393: How Passion and Sourdough Feed a 9 Million Pageview Food Blog with Maurizio Leo

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An image of bread and the title of Maurizio Leo's episode on the Food Blogger Pro Podcast, 'Passion and Sourdough.'

This episode is sponsored by Clariti.


Welcome to episode 393 of The Food Blogger Pro Podcast! This week on the podcast, Bjork interviews Maurizio Leo from The Perfect Loaf about business growth through passion.

Last week on the podcast, Bjork explained how the Pinch of Yum Instagram account got hacked and eventually recovered. To go back and listen to that episode, click here.

How Passion and Sourdough Feed a 9 Million Pageview Food Blog

From co-founding and running a popular phone app to starting a sourdough blog that now gets 9 million pageviews a year, Maurizio Leo is a busy guy.

But everything he does is deeply rooted in passion, and you’ll hear why forming businesses around that passion has been crucial for his business growth and consistency in this conversation today.

If you’re looking for ways to diversify your income, growth strategies, or simply some inspiration to help you work towards your goals, you’ll get it all in this episode!

A quote from Maurizio Leo’s appearance on the Food Blogger Pro podcast that says, 'After a while, you lose your driving force if you don't have that passion as your foundation.'

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • About his background in computer science
  • How he transitioned to working in the food space
  • How the passion and growth are connected
  • What his schedule looks like as an owner of two successful businesses
  • At what point Maurizio knew The Perfect Loaf could be a business
  • How the pandemic impacted The Perfect Loaf’s traffic
  • How he reinvests in the site
  • Why he decided to offer a membership
  • What the process of writing a cookbook was like
  • What Maurizio is anticipating in the next few years

Resources:

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:

  • Access to their limited-time $45 Forever pricing
  • 50% off your first month
  • 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 Clariti, C-L-A-R-I-T-I. Here’s the question, are you manually keeping track of your blog posts on a spreadsheet or project management tool? Maybe it’s like Airtable or Asana, or maybe you’re not even keeping track of anything at all. When it comes to optimizing and organizing your content, how do you know what to change, and how do you know what you’re doing is actually moving the needle? With Clariti, all of that stuff is easier. It’s easier to keep track of things. It’s easier to know if the changes you’re making are having an impact. And that’s why we built it. We realized that we were using spreadsheets and cobbling together a system, and we wanted to create something that did that for you, and Clariti brings together WordPress data, Google data, like Google Search Console and Google Analytics, and it brings all of that information into one place to allow you to make decisions and also inform you about the decisions that you’ve made, and if they’re having an impact.

I could talk on and on about the features, but the best way to understand it is to get in and to work with the tool yourself. And the good news is Clariti’s offering 50% off of your first month if you sign up, and you can do that by going to clariti.com/food. Again, that’s C-L-A-R-I-T-I.com/food to check it out. Thanks to Clariti for sponsoring this episode. Hey there, Bjork here. As you probably know, you’re listening to The Food Blogger Pro podcast. And one of the things that’s so awesome about doing this podcast for me personally is that I get to have conversations with people and I get to know their story. And number one, it’s just a chance to connect with people, and get to know somebody a little bit more. And that’s awesome, regardless, whoever it might be. But it’s even more awesome when the story is extremely compelling and encouraging to me as an entrepreneur or business owner, or creator in the world. And that was true for today’s podcast with Maurizio Leo.

He has not only one of the most successful iOS apps or apps on the App Store, but he also has a really successful website and following online all around bread. It’s called The Perfect Loaf, and he’s been doing content in this specific space for years and years, and he is going to be talking about that, and you can really tell the reason that he does it is because he wants other people to be successful. He wants other people to figure out how to get the perfect loaf. It’s the name of his company, it’s the name of his brand, and it’s really the heart behind everything that he does. And you see that in the interview that’s really the thing that motivates him. As a matter of fact, even at a point when he had millions of page views a year, still didn’t have ads on his site, and it wasn’t until recently that he put those on, and we’re going to be talking about that, some of the decisions he’s made along the way.

We’re going to be talking about the different components of his business. He has a membership component, and that’s a really important piece of it, and we’re also going to be talking about how he balances all of this stuff. He has multiple businesses, so what does that look like to balance these things when you don’t have a really big team? So he’s going to be talking about what he’s learned along the way when it comes to focusing on going deep on certain things and working hard, hustling to get things done, and also making sure that along the way, that you stay passionate about what it is that you’re doing. That was a through line through the interview as well. Before we jump into the actual interview, we want to do a quick shout out for the podcast group that we have on Facebook. You can go to foodbloggerpro.com/facebook, and what that will allow you to do is join the conversation, which is something that you can’t really do in a podcast.

