346: 600K YouTube Subscribers – How Jenné Claiborne Built Her Team, Leaned into Video, and Went From Private Chef to Content Creator

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An image of a phone with the YouTube app opened and the title of Jenné Claiborne's episode on the Food Blogger Pro Podcast, '600K YouTube Subscribers.'

This episode is sponsored by Clariti.

Welcome to episode 346 of The Food Blogger Pro Podcast! This week on the podcast, Bjork interviews Jenné Claiborne from Sweet Potato Soul about how she has built her business as a content creator and gained over 600k subscribers on YouTube.

Last week on the podcast, Bjork chatted with Alisha Cohen from LISH Creative about running a production agency and shooting content for brands. To go back and listen to that episode, click here.

600K YouTube Subscribers

We’re really excited to be chatting with Jenné from Sweet Potato Soul today! She’s a vegan chef, cookbook author, food blogger, and successful YouTuber with over 600k subscribers.

From working as an actor to offering personal chef services to becoming a full-time content creator, Jenné has had quite the entrepreneurial journey. In this episode, you’ll hear what she’s learned along the way, how she has been growing her team, why she focuses so much on video, and what the revenue streams currently look like for her business.

It’s a really great episode, and Jenné is just such an inspiring, hard-working creator. We know you’ll have lots of takeaways from this conversation!

A quote from Jenné Claiborne's appearance on the Food Blogger Pro podcast that says, 'In order to scale and grow my business, I need to bring in people to help me.'

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • How Jenné launched her blog
  • How she started offering personal chef services
  • How she got her first cookbook deal
  • Why she started sharing videos on YouTube
  • Why she shifted her focus to content creation full-time
  • Why she focuses so much on video
  • Why she struggled with growing her team
  • What her team looks like now
  • Why she hired a personal assistant
  • What the revenue streams look like for her business
  • How she manages her finances both personally and professionally


About This Week’s Sponsor

We’re excited to announce that this week’s episode is sponsored by our sister site, Clariti!

With Clariti, you can easily organize your blog content for maximum growth. Create campaigns to add alt text to your posts, fix broken images, remove any broken links, and more, all within the Clariti app.

Sign up for the Clariti waitlist today to receive:

  • Early access to their $25/Month Forever pricing
  • Optimization ideas for your site content
  • An invitation to join their exclusive Slack community
  • And more!

You can learn more and sign up here.

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

Food Blogger Pro logo with the words 'Join the Community' on a blue background

Transcript (click to expand):

Bjork Ostrom: This episode is sponsored by our sister site, Clariti. C-L-A-R-I-T-I is how you spell Clariti, all different iterations of how people say it. But it’s Clariti because it helps you to be clear on what it is that you need to be working on and really gives you direction around how you can go around improving and updating and tracking the content on your blog.

Bjork Ostrom: We built it because we have been managing everything in a spreadsheet. So my guess is there’s two people listening to this podcast. One would be you are people who track stuff and you probably track it in a spreadsheet, maybe Airtable, maybe notion, and my guess is it’s a lot of manual work. There’s another group of people who just aren’t tracking anything and that’s okay, you’ll get there eventually.

Bjork Ostrom: But Clariti’s going to be the tool that’s going to allow you to do that more easily. It’s going to allow you to not spend as much manual time doing the tracking, updating, improving, and just generally understanding the lay of the land with your content.

Bjork Ostrom: And one of the things that I think is most important, a lot of times we talk about hiring on this podcast, but one of the things we don’t talk about enough, and I probably should talk about it more is some of the first positions you should hire for are software. It’s not an actual person you’re hiring software to come in and do a lot of the work that you are doing. And that’s what Clariti is for us.

Bjork Ostrom: As the Pinch of Yum team, Food Blogger Pro team, we use Clariti to take manual work away from our day-to-day tasks and we automate that. It’s one of the easiest ways to have your first hire. So if you’re thinking, “Oh…” I hear people talk about hiring a lot, who should my next hire be, my encouragement for you would let your next hire be a tool like Clariti where you’re going to spend 25 a month and you’re going to save an incredible amount of time. That’s what it’s all about.

Bjork Ostrom: So if you want to check it out, if you want to learn a little bit more about what it is and how it works, you can go to clariti.com/food and you can deep dive into the ins and outs of Clariti just by signing up for that list. And that’s not going to sign you up for the app. It’s not going to sign you up and process any payments or anything like that. It’s just going to allow you to understand the tool better through some onboarding emails that give you a little bit of context around what Clariti does and why we built it. So again, that’s clariti.com/food, if you want to check that out.

Bjork Ostrom: And as a last note here, we’re halfway through this 25 forever deal. So when I say you can… Think of hiring Clariti at $25 a month as a little team member who’s in the background working for you, that deal’s not going to last forever. We’re just wanting to get to our first 500 users as we’re in the early stages with this. You’ll still get a lot of value out of it.

Bjork Ostrom: But the great thing is as the value within Clariti increases, as we build out more features, as we build out more functionality, you will be locked in at that $25 price as a thank you for signing up early for being somebody who’s using the tool early on, giving us feedback, but also finding a lot of value out of it.

Bjork Ostrom: We’ve actually had two people this week, it was last week, actually that followed up and one person said, “I love…” it was all L-O-V-E capital, “this service,” and somebody else said the same thing in the Slack channel, which you can join and be a part of that after you sign up for Clariti to see how other people are using it and the questions that come up and offer any insider feedback along the way. So thank you to Clariti for sponsoring this episode.

Bjork Ostrom: Hello, Hello. This is Bjork. As you know, you are listening to the Food Blogger Pro podcast and today we’re going to be talking to Jenné Claiborne from Sweet Potato Soul.

Bjork Ostrom: I remember years back, Lindsay and I were having a conversation and she’s just like, “Jenné’s awesome. She does such good work. She’s so inspiring.” And that’s why it’s so fun to have this conversation with her today.

Bjork Ostrom: She talks about her mindset around business, how she’s really focused on showing up every day and putting good work into the world and the results that that has gotten her and whether it be a cookbook deal that leads to Tesla which was a fun conversation. It’s one of my… Whenever I see a Tesla, I’m like, “Oh my gosh, those are so awesome.” Jenné on our team, her husband works for Tesla. They drive a Tesla. I haven’t worked up the courage yet to ask her if I can test drive it, but maybe someday I will. So that was a fun conversation.

Bjork Ostrom: But also just what does it look like to build a business to 700,000 subscribers on YouTube and a successful blog and a cookbook, but also to be an involved parent and how do you balance those things and make sure that you’re being successful in both places. And she talks about her strategy and mindset for a lot of those different things as a successful business owner and what she’s learned along the way in the multiple iterations of different businesses that she’s had. So it’s going to be a great interview, really excited about it.

Bjork Ostrom: Hey, one thing I wanted to let you know about before we jump into the interview, though, is this survey that we’re doing. We want to learn more about you and here are the details for it. It’s a podcast listener survey.

Bjork Ostrom: First, you can go to foodbloggerpro.com/survey. That’s going to pull up the survey. Not only are you going to get a chance to see what that survey is and to get the inside look at all of the things that we care about. That’s maybe actually not a huge motivation.

Bjork Ostrom: But there’s an additional bonus of a chance to win a $100 Amazon gift card. You could buy the Sweet Potato Soul cookbook. You could buy new photography gear. You could buy a little dog that is battery powered and walks on its own which is what Solvi, our daughter, got for Christmas and she loves it. So in case you needed some ideas of what you would spend that gift card on. So you have a chance to win that. We’ll pick somebody from that survey.

Bjork Ostrom: It’ll be open until March 11th, the end of the day. So make sure to take action on that now, and after the survey wraps up, we’re going to record an episode that recaps the results. So we want to make sure that as many people take that as possible. So we can have some information not only for ourselves to inform how we can make this podcast better, but also to share with you once we release that.

