’s a really good question. I’ve gone through so many phases of really intense sessions. I’m usually very into figure skating and then in high school I was really into music and I ended up going to music school. I still love music. During music school I got into food. I love food. I don’t see myself ever not liking food but it would be fun to always keep that option open to get into other passions. Sometimes I think about fashion but I’m super bad at fashion so I don’t think it would be fun.
Bjork Ostrom: One thing that I think is interesting with that and I want to go back and talk about your story a little bit within this context is that I think that your personality is one just coming from observing from the outside that even if you don’t have any experience with something or maybe you’re not very good at it, that you can go back and you can really invest into that. Both time, energy and your focus and a great example, like you had said, was that you had studied percussion and that was at Julliard School for Performing Arts in New York City which is an incredible music school. Which means, its not easy to get in to so, obviously you were very talented in that aspect.
Then you start a food blog and your food blog recently has won, I’m going to list these and let me know if I’m a little bit off with this. Winner of Saveur blog of the year 2015, winner of Saveur reader’s choice for best baking and dessert blog 2015, Yahoo food blogger of the year in 2014. There’s also another one by Homes and Garden is that right? That was best blog of the year?
Molly Yeh: You’re embarrassing more than my mom, Bjork.
Bjork Ostrom: I think it’s an important point to make and I want people to know. Obviously you have a history of doing things well and I’m really interested in anybody that does things well to know how they do those things well. It’s not just food, there’s other things as well. Do you feel like there are habits that you’ve developed or routines that allow you to do those things really well and someday that might be doing fashion? Let’s say this, if you were to do fashion and get into that knowing that you don’t know anything, how would you approach that?
Molly Yeh: I would probably just try to immerse myself in it in every way. Read books on it, read magazines, follow blogs, talk to people about it. I think people is such an important resource that with so many resources on the internet now it’s kind of easy to forget how valuable talking to a human is. So much of what I’ve learned with blogs, with photography, all that stuff, even though it’s really an internet based job so much of what I’ve learned has been from just sitting down with people or working with people on photo shoots or taking people out to lunch and asking them questions and stuff. Really paying attention to all sorts of resources and practicing a lot. Going back to the whole idea of being on a farm and not having any distractions, I’m really good at locking myself in a room and just practicing for hours and hours a day whether it’s practicing the xylophone and triangle or practicing photography. I also have a husband that has 16 or 18 hour work days sometimes so I have literally no distractions.
Bjork Ostrom: He’s out farming and you can be practicing the xylophone or learning photography. Both, if it’s a long day.
Molly Yeh: Exactly, yeah.
Bjork Ostrom: This was maybe a month or so ago but we were at a conference in New Orleans. It was called The sustainable seafood blog conference. Mixed conference but it was really fun and it was great to meet you there. That’s where I had the idea. I said, "Man I have to have Molly on the podcast just because she’s so good at what she does." I know that you have a lot of insight. One of the things as we were talking was you told the story actually of meeting somebody in person. When you sat down with them, it was a photographer. Can you tell that story and what you got away from that? I think it’s a great example of you insisting on meeting someone in person and learning from them and also I think what they said was such a great … It’s maybe not like a life hack or a secret tip but it’s so important for people to hear.
Molly Yeh: This was the photographer Toby Glanville who shot the book Rose Bakery’s Breakfast Lunch and Tea which was the cookbook that probably it contained the food photography that made me fall in love with food photography. His photos just feel very real and they’re very minimalisticly styled and they’re gorgeous and I was just so drawn to them. This was years ago before I had really gotten into food photography but I saw these and something just clicked in my mind. One summer during college I did the whole book a plane ticket to Europe thing and go with a backpack all by myself and stuff and I emailed him because he lives in London. I tracked him down and I offered to assist him on any photo shoots he had coming up. I offered to do anything just to be in the same room with him and he didn’t have any work coming up and he said, "Let’s just go out to lunch or something."
