454: Catherine Zhang on Being a Netflix Star and the Power of Social Media

Listen to this episode of The Food Blogger Pro Podcast using the player above or check it out on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or Spotify.

A blue photograph of someone turning on Netflix with a remote and the title of this week's Food Blogger Pro Podcast episode, 'Catherine Zhang on Being a Netflix Star and the Power of Social Media.'

This episode is sponsored by Clariti and Raptive.

Welcome to episode 454 of The Food Blogger Pro Podcast! This week on the podcast, Bjork interviews Catherine Zhang.

Last week on the podcast, Bjork chatted with Vincent DelGiudice. To go back and listen to that episode, click here.

Catherine Zhang on Being a Netflix Star and the Power of Social Media

Catherine Zhang has quite a resume: she was on (and won) Netflix’s Zumbo’s Just Desserts season 2, runs two food blogs, has over 1 million followers between Instagram and TikTok, and owns Kurepu Crepes — a dessert shop with locations in Perth and Sydney. She also happens to have a Bachelor of Science majoring in Food and Nutrition Science, and spent two years working in pastry kitchens.

Safe to say, she has had tremendous success as a creator over the last few years. In this podcast interview, Bjork and Catherine chat about her professional journey, how she balances her businesses, and the power of social media.

It is a really fun and inspiring interview — Catherine is so intentional about everything she does for her businesses and will definitely leave you with a lot to think about.

A photograph of Baked Mochi Donuts with a quote from Catherine Zhang's episode of The Food Blogger Pro Podcast that reads, "It's crazy how much a viral video can do for your blog."

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • More about Catherine’s professional journey (including opening two brick-and-mortar dessert shops, being on a Netflix show, and growing her Instagram following to 500,000+ followers).
  • How she first started creating content online.
  • How she applied for (and won!) the Netflix baking show, and how it impacted her online presence.
  • How she balances her blog, social media accounts, and dessert shops (Kurepu Crepes).
  • How she manages and maintains her blog (which gets 350,000+ monthly pageviews).
  • Why she decided to start a second food blog (Dimsimlim) with her business partner (and how they qualified for Raptive within one week).
  • How she uses social media, trends, and viral videos to drive blog traffic.
  • What she’s learned about the process of building a team and running a brick-and-mortar business.


Thank you to our sponsors!

This episode is sponsored by Clariti and Raptive.

the Clariti logo

Thanks to Clariti for sponsoring this episode!

Sign up for Clariti today to easily organize your blog content for maximum growth and receive access to their limited-time $45 Forever pricing, 50% off your first month, optimization ideas for your site content, and more!

Raptive Logo

Thanks to Raptive for sponsoring this episode!

Become a Raptive creator today to start generating ad revenue on your blog and get access to industry-leading resources on HR and recruiting, SEO, email marketing, ad layout testing, and more. You can also get access to access a FREE email series to help you increase your traffic if you’re not yet at the minimum 100k pageviews to apply to Raptive.

Interested in working with us too? Learn more about our sponsorship opportunities and how to get started here.

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

A blue graphic with the Food Blogger Pro logo that reads 'Join the Community!'

Transcript (click to expand):

Bjork Ostrom: This episode is sponsored by Clariti. Wouldn’t it be awesome if you could figure out how you can optimize the existing posts on your blog without needing to comb through each and every post one by one? With Clariti, you can discover optimization opportunities with just a few clicks. Thanks to Clariti’s robust filtering options, you can figure out which posts have broken links, missing alt text, broken images, no internal links, and other insights. So you can confidently take action to make your blog posts even better. We know that food blogging is a competitive industry. So anything you can do to level up your content can really give you an edge. By fixing content issues, and filling content gaps, you’re making your good content even better, and that’s why we created Clariti. It’s a way for bloggers and website owners to feel confident in the quality of their content. Listeners to the Food Blogger Pro Podcast get 50% off of their first month of Clariti after signing up. To sign up, simply go to clariti.com/food. That’s Clariti C-L-A-R-I-T-I.com/food. Thanks again to Clariti for sponsoring this episode.

Emily Walker: Hey there. This is Emily from the Food Blogger Pro team, and you’re listening to the Food Blogger Pro podcast. This week on the podcast, Bjork is interviewing Catherine Zhang. It is hard to believe everything that Catherine has accomplished in the last few years, but I’ll give you just a sample. She has a Bachelor of Science in Food and Nutrition Science, and has spent two years working in pastry kitchens, and learning more about recipe development. She was also on, and happened to win Netflix’s Zumbo’s Just Desserts: Season Two. She runs two food blogs, has over 1 million followers between her Instagram and TikTok accounts, and owns Kurepu Crepes, which is a dessert shop that now has two locations, one in Perth, and one in Sydney.

Needless to say, she’s been super busy. In this interview, Catherine shares more about how she balances everything, how she manages, and maintains her blog, which currently gets over 350,000 monthly page views, and how she uses social media trends, and viral videos to drive traffic back to her blog, and promote her dessert shops. She’s really intentional about everything she does with her businesses, and it’s a really inspiring and fun interview. I know everyone will get a ton out of it. So I’m going to let Bjork take it away.

