018: How to Build an Online Business Without Blogging with Jadah Sellner from Simple Green Smoothies

Welcome back to the Food Blogger Pro podcast! This week, Bjork interviews the cofounder of Simple Green Smoothies, Jadah Sellner.

Last week, Bjork interviewed Francesca Banducci from Sway Group. Sway helps connect bloggers with brands for sponsored content – and with today’s changing ad landscape, we all know how important sponsored content is becoming. To go back and listen to that episode, click here.

How to Build a Successful Online Business Without Blogging

Wait a minute here. We’re Food Blogger Pro. What is this “business without blogging” stuff all about?

Well, our main goal here at FBP is to help people create a business at the intersection of food and the web. While blogging is a common, even well-defined, path to that, we also realize it’s possible to build a business doing less blogging and more of everything else.

Take, for example, Jadah Sellner and Jen Hansard, the cofounders of Simple Green Smoothies. They tried blogging at first, but found success when the started to focus on one specific idea and sharing that idea freely on Instagram. They now run a successful business (with a website and an occasionally-updated blog) and have a massive tribe of followers who love their microblogged content on social media.

In this truly awesome interview, Jadah shares:

  • How Simple Green Smoothies came to be
  • The first failed business attempts that led to Simple Green Smoothies
  • Why inner confidence is so important when you’re building your business
  • The resources that inspired Jadah when she had yet to find success
  • Why you should tease your products before the launch
  • How to find the products that will be successful
  • Why you shouldn’t take people out of their dance club (say whaat?!)
  • How many people you should be talking to in your blog posts
  • Why you need to be flexible as an entrepreneur

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If you’d like to jump to the comments section, click here.


Bjork Ostrom: Welcome to episode number 18 of The Food Blogger Pro Podcast. Hey, friends. This is Bjork Ostrom. Thanks for tuning in to episode number 18 of The Food Blogger Pro Podcast. We really appreciate you doing that and we know that you’ll get a lot out of it because today, we are talking to Jadah Sellner.

Jadah is one of the co-founders, along with her friend Jen of the site, ‘Simplegreensmoothies.com’. It’s so much more than just a site, and we’re going to her a little bit about that today. It’s one of the reasons I’m really excited to have her on because they don’t really view their site as a blog. It’s a brand, and they have lots of different ways that they connect with their followers. I think it’s a really important takeaway that you’ll hear as you hear Jadah process how they interact with and view different social media sites, and their email list, and their website as well.

One thing I want to say real quick is that at the time of this recording, they’re in the process of promoting their brand new book. You can check that out by going to ‘Foodbloggerpro.com/simplegreensmoothies’. I’d encourage you not only to check it out, but to place an order because they do really good work. We know that the same will be true for this book that they just published, so congratulations to Jadah and Jen and the Simple Green Smoothies team for publishing that. Really, really cool.

One more thing here before we jump into it related to Food Blogger Pro. I’m really, really excited about this. We’ve recently put together a resource for you, and it’s available to download for free. What we did is we emailed over 30 top bloggers. Jadah is actually one of those people that we emailed for this project, and we asked them this. “What is the number one thing that you were going to focus on in the coming year?”

We gathered all those up and we’ve put that into a PDF document that you can download for free. All that you need to do is go to ‘Foodbloggerpro.com/focus’. It was really fun to put this resource together because we noticed that as we compiled all these different answers, that there started to be some major trends. We think those are really important things for you to be aware of and for you to focus on in your coming year. The great thing is it’s a ton of content that doesn’t take a ton of time to consume. You could probably read through it in an hour and get some really important takeaways, so I’d encourage you to check that out.

Again, that’s ‘Foodbloggerpro.com/focus’. We have some important things to talk about here with Jadah, so let’s go ahead and jump in with the interview. Jadah, welcome to the podcast.

Jadah Sellner: Thank you, Bjork. I’m happy to be here.

Bjork Ostrom: Yes. It’s going to be great. I’m super excited to talk to you about … I have this long queue of questions that I want to ask. I don’t think we’ll get to all of them, but if anything, maybe I’ll record this, we’ll go for two hours, and then I’ll crunch it into halftime. We’ll talk really quickly to make sure we can get to all of the things that I want to talk to you about.

Jadah Sellner: Sounds good.

Bjork Ostrom: Okay. Maybe not. Let’s start out with this. I’m curious to know, I was listening to your speech from the World Domination Summit which is awesome. I’d really encourage everybody to check that out that’s on your website, ‘JadahSellner.com’. One of the things that you’d mentioned in that is you said that building a business is a lot like a relationship, and I’m curious. What do you mean by that?

Jadah Sellner: Yes. When I talk about relationship, and that could be in partnership, a romantic relationship, marriage, just that there are challenges in relationships, things that you don’t expect to happen. You have this hope of what you imagine a successful relationship to be. Then, through the time of the relationships, you have a broken heart or you’re just feeling like “Oh. That’s not what I thought it would be.”

I think the same thing happens in business is that we have this hope and this big dream, this big picture vision of what we think our business, our dream business should be. Then, once we’re really in it and we’re committed, that there are a lot of challenges and roadblocks that come up along the way, and you have to sail your way forward and learn how to be the best version of yourself, whether that’s in business or in a relationship with an actual human being.

Bjork Ostrom: Yes. For sure. That’s awesome. I think it’s so good for people to hear that because I think there’s two realities. One is like you said, we have this idea of what something will be and we get into it, and then it’s like, “Oh. This is what it’s actually like to fill in the blank, record a video every day or write a blog post or build a community” which we’re going to talk about.

I also think there’s this other reality of you see what other people have done, and you assume that what you see from the outside is what it’s like on the inside, and so often, that’s not true.

Jadah Sellner: Yes. It’s very messy.

Bjork Ostrom: Yes. For sure.

Jadah Sellner: It’s very messy.

Bjork Ostrom: The more that we get into it, we realize that’s just a reality, and true with relationships too. Right? You see that all the time where from the outside, it looks like things are going really well for people or everybody has it all put together, but on the inside, a lot of times, it’s not as clean as it looks. That’s a great analogy.

Jadah Sellner: Yes.