We walked down Portobello Road and we sat and had lentil soup from a little street side cart. I got my camera and I was taking my pictures of the soup and then we ate the soup and once we were finished I have like this bowl with all of this lentil soup residue and really crusty bread crumbs everywhere and he said, "Okay now take your picture." I took it and he was like, "That’s the interesting picture." I was like, "Oh my gosh. I want you to tell me more secrets." I just laid it all on the table. I told him what I was working on and how he was my favorite food photographer and how I learned so much from him. I said, "What are all your secrets?" He said, "The secret is there are not secrets. You just have to do it." And I’ve just carried that with me. Oh my gosh, I just really have to put hours and hours and hours and hours of work into this and slowly it will come. I have tried to apply that. It was just wonderful to hear that from him.
Bjork Ostrom: I think what I loved about that story is I know the purpose of the trip to Europe was and to meet him but it’s this idea of this long journey to meet this incredible photographer and you get to the point where you say, "And now what?" And he says, " Practice and hard work and diligence and sticking with it." I feel like it’s such an important lesson for people to learn. I refer to this Ira Glass quote a lot and people should look it up. I’m not going to even attempt to quote it but to paraphrase of it is there’s always this phase when you’re starting any type of art where for the first period there’s tension because you have good taste and you know what is good work but you’re not able to produce it yet. I think that’s so common for people in any art but especially photography. When you’re just getting started there’s a tension because you know what good photography is but are not able to necessarily reproduce that. It just takes time and energy and sticktoitness. What you’ve done …
Molly Yeh: You’ve been …
Bjork Ostrom: Sorry go ahead.
Molly Yeh: I was just going to say not even in the beginning. As you’re on your journey to learning a skill, the rate at which your expectations grow is never going to be the same at which your skills grow.
Bjork Ostrom: What do you mean by that?
Molly Yeh: Sometimes it might be … If you have a line growing up and you might be improving at one rate so you’re expectations might sometimes stray from the rate at which you’re improving. That is so frustrating.
Bjork Ostrom: On the X axis you have your rate of improvement and it’s maybe linear but going up a little bit more than that and then you have expectation. Am I envisioning this right? Where expectation grows quicker and higher than skill sometimes?
Molly Yeh: Yeah, yeah and sometimes those two rates might switch. You might have a really great day then because you feel like you’re improving more than you would have and you blow your expectations. That’s always fun. The opposite is always necessary.
Bjork Ostrom: Absolutely. The analogy I use a lot is in high school I finished Spanish 1 and I felt pretty secure in my Spanish. Like, "I can speak Spanish." It’s not until you get into Spanish 2,3,4 when you get really deep in that you start to realize, "I have no idea." Better yet you go to Spain and then you’re like, "I have no idea how to speak Spanish."
Molly Yeh: Right. You’ve got to learn what you don’t know.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah exactly. Let’s talk about photography a little bit because I’d be interested to hear your process with that. Can you take us through a typical shoot for you? What does that look like for you in terms of start to finish?
Molly Yeh: I always make sure that I have the recipe down so I do a ton of recipe testing before I even think about photographing it.
Bjork Ostrom: How often would you let’s say a typical recipe. What would your average number of times be for making it?
Molly Yeh: Oh gosh. It depends on how complicated it is. Sometimes it’s something I’ve made a dozen times. Other times if it’s like a simple parfait or sundae or something like that then maybe 2, 3 … I try to test things at least twice even if I feel like I have nailed it the first time. I want to do it again just to find what could go wrong and stuff.
Bjork Ostrom: So you have the recipe down.
Molly Yeh: I have the recipe down and then I get an idea of what I want the styling to be, go into my little prop shelves and pick out a few colors of plates that I think would look good on this and some linens and backgrounds. I have a few backgrounds that I work with.
Bjork Ostrom: When you’re making those decisions, are those dependent on the style of your blog or the style of your recipe? Does that make sense?
Molly Yeh: I have a style that I just feel comfortable with that has become the style of the blog but I’m always trying to push that and trying to introduce more elements and new styles.
Bjork Ostrom: How would you describe the style?
Molly Yeh: I guess the style pretty mineralistically. I don’t use a whole lot of props. I’m trying to incorporate more props just because they’re fun and I love looking at pictures that have a lot of props.
Bjork Ostrom: Would you say that’s how you’re trying to push yourself to introduce more items into the photo?