Bjork Ostrom: Catherine, welcome to the podcast.

Catherine Zhang: Hello. Thank you for having me.

Emily Walker: Thanks for getting up early. It’s middle of the day for me, one o’clock. It’s perfect timing. It’s 5:00 AM for you, but my guess is based on the amount of things that you’re doing, and the amount of ground that you’ve covered in a short amount of time, that maybe getting up early isn’t abnormal for you. Are you naturally an early riser?

Catherine Zhang: I’d say I am, but 5:00 AM is definitely a little bit too early.

Bjork Ostrom: Okay. Totally. But you have done so much, and you’ve fit a lot of different cool, unique, inspiring things into a short amount of time, because you’re also young. You’ve built up hundreds of thousands of followers. We’re going to talk about that. You’ve had success launching multiple sites, and you’ve been on a Netflix series, and you also have two retail brick and mortar food stores. Is there anything else you’d add to that list? Did I cover it pretty well?

Catherine Zhang: No. That’s pretty much it. I think so. Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. And let’s roll it back. So we don’t have to go back too far, but when did you start knowing that this was the direction that you wanted to go, that you wanted to build businesses, that you wanted to create content online, and walk us through that process.

Catherine Zhang: I think it all happened in a little bit of a timeline. I didn’t really know exactly what I wanted from the start. I think when I was studying in uni, I was very much still in the food space, but I wanted to become a dietitian nutritionist, but it wasn’t when I went to the TV show. So I was on Zumbo’s Just Desserts: Season Two on Netflix. After that, that switched my brain a little bit. I entered the world of TV, social media, and all of that, and I realized that there was something beyond just working in the kitchen, or working where I wanted to work.

Bjork Ostrom: Mm-hmm.

Catherine Zhang: So at the time, I was working in the kitchen, and then on the side, I started building my social media presence, because I got that little bit of a boost from being on the TV show, and that led me into the world of blogging, because once I had that social media presence, I discovered that you could post your recipes online, and share them with your followers. And then from there, I naturally realized that there was something called a blog, and through that, you could make money as well.

I think that was the biggest thing, and I just kept building it on the side. It was just a little passion project that I kept uploading, and building, and same with content creation as well. It was while I was working in the restaurant, make a couple of videos on the side, I never really realized I could become so big until I had built it for about maybe two years, and it was to the point where the workload was so big that I couldn’t handle it while I was doing my full-time job as well. So that’s when I quit full-time work, and became a content creator/blogger.

Bjork Ostrom: Then that was two years ago, or?

Catherine Zhang: Yeah. That was about two years ago. So I’ve been building the blog for I think almost four now.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. In uni, you were in university. That was four or five years ago. Is that right?

Catherine Zhang: Yeah, around that day.

Bjork Ostrom: And you were studying nutrition, knew that you wanted to go into the world of food, and then actually did go into the world of food through working at a restaurant. Is that right, or?

Catherine Zhang: Yeah. That’s correct.

Bjork Ostrom: What did that look like post college for you?

Catherine Zhang: Yeah. Well during the time I was working there already as a waitress, as a side job to make a little bit of money, and then after I was on the TV show, I wanted to get into the space of working as a pastry chef, because that was my dream at the time. And that restaurant gave me the opportunity to work there, make doing their desserts, doing special items, and stuff. And I worked there for about two years actually, doing their desserts, helping them, and then also doing a little bit of waitressing on the side as well.

Bjork Ostrom: Sure, which makes sense that they would do that, because you go on the show, you won, right? Is that?

Catherine Zhang: Yes. I did.

Bjork Ostrom: So you go on the show, you win. If I was the owner of that business, very quickly I would be thinking, “How do we get you to stop waiting tables, and start actually making these desserts for people,” because it’s you obviously have a talent if you’re able to go on this TV show, and not only get on the TV show, but win the competition. What was it like to apply for that? How did you go through the process of applying, and then getting onto it? And talk a little bit about what it was like to be on this Netflix series.

Catherine Zhang: The application process was actually quite long. I found the place through, I was at an expo for baking. They were casting. So I applied through it. You had a written interview. Then you have to film a video interview, and once they go through all the applicants for that, they take you to the next round. Next round, they do another video interview, where they talk to you, video call you. And then from there, they’re like, if they think you’re a good fit for the screen, because while there’s also skill, and baking, and what you can do, it’s also about how you appear on TV, whether you have a personality, whether you’ll be entertaining. So then they do a screen test. They come to your house. They get you to bake something. Do a screen test. See how you fit, and then from there, it’s just one more interview, and I got the call that I was accepted. So it was interesting. Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. And talk about the before and after of that, because it sounds like that was a pivotal moment, and there are some instances where people think that getting on TV is going to be this massive thing. I remember Lindsay and I went on. It’s very different, but the local morning news, and that was the thing that all of our friends and family were like, “You’ve made it.” It’s that proved to them that somehow we were credible was showing up on this small morning news station. And they’re like, “You must’ve had a bunch of people coming to your site.” And it’s like it doesn’t materialize into anything, but there’s the access that you get with a show like that, very different, and not only the amount of people who would consume it, hundreds and thousands, maybe millions compared to tens of thousands, or thousands, but also it’s always there.