Bjork Ostrom: Let’s take it in the context of Simple Green Smoothies. We’re going to be talking a lot about Simple Green Smoothies today, the business that you’ve built. Can you give a SparkNotes version of the story of Simple Green Smoothies, and then I want to dig in to that a little bit and talk about maybe how that’s been like a relationship for you. First, talk a little bit about Simple Green Smoothies.

Jadah Sellner: Yes. I feel like I have the coolest job in the world, getting people to fall in love with kale and spinach. Really, it was just a passion that really came from my own healthy obsession with green smoothies. My aunt introduced me to a green smoothie, and I was freaking out about adding kale and spinach into a blender with fruits. Once I had it, it was kind of love at first sip, and it was never supposed to actually be a business, drinking green smoothies.

Bjork Ostrom: Right.

Jadah Sellner: It was just my own health journey where I started drinking one green smoothie a day with the hopes of weight loss and feeling energized, and that it actually happened. Within three months of drinking one green smoothie a day, I had a lot of domino effect of wanting to just be healthier, eat healthier. Within three months, I lost 27 pounds. When that type of transformation comes where it didn’t feel like it was a struggle, I wanted to spread that word to as many people as I could. Like you have got to jump on the green smoothie bandwagon. Actually, my business partner, Jen Hansard … We’re both the founders of Simple Green Smoothies.

Bjork Ostrom: Okay.

Jadah Sellner: We had a parenting blog before that. I was like, “You have to try a green smoothie”, and so we were both jumping on the green smoothie train at the same time. That’s the beginning of it I guess. Then, where we are today is we host 30-day green smoothie challenges. They’re free, and we do them four times a year really engaging our community which I know we’re going to talk some more about too.

Bjork Ostrom: Yes. That’s one of the things that I’m excited to talk to you about just as a little foreshadow for people that are listening. I’m going to talk about email and how you guys use email in such a smart way which I’m excited to talk about. I’d love to talk about the story of Simple Green Smoothies a little bit longer and your story as well because I think that people will find a lot of value in that. Let’s go back to that first analogy that you gave where you said “Business is a lot like a relationship”. How is Simple Green Smoothies been like a relationship for you over the past three to four years now?

Jadah Sellner: Yes. I mean, even before Simple Green Smoothies was like a planted seed of an idea, I was already building a business before that. I think that happens in relationships too where you have like, “Oh. I broke up with this loser guy”, and now, you never know who is going to be the winner, and so there were a couple of failed businesses before Simple Green Smoothies.

Bjork Ostrom: Yes.

Jadah Sellner: Actually, Simple Green Smoothies was my third business attempt. That is the analogy of the relationship in that place.

Bjork Ostrom: Where were the other businesses? Were they online or brick and mortar or …?

Jadah Sellner: Yes. Yes. The first business that I started was in 2009, and that was a brick and mortar business with my husband.

Bjork Ostrom: Okay.

Jadah Sellner: I think this happens in all businesses where you start out with that first idea of what you think it’s going to be, and then the market, the people that are paying you actually want something different, and so we shifted our business model.

Bjork Ostrom: Yes.

Jadah Sellner: It was a creative play and learning center for children.

Bjork Ostrom: Cool.

Jadah Sellner: My husband was teaching music classes. We had yoga teachers teaching kids yoga, trying to create the safe indoor play area for kids to come and get out of the Hawaii heat for a little bit. People actually didn’t want that. They wanted a preschool or more of a day care, which wasn’t really either me or my husband’s passion. We loved educating children but in a very creative, free-flowy, short-term spurt.

What people really loved was when we offered this toddler program that was Montessori-inspired. We found that we were like, “Oh my gosh. We’re making money. Money is coming in. This is what people want”, and we realized it’s actually not what we want.

Within an hour of a day starting, it felt like, “Oh. I actually love marketing and I love connecting and building community, but I actually don’t want to watch other people’s children besides my own daughter for that long stretch of a time.”

Bjork Ostrom: Right.

Jadah Sellner: My husband and I, we were burning out because we’re playing so many different roles in the business. Our health was just going away, and I felt like building a business that burns out relationships or your health is not sustainable. We realized like we just can’t keep this business going.

Bjork Ostrom: That was the bad relationship number one. That.

Jadah Sellner: Yes. That was bad relationship number one.

Bjork Ostrom: You said “In this situation, it’s not me. It’s you, and we need to part ways.”

Jadah Sellner: Yes. Yes. Yes. That was definitely breaking up with that business was hard because it was bringing in income but definitely not enough because we weren’t willing to put in the hours and the work to actually make it thrive.

Bjork Ostrom: Got it.

Jadah Sellner: There was potential there, but actually, we didn’t want to do it, and so that’s the disconnect.

Bjork Ostrom: At that point, it sounds like you had some idea you’re starting to hone in on what it was that you really enjoyed. It sounds like from what you said, there’s another in-between business idea that you moved forward on. Was that the parenting blog?

Jadah Sellner: Yes. Yes. We had Family Sponge, and this is actually where Jen and I connected. Jen and I were in a mom’s groups together in L.A., and I remember meeting her and just saying … She did design work.

I was like, “I love your design. It’s so cool.” I was like, “One day, I’m going to work with you. I’m going to hire you for something. I don’t know what, but one day.”

We didn’t reconnect until 2011. Our babies were born in 2007. We were in a mom’s groups until 2008. It wasn’t until three years later that we actually connected and like, “Hey. I want to build this parenting newsletter.”

Actually, they even want to a blog. Jen is like, “I’ve always wanted to blog. Would you want a partner?” I’m like, “Sure.” That was the birth of our parenting blog is we just wanted to share about healthy living as families, intentional living, shopping at Craigslist, instead of being obsessed with consumerism, eco-friendly arts and crafts, and we were so excited and so invested.

At this time, it was this hopeful dream of everyone wants the successful blog, so we are blogging three to five times a week, burning ourselves out, writing as much, just turning out as much content as we could, and we were looking at mommy bloggers and just wanting to be like that, like the advertising model.

Bjork Ostrom: Right.

Jadah Sellner: I’m like, “This is what’s going to give us financial freedom.” At this time, Jen was in Florida, and her husband just started a church plant, and they were struggling. They were on WIC where they were purchasing food through food stamps and fruits and vegetables. At this time, my husband and I were in California living in my in-law’s house. Super broke. Forty thousand dollars in credit card debt. This was like the blog hustle, the dream of financial freedom and building this parenting blog.