Molly Yeh: Sure, yeah. Absolutely. The whiting that I love working with the best is whenever it gets cloudy here and stormy I love it. I love having the dark moodiness and the naturally diffused light. If it’s not though, if it’s sunny and I absolutely have to get a shoot done then I have a diffuser that I put over the window.
Bjork Ostrom: Is that just a sheet or something that you … Is it a specific diffuser that you’ve purchased?
Molly Yeh: It’s a specific diffuser I purchased one of those round things. I don’t know if…
Bjork Ostrom: I know what you’re talking about though. It’s almost like a pop out diffuser where it folds up really nice.
Molly Yeh: Yeah it pops out.
Bjork Ostrom: If you searched on B&H photo or something people would be able to figure out what that is. It’s a diffuser and it just kind of collapses in. So if it’s sunny you use a diffuser?
Molly Yeh: Yeah, yeah. Then I’ll prepare the food, get the styling for the food going. If there are herbs I might set up a shot without the fresh herbs and then get my lighting and my settings all correct and then I’ll add the herbs.
Bjork Ostrom: You do that just so they preserve their freshness?
Molly Yeh: Yeah, yeah. Depending on what type of dish it is there’s tons of little tricks that I’ve picked up or that I’m focusing out about how to make the food look most appealing.
Bjork Ostrom: Do you have any favorites off the top of your head that you can think of?
Molly Yeh: It’s just so simple to brush pasta with olive oil just so that they don’t look dried out or anything. Keeping pasta al dente, the herb thing is a big one.
Bjork Ostrom: How do you photograph frozen food. Like if you had ice cream, would you just do it quickly?
Molly Yeh: Yeah do it quickly. I would scoop the scoops of ice cream on to a metal cookie sheet or something and then refreeze them so that I have a few ice cream scoops ready to go. Then I’ll get my settings all set up with a crumpled up piece of paper towel or something so that I’m not having to fill glass with ice to get them out.
Bjork Ostrom: How interesting. Sure.
Molly Yeh: If it’s a salad I’ll put an apple or an upside down little bowl in the bottom of the big salad bowl so that it looks nice and rounded. This isn’t really a styling trick but I once used a succulent instead of a jalapeno because I ran out of jalapenos last minute.
Bjork Ostrom: Oh funny. Improvise right? You have to.
Molly Yeh: Always got to improvise. Just always really pay attention to cleaning up the edges of plates and making sure that things don’t look sloppy without meaning to be. If you’re wanting to do a sprinkling of black pepper or powdered sugar or something, not something that say should look a little rustic if you’re going for that but you don’t want a sloppy sauce just hanging out there making things look dirty. Paying attention and then cleaning things up where they should be.
Bjork Ostrom: Great and for the actual shoot, how long does that usually take you?
Molly Yeh: Good question. It depends on if I’m doing process shots and finished shots. If I’m just doing a finished shot a few hours, not even. It depends on how detailed I want to get and how many different shots I want to get. If it’s a cake I could get carried away for a good few hours. I’ve been trying to keep myself on track a little bit better.
Bjork Ostrom: Sure. If you enjoy that, if you’re somebody that’s naturally artistic and like that process and I know a lot of people do I imagine it’s easy to get carried away with it and to shoot all day which is great because it’s fun but it’s all that other stuff that has to get done as well. I want to get through the shoot and then I have some questions related to that that I would like to ask. So you’ll do the shoot and then you take those, you import the in photoshop or lightroom or neither?
Molly Yeh: Lightroom.
Bjork Ostrom: You do all of your post-processing in Lightroom?
Molly Yeh: Yes.
Bjork Ostrom: You have editing tools that you like especially for Lightroom or do you all native …
Molly Yeh: I use the VSCO software. I most of the time stay in their filmpack number 5 and then I use those filters but then I have some little adjustments that I usually make like I usually take out all the grain and then add some sharpness. The whites, usually adjust some white balancing things. Then certain colors I find that I’m always having to adjust, like orange. I hate orange. I always find myself taking that down a little bit and fading that.
Bjork Ostrom: Just replacing that with green everywhere.
Molly Yeh: I wish yeah. Sometimes I’ll add a little bit of a binyette or adjust the exposure. I start with the VSCO.
Bjork Ostrom: Okay. Great. That’s really helpful. VSCO is such a weird word. It’s V-S-C-O. I think it stands for Visual Supply Company. Does that sound right?