Bjork Ostrom: So that’s enough on survey. Again, it’s foodbloggerpro.com/survey. Let’s go ahead and jump into this interview. Jenné, welcome to the podcast.

Jenné Claiborne: Hi. I’m so excited to be here.

Bjork Ostrom: Great. We had a conversation before I pressed record where I wish I would’ve remembered when this was, but there’s a time where Lindsay and I were having a conversation, we were looking I think it was at your Instagram account or something, so Sweet Potato Soul, and we said, “Jenné just has magic fairy dust.” That’s a word that we occasionally use around somebody who just has it.

Bjork Ostrom: I also remember feeling like a version of that when I watched Justin Bieber, Never Say Never the documentary.

Jenné Claiborne: Wow.

Bjork Ostrom: I remember being like… There’s just something about… Obviously, a very different category of creator and-

Jenné Claiborne: Yeah, yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: … celebrity. But I remember thinking the same thing. Do you feel like that’s been true for you? Have you always been somebody who has felt comfortable being in front of a camera, being centered in that world? And was that always something that you’d hoped to do was-

Jenné Claiborne: Yes.

Bjork Ostrom: … to be a creator or to be somebody who was known by other people?

Jenné Claiborne: Yes, absolutely.

Jenné Claiborne: It’s so funny. I was at my mom’s house the other day in my old bedroom and I was looking under the bed at all the junk and the papers and the journals and the photos and I pulled out a folder but a four-page long written note. I’m sure we had to do this-

Bjork Ostrom: Sure.

Jenné Claiborne: I’m thinking in high school, we had to do a letter to our future selves. So I found my letter to my future self. It was like in 10 years type of thing. So now it’s been 20, but I finally found it and I wrote that I wanted it to be famous. I wanted to be a famous actress because that is what I wanted to do back then and that I wasn’t sure if I was going to be there in 10 years. So at 26, but I knew that I was going to be on my way. And I didn’t end up becoming an actor. Technically, I did. I had a BFA in acting.

Bjork Ostrom: Sure, sure. Yeah. Okay.

Jenné Claiborne: I did go to school for acting and when I graduated from school, I went to Boston University, I went to New York and I was pursuing acting. But once I discovered veganism because I was already into food, once I discovered veganism, I just went a different direction.

Jenné Claiborne: However, yes, I’ve always still loved being in front of people, knew that I wanted to have a cooking show. Just be in front of people because even when I was a little girl, I would always be entertaining my family, putting on shows. I wanted to be a dancer before I wanted to be an actress. But then I discovered acting and anyway… So yes, yes, yes.

Bjork Ostrom: My youngest years, I also wanted to be a dancer. Fun fact.

Jenné Claiborne: Really?

Bjork Ostrom: That we both share.

Jenné Claiborne: Oh my gosh.

Bjork Ostrom: It’s so far from my reality right now. But there’s these home videos of me. My parents-

Jenné Claiborne: Wow.

Bjork Ostrom: … playing these random songs that aren’t great songs to dance to and as you can imagine me, I don’t know, I was maybe three or four.

Jenné Claiborne: Oh my God. Were you doing interpretive dancing?

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. It was probably a little bit of all of it. Whatever it was, it wasn’t good, but in my mind it was awesome.

Jenné Claiborne: Yeah. Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: So it sounds like from your story, when you discovered or realized that you wanted to eat vegan, was that a pivot in your path? Was this a significant kind of juncture along the journey that redirected you? Or was it discovering like, “Oh, I can actually create content on YouTube. I can do my own cooking show. And so I don’t need to go in this direction of trying to get signed to a movie or commercials or show?” Where did that pivot for you?

Jenné Claiborne: It was a mix, for sure.

Jenné Claiborne: So before I became vegan and I was in New York and I was pursuing acting, so I was auditioning for theater, for television, movies, commercials, everything, I was even doing print modeling, but about year and a half into actually pursuing this career professionally, I realized I didn’t want to do it. I realized I actually wasn’t passionate about it like I thought I was. So-

Bjork Ostrom: What was that moment that you realized it? Do you remember?

Jenné Claiborne: Well, I-

Bjork Ostrom: Or was it a slow realization?

Jenné Claiborne: It was a slow realization. It was going to auditions for things that were in my head below me because I was a classically trained actress and I’m going out for the dumbest commercials.

Bjork Ostrom: Sure. Like a Mucinex commercial on-

Jenné Claiborne: Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. It’s like all of the-

Jenné Claiborne: And the not even having me act. It’s just make a face and turn around and that’s it. Not exactly what I thought I’d signed up for.

Jenné Claiborne: And so my passion for it was wearing off and I didn’t really have the same fire that I had in school. In school, it’s fun. You can be whatever you want in school. You could play… I’d play men sometimes in theater which was just so much more experimental and interesting. And then the real world, it just wasn’t like that at all.

Jenné Claiborne: Also the money. Of course, if you become a famous actor, you’re going to get paid so much, but I wasn’t making as much money as I thought I could. Theater wasn’t paying as much as I thought it would. And then I also didn’t like my… I had a great manager or agent, so it wasn’t him, but I just didn’t like the whole arrangement. So the whole passion is-

Bjork Ostrom: What do you mean by that? What do you mean by that? How that relationship worked?

Jenné Claiborne: Yes, exactly.

Bjork Ostrom: Any management-agent relationship just didn’t feel like that’s how you want to work.

Jenné Claiborne: Exactly, exactly. Because for me, I’m saying I actually thought I had gone to school to do just Broadway into huge Shakespeare essentially.

Jenné Claiborne: And my agent who actually also graduated from Boston University of the same program, he was like, “This is a commercial thing. You got to go out for everything.” Of course, I wasn’t at the level where I could be picky about the role I was going up for. You got to be pretty famous to be doing that which is great. You have to pay your dues, you have to be humble. But in order for me to be able to pay my dues and be humble, I also really needed passion which I didn’t have for. If I had all the passion-

Bjork Ostrom: That you have to grind for 10 years and while grinding, you have to actually like grinding.

Jenné Claiborne: Yes. You have to like grinding, you have to feel good about it, you have to know that this is part of your journey and you’re going to get to the place that you just want to be. And I just didn’t have it.

Bjork Ostrom: As opposed to getting your soul dried out after doing a commercial shoot being exhausted and-

Jenné Claiborne: Exactly.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Jenné Claiborne: And being in… I would do commercials where I would… So at the time, like I said, I was living in New York. We would literally film a commercial for all weather so we’d be wearing skirts and our toes out, short sleeves and we would film it in 20-degree weather and then we’d scurry back into the trailers or they would set up heaters on the street.

Jenné Claiborne: I filmed one of the first things, I can’t remember what it was for, it was a commercial for something and they had heaters on the street and we would all group, bundle around the heaters and shake and freeze. And at the end of all of that, I think the shoot was multiple days, 12-hour days, the end of it, I didn’t even get that much money. That was like, “Oh.” It was like a stab in my heart like-

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, totally.

Jenné Claiborne: … why did I waste my time?

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. And it’s almost like this separation of art and commerce where there’s this bucket of commerce acting where you get paid, you show up and do it, but it sounds like it wasn’t necessarily art and it’s-

Jenné Claiborne: Right.

Bjork Ostrom: And it’s maybe if you go in the category of art, there’s not a lot of the commerce. You’re not even paid-

Jenné Claiborne: Exactly.

Bjork Ostrom: … until you get to this top of the triangle where you’re able to do both, where you get $20 million to do it.

Jenné Claiborne: And so few people.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Right,

Jenné Claiborne: Right. That’s like 20 people. You can count those people.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, totally.

Jenné Claiborne: They’re that famous.