Bjork Ostrom: Right.

Jadah Sellner: We were just getting no traction. We were doing the affiliates, like “Here’s a little link to baby legs for a 27 cent convert …

Bjork Ostrom: Right.

Jadah Sellner: It was really … We were just looking at what everyone else was doing in the blogging world and trying to replicate that model, and it wasn’t working. We hustled for over a year, 18 months in that blog. We were sharing green smoothie recipes on the site as well. It was like green smoothies was already seeping in there, but we didn’t think it was going to actually be its own thing, and we were negative in that parenting blog.

Bjork Ostrom: Right. You were negative in terms of the …

Jadah Sellner: The investment.

Bjork Ostrom: Sure. You had purchased whatever hosting and the amount that you purchased for the business didn’t make up for the amount that you were getting in terms of an income?

Jadah Sellner: No. We would actually buy our own giveaways, because no one actually wanted to give us free giveaways.

Bjork Ostrom: Right. Yes. Sure.

Jadah Sellner: That looks a lot different today, but we’re like, “Oh”, like using our own money to buy books to give away, and TOMS shoes for kids, and hosting our own giveaways to try to grow our community.

Bjork Ostrom: Got it. This was bad relationship number two. Out of this, it sounds like you were able to find the one that worked.

Jadah Sellner: Yes.

Bjork Ostrom: Was that something that you naturally came upon as you were sharing the smoothie recipes on Family Sponge? You started to see, “Hey. You know what? There’s a lot of traction with this, a lot of people that are interested in it. Let’s spin something off and start this different site”, or did you say “We got to do something totally different, and then just stop and take a risk in starting our brand new business”?

Jadah Sellner: Yes. Yes. We were still in the business. We committed like, “Hey. Let’s give it two to three years and see if we can turn to profit.”

We were in it for I guess the long game and being very hopeful. I think I had an internal hope that we’d be making money in six months. I think a lot of new bloggers are like, “I’ll be making a million dollars in six months. It’s going to be amazing.” That didn’t happen, and we were definitely hustling during nap times and bedtime.

What happened was actually, a friend of mine was on Instagram, and she’s like, “Hey. You should share your green smoothie recipes on Instagram”, because what Jen and I’s goal was to actually, we wanted an eBook. Right? This is the other business model that we were learning about. Okay. It’s not just affiliate advertising. It’s not just the paid ad revenue model either. There’s this other thing called an ‘eBook’.

We’re like, “We got to make an eBook.” The first idea that … We had many ideas, but the one that stuck with us were like, “Let’s make a green smoothie eBook.” Our target was for moms, and so this was actually still going to be sold on Family Sponge. That was the intention was to have it on our parenting blog. We’re going to have a green smoothie eBook, but it’ll be mixed with all the other stuff that’s going on on that page.

Then, my friend said “Join Instagram”, and I had a lot of resistance. I’m like, “No way am I going to start another social media platform.” At this time, the only people that were commenting on our Facebook page was my mom and my cousin who actually doesn’t even have a wife or kids. He’s just like, “Oh. That looks awesome”. Just family being really supportive, but not actually having a real community that was listening to what we had to say. It was the Instagram account for us that was the game-changer and the birth of Simple Green Smoothies.

Bjork Ostrom: Interesting. You registered the Instagram username ‘Simple Green Smoothies’ and said, “We’re just going to share smoothie recipes on this”, and from there, started to realize, “Wow. A lot of people are interested in this.”

Jadah Sellner: Yes.

Bjork Ostrom: Was it that?

Jadah Sellner: Never that simple, but it was very intentional that, “Hey. We’ll just talk about green smoothies so that we can attract people that will actually want to buy a green smoothie eBook.”

Bjork Ostrom: Got it.

Jadah Sellner: That’s where us becoming hyperfocused about green smoothies on Instagram happened, and I think that is the trick for Instagram or Facebook or any other social media platform is actually hyperfocusing on a specific idea that people can grasp on to and understand really quickly. Anytime people would come to our page on Instagram, the first nine photos they’re seeing are all green smoothies. The story, our brand story in what we do is being told very, very quickly. What happened was my friend gave us a shout-out, and we got 800 followers. We’re like, “Oh my goodness. This is amazing.”

Bjork Ostrom: Yes. Throwing a party. Right? Champagne popping in the background. Yes.

Jadah Sellner: Yes. Yes. That was one thing. We’re like, “Wow. If our friend could give us a shout-out, what would happen if more people were sharing us where we could grow?”

Then, I remember someone, they were a fitness Instagram account, and I think she probably had 27,000 followers. I actually went to her live boot camp event. I think this is a very important part of just thinking about relationship-building, is that I actually went to this Instagrammer live boot camp in San Francisco. Showed up. I actually made her a green smoothie.

I was like, “Hey. Here’s some chia seeds and a green smoothie that I made at home.” I was taking pictures and showing me with a green smoothie at her boot camp. She actually screenshotted our feed. She was like, “You guys know how much I love green smoothies. You have to go follow ‘@Simplegreensmoothies’.”

Bjork Ostrom: Cool.

Jadah Sellner: From that shout-out, it was like 3,000 followers. We’re like, “Oh my gosh. Three thousand followers? This is amazing.” That was the momentum of how just … I always feel like a thousand, like the thousand true friends that they talk about.

Bjork Ostrom: Yes.

Jadah Sellner: It’s like if you can get to that momentum place, there’s something that happens in you. It’s like a thousand people are following me right now, and then you just start geeking out and figuring out ways on how you can keep that momentum of growth happening. We double down on, “Hey.” When people give a shout-outs, people come to our Instagram feed and they actually like it, and we get more followers, so let’s figure out more ways to do that over and over again.

Bjork Ostrom: It’s fun to hear you talk about that. This summer, we released a course on Food Blogger Pro. Lindsay talked about two things in that course that I think are so important. The first is like you said, the hyperfocus of the first nine images on your account, so when people come to your Instagram account, they look at it, and they instantly know what you’re about. If you have a picture of your dog, and then a picture of a Simple Green Smoothie recipe, and then a picture of your house and it’s this jointed account, it’s really hard for people to jump on unless you’re somebody who’s like a celebrity and sharing life stuff. I guess that’s a different scenario, but for the most part, you have to have that hyperfocus, and I think that makes so much sense. The other thing I think is a huge takeaway is being willing to partner with people and to have that …

Jadah Sellner: Yes.