And so we’re trying to figure out ways to open up the lines of communication with podcast listeners, and that Facebook group is one of the ways that you can do that. So again, that’s foodbloggerpro.com/facebook. Be sure to jump in there and join the conversation. Now we’re going to move into the conversation with Maurizio, the founder of The Perfect Loaf, and I can’t wait to share this interview with you. Maurizio, welcome to the podcast.

Maurizio Leo: Thank you. Thank you for having me.

Bjork Ostrom: We’re going to be talking about all sorts of different things. It’s all within the category of things I’m interested in, everything from iPhone, games and software, not games, software to bread. That’s going to be the spectrum of the conversation that we’re covering today. Starting with iPhone and iPhone application, you’re by official training a software engineer. Is that what you went to school for and how you started in your career was around software development?

Maurizio Leo: Yeah, that’s right. I went to school for computer science, so it was way back when that was actually just emerging as a field. I think it was a new degree actually when I was taking courses at university. But yeah, I went to school. I’ve always had an engineer’s mindset, so I’ve always approached… I was that typical kid who took apart the VCR, who deconstructed everything in the house to my parents’ much annoyance. But I’ve always had that deconstructive, engineering mindset. And so when I was exposed to computers when I was young, I was just immediately taken by the complexity. It was like a world within a box in a way, and it was just amazing to me back then. Even though I grew up in the food industry, my family, we have an Italian restaurant here in town, and I spent my childhood in that restaurant. I have still kind of-

Bjork Ostrom: What restaurant is it?

Maurizio Leo: It was called Mimo’s Restaurant. My dad started it when he came here from Italy when he was in his early 20s.

Bjork Ostrom: Wow.

Maurizio Leo: I spent my whole childhood there in the back of the restaurant watching my dad mix pizza dough and cook, and talk to the customers and stuff. But I eventually went-

Bjork Ostrom: Is the restaurant still open? You said was called.

Maurizio Leo: Yeah, it was called that because during the pandemic, my dad finally got the motivation to retire officially. He ran it for 40 plus years. I feel like he might’ve just kept working if it wouldn’t have been a pushing force.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, that makes sense. And so restaurant is no more. Didn’t sell it but closed it.

Maurizio Leo: Yeah, his partner took it over. So his partner, it’s now called Sal’s, and so he’s taken the reins there.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, cool. My dad owned a greenhouse growing up.

Maurizio Leo: Cool.

Bjork Ostrom: Greenhouse, and so I remember similar where you’re in the back room, you’re hanging out. It was my first job technically, but also it was just something for me to do while I was there. And so much of that experience as a kid is learning through osmosis. You’re just there and you experience it. My guess is that comes back around to what you’re doing now, but before we get there, that’ll be a little bit of a foreshadow. I’d be curious to know how long your time in the software world existed. I know that you developed what looks like a really cool app, it’s called SkyView, is that right?

Maurizio Leo: That’s right.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Can you talk a little bit about that and in your time in the software engineering world?

Maurizio Leo: Yeah, so I went to university for computer science and when I got out, I got a job at a big defense contractor here in town. So I worked on, they were called unmanned aerial vehicles back then, but now we know them as drones, which you can go to Walmart and get a drone. But this was before when they were the size of a refrigerator. So I worked there for six, seven years. And while I was there, the iPhone app store, actually it was before that, it was Google had a worldwide developers challenge for anybody that wanted to submit an app on their new phones that they, not Google phones, but Android phones that were coming out. So me and a couple coworkers, we got together and we developed what is now SkyView. But back then it was an earlier version.

And with the limited hardware we had on those phones, we could really only use it to do a few things. So we use the sensors on the phone to allow you to track the sun and the moon as it is going overhead by holding your phone up to the sky and you can see their trajectory, where are they going to go? And so we entered the competition and we placed third in the world for that. And that bootstrapped our company, our startup if you will. This was way before startups were a thing before it was cool. And so we took that money and we left our jobs and we just set out and tried to make an app on the app store and see how it would do. We released SkyView back then and it was an editor’s pick back then when that was, if you got that it was everybody who had an iPhone was going to download your app back then.