It’s on demand, and people, there’s probably a peak when it’s released, but people are always probably to some degree watching it, and then getting to know you, and then probably looking for you online, and following along with you. What was it like to go through that process, and then did you notice a pretty significant difference in terms of your online presence after it had been released?

Catherine Zhang: Yeah. For sure, because actually beforehand, I barely had any online presence. It was just I baked this this weekend, took a picture. It was back when Instagram still had the filters and everything. The pictures weren’t that great, but I think what changed at all was that when I first went on, it was actually only aired on national TV. So it was on Channel 7 in Australia, and I did get a boost after that. I got a couple thousand. It got the ball rolling, and I started posting a little bit more, but we got the Netflix deal a little bit afterwards. So it wasn’t actually until a year later that it was uploaded onto Netflix.

And I think from that moment, I saw a massive jump, because Netflix is worldwide. And the amount of reach that I was able to get, I saw my following jump from a couple thousand to 20K in a week. It was pretty crazy at the time. So I think it was after then I was like, “Wow. I really have this power on this platform that I can post it, and people want to see it.” And then I think that was the beginning. Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. It’s almost like, and there was a couple different times that I can think back to when we’ve been building different things where you work really hard, you’re learning, in your case it’s you’re going to school, you’re developing your skills, you’re hustling, you’re grinding, and every once in a while we through perseverance, hard work get this opportunity that unlocks. And it opens up a door, and it doesn’t happen unless you do the hard work. You wouldn’t have won the show unless you were really good at what you were doing. And then what happens is you get access to this new audience, these new people. You get discovered in some ways, but then it’s like you still have to do the hard work of creating content, and showing up, putting good work out there that people respond to, and continuing to build that following. So what happened? Well, it sounds like what happened was your eyes were opened, like, “Oh my gosh. This is really cool. I can speak to an audience.” What changed, I guess, to allow you to continue to do that, and to build it into a career?

Catherine Zhang: I think it was a couple of different things. At the beginning, when I was doing Instagram, and all of that, it was very much still a photo platform. So that’s how I got into food blogging, because it was, “Oh. How do I improve my food photography?” And then I did a food photography course, and then I realized, “Oh. If you take nice photos, they want your recipe. You can put them online.” And then I started building my own blog. I did a couple of courses on how to build a blog. I listened to a lot of Food Blogger Pro, and that helped me set it all up. And then from then, there was a point in time where photos just weren’t cutting it on Instagram anymore, and you had to change over to video.

And I think that made me switch from that Instagram food blogging, to a content creator, and thinking of new ideas where you could hit viral videos, and boost my following even more, because I knew there was a point where it plateaued. Of course, it’d been a couple of years since it’d been out, and then it settled down, and I still wanted to grow. I still wanted to get that following, and I felt like creating videos that really captured the audience attention reached a different audience as well. That was what helped me boost it, and then now it’s formed a career.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. That’s awesome. So when you look at your business, almost say a portfolio in a way, where you have these multiple businesses, one bucket I would assume is social, maybe working with brands, sponsored content. One bucket is the website, and traffic that you get to that website, and then you have another bucket of these retail stores that you’ve launched where you’re selling food. Tell me about how you balance, load balance between those three things. Any one of them could be a full-time job. So how do you look at all of those, and balance the work that needs to happen across all those buckets? And would there be any other buckets you’d add to that list?

Catherine Zhang: I think balancing it is quite hard. If anything, there are times where I focus more on one, and then next time, I focus more on one. So say for example, the good thing about a blog is because it’s everlasting, and if you create good quality content, it will go over the years without you doing much. So once I had my blog fully set up, and it was running by itself, I had the freedom to be able to go into doing something like a business, while doing small bits of maintenance, like posting a blog post every now and then to keep it going, while I could focus on really growing my business, and growing my TikTok and Instagram following. So I think that’s one thing. Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: So you have your site that you originally launched with, and that in and of itself is a successful business. You had shared in the intake notes that gets anywhere from 350,000 page views. It can make 70,000 in a year. That to a lot of people, I think is where they’d want to get to. They’d want to build something that gets to that point, and that would be success. What I hear you saying is it’s almost like you knew you wanted to have this. You knew you wanted to build it, and you did build it. And then once you had it running and working, instead of saying, “I’m just going to focus on this,” you said, “Hey. What’s another cool opportunity that I can start, that would help support in a different way?” It’s almost a little bit of a diversification.

When you looked at it, was it saying, “I want to diversify, and create different sources of revenue,” or was it, “Hey. This is a fun opportunity, and as a bonus, there’s some element of diversification.” I think of my wife Lindsay. So she has Pinch of Yum. She’s working on a fun side project called Snackdive. For her, it’s not really, “This is an intentional business decision.” It’s, “This is a fun thing to do, and I think people would like it, and resonate with it.” What was it like for you as you made decisions around launching new things, or looking at different opportunities?

Catherine Zhang: I think it’s very similar to Lindsay in that way. It was more of a passion project. It came along as an opportunity where I could open a business with my friends, and something that was fun, different, we hadn’t done before. And it was also the fact that we could use social media to push it as well, that we wanted a different challenge. We wanted to prove something. And I think that was the mentality that went into starting. It wasn’t really diversification, but that is what came out of it.