Bjork Ostrom: Lindsay does this where she lets people use a recipe and a photo if they share it to their account and then mention ‘Pinch of Yum’. That’s one of the ways that she’s been able to grow her Instagram account, so I think those are two awesome takeaways. Before we get too far away from it, Jadah, I want to go back to the part of your story where it was … You would be able to describe it better than I would, but the year when you’re hustling, there’s a lot of struggle, there’s figuring it out, there’s maybe tension, and I would assume that at times, you felt exhausted.

Jadah Sellner: Yes.

Bjork Ostrom: You had a newborn. You had a blog. You had a family and a business. All of those things were starting. I know there are people that maybe don’t have that exact situation right now, but they’re probably in a similar situation where they’re hustling, they’re trying to build something, they’re struggling, they’re exhausted. What would you say to that person that’s listening today to help give them motivation and to keep going?

Jadah Sellner: Yes. I would say to start believing in yourself first. With my husband, he was working a full-time job and even piecing together part-time jobs on the side, and then watching Zoe, our daughter while I try to hustle on this blog that brought in no money. He was burning out and losing hope. At first, he’s “That sounds amazing. Yes. Go do your thing. Build a business online and live the four-hour work week. It’s going to be amazing.”

Bjork Ostrom: Right.

Jadah Sellner: After six months, that support started fading and he’s feeling tired and exhausted. I’m feeling like there’s small winds along the way, but nothing major, nothing that that’s paying us. I had to be in a really positive space during this time because we were struggling with no money, living with our in-laws, and also raising a toddler daughter which is really, really hard trying to do everything and just feeling like there’s no end and you’re living paycheck to paycheck. I remember telling my husband, I was like, “I got this.” I was like, “I’m studying like crazy. I’m watching web.”

At this time, everything was free. Free blogs. Free webinars. Free podcasts.

Bjork Ostrom: Right.

Jadah Sellner: I would just soak up any information I could get, checking out books from the library. I just said, “I got this. I know what I want to build.” I know the what and the why. I know I want to build an online business.

I want time and financial freedom and I know why. To be able to spend more time with my family, to be able to travel the world, to be able to serve and give back and contribute in bigger ways with my time and finances. Those things were really, really clear for me. I just said I don’t know the how and I don’t know the when. That is the whole path of an entrepreneur is to figure out how it’s going to work, and the win is completely out of control.

My timeline, my husband’s timeline did not match up to when we actually started making money, and you have to be able to know that and have this inner confidence that like, “I’ve got this.” When you can get people to enroll in your dream and your vision, and they see how confident you are and that you’re studying and you’re hustling, and you’re ready to invest in yourself to just learn more, people will start buying into it. It’s like just this resilience of like, “I can’t stop, and you’re not going to stop me. I have to keep going because I believe in myself this much. I believe I’m going to succeed.”

I think that, being in that positive state even if there’s people negative around you, I would just tell my husband like, “I totally understanding you’re frustrated and we’re broke, and that’s frustrating, but I just can’t have that around me right now because I have to stay in a really positive state to actually create something meaningful.”

Bjork Ostrom: Someone that you know, you had said that you had consumed a lot of books, podcasts, webinars. Do you have any that were most helpful that you can think of?

Jadah Sellner: Yes.

Bjork Ostrom: I know it was a few years ago, but …

Jadah Sellner: Yes. No. I could definitely … Derek Halpern’s ‘Social Triggers’ was a big one for me. I would read everything that he talked about growing a blog online. Then, Pat Flynn, ‘Smart Passive Income’. It was actually his eBook that I … I was dreaming about creating an eBook for over in a year, but you actually don’t put the product out, so it’s like way later.

Bjork Ostrom: Right.

Jadah Sellner: Then, you’re like, “Oh. Wait. Why didn’t I do that earlier because then, I would have made money sooner?” He had a free eBook about get your eBook out there no matter what kind of thing. I was like, “He has to put an eBook out there. Look at this money that he’s made.”

Bjork Ostrom: Yes.

Jadah Sellner: I think seeing case studies of people actually making money is inspiring, and so I like being transparent about that type of stuff of the work that it takes behind the scenes, and then actually how much money you can generate from building a business like that. Marie Forleo was another one. She’s the creator of ‘B-School’. As far as books go, the first book for me, ‘Think and Grow Rich’ was just like about the masterminding that really was a kick-start for me, and so I remember starting a mastermind with my old roommate. She was like the only other person that knew what I was talking about, and I think I actually wanted to go back to school because to figure out how to make more money.

I’m like, “Oh. Go back to school. That’s how you make more money.” We actually started masterminding while even starting the parenting blog just once a week connecting. Then, ‘4-Hour Workweek’ by Tim Ferriss. That was a huge one for me of just looking for a business to build online and have that time and financial freedom. Then, the next one would be ‘The $100 Startup’ by Chris Guillebeau. That one really helped as we were launching our second product.

Bjork Ostrom: Awesome. We’ll add those in the show notes here for the podcast. What was one thing from ‘The $100 Startup’, the biggest takeaway that you had after reading that?

Jadah Sellner: Yes. The biggest takeaway was teasing a producing that’s to come. He covers the whole product launch cycle, and he even has this fun, little … I’m actually doing a little wave with my hand right now because he has a little curvy graphic in the book that I have a very clear vision of earmarking that and underlining, but just even though your product is not created yet, letting your audience know that you’re working on something behind the scenes and it’s coming soon.

Bjork Ostrom: Okay. Yes. Cool.

Jadah Sellner: Then, they’re emailing you like, “When is it coming? I want it now.”

Bjork Ostrom: Building anticipation a little bit.

Jadah Sellner: Yes. Yes.

Bjork Ostrom: Yes. It’s interesting. With any of that stuff, it really makes sense when you get into it and there’s so many parallels in normal life, and I think of a movie premier. It’s like they’ll play trailers for two months before the movie even comes out, and it teases people. It builds anticipation. I think there’s lots of different examples with that, and for some reason, it’s just hard to transfer that into the work that you’re doing until somebody says, “Hey. It’s good to build anticipation to an event when you launch an eBook or a product or some type of service.” I think that’s awesome and a big takeaway I think.