Bjork Ostrom: It’s displayed as an editor’s pick in the app store, just super prominent real estate in that place. So then everybody clicks on it and downloads it. It’s a goldmine.

Maurizio Leo: It is. And back then the barrier to entry for app development was, it was a lot lower because it was a new platform, nobody really knew what was going on. So anyways, the app took off and still this year we’re in the top 10 on the app store. So even 10 plus years later, our app is still doing really well. And it’s a unique app because it’s always relevant. There’s always stuff happening in the sky. Celestial events are coming, whether it’s a meteor shower or an eclipse or a blood moon, that kind of thing. So we’re really unique to and really lucky to be in that position.

Bjork Ostrom: Did you say top 10 in the app store?

Maurizio Leo: That’s right. For the entire year, for the past three, four years running. So it’s always been up there.

Bjork Ostrom: So in a certain category because-

Maurizio Leo: It was in the top 10 revenue for 2022.

Bjork Ostrom: Oh my gosh, that’s awesome.

Maurizio Leo: Yeah, it always does really well and we’re continuing to maintain it and it’s just-

Bjork Ostrom: Cool.

Maurizio Leo: We love it. We all love space and so we keep it going.

Bjork Ostrom: So this is maybe a good transition. So you have the success with this app and you’re continuing to run it, but then 2013 you start to enter formally into publishing content in the food world. Can you talk about what that was like? Because it sounds like it wasn’t necessarily a pivot point. A lot of times people will say, hey, I was doing this thing and then I realized this thing wasn’t for me, so then I made a transition into doing this thing. But for you it was like this has been successful throughout. You’ve continued to do it and you’ve folded in a successful business in the food world, close to 10 million page views a year at this point.

And which these are nine million I think you said, in your opening notes, which is awesome. 80,000 email subscribers, over a quarter million Instagram followers. So you have these two really successful businesses. But take us back to the launching point of when you started to think about, it sounds like folding in, for lack of a better word, some of the things that you’ve learned in the food world from your dad and launched The Perfect Loaf. So talk about that.

Maurizio Leo: So when we left to do SkyView full-time, I was at home all day just writing software with no coworkers around. And really it’s just isolating.

Bjork Ostrom: Totally.

Maurizio Leo: I was just looking for something to do with my hands, not just writing code all day. I wanted to actually make something. And I’ve always been, I grew up in my dad’s kitchen and I’ve always been interested in cooking, but I serendipitously got gifted a book on bread baking and I didn’t know anything about, aside from pizza, I didn’t know anything about bread, especially sourdough bread. And when I went through the book and I tried a couple of the processes in there for making a sourdough starter and doing all those things, I was just completely taken by the science, the craft, and the marriage of those two things. And I think my interest in looking at things deeper and trying to figure out what’s happening below the surface, I think it is just really this perfect mix of things that I am interested in.

And then when I made my first loaf of bread in my own home oven and I ate it, I was like, this is amazing. For a lot of people, bread baking especially natural fermentation in sourdough, it’s complicated, it’s intimidating. And I’m that stubborn person who likes to really take the hardest approach first. And I just get the satisfaction out of that. And once I baked that first loaf of bread and I created my starter and those first few trials, I was just hooked on that. So that was my experience with bread baking and when I was doing it, I was looking for help, I was looking for materials online if there were bakers around me. There really wasn’t a lot back in 2012, 2013. And so I was like, okay, well if there’s other people like me who are trying to figure this out, maybe I can write about it and see if I can help some people figure out this craft.

And that’s what I did. I’ve always been in the computer space, I’ve made websites since, I don’t know, the Geo City days like 1999 or something. So it was easy for me to create it. I didn’t know anything about WordPress, CRMs like Recipe Card. I didn’t know any of the stuff we know today and how well fleshed out it is. But I just did what I knew and I was really just writing to myself because there was not a lot of traffic in the beginning for many years and that’s just how it started. And I just consistently kept baking. I’m not going to downplay my obsession for the sourdough bread part of things because that was the driving force. If it would’ve been a passing interest, I think I would’ve lost interest in publishing for so long. But it’s been over 10 years now that I’ve just constantly been writing and recipe developing and publishing.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, it feels like an important through line that you hear with anybody’s story around success as a single author publisher in a specific area is some level of passion or purpose or drive that has to exist. But at the same time, I think there are oftentimes are those moments. And I was just talking about that. I had breakfast with a mentor this morning and he was talking about different seasons that he’s been in and if it’s a hard season, does he do anything different? And he doesn’t. He just continues to show up. He goes to his coffee shop in the morning, he journals. And I think that’s the other reality is even when you’re not wanting to do the thing that you’re usually passionate about, you continue to do it. So in the arc of the last 10 years, how much of your content creation was passion driven?