Bjork Ostrom: I had a friend who lived in L.A. for a long time. He was older than I was and so he was middle career and he went out to L.A. to do acting, he did a few commercials and eventually he just got burnt out, moved back to Minnesota. But he said… It was interesting because he was at a stage in life where some of his friends who did grind for 10 years started to book movies and supporting roles. He said, “To imagine doing what I was doing for 10 to 15 years,” he’s like, “it just wasn’t worth it to me.”

Jenné Claiborne: Right.

Bjork Ostrom: So it’s interesting to hear you talk in parallels to that.

Bjork Ostrom: So this combination of discovering, “Hey, I am passionate about some things, acting, artistry, and vegan.” Was there a crossroads for those two things to say, “Wait a minute. Maybe I can chart my own path and not have to grind and hope and pray that eventually I get to this place. Maybe I can just get to this place now. And when I am grinding, it’s actually going to be enjoyable?” Is that parallel kind of what your story was?

Jenné Claiborne: That’s exactly. Did you say commerce? That was a huge part of it too. The money.

Bjork Ostrom: Sure. Yeah. Yeah.

Jenné Claiborne: I got a job at a restaurant like all actors do and it was a vegan restaurant. Eventually after a year working there, I became vegan also. I was already interested, I was already vegetarian/pescatarian.

Jenné Claiborne: So when I became vegan, it was as though I had an epiphany and a light bulb went off. I realized, “Oh my God, this is the thing I can do,” because I knew I didn’t want to be an actor but like I said, I have a BFA in acting, what else am I going to use that for? So I didn’t feel qualified to do anything else. And I was going through an early, very early quarter life crisis.

Jenné Claiborne: So I became vegan and it was, like I said, an epiphany, “Oh my God, I can do this.” I didn’t know exactly what that would look like. But I knew I loved the idea of being an entrepreneur because I grew up… My parents are entrepreneurs. I knew I liked that. I loved being in control. I never wanted to work for anybody. And then the third thing was I knew I could make money. I could control my money. But how?

Jenné Claiborne: So like I said, I was working in this restaurant on the Upper West Side so it’s very wealthy area. I realized maybe I can start a private chef company because I’m a great cook. I couldn’t afford to go to culinary school but I knew I was a great cook.

Jenné Claiborne: So I started this private chef company and that was my way forward as far as having something I’m extremely passionate about, feeling like I have so much purpose around that as well, helping people become vegan for the animals, for their health, for the environment and I have all the control and I’m working for rich people so I can charge… And it’s really great amount of money, way more than I was doing those stupid commercials and I’m really in charge.

Bjork Ostrom: What was that like to get your first clients?

Jenné Claiborne: Oh my God.

Bjork Ostrom: How did that happen?

Jenné Claiborne: Let me tell you how long it took, first off. I started my business. I’m doing air quotes here because I started the business in October or something. I sent my email. I had my own newsletter. Did all that. By the way-

Bjork Ostrom: And this is October of?

Jenné Claiborne: 2011. And by the way-

Bjork Ostrom: 10 years ago.

Jenné Claiborne: … I already had my blog. I started my blog 2010. And I didn’t even say that because I started it as a hobby while I was still trying to figure out the acting thing. I was not really thinking about it. It was a hobby.

Jenné Claiborne: The private chefing company, I called it The Nourishing Vegan. I started it in 2011, October, maybe November. And I was hustling, hit the ground, had my little flyers, put up flyers at the restaurant where I worked at. I talked to all the patrons, all the people, like, “You’re rich. You can hire me. You don’t need to keep coming to the restaurant. I could cook for you.”

Jenné Claiborne: I told everybody what I was doing. I would do tasting at nail salons, yoga studios, hair salons, anywhere they would have me. I would bring my little food, set up a little table, have my flowers and make it look real beautiful and professional and trying to appeal to these people.

Jenné Claiborne: I did not get a client until May 2012.

Bjork Ostrom: Wow.

Jenné Claiborne: It took six months to get my first client. It was torture but I never gave up because I’m not that. I just don’t give up. If I pursued acting, I would probably be a famous actress by now. I never, ever, ever, ever, ever give up if I like it.

Bjork Ostrom: Totally. That was going to be my question. And maybe that’s the answer is what was different between saying, “You know what? I’m not acting no more, but maybe a similar type of struggle around this,” but sticking with it to the point where you were able to book your first clients? What was different between those two scenarios?

Jenné Claiborne: Because I had this whole food thing. Veganism to me at that time was still so new to me. I was doing my blog so I was experimenting with recipes and sharing them on the blog and that was just… I would get a little bit of feedback, maybe one or two comments, but that meant the world to me and I really felt like I had a purpose. I felt like I need to help change the world by making other people go vegan. Whoever wants to go vegan, they need to know me because I’m going to help them. I felt this is my-

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, it was a really strong why.

Jenné Claiborne: Yes. I felt like I was born to do this. I felt like I was born to be a vegan and born to help other people become vegan. I never felt that about anything else in my life. Still to this day, I still feel that way. That is the only thing I’ve ever had that drive for.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. That’s really cool. So what did that… You have your, and when you said you started your blog, that was Sweet Potato Soul in 2010?

Jenné Claiborne: 10, yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: And then you start The Nourishing Vegan as business where you’re doing private chef. So is that parties? Gatherings?

Jenné Claiborne: Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: Or is it an individual who’s like, “I want to eat vegan and I have no time to do it. Help me, please?”

Jenné Claiborne: It was everything but it was mostly the latter. So cooking for clients on a weekly basis. That first client within a month, it turned into three because she was-

Bjork Ostrom: Word of mouth.

Jenné Claiborne: She got her friends on board. Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Jenné Claiborne: And then that turned into five or six then Google found my website and so if you would search in New York City for a private chef, personal chef for vegan or vegetarian, I would be the very first to pop up.

Bjork Ostrom: Awesome.

Jenné Claiborne: That just took off from there. And so what I would do was like, “Yeah. Cook for the same people every week.” There’s only of course so many people I could cook for. I was doing meal delivery…

Jenné Claiborne: On Sundays, I would cook for my home and then deliver the food. I was also doing supper clubs in my own house and also around the city, was doing a lot of cooking classes in public places. Whole Foods at the time had a couple different locations where you could do cooking classes in the stores. Beautiful culinary kitchens. And then I’d also do cooking class in people’s homes. People would hire me for a birthday party to learn how to cook vegan or one on one, they’re just becoming vegan.

Jenné Claiborne: So I ran the gamut. I did all sorts of stuff all throughout New York and it was great. I was only me. I never hired anybody. And of course, I could have scaled more if I had hired other people but I just wanted all the money to myself. I was like, “First real business.”

Bjork Ostrom: Totally.

Jenné Claiborne: I was not parting with anything. I thought that it was so successful, doing so well.

Bjork Ostrom: What I think is so great about that is I think sometimes people in general will feel behind because they’re just starting out. So an example being like somebody’s starting today to build an Instagram following.

Jenné Claiborne: That’s right.

Bjork Ostrom: “I’m so far behind. Everybody’s worked so hard to do this.” But I think what we discredit sometimes is all of our previous experience that leads up to that point and the asset that we have in those seemingly uncorrelated skills and abilities that can be in some way folded into what we are doing now.

Bjork Ostrom: I see that in a really obvious way with what you are doing and acting where I would imagine part of doing, if you’re doing an event where you’re with people, it’s like you need to understand people and the feel of a room and to feel comfortable on your feet to come up with stuff. It moves into an improv version of acting. But-

Jenné Claiborne: Definitely.

Bjork Ostrom: … there’s probably… Well, I guess it’s a question. Do you feel like there were things that you learned or knew from your experience as an actor that rolled into this new business?

Jenné Claiborne: Yeah, 100%. That presentation. So presenting myself. So much of what you learn in acting school is not actually acting but it’s about embodying a character, right?