Molly Yeh: Yes. Yeah.
Bjork Ostrom: So after that, I’m kind of walking through the post process here is what I’m getting at. Then you’ll take those photos, obviously you pick out the ones that you like and then you write your post. I’m curious, do you write your content ahead of time and schedule it? Do you try and do that live? How far ahead do you work in terms of your cue with posts? I’m curious to know what that looks like for you.
Molly Yeh: Usually it’s the day before then I’ll schedule it to go live the next morning. Sometimes if it’s a sponsored post a lot of times companies will want to see the post before it goes live so I’ll have to do that a week or two in advance. Other times I’ll just write it and post it immediately just because it’s fun. I love …
Bjork Ostrom: There’s something about the live element where it feels like this is fresh and it’s what you’re thinking about right now and it’s not a month old. Where it’s your scheduling …
Molly Yeh: Yeah, it’s weird to post … to write things that will be posted a month in advance. I usually try to do it just like the day before or the day of.
Bjork Ostrom: Okay great. We walked through the post process there and you talked about the photography element. Would you say the photography is the most enjoyable part for you or would it be the recipe development? What is the part that you really enjoy?
Molly Yeh: All of it.
Bjork Ostrom: All of the above? Writing too?
Molly Yeh: Yeah I love all of it. Writing is probably the most challenging part for me.
Bjork Ostrom: Why do you think that is?
Molly Yeh: I don’t know. Sometimes I feel like I run out of things to write about and I need to go out and actually leave the house and get inspired or something. I love the recipe development. I feel I got to a point where I have just incorporated that into my every day life so every breakfast, lunch, dinner could be just a recipe that I am developing for the blog at some point. Which is really fun. The photography I love. The photography is the most stressful part just because you are dealing with time-sensitive foods and you never know what the weather is going to be and if it will be cloudy or not. On a good day it’s so much fun and it’s not stressful at all. It can be stressful leading up to it. I really love it all.
Bjork Ostrom: There’s the photography, the writing, the recipe development, then there’s also the reality that there’s this business side of it. It’s your job as well. There’s emails and social media and there’s brand relationships and there’s podcast interviews. I was looking through some of the things you’ve done. There’s like New York Times videos where they came out and did this awesome video of you making Lefse which is so fun to see. There’s this internal artistic process, writing, photography, recipe development. Then there’s also maybe you’d say this is kind of the left brain stuff where there’s the business side of it. What is that like for you in your day to day in terms of time spent? Do you spend all of your time doing the artistic side and have other people help with the other stuff? Do you balance those in between? What does that look like for you?
Molly Yeh: It’s a lot of time spent with emails and I do have an assistant that helps out with that and with social media.
Bjork Ostrom: What does she do?
Molly Yeh: She helps with things like taste blogging and Foodgawker and Pinterest. Then she’ll also correspond with clients just to get some initial information about a potential project and then at a point then I’ll take over and once it turns into more of a tangible project and something that it looks like I’ll be doing, then I’ll take over from there. Then do negotiations and work out a contract and that’s the less fun part but it’s a means to be able to do the artistic stuff.
Bjork Ostrom: You need time for it and that’s one thing that we’re starting to learn is you have to have margins in your day in order to really spend time, whether it’s recipe development, photography, creating a video, if you’re trying to compact that into a tiny amount of time, the restraint is unnecessary and it also creates a product that’s not great. So I think that it’s smart that you do that. I’m curious to know just some logistical questions about that. Selfishly but I also think it’d be beneficial for other people to hear. Do you handle all the emails yourself and then forward them to your assistant or do you give her a login access to your account and she goes in and handles those or what does that look like?
Molly Yeh: At this point, I’m getting all the emails myself and then forwarding them to her. Gosh, this whole setting up the businessy thing is not my forte. In the future I have all these grand plans to have separate email access points and, I don’t know, just have a more swift system and I don’t even know what that looks like.
Bjork Ostrom: We feel like we’re trying to figure it out. I think it’s kind of a universal thing. I think it’s awesome that you’re doing it because a lot of people shoulder all of that and we’re in the process of trying to figure that out as well. How did you find that person?