Bjork Ostrom: I think of Crumbl Cookies. I don’t know if you’ve ever come across Crumbl, but they have these millions of followers. And my understanding is one of the major ways that they get people into the store is through social media. And there’s some other businesses even locally here that are an ice cream shop, and they do really over the top ice cream that’s very instagrammable. And I think it’s strategic in that you have this beautiful, fun thing that you can capture that people share, that then becomes a marketing channel. And what’s amazing is when you do have a following, and you do have people who can consume your content, and you can direct that attention in ways that you want to direct it, there’s a lot of power in that. And it sounds like you saw that with your first site, launched it, but then you also went through the process of launching another site, and was able to pretty quickly build up a decent following with that second site. Can you talk about what that process was like, and how you went about doing that?

Catherine Zhang: Yeah. Of course. Well, I think social media has massive power, and with the second site, I wanted to build it for my business partner. My business partner is also a content creator. He does Chinese, but cooking dimsimlim. And I wanted to build a site for him, because I knew he had the potential to build a site with his following, but he wasn’t using it. So by utilizing the power of social media, you do a viral video. A viral video can get you page views that can hit 50,000. It’s crazy how much a viral video can do for your blog. So by doing that, creating a couple of viral videos, and then using that to boost the blog, we were able to qualify for AdThrive in just over a week. So yeah. Compared to when I-

Bjork Ostrom: That’s awesome.

Catherine Zhang: I know. It’s so crazy, because I remember when I was first building my blog, it took a long time. It took months, almost a year for me to build up so much traffic doing it organically, and then my social media following wasn’t as big at the time. But when you have such a big following, and when you have the power to hit viral videos, it’s so easy to build that traction. And you don’t necessarily have to have a following either, because you can hit viral videos without having a massive following at the same time, but people follow the recipe, and they’ll automatically get redirected to your blog.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. There’s some downsides to it as well, but one of the great things about the way that algorithms work now is generally they’re content forward, as opposed to social forward. So it’s less about who’s following you, and are they seeing your content. And it’s more about can you produce a piece of content that algorithmically performs well, and if it does, there’s a really good chance that they’ll surface that piece of content to people even if they don’t follow you, TikTok being the obvious example of a platform that did this first. But then you’re starting to see that across all platforms, where it’s not just the people you follow that you see, but the content that’s performing well, and is stickiest. So can you talk about what the variables are when you’re producing a piece of content?

And it’s hard to say, “Here’s how to produce a viral video.” You could speak to that if you have thoughts around it, but I’d be curious to know also, how do you direct people to your website strategically from a video? Because I think that’s one of the hard things as well, is getting people to click over from a platform like Instagram, or TikTok to get to your site, even if you do have a viral video. So any thoughts on that?

Catherine Zhang: Mm-hmm. I think there’s a couple of factors that go into it. The first thing is when you create a video that you want people to go to your website, they need to go to your profile to click on your website. And having a little bit more of a personality, and having something that, “Oh. I want to follow her,” or, “I want to look at her profile,” and they click over, they’ll see your website, and they’ll click to your website. That’s one thing. So while there’s a lot of creators that will do just videos of food, and just pretty shots, and all of that, while that’s good, at the same time, you also want to build a brand. You want to build an image, and you want to build a personality that people want to go to. And from there, they’re more likely to be, “Oh. I know that Catherine has good recipes,” or, “I know that this person has good recipes, and I can rely on them,” and then they’ll automatically go to your website.

So that’s one thing. In terms of creating content that will go viral, it is very hit or miss, and it depends on a couple of things, like the trends at the time. If you follow a trend, you could potentially hit millions of views, and then you can use that to boost it. So say for example, recently I did. There’s a cookie going around. So it’s basically a croissant cookie. It’s a viral TikTok trend, and it started a couple of weeks ago, and I hopped on it as soon as I could. So I created a video. I did a blog post. There’s not many blog posts on it. So you have that high chance of being up there because firstly, it’s a new product. Not many people know about it. I hopped on it. I’ve done it. I post it on Instagram. It’s almost at a million views. And then from there, it’s a giant boost to my blog, because number one, it’s something that isn’t as seen out there yet.

There’s not many recipes for it yet. So people automatically want to go check it out, have a look, and it’s just a trend. Everybody wants to hop on it. Everyone wants to make it, and they’re searching for it right now, “How can I make it?” And you’re just there with this blog post that’s ready for them to look at.

Bjork Ostrom: And I see one of the things that you do. My guess is this is strategic. In your profile, a lot of people will have a link to let’s say Link in Profile, but one of the things that’s happening when you’re doing that is you’re taking away a page view from your site, and eventually, you can show more things, and give people more options. But tell me more about that, the strategy behind, in your case, linking to a page that’s slash links on your website, that has a link to TikTok, YouTube, Facebook, Pinterest, and then has, it’s almost a category page. My guess is these are all the different recipes that you’re posting then on social. So then people would go and find. I see right now the cookie croissant, which looks incredible. So great. My guess is strategic in wanting to get people to your site.