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Jenné Claiborne: Way before you get to saying words and actually acting but putting on a character. So I was able to…

Jenné Claiborne: I’m actually an introvert, even shy person, but nobody would know because I actively put something on to… Even having this conversation with you right now, I prepared earlier and I was super nervous and I still feel very nervous but I’m an actress so I have like this persona that I put on top. That was helpful.

Bjork Ostrom: Is it a named persona in your mind?

Jenné Claiborne: No. No.

Bjork Ostrom: Okay.

Jenné Claiborne: It’s not.

Bjork Ostrom: But it’s a mind, and I know some people have that where they’d be like-

Jenné Claiborne: Yeah. Like Beyoncé, Sasha Fierce.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Yeah, yeah. That’s what I’m thinking of. That’s what I’m thinking of where-

Jenné Claiborne: Yes.

Bjork Ostrom: Yes. But for you, it’s putting on the persona or the character of what?

Jenné Claiborne: It’s just a character of… It’s another me. And I’ve always had to be like this because I have a very boisterous family and it’s hard to get a word in, in that type of family. And as a kid, I was very shy. It was hard for me to talk to anyone so I had to basically learn how to be in a way comfortable and I had to really actively develop myself to fit into the family, and that person who I developed being I’m very outgoing and I want to entertain that is something that I became this person consciously.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Yeah.

Jenné Claiborne: I can think back to as a kid thinking like, “Oh, I have to make sure that I am louder or I have to get them to look at me because if they don’t look at me, I’m literally going to be forgotten. So I have to do this to have them look at me.”

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. I think it would be inspiring for people who are listening who can resonate with that idea of being shy or… And that would be this way too. If I have a weekend where I’m not doing anything and it’s just me in the house, some people go crazy. I’m like, “I live for that. Awesome.”

Jenné Claiborne: Thanks. Don’t come over. Nobody, good.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. But I think for people to hear you and to see you and to see how you are and to know that’s something that you’ve worked on is inspiring because it can be a skill that you develop and you can be aware of it and you can move towards whatever it might be like being more comfortable in front of people or for some people it might be speaking. So I think it’s really cool to hear you talk about that and inspiring in a lot of ways.

Bjork Ostrom: So at what point were you like, “You know what? This business is successful and this is a thing?” In the early stages, it’s like, “Is this going to be a thing?” And then with the business, I feel like you’re growing it and it’s like, “It looks like it could be a thing.” Was there a point where you’re like, “Wait, this is a thing?”

Jenné Claiborne: Well, okay. Kind of. Because, keep in mind, now, technically at this point I only have one business, The Nourishing Vegan.

Bjork Ostrom: Right.

Jenné Claiborne: I also have the blog. I didn’t call it a business.

Bjork Ostrom: I’m interested in the parallels of how those work together.

Jenné Claiborne: I always did them at the same time. I started my YouTube channel before I even started my business, The Nourishing Vegan.

Bjork Ostrom: Sure.

Jenné Claiborne: Because back then, it wasn’t obvious how you would ever make money from a blog or a YouTube channel.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Jenné Claiborne: It was more… It was so difficult to just build your subscribers and your viewers and your traffic for the blog. That’s like, “I’m not going to put on ads. I don’t care. I have another business. I don’t need to-”

Bjork Ostrom: Not because it’s not worth it.

Jenné Claiborne: It’s not worth it. Who cares?

Bjork Ostrom: Early stages. Yeah. Yeah.

Jenné Claiborne: And for the blog off… I was reading a post about this yesterday. There’s a blog post on my blog, of course, about the recipe is for my vegan crab cakes and really the whole blog post is trying to… I’m advertising my supper club in my house.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Right.

Jenné Claiborne: All the photos are about that.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s the thing you’re promoting.

Jenné Claiborne: Yes.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Jenné Claiborne: I’m trying to push people to The Nourishing Vegan, to my supper clubs. It was called The Little Harlem Kitchen. But that was the goal of the blog. I never was trying to monetize it but I did the blog and YouTube because it was fun. Why not? I never thought like, “Oh, this is a burden I need to stop. This is a waste of time.” I just never considered that. It was just fun. It would be great if it grew into something else. So why not just do it?

Bjork Ostrom: Yep.

Jenné Claiborne: Now in 2016, I was doing very well with The Nourishing Vegan, but the blog and the YouTube channel, the Sweet Potato Soul was also starting to grow. I don’t remember what my traffic was, I don’t remember what my subscribers were, but I had started paying more attention to growing my platforms specifically the YouTube. I don’t remember social media. I don’t remember the advent of Instagram though I was there and I was posting but I can’t even tell you back then, I have no idea. I don’t remember. But the blog and YouTube, I was starting to pay more attention to starting in 2015.

Jenné Claiborne: So what happened was I was on the train with a friend who is an author of… I think now she’s written 12 books. At the time, it was 10. And she said-

Bjork Ostrom: Who was it? We can give her a little-

Jenné Claiborne: This is Victoria Moran.

Bjork Ostrom: Okay.

Jenné Claiborne: Yeah. And she’s amazing, she’s a vegan author, but prior to writing mostly about veganism, she was more a self-help spirituality author.

Bjork Ostrom: Cool.

Jenné Claiborne: And she also lived in Harlem and we were going home and she said, “Jenné, I think it’s time for you to write a cookbook.”

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Jenné Claiborne: I was like, “Maybe. But who’s going to buy it? My 12 clients?” She’s like, “Well, you have your blog and your YouTube channel. I think it’s like… You’re doing really well.” So she saw that in me which I didn’t think I was ready.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Jenné Claiborne: She referred me to her literary agent. He signed to me. And then 2016 was the big year for me.

Jenné Claiborne: At the beginning of 2016, one, I got my first sponsorship deal. I had never reached out to a brand. I wasn’t trying to do that. But a brand, it was the North Carolina SweetPotato Commission.

Bjork Ostrom: Nice.

Jenné Claiborne: They reached out to me for a year or six-month long ambassadorship. That was my first ever paid anything from Sweet Potato Soul.

Bjork Ostrom: So that immediately opens the door-

Jenné Claiborne: Yes.

Bjork Ostrom: … into like, “This is a thing.”

Jenné Claiborne: Yeah. Isn’t that funny? It’s like the other brands might have noticed or something because then after a month, then I’m like, “Oh, here’s two more brands who want to work with me.” And it just snowballed. That was crazy because remember, I’m still doing The Nourishing Vegan. I’m still doing my supper club. I’m still having my cooking clients. I’m starting to get busier.

Jenné Claiborne: Then in June 2016, I got a book deal with Harmony, which is the imprint of Penguin Random House. So that was a big deal too. And so now I’m having even more sponsorships and my YouTube channel’s growing, my blog is growing. I’m not even really trying. And then now I have a book deal.

Jenné Claiborne: So what happened was I just got overwhelmed and I had to start passing my clients off to other private chefs. I was just referring them away and saying, “I’ll be back. I just have six months to write this book. But let me do this and then I’ll be back to you the beginning of 2017.” That never happened-

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Because things just kept…

Jenné Claiborne: … because this blog just took off.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, yeah, yeah. And it’s interesting because you had done a lot of work up until that point. You had been putting coal into the fire and it’s almost four or five years of doing that with no intent. It sounds like with no intent of that being like, “Please, when is this thing going to take off?” But like, “Hey, I just enjoy the process of doing this.” And eventually there’s enough coal in the engine where it started to go forward. And then it feels like you’re trying to captain two different… Or what? No. What is it? A train conductor? You’re trying to conduct two different trains.

Jenné Claiborne: Two different. Definitely.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Jenné Claiborne: And it’s funny because… And it’s not… It’s not an accident that the blog and YouTube took off and then I got the book deal because I was very intentional about my business.