Molly Yeh: It’s hard. Very hard. How did I find my assistant?
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.
Molly Yeh: I did the whole formal job search process and I did a job posting online but the … I actually have two assistants. I have an editorial assistant. She helps with emails and social media and stuff. I had met her through a local TV appearance that I did. She was interning there and she was just so awesome so I’ve known her before. I also have a new kitchen assistant who actually hasn’t started yet. I had known about her just because it’s such a small town. Food people know about other food people. So we ended up a formal search and had them come in for interviews and all that fun stuff.
Bjork Ostrom: Cool. Well good for you for setting that up. I think it’s really important and allows you to do good work which you continue to do which is great. One of the things that is a reality and we’ve heard it from other people and know it to be true ourselves, as you grow a blog and it becomes popular which you’ve done, you start to have more and more people follow you which is awesome because you get more engagement and more traffic and that’s exciting.
You can become a business but that also means that tiny little sliver that exists in any pie graph of people that are visiting your blog which is like trolls and not nice people. But when you are first starting out maybe you have a couple thousand people coming and you might not have that but with anything whether its being an athlete, a musician, a blogger, a podcaster, anything like that, you start to build your blog and therefore have these potential interactions with the darker side of the internet. Wondering if you have any recommendations if you run into that, do you intentionally avoid those situations and I want to know your mental game with that.
Molly Yeh: You imagine their faces and butts.
Bjork Ostrom: We can lead off the podcast just with that line and then we’ll go into that so …
Molly Yeh: My heart is racing just thinking about it. It’s awful. People are mean beings but you can’t let them get you down. They’re always going to be there. Jessica from how sweet eats, she once said this amazing thing to me. She said, "Now if someone ever says something bad about you, that says more about them than it does about you." I just try to carry that with me and … You can’t let them hold you back. That would be just so silly. It happens and honestly though there has been some times where someone will say something really, really mean but it will actually have some content to it. Like they actually gave me objective feedback even though it was a really mean way. Once I’ve had my drink, once I’ve complained to my husband, once I’ve gotten over it then I’ll go back and think like, "Okay, okay I can learn something from this. I can improve from this. I can move forward. That person was mean and screw them but there is something to be learned. Sometimes they’re bad but other times it’s just straight up awful.
Bjork Ostrom: I think it’s important the reason that I like to bring that up is one of the things that helps us deal with it, or me, is just knowing that it’s a universal thing. Sometimes it can seem like when we remember those things for those that are listening or whoever it is out there, it’s a personal attack and it is and always is and it hurts but also there’s this weird reality of it’s almost kind of like a math game. The more your site grows, the more that you will potentially run into that just purely due to exposure and things like that. I think it’s important for people to know it exists and that it will potentially be there and also to not let that keep people back from doing or hold people back from doing creative things and developing their site. I think that’s great and if nothing else just the butt face is really important.
August 10, 2009 to today 2015 there’s a lot of stuff that goes in between those almost 6 years now. What do you think were the most important things for you, Molly that you’ve learned from taking your site from that site that you were putting together on BlogSpot or on Blogger when you were first getting started and posting some restaurant pictures to a site that’s been named really one of the best food blogs that there is. That’s a big span from taking that from start to end. What do you think that you’ve done in order to help make that possible?
Molly Yeh: It just takes a lot of time and a lot of hard work. One thing that’s been really helpful both for my enjoyment in the process and also in growing the blog was just becoming a part of a community. Once I came out of my shell and started talking to other bloggers on the internet and commenting on their blogs, talking about certain things like haters on the internet or ways to deal with sponsored content, or all sorts these weird issues that are so … A lot of them are super unique to this growing and evolving industry of blogging. I think feeling like I could be a part of this community and joining this community and really valuing the human interaction, that was really big for me.
Bjork Ostrom: How do you do that? When Lindsay and I were first starting, we would look at people and they’d have blogger get-togethers and we’d be like, "What? How does that happen? How do these people connect?" We’ve been doing it long enough now where not by no means everybody but some people will say, "Oh I recognize you guys" or maybe "I’ve heard about from bloggerpro" or something like that where we have a little bit of a back story but how do you do that when you’re first getting started? You started the blog a year or maybe two years ago. How do you connect with people?