Catherine Zhang: Correct. Yes. I used to use Linktree or something, one of those linking platforms, and it was working fine. Nothing was wrong with it, but there was one day I was like, “Wait a second. They’re already clicking on it to go to a website. Why didn’t I actually redirect them to my website?” I thought at the time, I was like, “Oh. I can’t believe I didn’t think of that earlier.” And I just created a page where it was everything that I needed from Linktree or whatever it was would be on there. So all my socials where they could go to follow me, and I could customize that page to how I want it to be. So I’ve customized it in a way where I’ve got my socials at the top, and then underneath, I’ve got all my recent recipes. So each time I post a blog post, the most recent recipe will be the first one there. And then once you post it, it’s very easy. You just say, “Link in my bio for my recipes.” They click on it, and that’s the first thing they see. They can click on the recipe.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. So you know right away people are going to be interested in it, and they want to know where to find it. And you just say, “Hey. Go over here.” And if you have, like you said, a video go viral, and maybe a million people view it, potentially 5% of those people, 10% of those people might want to go, and look at it. And if you went to a Link in Profile instead of your actual blog, what would happen is you’d be losing out on potentially 25,000, 35,000 page views, because people will drop off naturally, super smart and really strategic. The other thing that I think is so great is being aware of trends. And instead of creating a chocolate chip cookie recipe, you are saying, “Hey. There’s this recipe that’s going viral. Multiple people are creating content around it,” and then thinking, “Okay. If this is a new concept,” cookie croissant being a great example, there’s going to be an opportunity here for you as a creator to create a piece of content that people, are also probably going to be googling.

They’re going to want to figure out the recipe for it. And in our world, there’s 10,000 different people who are creating a recipe for spaghetti, and they’re all competing for it. And they all want to get it, because it’s high search term, but there’s also these new and creative recipes or concepts that are coming out, and being aware of those, and being strategic as a blogger as well as a social media creator to pay attention to that. So is that you just being in tune with the world of food on these platforms, and seeing what’s trending and what’s not? Or I guess it’s not trending, it’s just what is trending?

Catherine Zhang: Yeah. I think being on top of the trends, and what’s going on on social media is so important, because it’s not only food trends, but even just memes, or jokes, or whatever it is, they’re all things that you can incorporate into your videos, and you become relatable. You’re able to boost your video, and it helps you become viral. So yeah. I spend a ridiculous amount of time on social media, and while it is most of the time for enjoyment, at the same time, it is necessary. I will spend hours just scrolling for food ideas, in the depths of TikTok, just on food, and seeing every single thing that goes past, because you start to pick up on things quickly. And then if you are always in that space, you’ll be the first one to notice when a trend starts to arise.

So the cookie croissant, I’ll use it as an example again, I realized a couple of weeks ago. I saw it in Paris. The videos were mostly in French. They hadn’t hit that American audience yet. If I had hit it back then, it would’ve done well, but then I had to fly to Perth, because I had to manage my shop there. And then I came back, it was already going off, and then I was like, “I have to get on as quick as possible.” So you can notice these things. They’ll pop up. You’ll see it, and you’ll be like, “Oh. I feel like that’s going to go viral.” You’ll see two more videos on it, and that’s when you know. It’s just, “It’s coming. It’s coming. You might as well just hop on it.” Yeah. Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: It’s almost like you develop a sixth sense, and that can only be developed through consuming as well as creating, and it’s refined as you create more, and then see how things do. And you start to get that feedback loop of, “Hey. This worked. This didn’t work.” And part of it is you maybe could even not specifically quantify. “This is exactly why it did well,” but you just had a feeling. Hey. You saw some of that happening, those videos did well, and you start to get this feeling of, “This could do well, and I think it might perform.” Before we continue, let’s take a moment to hear from our sponsors.

This episode is sponsored by Raptive. You may be like the many other Food Blogger Pro members and podcast listeners who are working towards increasing their traffic, to be able to apply to an ad network. Raptive, which is formerly AdThrive for instance, requires a minimum of 100,000 page views, and brand safe content to join the community. These qualifiers attract premium advertisers, and ensure creators like you benefit from Raptive’s expansive solutions and services. But if you’re not quite there yet, and you want to be, Raptive can still help. Raptive put together a comprehensive email series. It’s 11 emails in total that will help you optimize your content, understand your audience, grow your email list, and grow your traffic, to help you reach your ad network goals. Pinch of Yum works with Raptive to bring in passive income each month. The ads show up on each Pinch of Yum post, and when that ad loads on someone’s screen, or somebody interacts with that ad, Pinch of Yum earns money.

So more page views equals more money, and it can really add up over time. That’s why so many Food Blogger Pro community members are interested in getting their page view numbers up, that they’ll be able to apply to an ad network, and make money on display ads. So if you’re in the same boat, and are interested in getting some traffic tips delivered to you for free, head to foodbloggerpro.com/raptive. The 11 weekly emails you’ll receive are designed for creators who have a working knowledge of SEO, keyword research, and email lists, but haven’t yet been able to crack that 100,000 page view mark. Go to foodbloggerpro.com/raptive to opt into this free newsletter series. Thanks again to Raptive for sponsoring this episode. Are there any elements beyond the trending piece that you could pinpoint around video content that does well? What are the other components if you could surface some of those that help video content to do well?