It’s not a transition. It’s actually maybe an evolution of that question, and it’s the question about products. One of the things that you’ve said that I think is so spot on is you say that “When I take imperfect action, I see big results.” What do you mean by that?

Jadah Sellner: Yes. I really look at entrepreneurship and just building your own business as it’s a lab. You are experimenting all day every day and just testing different ideas out to see what sticks. The only way you can test ideas out is taking imperfect action where it doesn’t have to be perfect and it doesn’t have to be the one. The same in relationships. You just don’t know if this is going to be the winner, the one that you’re going to take home to your parents and say like “This is my guy.”

Bjork Ostrom: Right.

Jadah Sellner: You just don’t know, and so you have to have this openness to be imperfect with what you’re testing in your business, and so I really believe and just throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks, and I really believe … Starting which is like an idea of like, “Hey. I’m thinking that people might like green smoothies. What would happen if I just started talking about green smoothies for the next three months and seeing if it sticks?” Sometimes, things don’t land. We would talk about eco-friendly arts and crafts projects like make some egg shakers and use the egg carton and all these different things. It didn’t stick. It wasn’t something that people wanted to share with other people, and that’s going to happen.

Bjork Ostrom: Right.

Jadah Sellner: There’s just going to be ideas that flop that don’t stick and don’t produce any results, but the result that you are getting is “Now I know. Now I’m closer to figuring out what the right answer is.” You don’t know that until you test and validate your ideas and collect data on like, “Hey. Does this make sense? Is the audience resonating? If it’s not, all right, back to the drawing board. Let me see what else I can put out there.”

Bjork Ostrom: Yes. That imperfect piece I think is so important because if it’s not imperfect, then the only other option is that it is perfect. In order to get things perfect, it takes a lot of time, and that’s potentially wasted time if you wait six months if something is perfect. You show it to the world, and then it doesn’t stick. Whereas if you put something out that was imperfect, maybe it was 70% of what it could be and it didn’t stick, you’d save a lot of that time. I love that advice that you gave and I want to make sure that we chat about that a bit.

Jadah Sellner: Yes.

Bjork Ostrom: One of the things that did stick for you guys was Simple Green Smoothies. Then, even deeper than that was some product offering. There’s the free smoothie challenge that people can do, and then after that, if people want to go deeper, there’s some different things that Simple Green Smoothies has some … Would you call it a program or what would it …?

Jadah Sellner: Yes. Yes.

Bjork Ostrom: Okay. Can you talk a little bit about the different levels of Simple Green Smoothies and how that works?

Jadah Sellner: Yes. I even like to go back a little bit from our first product because I think that’s really important for people to hear versus creating something a little bit more fancy.

Bjork Ostrom: Yes.

Jadah Sellner: We hosted our first 30-day green smoothie challenge in January of 2013. At that time, I think we had just 30,000 followers on Instagram, so it took us about six months to get to 30,000 followers. That was from getting the shout-outs, and also having frantic fingers of double-tapping and liking just anybody in the Instagram community and seeing …

Bjork Ostrom: Right.

Jadah Sellner: I always say that “You’re one click away of someone following you back”. I would just engage with the Instagram community and that they’re like, “Hey. Who’s Simple Green Smoothies liking my photo?” Maybe they would click on the profile, and then they would see these nine beautiful images and be like, “Follow.” That was the strategy to getting to that 30,000 followers, and then that free 30-day green smoothie challenge.

Bjork Ostrom: Sure.

Jadah Sellner: As I told you, we were creating this eBook behind the scenes, like that was the whole point was to promote this eBook. It was like the green smoothie 101 eBook. Actually, it never made the light of day. It’s like a manuscript. It has tons of pages that never was created or put out into the world.

When we did the 30-day green smoothie challenge, what people were asking for was how could they get access to these green smoothie recipes during the challenges after the challenge is over. We’re like, “They’re in your email. You can just go in …”

Bjork Ostrom: Search. Yes.

Jadah Sellner: “You can just search for it”, and they wanted it all in one place. I’m like, “What if we just put this whole challenge together into a PDF and sold it?” That’s what we did. It was a product that was again, it was never supposed to be created. We had this whole other idea that we were going to sell them, but it seemed like all they wanted was our recipes from the challenge, and so we were like, “Let’s sell it for five dollars. I bet you no one will buy it because it’s like just regurgitated information for what they just did.”

Bjork Ostrom: Right.

Jadah Sellner: We launched that five-dollar eBook on E-junkie and PayPal. That was February first or day 30 of the challenge like January 31st or January … I don’t know the dates anymore. We launched that right at the end of the challenge, and we did $8,000 in the first week.

Bjork Ostrom: Wow.

Jadah Sellner: We were like, “Holy moly. We have a business.” We paid ourselves back from all the money that we’ve been investing in the parenting blog that we started. Really, why we were able to do that was because we’re intentional on not just having Instagram followers, but also building an email list too where we actually had access to people to be able just to say, “Hey. Here’s an offer that we have.”

Bjork Ostrom: That’s really interesting to me in a place that I want to talk for a little bit. One of the reasons I was so excited to have you on is because I feel like a lot of the people, I would assume a lot of the people that listen have this mentality that … It would make sense, ‘Food Blogger Pro’, so it’s blog mentality. One of the things we always try and hit on is that it doesn’t have to be just a blog where you post three to four times a week, and Simple Green Smoothies is such a great example of that because you have a vibrant community, you have a following, but it’s not by posting recipes to a blog over and over and over again. You’ve built this email list and you communicate with the people on that list, as well as different social media platforms.

Then, ‘Simplegreensmoothies.com’ is like the hub where people can come for recipes and sign up for the email list, but it’s not necessarily where the majority of the action happens. Can you talk a little bit about your strategy with email including the tools that you use and how you build community through email?

Jadah Sellner: Yes. Absolutely. Definitely, we decided to throw away the likes that blog three to five times a day.

Bjork Ostrom: Yes.