And you used that as a drive to say, hey, I’m going to write about this today, I’m going to journal, not journal in the sense of journaling in a notebook, but I have this thing I’m trying to figure out. I’m going to document it and publish it versus I’m going to be consistent and I’m going to push through even when I know that I don’t want to because I want to build a thing and get momentum with it. So can you speak a little bit to that? Because I think the passion versus scheduled pursuit of content publishing and service of growth, those two things sometimes have an interesting dance that they have together. What did that look like for you?

Maurizio Leo: Yeah, it’s a great question. I think that you nailed it. It’s like that’s an important dichotomy that you have to balance out. Are you doing this because you want to keep consistent and you just want to be stubborn and keep posting until something happens? And I think for me it was more on the passion side than it was on the I’ve got to check this box this week or this month thing. If it would’ve been a task, just a simple task that I had to do, like a lot of people, I probably wouldn’t have done the task if it was just task motivated. But because I actually was really curious about the bread making, developing my skills in the craft over and over and over again because I had that foundation, I think that’s why I was able to be consistent for the past decade.

I think if it was the other way around, I might have missed, it’s easy to say, okay, well my main job, my day job, I have to ship this software this month. Oh I’m going to push off my hobby or my passion if it’s just something I had to check off on a checklist. There were many days when I was writing software all day and then at night I was testing my baking, I was shaping, I was filming or doing a photo shoot in my kitchen with horrible lighting. Those kind of things. I think after a while you lose your driving force if you don’t have that passion as your foundation.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, that makes sense. The other thing I’m curious to know about is your relationship with your job doing the software development and this really successful app that you have and specifically it sounds like you have partners within that business and I’ve always been interested to know what that looks like when you have partners within a business, you’re navigating that and then you have this other successful business on the side that you could also justifiably spend time on and do you work a normal workday and then do this at nights and weekends? What does that look like to have two successful businesses, one of which The Perfect Loaf being fully owned, the other of which I would guess, you have partners and navigating that reality of those two things?

Maurizio Leo: The two, it’s in a gradual shift for me. So of course in the beginning it was all SkyView and I was just doing that and I was just baking on the weekends once a month or so. And I think the reality with having remote jobs and being able to do whatever you want during the day, the reality is you can get your work done quickly for your main job and then do some other things if time allows. And I think being an entrepreneur and running two businesses, I think the time commitment could easily be 100% on one or the other. It’s easy to neglect one and want to put all of your time in the other. And I have to say early on I love software development and engineering but I almost equally or more enjoy bread baking.

I had these dreams of quitting my software life and opening a bakery and just baking bread and I think I would’ve been totally happy with that. But it’s hard for me to ignore the engineering side and I always want to dip back into that. So I’d say the split there was I would work early in the beginning I would work mostly in the software job and then on the weekends I would be baking constantly just because I wanted to and recording that for The Perfect Loaf as I was doing that. I think maybe you touched on something that’s my partners with SkyView, I have two other co-founders or there’s three of us in that company and we’ve never hired anybody. So it’s always been just us three. They have other pursuits too. They have other businesses they’re running.

And at this point with SkyView especially, it’s a mature piece of software and we don’t have to do as much as we did in the beginning. And not only is SkyView mature, but the iOS, I’m just going to use iOS for example. The platform is so mature now. SkyView at its core is an augmented reality application. And back when we started writing it in the beginning, there was no toolkit for that.

Bjork Ostrom: No AR kit.

Maurizio Leo: Oh man. I could do a whole podcast on just the hurdles we had to go over just to be able to get it to run.

Bjork Ostrom: You had to build AR kit.

Maurizio Leo: Exactly. We built our own mini AR kit in there, plus a model of the universe and all the other stuff that goes into it.

Bjork Ostrom: What you got with doing that is the momentum and the awareness of this being the app. Whereas now my guess is it would be easier to create an app that competes but harder because you’re so entrenched now as the recommended de facto app that does that. Is there any truth to that?