Jenné Claiborne: It’s funny. The end of 2015 and beginning of ’16, I was thinking, “How am I going to grow my private chef company? I need to bring on other chefs so I can take on more clients.” I was getting so much traffic to my private chef company, I just had to turn people away. That was my focus.

Jenné Claiborne: But at the same time, I wasn’t just being loosey-goosey with the blog and the YouTube. I was very intentional. I want to post the video every week. I want to do a blog post every week. I got to get better with my food photography constantly. I was very constantly, constantly, constantly thinking like that. I just wasn’t monetizing it. I just wasn’t expecting to make money from it.

Bjork Ostrom: It’s not like you’re reaching out to sponsors. Yeah.

Jenné Claiborne: Yeah. I wasn’t doing that or I didn’t have an ad network or anything like that.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. And I think… What I want to point out is you were really, and you just said this, but really intentional with it, but weren’t trying in the sense of like, “Oh, I just want to make money from this. I need to make money from it.”

Jenné Claiborne: Because I didn’t have to.

Bjork Ostrom: And I think that’s what’s so great is you have… I’m trying to think of a good on the fly way to brand this, but the best thing I’ve come up with in the last 60 seconds is a bridge business.

Jenné Claiborne: Hmm.

Bjork Ostrom: You built this bridge between where you are now and where you were before where it’s a business in the sense that you have complete control. You don’t have a boss. But it’s maybe not scalable in the way that YouTube or Instagram or these other business units are.

Bjork Ostrom: But it did allow you, it sounds like, flexibility, autonomy. You could in a season where you have to do the cookbook, pass off some clients to other people. And I love that idea of working first towards a bridge business to allow you to have the freedom of flexibility in your case to not have to really push to do sponsorships that might have not been a good fit or to monetize too early which it’s just really cool to see that. And I think the first time that it’s been such a clear example of somebody doing that which is really cool to see.

Bjork Ostrom: Was it hard for you to wind down a successful business or was there enough progress with Sweet Potato Soul where it was like, “Oh, this feels like the right thing to do?” Or is there any part of you that wanted to hang onto that?

Jenné Claiborne: Yeah. Yeah, it was very hard and it still. I still have that website up. It’s like-

Bjork Ostrom: I was going to ask, what the-

Jenné Claiborne: I still use the email. I still use the email.

Bjork Ostrom: I think that’s part of… I was like, “I need to ask about this,” because this is the email and I was like, “So this must be like a bigger…” But it sounds like not.

Jenné Claiborne: No. No.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Okay.

Jenné Claiborne: My business now is Sweet Potato Soul LLC. It’s not… I have a whole different business and it was hard and even thinking about it now, it is hard. I don’t want to… There’s a part of me where I’m like, “Oh, I can always go back to that.” I just cannot, for some reason. All that work, even though I haven’t done it in… It’s been six years. It’s been five and a half actually. I just cannot-

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, not six. Five and a half.

Jenné Claiborne: … let it go. Five and half. And I still update it sometimes. I just can’t let it go.

Bjork Ostrom: Do you still get people reaching out?

Jenné Claiborne: Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Jenné Claiborne: About once a day.

Bjork Ostrom: Oh, really?

Jenné Claiborne: And at least one email a day. And now because I was in New York and then I moved to Los Angeles and now I’m here in Atlanta. Now I get primarily emails from L.A. because I’ve only been here in Atlanta for six months so now people think I’m in L.A. So at least once a day, I get an email from someone in L.A. wanting to book me.

Bjork Ostrom: Oh, interesting. So last thing on that before we move on, but what would your advice be or what did you learn about business with that first stage of your business development in your career?

Jenné Claiborne: Hmm. I learned a lot about the need to outsource even though I wasn’t doing it. But looking back, especially…

Jenné Claiborne: Everything is clear in 2020 hindsight, but looking back, I see like how I really could have scaled more and still been able to have The Nourishing Vegan and Sweet Potato Soul if I were able to relinquish some of that control and hire other chefs and bring on maybe an assistant to help me even to just coordinate other people’s schedules. I could still technically have that business and I think that’s one of the reasons I haven’t let it go because I’m like, “Maybe I’ll do it.”

Bjork Ostrom: Maybe there’s something there. Yeah.

Jenné Claiborne: Maybe there’s something there still. But definitely, that was the biggest thing. If you want to grow, you need to… You say it all the time and I hear it all the time on your podcast, it’s not who but how, right?

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. That’s-

Jenné Claiborne: Yeah. Or not how but who? Is that not how but who?

Bjork Ostrom: Not how who.

Jenné Claiborne: Not how but who.

Bjork Ostrom: Idea being for those who aren’t familiar. And this actually came up in conversation. It’s a name of a book which I haven’t read but I feel like it’s one of those books where it’s just the title. That’s the takeaway. But I notice of myself sometimes I’m like, “Oh, how do I do this? How do I do this?” But as business owners starting to think about who knows how to do this and go to that person.

Bjork Ostrom: An example being in my previous life did IT and actually really troubleshooting stuff. There’s a little part of me that’s anytime-

Jenné Claiborne: That’s the challenge.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, exactly. I forget what it was the other day, but something came up where I had to troubleshoot it and it was just the best. It was 15 minutes of troubleshooting this tech issue and I loved it, but it’s like I can’t do that if we have a team of 16 people who have random stuff.

Jenné Claiborne: Exactly.

Bjork Ostrom: So it’s like who… And we hired a fractional IT service and they remote in and they help. And so I think that’s a great takeaway.

Bjork Ostrom: Did you roll those learnings into Sweet Potato Soul as you started to scale that up? And I’m curious to know how the learnings of the first stage or first chapter impacted the next chapter.

Jenné Claiborne: Oh my gosh. Yes. And I’m still learning.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. As we all are.

Jenné Claiborne: Every single day. It’s a learning experience constantly. But yes, I definitely did. Just organization as well was super important for going into Sweet Potato Soul because my old business… And Sweet Potato Soul, it’s not just the blog. I’ve got the Instagram, I’ve got… Well, just social media in general. I’ve got the YouTube channel. I have the blog, I have the newsletter. And so it’s all these little different parts. And so yes, I had to grow a team. Didn’t want to. I had a lot of fear around that.

Bjork Ostrom: Where do you think that fear came from?

Jenné Claiborne: Letting go of control. Just afraid that someone else isn’t going to do it as well as I would do it and/or they would take such a long time doing it the right way that I might as well just do it by myself,

Bjork Ostrom: And how did you overcome that?

Jenné Claiborne: Just letting them do it. Purely hiring people, hiring-

Bjork Ostrom: Exposure therapy.

Jenné Claiborne: Yeah. Exposure therapy. Also hiring the wrong people and becoming even more afraid. “Oh my God, see? Confirmation bias. I knew it wasn’t going to work out.” But still I know on an intellectual level that in order to scale and grow my business, I need to bring in the people to help me. So I knew, “This person didn’t work out, but yes, I will find the one who does.”

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Jenné Claiborne: That’s a struggle because like most of us, all of us are led by emotion primarily not my intellect. So it was hard, but yes, I just pushed myself. And I did it.

Bjork Ostrom: it’s one of those things that I think is a skill working with people, working with the team, but we don’t think of it as a skill and I think there’s certain categories that we definitely think of as skills. Playing guitar, skateboarding-

Jenné Claiborne: Cooking.

Bjork Ostrom: Cooking, painting and we’re like, “Oh my goodness. I’m terrible skateboarder, but if I could do this for five to 10 years, then I’ll maybe be a good skateboarder.” Right?

Jenné Claiborne: Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: “I’m a bad dancer. Five to 10 years, maybe I can be doing a YouTube dance channel.”

Jenné Claiborne: Right. You’d be Michael Jackson.