Catherine Zhang: I think it’s also very dependent on the person, and building your own brand, or niche. So for myself, I’ve billed myself as a Asian baking content creator. So the videos actually do well when I base it around something around myself. So for example, my top performing content is usually mochi. So mochi always does well, because it’s different. Not as many people are doing it, because when you enter the realm, and you do chocolate chip cookies, how many people have put out a chocolate chip cookie recipe? You know what I mean?

It’s so hard to get noticed, but when you have your own flair to it, that’s what makes you stand out, and that’s what I’ve noticed other viral content creators would be doing. So say for example, my recent posts that I’ve done, I did an Nutella mochi, or I did a matcha tiramisu, something that’s different. And even then, matcha tiramisu, I can still rank on SEO.

Bjork Ostrom: Mm-hmm.

Catherine Zhang: It’s not something that is out of it. So I’ll look for those pockets, those pockets that’s, “Oh. There’s potential to write a blog post, and it’ll also do well on social media, and it captures that niche audience.” And from there, that’s what always does well for me. So I find that if I do a brownie recipe, or a cookie recipe, it never does well for me. So I think it’s finding what it is for you that will make you stand out.

Bjork Ostrom: Do you ever post things to social that you wouldn’t post to your blog, or vice versa, you’re posting your blog, and you wouldn’t post to social, and how do you make the decision of what goes where?

Catherine Zhang: Mm-hmm. I definitely do, but I feel like most of the time, I do end up writing a blog post, because regardless of whether it does rank well or not, I will be able to still get some traffic through my social media. And if it’s a viral, I’ll give an example. Recently, I did a giant boba recipe. It’s a ridiculously big size boba. No one’s going to make it at home. It’s mostly for social media.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Catherine Zhang: But in that case, I’d still write a blog post, because it’s, “Oh. If that hits, then people are still going to want to have a look at it. There’s potential.” So I think it’s a little bit of that. I try to balance it out. So I’ll do a couple of ones that hit both social media and blog. And then the other ones you really want to hit something on social media, then I’ll just do it for social media. Or if I don’t have time to write a blog post, and I just quickly shoot a video, then that’s just going on social media as well. So it really depends.

Bjork Ostrom: Can you talk about between all of the different areas in your business, how would you stack those up in terms of importance? So you have social, and then you could talk about within social what’s most valuable. You have the blog, and multiple blogs, and then you have retail. What does that look like for you? And what would you consider to be most important for your companies, or your company, however you look at it?

Catherine Zhang: Mm-hmm. I think it depends. I think the overarching thing is social media, because social media was the sole reason our business did well. Because we trended on TikTok, because we were viral, we were able to get six-hour lines on our opening week, and all of that. So that built it. So I always have to maintain that social media presence in order to keep pushing the business, and in order for it to do well. While it’s already built a stable following, and people always go, you still got to have that boost. So creating content for myself, as well as creating content for the business, it has its own business account, and then doing collab posts and stuff like that, it’s really helpful for the business. So that’s why social media is so important for the business. And then as I explained earlier, social media is so important for my blog to keep it going.

And then it also has its own category where it does partnerships, and sponsored posts, and stuff like that. And then of course, that’s in its own way, but of course, keeping them all afloat is the main thing. So having a solo team that can help me with the stores, and the food truck that I own as well, that’s super helpful, because they can run it, and I can just oversee the main things that need to be done with it. And then it’s the same with the blog. Now I’ve got a couple of people helping me along. So it’s just keeping them afloat.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. And that’s something that I think a lot of people would hear, and they’re like, “Oh. That sounds like something that I want to figure out.” How do I get to a place where I can start these things, and I can do the thing that I love? In your case, it sounds like social media, it’s creating content, and then strategically directing people to these businesses that you’re creating, your blog, and there’s people supporting that. It’s a food truck, or the retail, would you consider them? They’re crepes, right? Is that?

Catherine Zhang: Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: Is that the primary focus? Okay. So a crepe shop that you’re directing people to, and the power of that is, like you said, you have a six-hour line the day of opening, which is just incredible, because you have these thousands, hundreds of thousands of followers that you can direct, but it’s also you’re managing a team, and you’re hiring people, and that’s really hard. So how did you learn how to do that, and what have you learned about the process of building a team in order to support these things that you are creating?

Catherine Zhang: I think at the beginning I really struggled, because I felt like there was so much work. Even just building a blog, there was so much to it, and I’m not good at everything as well. And I think it was learning how to outsource, and not rely on yourself, because I’m very much an independent person. I like to do things by myself, and I don’t like it when other people do things for me, because I feel like it just takes away that control. But learning to let go, and then just giving little bits and pieces to people was the starting point. So for my blog, where I started was I started outsourcing my Pinterest. Someone does my Pinterest for me. Then I started outsourcing someone to maintain the blog and everything, outsource someone to write a couple blog posts for me. And then from there, I think it’s also meeting the right people.