Jadah Sellner: What we do instead is we microblog on the social media platform. I think it’s perfect in what you’re saying, it’s like ‘Simplegreensmoothies.com’, our website is the hub. I would say that is our home. That is our house. I would say Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, what other social media is like the dance club, and so we meet our community at the dance club. We’re going to show them our dance moves there and we’re going to give them all the value, all the content in a micro size on the platform where they’re at, instead of asking them to come to our house first, because if you could imagine going to a club, and a guy is there, and he’s like, “Hey, girl. You want to see my dance moves?”, and she’s like, “Yes.”

Bjork Ostrom: Yes.

Jadah Sellner: He’s like, “You got to come to my house first”, like we’re moving her from the club.

Bjork Ostrom: Yes. Right.

Jadah Sellner: That’s creepy. It’s really important to add the value and the content into the social media post. A mistake that I see a lot of bloggers do is like, “Hey. Click here and check out the blog over here.”

Bjork Ostrom: Right.

Jadah Sellner: They don’t even know who trust you, like you yet, and so, one thing that we are really intentional is “Let’s include the full recipe in every social media post.” People really appreciate that because you’re not taking them away from the platform that they’re excitedly, happy, content, relaxed on. Like this is where they want to consume content. Then, once they go from the dance club, our social, they go to our website which is our house, and we make that beautiful and inviting and welcoming, and then our email list is the bedroom. That’s where it gets a little bit more intimate.

Bjork Ostrom: Yes. Right.

Jadah Sellner: You’re basically asking them to give it up to come into the bedroom, and you got to give up the little email address.

Bjork Ostrom: Yes. This podcast will have the explicit rating on it. Yes.

Jadah Sellner: Yes. The beautiful thing about really focusing on email list building is that is where the true, the honest, the intimate, the deep conversations are going to come from your audience. They’re not going to come on a comment on your blog post. They’re not going to come on a social media where all their friends and all their family can see. They’re going to have those real conversations with you from email to email, from one person to one person.

Bjork Ostrom: Why do you think that is?

Jadah Sellner: No one is seeing all of their business, and they’re able to really share their struggles, like what they’re struggling with in an email inbox. People feel really safe in that container, and it also feels like they’re just talking to one person. One tip for any blogger is whether it’s on social media, whether it’s on a blog post or in an email is making sure that you’re talking to one person, because we used to start out like, “Hey, everybody, rockstars, all of you out there. Check out this recipe.”

Bjork Ostrom: Yes.

Jadah Sellner: Now, it’s like, “Hey, Bjork. Here’s a recipe we have for you.”

Bjork Ostrom: Yes.

Jadah Sellner: “We would totally love for you”, and so people email us all the time just saying like, “I know that you guys probably are sending this out to thousands of people this email, but I really feel like you were talking to me.”

Bjork Ostrom: That’s awesome.

Jadah Sellner: That’s the kind of relationship that you want to build in your email inbox and just in your business in general.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s great. With the specific to the email stuff, I’d be interested to hear how you scale that knowing that you keep it at an intimate level where you’re dressing the person and it feels like a conversation, but at the same time, you have thousands and thousands of people on your email list. Obviously, there’s like the broadcast and there’s maybe some type of autoresponder that’s personalized. Then, do you follow up via email every time that somebody emails you or how do you approach with the broadcast, versus autoresponder, versus sitting down and literally writing an email to somebody?

Jadah Sellner: Yes. Yes. We have a community happiness specialist team. We call our people that respond to emails as ‘Community happiness specialist’. They could also be corresponding on Facebook or Instagram, but we really believe in no comment left behind, no question left unanswered. Like we are in the business of answering questions and the business of supporting and cheering our community on.

I know that our community really feels that, and so that’s the way we scale which doesn’t necessarily feel like that’s scalable, but I mean, we started with just Jen and I responding to every email. Then, when we launched that five-dollar e-product, more emails were coming in, and Jen’s husband was responding to emails. Then, we’re like, “I think we need to hire somebody.”

Bjork Ostrom: Yes.

Jadah Sellner: We hired our friend. Now, we have four community happiness specialists on our team that are responding to email, website comments, Facebook and Instagram, but that’s obviously a couple of years later. We read every single email, and we have our team corresponding and responding to every comment and every email, so everyone is heard that connects with Simple Green Smoothies.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s awesome. Like you said, the scaling piece is so important because Lindsay and I are just coming to understand this with what we’re doing online. If you want to be able to provide a service to people and to have happy customers or happy community, you have to make sure that you’re able to respond to those, and at some point, it just doesn’t become sustainable for you to do all of it. Food Blogger Pro, this is kind of a backstory. We hired somebody, and we’re like, “What are we going to call it?” I was like “I have this idea in my head, and it just fits the position, community happiness specialist.”

We went through this application process and we hired somebody. Then, one day, I sat down. I was like, “I wonder if any other business is called ‘Community happiness specialist’”, and I’m sure that it wasn’t an original idea like it was something that you had said when we had talked before, and then it’s just stuck in the back of my head. Then, some morning, I came up with that. I was like, “I have this brilliant idea”, but I’m sure that it came from you guys, and it was just subconsciously in a dark corner of my mind.

Any credit that we have or that people would give us, we’re like, “Oh. That’s a really cool name.” I’m like, “Wow. It was just a thing that something that we borrowed.” I temporarily took credit for it and then realized that I can’t take credit for it.

Jadah Sellner: Yes. I think the world would be a better place with more community happiness specialists in the world, so spread the love.

Bjork Ostrom: Yes. Okay. Yes. It would be ironic if we had used that, and you’re like, “Sorry. We have trademark on that. You can’t use it. We’re going to sue you for using the ‘Community happiness specialist’.”

Jadah Sellner: Right.

Bjork Ostrom: I’m interested to hear for other people that are looking to do something similar where maybe they want to build a brand, but they don’t want to build one that revolves around content on a blog. What would be the recommendations you’d give for them in terms of building a community versus building a site that gets a bunch of page views. That’s a mind shift for a lot of people.

Jadah Sellner: Yes.

Bjork Ostrom: What would you recommend to them?

Jadah Sellner: Yes. I would definitely pick your social media platform of choice, the one where you … I really love this thing. One of my mentors and amazing business and entrepreneur is Jonathan Fields. He just says to choose the social media platform where you shine brightest. I think that is really important, because we try to get on five different social media platforms.