If we really wanted to, we could probably recreate the app in no time at all and then ship it on the app store with a brand new name. But yeah, we’ve had so many downloads now and it’s really word of mouth and organic growth at this point.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Cool. So let’s talk about The Perfect Loaf. At what point did you realize, hey, this could actually be a business? Because sometimes we’ll do these interviews and people are like, I knew from the start this is what I wanted to do, I wanted to build it into a business. For you, it sounds like your interest primarily with it was documenting your own process in the pursuit of perfection, literally the perfect loaf around baking bread. So did you know from the start you wanted to build it into a side hustle or a main pursuit, or was it more just documentation of your process of trying to get it perfect and in doing so started to realize, hey, there’s other people who are trying to do this as well and I can help them?

Maurizio Leo: Yeah, there was no business intent at all because back in, and you know this just as well as I do back in 2010 to 2013, monetizing online was pretty tough. It was Google AdSense thing and the revenue from that was horrible. And so I don’t think I put an ad. I also don’t really like advertisement on websites just in general. I don’t think I put an ad on my website for maybe eight years or something that I ran it. It was just completely the way it was. I played with AdSense a little bit, none of it worked. And honestly, I wasn’t searching for any monetary income because I had my other business that was running and I did The Perfect Loaf completely out of just the joy of sharing what I was learning.

And I think early on visits were low, but there was enough traction and enough comments and enough emails and feedback that it created this self-fulfilling cycle of me posting and then people saying, hey, I love this. Asking questions. And I’m like, oh, okay, well maybe they need help with this. And then I would help them with that and then they would ask questions and then I’d help them with the next thing. So this, I don’t want to say it was a flywheel, but this process just continued on and it still continues to this day. It was no monetary intent until probably eight years into the life.

Bjork Ostrom: So that would’ve been recent. That would’ve been within the last couple years.

Maurizio Leo: I didn’t put ads on the site until, I want to say right as the pandemic was beginning.

Bjork Ostrom: Which was a good time for a bread site to make that decision. Interestingly, at that time, as many people know, advertising revenue spend went in half, but for some sites, Pinch of Yum being one of them, traffic doubled. My guess for you was that was a pretty interesting time period, March, April of 2020. Was that fun for you to see people at home baking bread en mass?

Maurizio Leo: Yeah, it was literally the next day I woke up and sat down and was writing a recipe and I was like, what in the heck? The Google Analytics, they were off the charts. And part of the reason why I put ads on the site was because the maintenance fee for the amount of people visiting the site started to overtake my budget for keeping the site running. There was so much traffic to the site that it was, I’d never seen anything like it before. So that was one reason why I almost had to put ads on because I got into this point where I needed to offset the hosting fees.

Bjork Ostrom: Totally. It’s a good problem to have.

Maurizio Leo: Yeah, no, it was great.

Bjork Ostrom: It’s one of the things that people often talk about, hey, when should I put ads on my site? And I think what’s really cool with your story is you represent one way to do it, which is you wait as long as possible. And my take on that would be you’re potentially able to compress growth, meaning could potentially grow faster because not only is your experience going to be better, but your site’s going to be faster. All the positive things about not having ads, the downside of which would be obviously the income. You get income that can then fuel additional growth. So there might be argument for it in that favor, but I also think that there’s some element for people of, even if you make a dollar a day, which we were at that point where we’d look at the site and be like, oh my gosh, $2.

It’s like, you’re doing it. It’s validation that you’re going through the process of creating something that is able to create income in the world. But what’s nice with your story is you had this main pursuit that you could continue with. So my guess is there wasn’t the need for that until it got to the point where, wait, it’s so popular that hosting is expensive and you need to supplement that so you’re not losing money with this side hustle because of how popular it is. So what was that like for you to go through the process of saying I’m going to turn ads on now and then the next day starting to see, oh my gosh, I’m able to create a substantial amount of income from this, did that change your perspective on how you produce content, how you go about doing things? Or was it just business as usual and now you’re able to create an income from the site?