So I was lucky enough to meet a business partner that had a very similar vision to myself. And through that, we were able to come together to build a business that relied on each other. And then from there, building a team is a lot easier, because you have someone to work with, you have someone to talk to, and we were able to. At the beginning, it might have been a friend. So we built the business with four people. Four business partners own the crepe shop Kurepu. All of us are friends. Three of us are social media. We’re all content creators. So it’s very good. And then once we had that, we can hire. I started hiring. I started putting out ads. It was just from there. It’s just the more people you have, the more you realize how helpful more people is. And you start branching out, and you, yeah. From there, it’s just the team’s just gotten bigger.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. So Kurepu, tell me about that. It’s a crepe shop, and my guess is one of the great things about having three content creators is you have three people who really understand how to create compelling content, to continue to get people through the doors. It sounds like you have two stores in different locations. What have you learned about having a retail business where you’re selling food?

Catherine Zhang: Well, we’ve realized how important social media is. I think when we started, we used the fact that we have three content creators with massive followings in order to boost it. Vincent, dimsimlim has got over 4 million. Genio has got over 1.5 million. The two of them combine, it’s already so much, added to that myself as well. And then from there, we already know how the algorithm works. We know what people want to see, and we understand the trends, and we can hop on them, and we can apply them to our business. So while of course we don’t hit every time, and it’s actually harder for businesses to hit viral content, because they know that it’s a business, and they don’t usually like to boost it as much, but by knowing that, it was so much easier for us to get the ball rolling.

And then when we launched our business, we had a plan. We had a timeline of, “We need to post two videos a day.” We had heaps of content lined up. We just keep pushing it, and pushing it, and pushing it, and that’s what helped it grow. Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: How much of the food that you’re putting in the retail locations has to do with food that is also trending online? And does that menu refresh relatively frequently?

Catherine Zhang: So with Kurepu, what we’ve done is we’ve built a base. So we want to build a solid product first, because behind any business, of course, it’s a solid product, and you can’t rely on trends and hype completely, because it’ll die out. It passes, and people will stop coming. So having a solid product that people will always want to come back to, we’ve built that base menu. That base menu has always got five to six flavors, and it doesn’t really change. But from there, we do special editions. Limited edition this week we’ve got recently we did one called The Dragon Passion, was a dragon fruit inspired crepe. That was to celebrate the lunar new year, a super bright, vibrant black crepe. And then we wanted to use that to boost it. So it’s just giving it a little boost here and there, but not actually basing the crepe flavors completely on social media, or trends.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. It’s interesting. You have to have that balance, strike that balance where capturing a trend is great, but also, like you said, it eventually falls down. And even in the world of cookies, I think of Crumbl cookies, they have their I think two or three staple, but they’re always refreshing, because it also gives them content to post about. That’s part of it is you want something new, and exciting, and interesting.

Catherine Zhang: Mm-hmm.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s awesome. If you were to sit across from somebody who’s listening to this podcast, and they’re interested in becoming an entrepreneur, and they’re trying to figure out, “How do I do this, and how do I do it well,” you’ve done it, and you’ve done it in multiple different instances. You’ve built a really strong social following, but you just didn’t stop there. You said, “Okay. What can I now do with this?” You have a cookbook. You have multiple sites. You have these stores. What would it look like for somebody who’s in early stages, and what would your encouragement be to them? Knowing the landscape of how things look right now with social platforms, and websites, and SEO, that entire world, what would your advice be to somebody who’s early stage is trying to figure it out?

Catherine Zhang: I think at the beginning is really figuring out what you like, and what you find interesting, and fun, because it’s only through that that I was able to channel my passion into it, and really build on it. At the beginning, I loved food, but I also love creating things. And that’s why blogging came so naturally, because I delved into that world of building, yet finding bits and pieces that can improve it. And I constantly wanted to do things that to change, and change, and change it. So each time I built something, it wasn’t because I wanted to build another part of my portfolio, or to diversify, or whatever it was. It was always because it was something that I found interesting again. And I have this habit of just going on multiple side benches, and doing multiple things, and it’s not good. But when you find one, you focus on it, you build it properly. You do it really well, and then you are like, once that’s done, it’s like, “Oh.” If it was one person, most people will be happy with one.

You just continue building. It’s a side project, or it becomes your main project. You keep working on it. As long as you have that interest, and you’re always entertained by it, it’s so easy to grow. For me, I get bored easily. So I like jumping around. So that’s why for me, it came naturally to build multiple things, because I wanted to try different things out. I wanted to test myself to see how I would go. But I think for anybody, it’s just finding that one thing that you really, really love, and you want to keep working on.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. I think it’s such a great answer, because so often, it depends on who you are, and how you operate in the world. And there are some people, I have a little bit of this, that love the idea of zero to one. It doesn’t exist, and you take something, you create it into the world, and it does exist. There are other people who love taking it from one to two, right? So they love the idea of a thing that is already existing, maybe some systems in place, and they want to go, and tighten those up, and make sure that it runs really smooth. But the idea of starting it from zero is, “Ah.” Maybe that’s not super appealing. And what it seems like you’ve done really well is you’ve been able to do a lot of the zero to one, starting a thing, growing a thing, establishing a thing.