Bjork Ostrom: All of them. Right.

Jadah Sellner: We’re spreading our energy all over the place, and the real community, the real connection happens when you just choose one. One at a time. Get that to build momentum, and then add on another layer. If you look at our engagement, we picked the platforms, and that was Instagram and Facebook and email. That is it. We have a Pinterest board, but we don’t interact over there.

We get followers. It’s a little sad, but we’re okay with that because it was very intentional that we’re just going to focus on these two social media platforms, and really, we started with Instagram. Then, we added Facebook once that momentum, and then we had a website. We didn’t even have a website until November of 2012, and we started Instagram in July of 2012.

Bjork Ostrom: Okay.

Jadah Sellner: You can build a community before you even have a website out there. My only suggestion would be for someone who’s just starting out is to pick that one social media platform where they shine the brightest and where their people are at. You can’t be shining somewhere and your people don’t hang out there.

Bjork Ostrom: Right.

Jadah Sellner: That doesn’t work either. Then, making sure you have some type of email opt-in even if it’s lead pages. I don’t know what you guys use, but just something where you’re collecting emails and just saying “Something is coming soon”, “A website is coming soon”, “A product is coming soon” where they can at least stay in touch with you, and you could literally be in communication with your community just on an opt-in page, not even having a full-blown website.

Bjork Ostrom: Yes. That’s great.

Jadah Sellner: If you look at our website and our recipes, we have 25 green smoothie recipes on our site.

Bjork Ostrom: Yes.

Jadah Sellner: We’re not in the business of creating a million different recipes for life. We’re in the business of building community of people that feel taken care of and feel seen and feel heard.

Bjork Ostrom: Yes. I feel like that’s going to be such an amazing thing for so many people because the mindset again is so often create, create, create, content, content, content, and that works for some people, and they’re able to build a site and build a brand, but just to critically think about, “Hey. Maybe there’s other options out there. Maybe there’s other ways that I can be building something”, whatever it is that could lead to a life-changing path for you, whether it’s a different career or impacting other people’s lives like you guys have done which I think is really cool.

Jadah Sellner: Yes.

Bjork Ostrom: Jadah, I want to talk a little bit here about you personally. We talked a little bit about Simple Green Smoothies, the path of growing that into a sustainable business and some really interesting aspects of how you guys do business. I also know that you’re starting to explore and invest time and energy into helping other people along. This snippet from … If you’re okay with this, we’re messaging last night back and forth about the podcast today, and you had said this and I’d be interested to talk about it.

I said, “How would you define what it is that you do?” You said that you don’t necessarily focus on motivation and accountability, but you focus on agility and growing your intellectual capital in community with audience and peers.” I would love for you to deconstruct that a little bit and talk first about agility. What do you mean by focusing on agility?

Jadah Sellner: Yes. Just what I talked about a little bit earlier of just being flexible and open to trying new things. As entrepreneurs, you just have to have that flexibility of just going with the flow, putting things out there, and seeing if they stick. Just being able to bend and mold to what the market is wanting of you, and also still something that you’re super excited to deliver. There’s got to be that sweet spot of like they really want it, and you really want to deliver it, so having that agility to just be flexibility and to be able to turn and pivot at any time in your business to serve your community.

I really believe in being clear on who you want to serve first almost before coming up with the product idea that you want to create, because a community can grow with you, and because as entrepreneurs, I’m sure you know this too, Bjork is that we grow and change that’s like “I actually don’t want to talk about that anymore.”

Bjork Ostrom: Right.

Jadah Sellner: It’s like “I want to talk about something different or new.” If you have a community that you’re excited to serve, you’ll be able to deliver as they grow too, just more offerings and products and services and ideas. For me, I get super excited to serve moms. My through line even with the business that I started in Hawaii was built off of mom’s group that I started called ‘Ohana Mamas’. Then, Family Sponge still serves that same avatar which is a busy mom that’s just looking for cool things to do with her kids, and even with Simple Green Smoothies, we are still targeting and connecting and speaking to a busy burnt out mom who can’t get healthy food into her kid’s body and doesn’t have time to even take care of herself.

That even jumps over to working with what I do at ‘JadahSellner.com’ is working in my head. I’m thinking of other moms that want to build a dream business that want the time and the freedom because they have a family to take care of. That’s who’s always in my mind even though my products, services, ideas can serve a wealth of people, like we don’t just serve moms for Simple Green Smoothies, but those are the people that are in my heart to serve at all times.

Bjork Ostrom: How do you think that people get that avatar? Is it something you just sit down and ponder a little bit and take notes on? Let’s say if there’s somebody that has that’s listening, and then they have a baking blog, and they do baking recipes, what is the next step that they need to take in order to get some clarity on that?

Jadah Sellner: Yes. It’s really dreaming up who their dream customer is, like who they would be most excited to deliver their blog to, their content, their product, their recipe book to. Like “Who would I want my recipe book to be in their hands?”, and so really getting clear and imagine just one person. Jen and I actually created an avatar. We answered the questions.

I was like, “What is she struggling with? What’s her dream vacation? How many kids does she have?” We just created this entirely fictional character, and her name is Dani.

Bjork Ostrom: Okay.

Jadah Sellner: D-A-N-I.

Bjork Ostrom: Okay.

Jadah Sellner: We just looked on Pinterest for photos of people that looked like Dani. That’s something that we share internally with our team. It’s like this is the one person that we are talking to at all times. She’s a made-up person, but at the same time, people who resonate and have a very similar lifestyle as Dani are like you are talking directly to me. I know it.

Bjork Ostrom: Yes. I would imagine that when you do those emails or when you do the social media post when you’re able to envision that, it makes it all the more easier to not send that generic, “Hey, everybody” email, but to really say, “Hey”, first name, whoever that is, but in your mind, it’s Dani, and you’re talking to Dani and having a conversation with Dani.

Jadah Sellner: Yes.

Bjork Ostrom: I think that makes that so much easier, and for that individual that does receive that email, it feels so much more personal.

Jadah Sellner: Yes.