Maurizio Leo: Well, at first I didn’t know quite what to do because like I said, just immediately I had unlocked this additional source of revenue into my life, what do I do with these funds? So what I’ve done since then is I’ve literally taken that money and I’ve tried to funnel it back into the site. So I’m trying to use the funds to, I have a part-time editor now, which is, it’s a luxury for me because I don’t have to continuously edit. And then I have a part-time illustrator. I’ve done some SEO content audits. I haven’t brought anybody on in terms of content creation because I think the site, it’s probably like you guys with Pinch of Yum, it’s hard when it’s something you’re writing yourself, it’s hard to get someone else in on that.

So I don’t know that I’ll be doing that. But basically the funds that have come in, I’ve used them to grow the business and now I see The Perfect Loaf as it’s still absolutely a personal outlet for me to share and connect with the audience I’ve built up over the past decade. I have people who write in who have been following along for that long and it’s always great to make those connections. So I don’t want to lose that. But the additional funds have helped me grow the site in a way that I don’t think I could have done if I didn’t have that revenue source.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, Simon Sinek has this great speech that he did, I think it was at a conference, maybe it’s just a general concept that he shares, but he talks about the idea of a business being a vehicle and gas for that vehicle is revenue and you don’t just aimlessly drive a vehicle around. It has a purpose and it has a destination and revenue’s fuel for that. And it’s cool to hear you reflect on that. It’s a bit of purpose. What is the reason for doing this? It’s for the community, it’s for people. It’s to build something in the world that has an impact. And you see that in really unique ways in the food world. We got an email from somebody recently at Pinch of Yum that said they were doing, Lindsay was doing this bucket list challenge for these different recipes that she had. I think it was connected to this.

And somebody wrote in and said their grandfather had passed away and they weren’t able to all get together to be there with him in time. So she invited them over and they made Ang’s Tortellini Soup and it was like, and how meaningful that was. And you realize whether it be bread and somebody’s first successful time making a loaf of bread and sharing that with their family, that being such a meaningful thing for people. And we have these opportunities, I’m going to attempt to communicate this, let me know if it makes sense. Income comes in from the things that we’re doing and that’s revenue income, but we have the ability to turn that into other types of income and there’s relational income, there’s impact income and it is with the idea of gasoline or fuel being the thing that powers you towards your impact, your destination.

I think the same is true in this space. We have the ability to take that and look and think, great, in your case, how do I make this site better so people can be more successful with it? The output of that is still income, it might not be financial income but it’s still a type of income. And I’ve been trying to think more about that in the work that I do. What are the different ways that we can create other types of income as income comes in from the business? Which is cool to hear you reflect on that. One of the things I’d be interested to hear you talk a little bit about is the, speaking of having an impact is the community or the membership element of it. I see you have The Perfect Loaf membership community, 1,300 members that are part of that. What does that look like and when did you launch it?

Maurizio Leo: The membership, I launched it in 2018, so it was quite a while back. And I’ve never actually really pushed it hard. I didn’t try to sell a membership, but people were trying to, they were asking me how can I support the site? I love your recipes, I love your guides, I want to contribute. And so I was trying to figure out a way where I could not only allow people to do that, but also to solidify a community around the site. And I wanted a space that was not on a social network, a space that-

Bjork Ostrom: A Facebook group. Yeah.

Maurizio Leo: Yeah, exactly. Honestly, it was a really hard decision because if you’re in Facebook you can get more reach, but I don’t feel like you have the same connection that you would if you own the space. And so I created the membership and it’s been steadily growing over the years. And I just recently launched a Discord server, so I wasn’t sure how many people would go on there. It’s great. There’s a lot of people that pop on. We’re talking about bread every day and I’ve done one ask me anything and I have some plans for those in the future. So it’s yet another place for me that’s outside of Instagram or Pinterest or any of those places. It’s a place for me to interact with people that follow or people that are interested in sourdough one-on-one. I’ve made some amazing friends that I wouldn’t have simply through email in that space too. So it’s just another way for us to rally behind a shared passion.

Bjork Ostrom: Cool. I don’t know the exact percentage, but I always think of in the marketing world, they always talk about you have, let’s say a million people who come to your site and maybe 1% of those would be people who would be interested in that, having a more high touch experience and being a little bit more connected. And in that group there’s probably 1% of those people who would be interested in doing an in-person conference. But it’s interesting to think about, because I think a lot of times in this world what we think about is that first group, it’s traffic, it’s people to your site. But we’re trying to get better thinking about things like you’re doing, okay, but we know that we can connect with a group of people and offer service that’s different than content monetized via ads.