Molly Yeh: I think just interacting, commenting on blogs, interacting on Twitter and Instagram and Facebook, and providing meaningful interaction. Also having that space on your blog so that when you interact with more bloggers they can go back to your site and start interacting with you and then maybe emailing them, sending them personal email, just talking about blogging or talking about a cool thing that they saw on the site or something like that. Just growing it organically and really interacting on social media has been a huge thing.
Bjork Ostrom: That’s one of the things I think that people often forget is that it’s not just a place like broadcast information but there’s really value in social media and connecting with people. Genuinely having conversations.
Molly Yeh: It’s a two-way road for sure.
Bjork Ostrom: One of the things that is such a cliché phrase but it’s been really good for me is "If you want to have a friend, you need to be a friend." I think sometimes it’s so easy to forget when you’re trying to connect or network and you forget that it’s not just about how can I connect with this person, it’s how can I help this person a lot of times. Like any other friendship you don’t really establish that trust and that connection until you’ve had those genuine interactions and you feel like, "Oh this person is not only a great person but they have my best interests in mind." Which is easier said than done and a lot of times takes a lot of time, like all of this stuff. It’s not like you can expect to send an email and then be having a fun dinner out with the person one week later. It takes time to develop those.
Molly Yeh: Yeah and it’s cool because one thing about blogging is that networking is also just really great exchanging of information. Networking is you’re reading recipes while you’re doing it and you’re reading about other people’s lives and looking at great food photos. All of that can be wrapped up into one awesome experience of not just networking as a job but you’re also reading blogs and taking in blogs and making your own blogs. It’s all really fun.
Bjork Ostrom: The connections would be one piece, to go back to that original question. Network maybe not as the broad category but just friendships, connections within the industry, sharing of information. What are some other things that you can look back on and say, "This is really important and helped me to build my site"?
Molly Yeh: I guess also doing work outside of my site has really helped. Contributing to sites like Food52 and to other publications like they had a little column for The Jewish Daily Forward and The Kitchen, and Betty Crocker, and doing recipe development for various other food companies. That kept me busy and kept me working on my recipes and photos and was just another outlet and was also a good challenge to be writing for those audiences versus my typical blog audience. Having all those other connections as well was really important and also helps …
Bjork Ostrom: Did you reach out to those people or did they reach out to you?
Molly Yeh: They reached out to me. A lot of the opportunities came because of Pinterest actually. Once I started pinning … Once I started improving my photos and then once I started being more active on Pinterest, that’s when my traffic grew and that’s when I started getting opportunities to write for other sites and then from writing for those sites and having my name with that kind of blogs then my traffic grew even more. It’s weird how much Pinterest has helped but it’s because of the photos.
Bjork Ostrom: The networking connecting, doing the guest contribution stuff, which I think is so smart not only because you said creatively you’re able to flex your writing muscle in ways that you normally wouldn’t but also the reality of having a link back to your site I think is really important. Is there anything else you’d say that would be really important in terms of the growth there for your blog?
Molly Yeh: In the end just staying true to the food that I like to make and to what I want to say and not really getting away from my voice or on my style and trying to build that up and … I don’t know.
Bjork Ostrom: No that’s great. That’s great. I just wanted to dig into that a little bit because I’d be interested to hear. I have a few more questions about the story of your blog and then I want to ask you some specific questions as we’re getting to the end here. If you had to have a conversation with yourself, let’s say 5 or 6 years ago, what are a few things that you’d say to yourself, "Don’t do this." Would there be anything that you would say as you’re entering into this space, "Be sure not to do this."
Molly Yeh: I think with anything though it can be those days where you get really down on yourself. You’re comparing yourself to others and it can almost feel like a burden to keep it going. Just not compare myself to others and to trust myself and know that I’m on my task and I have the time to work on this and build it up and put the energy into improving my blog and not be so rushed. I always have this tendency to feel like I should be going a little bit faster than I am but there’s no rush. As long as I feel like I’m putting the work into it and improving steadily then that’s okay.