Bjork Ostrom: But I think when we think of working with a team or hiring, that’s something we don’t necessarily put in the category of a skill but I think it is. We need to get better at it. We need to improve at it.

Bjork Ostrom: I remember this conversation I was having with Lindsay. We were driving down the highway and we were talking about next chapter type software. We see things going, this is maybe a year or two ago or two to three years ago, COVID warps everything. I remember saying to her, “All the stuff that I’ve been good at I have to let go of and I have to get good at this new thing which is figuring out how to work with people and it’s abstract and I don’t really understand it.”

Bjork Ostrom: But what I love about some of the things that you shared was this realization of like, “Hey, you know what? I need to just commit to doing this. I know it needs to happen.” And so you just do it and learn over time, “Hey, this did work, this didn’t work,” and continuing to commit to it. So what does that look like now for you? What are the things that you’ve learned and who are the team members whether contracted, freelance, full time that are most important for your day-to-day?

Jenné Claiborne: Yeah. So I actually brought on… I hired my first team member in 2019. It didn’t work out but then I… So I actually didn’t have anybody else… Also because I’m shy and because I’m an introvert, I don’t want to say I’m shy. I don’t like to say that because-

Bjork Ostrom: Sure, introvert.

Jenné Claiborne: I’m over that now.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Yeah.

Jenné Claiborne: For sure. The introvert is strong. I just don’t like having a lot of people around me. I just rather just work from home, work by myself. I like that. So that’s another reason I didn’t want to bring anybody on because I didn’t want to have to talk to people.

Bjork Ostrom: It’s a work preference whereas some people would be like-

Jenné Claiborne: It’s a work preference.

Bjork Ostrom: “Ah, more people around me, the better. I want to work with the team. I want to have more calls.”

Jenné Claiborne: Exactly.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Jenné Claiborne: Exactly. And on the type of person who, because of this, the way I am, if there are people around, I can sit in silence. However, I’m going to want to entertain you. I’m going to want to feed you. I want to make you laugh so that’s like-

Bjork Ostrom: You have some burden of entertaining, hosting, making people feel comfortable.

Jenné Claiborne: Exactly.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Jenné Claiborne: And then of course when you hire people you have… For me, I have that. But for all of us, when you hire people, you have the burden of actually having to give them work and pay them and so now you are their employer and they count on you and that’s a whole another… It’s a whole different thing. And so I didn’t want any of that.

Jenné Claiborne: So I hired my next team member, I thought she was just going to be part-time, the very beginning of 2021. I waited a whole year until I hired her. And now she’s full-time. She’s been with me since I think January 4th, 2021 just over a year now, full time, the entire time. I don’t think we ever did part-time maybe for a day and she’s great.

Jenné Claiborne: And her role has morphed. At first, I hired her just as an assistant because at the time my husband, my ex and I, we were splitting up and I was expecting for him to just move out of the house and I just needed help. Being a single mom, managing all that stuff. Had her. I don’t think she ever did any of the assisting stuff because I’m like, “Well, you know what I really need you to do-

Bjork Ostrom: And she’s smart and capable.

Jenné Claiborne: … all this business stuff.”

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, exactly.

Jenné Claiborne: Exactly.

Jenné Claiborne: She’s also a videographer. She went to school for that. So then she became my videographer and my editor. She’s still full-time even though I don’t even live in the same state anymore now we’re in Georgia. She’s still full-time. She mostly does all my editing. She also does my newsletter. She does a lot of my social media. Not my Instagram I haven’t outsourced that yet. But all the other stuff, Facebook, Twitter. Helps me with project management.

Jenné Claiborne: And when I moved down here to Atlanta, I also hired a videographer here and he’s been amazing. He’s part-time and he has his own business so he does lots of other things as well. And I also hired a part-time personal assistant because now I am a legit single mom.

Bjork Ostrom: Totally, totally.

Jenné Claiborne: I really needed that.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s awesome.

Bjork Ostrom: One of the… So I read this book, I think I put it up there I won’t grab it, but it’s called Your World-Class Assistant Michael Hyatt-

Jenné Claiborne: Ooh.

Bjork Ostrom: … who’s a-

Jenné Claiborne: Gotcha.

Bjork Ostrom: He speaks a lot about leadership and business and whatnot. Anyways, hired Mary who came on board as an executive assistant. I’m like, “How do I even do this?”

Bjork Ostrom: One of the things that was really interesting Mary’s in Michigan but they talked about the importance of that actual… When you’re business owner, it’s your work and your life and those aren’t separate. It’s all mixed together.

Jenné Claiborne: Hmm, I know.

Bjork Ostrom: I’m interested to know… Well, and the other piece within this is I think sometimes we do think of them as separate and so we have our business over here, “I need to hire for my business.” But I think for some people, a good first step is actually to figure out how can you hire for somebody to help with all of your other life stuff which you’re doing two, three, four hours, who knows, a day of that life stuff. What was that like for you to hire a personal assistant? What’s most helpful about that relationship and how did you find that person?

Jenné Claiborne: Oh my God. It’s so helpful. She’s a godsend because… So first off, what it was like was a little difficult because I have this thing where I don’t want… I just want to feed you. I want to take care of you. I want to be your personal assistant.

Bjork Ostrom: Totally. It’s uncomfortable for you to have somebody taking care of you.

Jenné Claiborne: Right. Like, “Can you take the recycling and the trash out for me?” That makes me uncomfortable.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, yeah.

Jenné Claiborne: And I grew up… My mom has a cleaning service and my dad has a commercial janitorial company so I grew up very blue-collar. I started working, cleaning houses at eight years old so that was my background. So I think I have a thing about actually hiring somebody to do that. I’ve never hired a cleaning service. Now that I live in Georgia, I have a cleaning service because it’s my mom. She does the cleaning. I’ve never felt comfortable… Whatever.

Jenné Claiborne: Anyway, hiring a personal assistant was like that too because you do… In the job listing, I posted it on Indeed. It’s very long. And in the job listing, I’m just like, “You know what? I’m uncomfortable with all this, but I’m going to write it out because then I’ll find someone who is comfortable with all this.”

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. It’s like you say, “Here’s exactly what it will be,” as opposed to saying, “Personal assistant and oh, yeah, P.S., it’s taking out the trash and recycling. Sorry. Actually, you know what? I’ll just do it. I’ll just do it.”

Jenné Claiborne: Exactly.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s like a line item on the job description. Yeah.

Jenné Claiborne: Write it all. Laundry, taking out the trash, clean the kitty litter box. Everything. I wrote everything.

Jenné Claiborne: What I did, I took a week to notice what my ex does a lot because I was so busy with my daughter and just my business and my ex is doing a lot of this stuff that my assistant does now and so I just was… And he and I worked together with this like, “What do you do?” Okay. Yeah. Clean the litter box because I’m not going to do that. Just together made this very long list. Posted it on Indeed. I got a lot of the…

Jenné Claiborne: I did the same job listing in LA and here in Atlanta literally just reposted. So I got a lot of interest both times and the first person I hired in L.A. worked out great. She’s still full-time. The first person I hired here in Atlanta did not work out. Long story. But didn’t work out.

Jenné Claiborne: So I found another who is my assistant now and she’s great. She will do all of that stuff. She’s very sweet. My daughter loves her because we’re just all here at home and she’s helpful with my business as well. That’s amazing. She can take photos for me which I also put in the listing. Literally, everything I needed her to do. I put it in the listing. She can take photos. She can read books to my daughter. She can…

Jenné Claiborne: Right now, because she’s a lot younger, great thing about working with people in their twenties, she’s way ahead on TikTok and reels and everything because I don’t even pay attention. She’s my TikTok girl now. I’ll let her do that. That’s her part-time. So she does everything. She does have to do around the house and then she’s on the computer scheduling, planning my TikToks and like, “Okay, Friday, we’re going to film this, Jenné, da da da.”