Bjork Ostrom: Man, that’s awesome and a really good takeaway. I’m interested to talk a little bit about the intellectual capital piece. Could you talk about what that means specific around community? Just as a really concrete example, let’s use … This would be my mini … As we’re coming to the end here, my mini consulting session with you. If we’re talking about Food Blogger Pro and the Food Blogger Pro community, what would it look like for us to grow our intellectual capital with that community?

Jadah Sellner: Yes. Really, and this is based off of Napoleon Hill’s ‘Think and Grow Rich’ where he talks about masterminds where it’s just like two or more people coming together to brainstorm on ideas and problem solving together to come up with the best solution. With Food Blogger Pro community, it’s bringing everyone together to share their collective wisdom and knowledge that they’ve accumulated over their journey of like, “Hey. This is what’s been working really great in my blog that I’m putting out there, and here’s what I’m struggling with.” Just being able to bring those things together and hear other people, you get a new perspective on what you’re building to.

Bjork Ostrom: Right.

Jadah Sellner: I’m just a big believer in community that we look for these secret blueprints or like a step-by-step plan on how to build a business, and with how I help people who are more dreamers become more doers in their business is to be able to be in community and share that collective think tank of you are supported and people get what you’re up to in the world. For Food Blogger Pro is people sharing like, “Hey. This is what’s working. This is what’s not”, and being able to celebrate each other and using that collective knowledge together to rise together.

Bjork Ostrom: Yes. I love that, the idea of this rising tide lifts all ships and if you can invest in a community that is generous with that information-sharing, how that can be advantageous. That’s awesome, and the clarity around what that phrase means, it’s really, really cool. We’re coming to the end, but I want to do just spend some time here real quick and talk about some of the stuff that you guys have coming out because I know that you guys are jam-packed, and you work hard, you play hard, but you work hard. One of those things that you’ve been working hard on lately is the book like the physical ‘Simple Green Smoothies’ book that you have coming out. Can you talk about that real quick?

Jadah Sellner: Yes. Super excited. This is definitely a dream come to true to say like, “Look, mom. I’m in Barnes & Noble.”

Bjork Ostrom: Right.

Jadah Sellner: We were really excited to just collect all of our favorite green smoothie recipes from our community and also creating new ones with a ten-day kick-start of drinking one green smoothie a day, so making the habit a little bit simpler to pick up and feeling that win a lot sooner. We will have ‘The Simple Green Smoothie’ recipe book that will be able to change a lot of people’s lives which is that one simple habit of drinking one green smoothie a day and making that the gateway drug to making healthy eating a lifestyle, and not just a diet.

Bjork Ostrom: Right.

Jadah Sellner: You don’t have to starve yourself. You can just start adding more of the good food into your body, and you’ll start craving more good stuff and start eliminating the junk without even really trying.

Bjork Ostrom: Awesome. People can find that Barnes & Noble, Amazon, ‘Simplegreensmoothies.com’, all the above?

Jadah Sellner: Yes. Absolutely, and Amazon.

Bjork Ostrom: Okay. Last two questions for you. The first last question would be if you were to go to back and have a conversation with yourself from 2011 and 2012, and you had just a little bit of time, what would you say to yourself of 2012 knowing what you know now?

Jadah Sellner: That’s a really good one, Bjork. I would say to give myself the space and time to keep dreaming and to not ever squash the dreamer. I think that with people that are like me that have a million ideas in their heads that are just spinning around, that it’s okay to have those ideas spinning around as long as you’re taking imperfect action to actually put them out into the world, but to not stop the dreaming part, because I think as people who have big dreams tend to think that people always think that their heads are in the clouds and like, “Oh. What is Jadah up to again now? She’s sending all her friends and family another business idea that she’s working on.”

Bjork Ostrom: Yes.

Jadah Sellner: If I had stopped at Little Sprouts Playhouse in Hawaii, the brick and mortar business or I’d stop that Family Sponge like this didn’t work, I wouldn’t be living the dream life that I’m living today if I would have stopped dreaming, if I would have stopped believing in myself because I failed. I would just say to keep dreaming, like don’t let that go.

Bjork Ostrom: It’s awesome. Really, really cool. Jadah, thank you so much for coming on the podcast today. As the last question, the last, last question, where can people find you and follow along with what you’re doing?

Jadah Sellner: Yes. Definitely ‘Simplegreensmoothies.com’. We have our free 30-day green smoothie challenge. Sign up and rock out with us. We read every email and we’ll send you lots of leafy love. You can find us on Instagram and Facebook, and YouTube and Pinterest, and then also if you just want to follow me behind the scenes of my heart around community-building and building a business with purpose, you can find me at ‘JadahSellner.com’.

Bjork Ostrom: Cool. Jadah, thanks so much.

Jadah Sellner: Thank you, Bjork.

Bjork Ostrom: All right. Bye.

Jadah Sellner: Bye.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s a wrap. One more big thank you to Jadah and one more congratulations to Jadah and Jen for the recent launch of their book. Again, if you want to check that out, you can go to ‘Foodbloogerpro.com/simplegreensmoothies’. That will redirect you to a page where you can learn more about their book. I’d really encourage you to check that out.

One more quick reminder. If you want to download that resource where we’ve compiled all of these different responses from different top bloggers and influencers in the food space, you can do that by going to ‘Foodbloggerpro.com/focus’, and you can actually read Jadah’s answer for that as well, which I think that you’ll see matches pretty closely to some of the things that she talked about today. There’s over 30 other responses as well from other top bloggers, and you can again check that out by going to ‘Foodbloggerpro.com/focus’. Thanks so much for tuning in. It’s been a huge joy for us to do this podcast and it’s been awesome to get your feedback and insight as we continue to develop new content.

Right now, I’m going to sign off, but we will check in again next week same time, same place. Until then. Make it a great week. Thanks, guys.

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  1. Thanks Bjork and Jadah for this wonderful post cast. I got a very tip from it which is to focus on the community, so I joined a facebook group and immediately I got few subscribers for my site more hits. And I created my first facebook group called French pastry. I’m so excited now. Thanks again.

  2. Another super podcast – love Jadah (I’ve listened to a lot of her podcasts). Also think you are a fabulous interviewer Bjork. I’m not a ‘food’ blogger but, I always get so much information from your posts and podcasts. Thank you (or should I say, Many Wags 🙂 )