In the case of Pinch of Yum, it was meal plans that we did. In your case, this membership community. So just a reminder for listeners, that’s something that’s out there as a way to think strategically about your business. What does it look like for you in terms of how you actually run that? Is it, do you do classes, do you do one-off conversations? And then just functionally speaking, you have this strategic advantage of being a software engineer so you could probably build some of this on your own, but how does it run in terms of the actual different components of it?

Maurizio Leo: Yeah, it’s all behind Memberful. So I use their turnkey service for handling all the membership stuff, which has been great. And then they tie directly into Discord. So I went around and tried to figure out what the best community building space on the internet was. And there’s a few more options nowadays than there were back in 2018, 2019 when I was getting things running. But so far Discord’s been great because I’m on my computer if I’m not in the kitchen baking and I’m always on Discord chatting with other bakers and if they have questions they can DM me and I’m available. And I think it provides value to them because they not only have a direct conduit to me, if they have an issue and I’m there to help, but they can also ask.

There is some really skilled bakers in my community and they’re on there too and they’re providing feedback. So yeah, I try to use as many third party solutions as possible. Writing my own stuff is totally an option. But as you know with software stuff, then it takes maintenance for me and then it takes time away from me actually creating the recipes and the guides. So I have to balance my time there and I don’t have any other employees currently. So that’s a serious consideration.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, they talk about if there’s a task, you can stop doing it, you can delegate it or you can have software do it and I feel like as much as possible that third option of just having software do it is the best answer.

Maurizio Leo: Absolutely.

Bjork Ostrom: You can’t do it with the high touch stuff, but as much as possible, figuring out ways to have that happen. And then your cookbook, so this is something that you recently launched. What was that process like for you to go through? It’s one thing to run a company, the app company, it’s another thing to run a company and then to build the successful site, but to have a company, you have the site ongoing, you have this membership community, then you also went through the process of publishing a cookbook. That’s a lot of stuff. So curious to hear your thoughts on the amount of work that goes into it and just your experience with workload going into the process of doing a cookbook.

Maurizio Leo: The amount of work is it’s extremely high. Not only do you have to write the recipes, but you have to test the recipes. And then there’s the photography. So it’s like bundling up an entire website of recipes that you’ve been working on, but making sure it’s 100% perfect because you can’t have obviously any errors. And then having to interface with a publisher and a photographer. So the amount of work is very high. And just to top all that off, I was doing that right as the pandemic began. And so my kids were home and I was homeschooling them and writing the cookbook at the same time.

Bjork Ostrom: Wow.

Maurizio Leo: So needless to say, I was waking up literally at 4:00 AM until they had school writing all morning, doing the homeschool and then just fitting in writing and testing as I could. I’d say the advantage that I had was that I had already been writing recipes for seven or eight years. So my formula development for bread recipes is pretty solid. I can almost make a recipe and I can bake it one time and I know it’s going to be good. So I had that going for me. But with all that, the book was a year late because I attribute it to the pandemic, but also just the sheer amount of work that goes into the book. And my book is, it’s a little bit longer and maybe more intense, I guess I should say. There’s a deep dive into the science of bread and sourdough bread making. So there’s that side of it too. There were just a lot of components that went into it.

Bjork Ostrom: It’s the through line that we hear with anybody who talks about a cookbook is this is a lot of work. Just period. It’s just more than you’d ever think that it would be. And especially if you’re doing it well and doing it right, it’s called The Perfect Loaf. You could just Google it or search for it on Amazon, 4.9 out of five stars, which in my opinion is the perfect rating, you don’t want something that’s five out of five because then people are like, wait a minute.

Maurizio Leo: This doesn’t seem right.

Bjork Ostrom: But 4.9 you still get all of the stars filled in. You don’t have that little half star. Almost 200 ratings, which is really cool. Looking forward, what does that look like for you? You have these different opportunities before you and it’s a really good problem to have, but nonetheless, a problem to solve, which is where do I focus my time and my energy? Obviously there’s the life things. Kids. Day-to-day stuff that you have. But speaking just specifically with your businesses, I’d be interested to hear you reflect a little bit on when you look forward over the next five, 10 years, let’s say we’ve talked about the previous 10, if you look forward 10, what do you think those chapters look like as they start to unfold?