Bjork Ostrom: It’s awesome.

Jenné Claiborne: So it’s great. Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: I think what’s inspiring for me to see with your story as it relates that is this idea of coming up against a complex problem and then figuring out a solution for it. And I think essentially that’s what we’re doing as entrepreneurs is. It’s a never-ending set of complex problems that were coming up against and it’s both personal and its work in their overlapped and it’s figuring out how do we both get what we need in our personal lives and our business and working with other people to do that-

Jenné Claiborne: Exactly.

Bjork Ostrom: … and it’s cool to see that.

Bjork Ostrom: So you mentioned TikTok, you mentioned earlier YouTube, you have almost 700,000 followers on YouTube now which is incredible. Instagram, I’m curious to know when you look at the pie chart of your business what are the areas that you are like, “Hey, this is the important thing for me. This YouTube is 50% of the value of my business and TikTok is 5%,” or whatever it might be. Would you be able to rank order like the top three-

Jenné Claiborne: Yes.

Bjork Ostrom: … parts of your business?

Jenné Claiborne: Well, TikTok is zero.

Bjork Ostrom: Okay.

Jenné Claiborne: Oh my God. I have such a tiny TikTok. It’s so sad.

Bjork Ostrom: Okay.

Jenné Claiborne: It’s so sad, but I haven’t really…

Bjork Ostrom: Totally.

Jenné Claiborne: So let’s see. I’m going to value it actually monetarily, not just in my head, because in my head number one is the blog but in real life, the blog is not number one.

Jenné Claiborne: So I would say 50% Instagram, I would say 15 to 20% YouTube, I would say… Yeah, 15 to 20% YouTube. And then the rest, just the blog. I’m not putting the blog and the newsletter together because those are very tied together, so blog and newsletter. And then other social media, Facebook, let’s give them Facebook, Pinterest, 1%. We’ll put TikTok in in that category too. Instagram is one.

Bjork Ostrom: It’s interesting when you look at just pure follower account, you’d think, “Wait, YouTube’s really big. That should be more.” What’s the difference between those two platforms? Is it sponsorships and brands and that just being more aligned on Instagram right now than it is on YouTube?

Jenné Claiborne: Yeah. And it goes back and forth too. Also for me, not just… So for money, yes. Right now more money is in Instagram and in TikTok, specifically reels in TikTok.

Jenné Claiborne: However, two years ago it was far heavier leaning towards YouTube. YouTube was the biggest thing. Even I had maybe a third of what followers that I have now but it was still super, super, super important to having YouTube channel and people were paying a lot of money.

Jenné Claiborne: Now I talked to brands and I’m not actually not really working with brands at the moment, but in the last year or so, they’d be like, “We’re not really focused on YouTube now-”

Bjork Ostrom: Oh, interesting.

Jenné Claiborne: … when I give them my rates. They’d be like, “Can we cut this? And how much money can we save?” That sort of thing. But yeah, YouTube-

Bjork Ostrom: And they would be focusing on Instagram.

Jenné Claiborne: Yeah. Reels. It’s got to be video though.

Bjork Ostrom: Sure, sure.

Jenné Claiborne: I don’t know… Is anybody doing… Maybe they still are. I don’t really know. But as far as with me in the last year, the main focus for every single one of my partnerships, not everyone, but the majority has been video. And so that’s either reels… Right now, going forward, it’s going to be reels until Instagram changes their whole approach. But in the last year it was just video in general. Instagram was just any type of video, IG TV, video directly to the feed, or reels, anything would work.

Bjork Ostrom: Yep. Interesting. And YouTube waning. So you’re still probably able to earn ad revenue from YouTube, but it’s not-

Jenné Claiborne: That’s a passive thing.

Bjork Ostrom: Right. It’s just going in the background. Whereas Instagram you’re able to get aligned brand deals. It sounds like focus on video and then your blog, any traffic there monetize via ads and potentially content there.

Jenné Claiborne: Exactly.

Bjork Ostrom: Interesting to hear you talk about the importance of video.

Jenné Claiborne: Oh, yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: Not only the significance of that just in terms of the traction, but also I think one of the opportunities… One of the benefits there is you are a good video person. It’s probably both of those things, if you were somebody who would fumble over your words and not know what to do. It’s another example of that-

Jenné Claiborne: I do that too.

Bjork Ostrom: Sure. Like your career and acting impacting what you do now in some way. What’s cool for me to see is like, and maybe this brings a full circle in the conversation, it feels like you’ve maybe fully realized your dream of-

Jenné Claiborne: Oh, yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: … becoming an actor. Do you feel like that’s true?

Jenné Claiborne: Oh, yeah. Well, the actor, kind of.

Bjork Ostrom: It’s not acting, it’s not a different character. You are you but you are getting paid to-

Jenné Claiborne: Yes.

Bjork Ostrom: The high level of it is you are getting paid to be on video and for people to watch that.

Jenné Claiborne: Exactly. And I’m probably getting paid more than the other people who I graduated with who are actually acting.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Yeah. And part of that having to… The reason for that, you own your brand. Everything about it is owned by you which is so cool to see.

Jenné Claiborne: Yeah. Oh, I should also put the cookbook in that category too.

Bjork Ostrom: Sure.

Jenné Claiborne: Or in one of the pieces. My cookbook came in 2018 so it’s been a long cut but it’s always been very well. And so a good part of my fancy car is paid for by my book royalties that I get every six months. So that’s also really good to have a cookbook that you actually will buy.

Bjork Ostrom: I’m curious, when you say fancy car, what is your fancy car?

Jenné Claiborne: My car, I have a Model Y, a Tesla.

Bjork Ostrom: You do? Ahhh.

Jenné Claiborne: I do.

Bjork Ostrom: I was going to say, “Don’t tell me it’s a Tesla,” because I’m going to be so jealous. Do you love it?

Jenné Claiborne: I do. Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: Oh, man.

Jenné Claiborne: It’s awesome.

Bjork Ostrom: We-

Jenné Claiborne: You should get one.

Bjork Ostrom: Okay. You just can’t. No. Here’s what I have. I have a Subaru Outback and I drive two miles every day. I drive here to the office and I drive home.

Jenné Claiborne: Oh, yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: So there’s that.

Jenné Claiborne: Maybe don’t get a Tesla.

Bjork Ostrom: But also I don’t drive enough for the battery to be fully charged. So literally, every day-

Jenné Claiborne: Wow.

Bjork Ostrom: … I have this little… It’s worst and we need to get it fixed. There’s probably need to fix for it. I jump it every day.

Jenné Claiborne: What?

Bjork Ostrom: I go out to the car. It’s so-

Jenné Claiborne: Even in the snow?

Bjork Ostrom: Even in the… It’s –10 today. I go out-

Jenné Claiborne: Oh my gosh.

Bjork Ostrom: I hook up a battery. I start it. So anyways-

Jenné Claiborne: That’s so funny.

Bjork Ostrom: … I do have an appointment to see what’s wrong with it.

Jenné Claiborne: Oh my gosh.

Bjork Ostrom: But there’s been multiple times that I’ve thought like, “Oh, man, I wouldn’t have to do this if it was a Tesla.”

Jenné Claiborne: Yeah. This car is so easy. And here’s the thing. I’m not a person to get a fancy car. It’s just that because I just separated with my ex I needed a car because he took the car. I would’ve been happy to take that car. That was a little Ioniq, also it’s a hybrid so very good on gas, I would’ve been fine. It’s totally fine. But I didn’t have any car at all.

Bjork Ostrom: And this was your opportunity to be like, “Ah. You can-”

Jenné Claiborne: Yeah. And my dad talked me into it.

Bjork Ostrom: You can maybe draw a little bit of a parallel to like, “Here’s this money I’m getting here-

Jenné Claiborne: Yes.