And then once it’s there, finding those one to two people who like to come in, and run the thing, and keep it healthy, and to make sure that it doesn’t get neglected, even though you might shift your attention somewhere else, because somebody else is going to come in, and make sure that it continues to be successful. So on the other side of the coin, how about looking forward? So that was you looking back. It’s for somebody who’s just starting, advice that you’d have for them. How about for you, looking forward? When you look at the next 2, 3, 4, 5 years, what are the opportunities that you see, or what are the things that you are most excited about as a creator, and a business owner looking forward?

Catherine Zhang: I think looking forward, I’m someone that does things spontaneously. I like to take on new challenges, and whatever comes to mind, I like to take it. And I’ve realized a couple of things coming is that number one product launches on social media is something that’s very, very big, and something that has a lot of potential. In a way, you can use social media to boost a product to sell it. My business partner just launched a product called YumYum. It’s his signature product. He adds it to everything, but I helped him build that website, because I have that knowledge to help him build it. And that has gone crazy. And from there, we’ve realized that there’s so much potential in this market where you can create products, and sell them to your followers, or to anybody really on the social media platforms, but you can raise that awareness that brands don’t really have.

And as someone that creates content, you have the vision behind. So that’s somewhere with that I want to go this year. That’s the plan in terms of that. I’ve also got another venture right now, where I have an opportunity to go to America to help a business do desserts. And that’s another little pocket that I’ve figured out is there’s a very big pocket in menu planning, and they want to combine menu planning with social media. So what I’ve realized now is a lot of restaurants are taking social media, and combining it with building a menu, and using a content creator, or someone that has a little bit of social media presence to help them boost their restaurant, or their cafe, or whatever it is to get their presence up, and of course to get their business running.

So I’ve been contracted for a couple of those. So I think that’s something that’s also different that I want to go into. And then I like doing bits and pieces while all the things are still running. So I’m just all over the place, but I’ve got these so many ideas, and things that I want to do, but I always want to work on it while maintaining what I already have.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. That’s great. And this is just an interesting area for me. So you talked about your business partner on Instagram, dimsimlim. Is that right?

Catherine Zhang: Yeah. Yeah. That’s right.

Bjork Ostrom: And then created a, it’s essentially a seasoning that is something that he adds to basically everything. And then that is a product that then people can sell. And just this idea of what you’re saying, as a creator, as somebody with a following, if you have something that is complementary to the content that you’re creating, and that you can also sell, it allows you to create almost a parallel, or an associated brand that it’s different than a cookbook, it’s different than sponsored content. It’s a product that you can actually sell, and that being a really compelling thing for people who are your followers to say, “Hey. This makes sense. I like this food. I like what this person is doing. So I’m going to then purchase this product.” And it sounds like that’s been a really successful venture, and that product is whatisyumyum. Is that right?

Catherine Zhang: Yeah. That’s right.

Bjork Ostrom: It’s called YumYum. But the site is whatisyumyum?

Catherine Zhang: Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: Yep. That’s great.

Catherine Zhang: Yeah. Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s cool. So a lot going on, and my guess is that people would be really excited to follow along with you, to see in real time what you’re doing. So Catherine, great to talk to you. It’ll be really fun to stay connected. And for those who want to follow along, what is the best way for them to do that?

Catherine Zhang: Yeah. So my Instagram and TikTok handle is catherine.desserts. Super easy to follow me. And then my blog is zhangcatherine.com. And if you want to follow our business venture as well, it’s Kurepu Crepes. So both on TikTok and Instagram.

Bjork Ostrom: Awesome. And if you’re in Sydney or Perth, you can come by and visit.

Catherine Zhang: Yes. Yes. Definitely. Our store in Perth is in Northbridge, City Center and Sydney. We’re always moving around. So we’ve got a little truck. It goes around to all the major events. Our next one is the Easter Show in Sydney, which is massive.

Bjork Ostrom: Will you expand? Will there be another location coming down the line?

Catherine Zhang: We’ve got so many opportunities to franchise, to build new stores. I think it’s just picking the right one.

Bjork Ostrom: Sure. All right. Well, we’ll stay tuned to see what happens with it. So Catherine, thanks so much for coming on.

Catherine Zhang: Thank you so much.

Emily Walker: Hey there. Emily here from the Food Blogger Pro team. We hope you enjoyed this week’s podcast episode, and really appreciate you taking the time to tune in and listen. In case you didn’t know, in addition to the Food Blogger Pro podcast, we also have the Food Blogger Pro Membership, which is where we teach our members how to start, grow and monetize their food blog. We have lots of incredible resources to help you on your food blogging journey, including our courses, our community forum, our member-only live Q&As, our Deals and Discounts page, and so much more. You’ll get instant access to all of this when you sign up for a Food Blogger Pro membership. We have two awesome membership options available to you, our yearly membership, or our quarterly membership, which is just $99 a quarter, and allows for some more flexibility if you want to try the membership out, and see if it’s a good fit for you. If you’re interested, and want to learn more, or to sign up, head to foodbloggerpro.com/join.

We are so grateful for our Food Blogger Pro community, and we would love to have you join us. Thanks so much for tuning in this week, and we’ll see you back here next week for another episode. Have a great week everybody.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.