Bjork Ostrom: That’s awesome. One of the things we talk about a lot is this concept of one percent infinity and the idea being that if you stick with it for a long time, infinity right? Which isn’t technically possible but if you stick with it for a long time, and along the way you improve a little bit each day, then your chances of success, whatever success might be, are really high because there’s that combination of a little bit better times a lot of time is huge. With anything online it feels like, "Ah we already missed the boat on everything." Right? Like, "Pinterest, I should have been there 5 years ago. Now Youtube." You can just end up running around but if you get a little bit better each day over a long period of time, and don’t rush yourself to know that it’s a long term game I think that’s awesome. Also with the comparison stuff, I think it’s so important for people to hear that. Once again that’s a universal thing. You can win Blog of the Year and still have those questions and doubts and it’s a universal thing so I appreciate you sharing that.
One thing that you would say to yourself, "Be sure to do this." If you’re having that conversation with yourself. Can you think of what that would be?
Molly Yeh: I think I would have tried to get into good blog community sooner than I did. For the longest time I had that old fashioned idea in my head like, "Don’t talk to strangers on the internet." Like not having your full name as part of your AOL screen name.
Bjork Ostrom: I remember registering [email protected] and my parent’s being like, "Are you sure you want to do that?"
Molly Yeh: Yeah there was so much fear back then.
Bjork Ostrom: How would people go about doing that? If somebody isn’t part of those communities, what’s the first step they should take?
Molly Yeh: Follow blogs that you love and not just in a blog reader or what not but follow them on social media because I think so much of having a blog in an online presence is interacting in these different little rooms of the internet. Some of my favorite content is strictly on Twitter and Instagram and stuff. I think just finding your favorite bloggers on those sites as well and interacting with them and then … If the time is right and if you feel like you could connect on a certain thing then send them an email or a personal message or whatnot.
Bjork Ostrom: For sure. That’s awesome. We’re getting to the end here, Molly, and I want to make sure that we have just a little bit of time here to talk about just the different places that people can find you online. Like we talked about it’s just so important to be following along with people that doing good work and you’re doing really, really incredible work so we’re super thankful that you come on and talked with us a little bit. Where can people find you and follow along with what you’re doing?
Molly Yeh: My blog is My name is Yeh and then from there I have links to my Twitter and Instagram and Facebook and Pinterest. Often on Twitter and stuff I’ll link out to other articles that I’ve done for other sites. I also like sharing some of my favorite blogs and favorite articles that I love.
Bjork Ostrom: Do you have a favorite social media platform?
Molly Yeh: I love Twitter. I follow the most hilarious people on Twitter. I think people that people could just text so weird and bizarre there so …
Bjork Ostrom: If people want to figure that out they can go and look at your following list and see those people that you’re following.
Molly Yeh: Look who I follow because I follow some bizarre awesome people.
Bjork Ostrom: Okay cool. We’ll be sure to put all of this stuff that we talked about today in the show notes on the blog post so if for those that are listening if they want to come on and check those out we can do that. Molly, really, really appreciate your time today and hope that everybody that’s listening is sure to follow along with what you’re doing, check out your blog, and congratulations on everything that’s come your way in terms of awards and success and stuff. It’s really, really well-deserved and exciting. Congrats.
Molly Yeh: Thank you so much.
Bjork Ostrom: Thanks for coming on Molly. Appreciate it.
Molly Yeh: Bye.
Bjork Ostrom: Bye. That’s a wrap for episode number 13. Lucky number 13 actually one of my favorite numbers I’ll have you know. Fun fact. So thanks for checking that out and for your time today. I hope that you’re able to take some things away from that and a huge thank you to Molly Yeh. Be sure to check out her site, mynameisyeh.com. Before we go I have a quick request. There has been 41 kind and generous souls at the time that we recorded this that have gone on and left a rating for the food blogger pro podcast.
If you’re able to go in and leave a quick review, we would super appreciate it. That helps us to put fuel in the fire and keep the podcast going and also get discovered. So not only Food Blogger Pro can be discovered but also the people that we interview can get the proper exposure that they deserve. We have an awesome lineup of other interviews coming down the line, cued up. I’m excited for next week’s and the weeks after that. So stay tuned. You can subscribe in iTunes or your podcast aggregator of choice. Until next time this is Bjork Ostrom signing off for Food Blogger Pro. Thanks guys.