Bjork Ostrom: … I can section this off-

Jenné Claiborne: Oh, I did.

Bjork Ostrom: … and it can go here.”

Jenné Claiborne: Because for me… We haven’t talked much about money-money, but for me, I’ve always been very good with money and I’m very conservative especially with money. And for me, if I’m going to have literally a liability, that car is sitting on the street right now, somebody can just ram into it. It is such a liability. So if I have any liability that has to be paid for by some passive form of income. It has to.

Bjork Ostrom: Sure. It has to be connected to-

Jenné Claiborne: That’s my rule.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Jenné Claiborne: That’s why it’s connected to the book royalties because… And I financed the car. I didn’t pay for it in cash. I financed it so I can invest the money elsewhere and my royalties, that is what pays for that car. Otherwise, I would not have bought that car. I don’t care how much money I have. It’s just a trick in my brain. That’s just like… How do you get rich without also saving and investing? It’s not by buying fancy cars and just paying for it from hard work. So anyway, that’s why I have a nice car.

Bjork Ostrom: If you have five more minutes, we’ve already gone over.

Jenné Claiborne: Of course.

Bjork Ostrom: Do you have… Okay. Because personal finance is an area that I’m super interested in and I think there’s a subsection of personal financial which is business owner finance. I’m curious to know your stance on… So you’re making money. You have a successful business. What do you do with it?

Jenné Claiborne: Oh my gosh.

Bjork Ostrom: I have one friend who’s put it in a savings account.

Jenné Claiborne: No.

Bjork Ostrom: And other people who put in crypto. For me, I’m this middle of the road where you put it in index funds that are low cost.

Jenné Claiborne: Yep, that’s me. Yeah, we’re vanguard.

Bjork Ostrom: So talk to me more about that. Yeah.

Jenné Claiborne: Oh my God. I could be a whole another show truly, whole episode because when I separated… So prior to this, I’ve always been interested in money and I’ve been good with money but I haven’t been very financially educated. I’m still, of course, learning. We’re always learning.

Jenné Claiborne: But I was always a very good saver. I was always very good at making money. I was always good at… I wouldn’t buy the fancy car. I always knew if I’m going to buy the fancy car I’m going to make sure I have a house already and that car’s going to be paid for by something else that I don’t have to slog for.

Jenné Claiborne: However, really at the beginning of 2021, I really dove into personal finance because here I was becoming a single mom and I was the breadwinner anyways but still there is just something-

Bjork Ostrom: It just feels different where you’re-

Jenné Claiborne: It just feels totally different.

Bjork Ostrom: … it’s just me and I need to have…

Jenné Claiborne: It’s literally just me.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Jenné Claiborne: Right?

Jenné Claiborne: And so then I started looking at my money and looking at my whole business structure and a lot of stuff had to change because I was putting a lot of money in my savings account. I was not maxing out my retirement accounts even though I was eligible to do max and I was just really leaving money on the table, which I didn’t… I was saving a lot of money because I was going to buy a house in L.A. So I was saving. The homes are so much more expensive there. But when I decided to move here to Atlanta and I had my house. My house here…

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Suddenly, the budget looks really different.

Jenné Claiborne: … it’s 50% less. So yeah. I had to put my money elsewhere and had to start thinking differently. And now I’m thinking very differently. And right now I’m looking for a new property purchase, a rental property. I’m also at the same time navigating, trying to figure out putting money in a real estate syndication. I do max out all my accounts now, HSA, I have a SEP IRA, all of that stuff and…

Jenné Claiborne: So my accountant, I got a really good accountant finally.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s one of those team members that I feel like is one of the most important early team members for business owner is CPA accountant. I would say like for CPAs and probably emailing them once a week. There’s just so many random because you realize-

Jenné Claiborne: Exactly.

Bjork Ostrom: … when you get to a certain point, your greatest expense is taxes. And so-

Jenné Claiborne: It really is.

Bjork Ostrom: … you want to learn what the rules are and play by them. And I think a lot of times people don’t know what the rules are. Retirement account’s being a great example.

Jenné Claiborne: Right.

Bjork Ostrom: Man, that’s going to make a huge difference long term and short term depending on how you do that.

Jenné Claiborne: Exactly. Oh my God. And I didn’t even realize. My mom opened a retirement account for me when I was young, when I was 18 and I just remember she did, “Put $50 in a month. A $50 a month. That’s all you have to do.” And I’m like, “Oh, I’m broke, I’m broke. Anyway, I’m not going to retire for another 50 years.”

Bjork Ostrom: So far out.

Jenné Claiborne: But now that I’m in my mid-thirties, I’m like, “Oh my God, it’s like tomorrow. How much money can I get in there?”

Bjork Ostrom: It’s on the calendar.

Jenné Claiborne: It’s going to grow. Yeah, it’s on the calendar.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. That’s awesome. It would be a really fun episode to do and I feel like one that would be worth doing is another episode just on personal finance as it relates to-

Jenné Claiborne: Money.

Bjork Ostrom: … business owners.

Jenné Claiborne: And it’s hard to talk to other bloggers about this. Personally, that’s how I feel because I’m afraid to ask, but also for me, my little competitiveness I’m afraid to know.

Bjork Ostrom: Sure. Because then you know-

Jenné Claiborne: I’m afraid to feel behind.

Bjork Ostrom: Totally. Yeah. It’s that comparison trap type thing where it’s like, “Shoot.”

Jenné Claiborne: “How much money do you have in your retirement?”

Bjork Ostrom: You want to protect yourself against the comparison trap which totally, totally makes sense.

Jenné Claiborne: Yeah, let me just protect myself. Just keep learning, keep doing better. But I don’t want to know all the details. I’m afraid.

Bjork Ostrom: Jenné, we could talk forever.

Jenné Claiborne: Yes.

Bjork Ostrom: I just so appreciate your experience, your willingness to share that. And we’ll have to book another conversation here in the not too distant future.

Jenné Claiborne: That’d be so fun.

Bjork Ostrom: I feel like there’s a lot of different things we could dive deep on. So we talked a few different places that people can check you out and follow along, thenourishisngvegan.com is one although they can’t book you there.

Jenné Claiborne: Yeah. Don’t go there.

Bjork Ostrom: Where else can people follow along with what you’re up to and what you’re doing and connect with you?

Jenné Claiborne: Sweet Potato Soul everywhere, sweetpotatosoul.com, Instagram, YouTube, the book. That’s all you need.

Bjork Ostrom: And the name comes from where is the last question. Where did that come from?

Jenné Claiborne: Sweet potatoes are my favorite food and have always been my favorite food. I grew up eating soul food and I knew my blog wasn’t going to be just all soul food but my grandmother always said that soul food is any type of food that you put love and your soul-

Bjork Ostrom: Oh, cool.

Jenné Claiborne: … into. So Sweet Potato-

Bjork Ostrom: That’s awesome.

Jenné Claiborne: … Soul.

Bjork Ostrom: Soul. Oh, I love that.

Jenné Claiborne: Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: What a great name.

Jenné Claiborne: Thanks. Thank you.

Bjork Ostrom: Thanks so much for coming on. Really appreciate it.

Jenné Claiborne: This was great. Thank you.

Bjork Ostrom: Thank you one more time to Jenné for coming on and sharing her story.

Bjork Ostrom: As a reminder, make sure to go through that survey foodbloggerpro.com/survey. We want to learn more about you and we want to make this podcast and this community better and the way that we do that is continually having these conversations with our audience. So make sure to go to foodbloggerpro.com/survey and fill that out and you get a chance to win a $100 Amazon gift card which you can spend on a little battery-powered dog or something like that.

Bjork Ostrom: And that wraps up March 11th. That’s it for this episode. Make it a great week. Bye-bye.

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