Maurizio Leo: Well I think SkyView and my app business is in a good place where it is. I think there’s not too much to do there except just keep it afloat and keep the app relevant, updated. With The Perfect Loaf as any food site or any website really, I think there’s no end. You can continue to create for the site indefinitely. There’s really no end for me. And that’s I think the exciting thing for me is that I can continue doing this. I don’t think I would ever consider selling The Perfect Loaf or going down that path because I just enjoy it too much and it’s not something I’m trying to get rid of. I want to keep that and keep doing it.

And I think my mission for the site really is to just be the best place for people to learn to bake sourdough. If that’s their interest, then I want to be the place where everybody says, oh well, you got to go to The Perfect Loaf. Because that’s where it is. So it’s like whatever things I come up with to make helping others learn that craft easier, I’m all for it. Whether it’s the website, another piece of software or classes or conference, whatever it means. I think I’m game for going down that.

Bjork Ostrom: I was having a conversation with a friend yesterday and I was talking about his just general interest in men’s goods and he’s probably slept on 100 different pillows. It’s not just men’s goods or he was talking about trying to find the perfect candle for their living room. They just moved. One of the things he said was it’s great because I’m never done optimizing. And I think what he meant is there’s always something for me to do in my life where I can get a little bit better at it. Not in a relentless pursuit of perfection and being exhausted by it, but almost in this adventurous, exciting way of there’s always something around the corner that I can… Maybe there’s a candle that’s a better fit for our living room.

And it feels like what you’re getting at is a similar thing where there’s always going to be an opportunity to teach something or learn something in this area of passion or interest. And what’s really cool about it is The Perfect Loaf that feels like such a great brand for what you’re after, which is trying to help people get their level of perfection with going through this process of baking with sourdough. So it’s just a cool observation of the brand with your passion and interest and pursuit and the opportunities that are there, which is really cool.

Maurizio Leo: I think what you said actually is perfect. It perfectly sums up not only my approach to sourdough, because if you have baked sourdough bread or baked bread, you know you can get an understanding for there’s so many components in the process. You can take a really simplistic view and just mix some dough together and bake an amazing loaf of bread. Or you can go down the path that I’ve done, which is every motion is critical. Temperature is critical. Flour combination. There literally is an infinite number of steps that you can dig into and make it better. What you said about the home good site, that’s baking right there just in a nutshell.

Bjork Ostrom: It reminds me even just on the right now, the homepage, how to use the dough poke test, that being one step of many that you can perfect and get really good at, which is cool. So what would your advice be for anybody out there in the world? They’re interested in business, they’re interested in creating their own content. What’s your advice for them knowing that you’ve been at this now for 10 years?

Maurizio Leo: I’d say I think one of the strengths that I have is that I’ve always approached not only SkyView, but also certainly with The Perfect Loaf, is just authenticity, accessibility, and just a willingness to help. If that’s something you’re interested in. I’ve found over the past 10 years that I love helping and teaching people to learn something. Maybe I would’ve been a good teacher if I would’ve gone down that path in life. Maybe I have, maybe this is my way of teaching.

Bjork Ostrom: It is. It is that.

Maurizio Leo: Yeah, it is. I think if you’re interested in creating a site like that, it could be a woodworking site or it could be, I don’t know, skydiving or whatever interest you have. If you want to share that with people and you want to help them draw that from a place of authenticity, it really needs to be there. Otherwise, I think people can tell that you’re not really into it.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. That’s awesome. So if people do want to connect and they do want to be part of the community, how do they do that?

Maurizio Leo: Just go to theperfectloaf.com and you can find me there or at Maurizio on Instagram.

Bjork Ostrom: Cool. Is that literally you got the handle, your first name handle?

Maurizio Leo: I’m an app developer before the app store, so I downloaded Instagram that day that it came out.

Bjork Ostrom: Your first name. That’s awesome. Great. Maurizio, thanks so much for coming on. Really appreciate it.

Maurizio Leo: Yeah, thank you, Bjork, I appreciate it.

Alexa Peduzzi: Hey there, Alexa here, and thanks for tuning into this episode of The Food Blogger Pro Podcast. We hope you enjoyed this episode, and I just wanted to round out this episode with giving you a quick tip of one of the things that comes as soon as you you become a Food Blogger Pro member –– just one of the nice perks that comes along with the membership.

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Once again that’s foodbloggerpro.com/join to get access to our Deals & Discounts page.

Alright, that does it for us this week, we hope you enjoyed this episode. We’ll see you next time, and until then, make it a great week.

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