Welcome to episode 317 of The Food Blogger Pro Podcast! This week on the podcast, Bjork interviews Nisha Melvani from Cooking for Peanuts about her journey of growing her brand while maintaining a healthy work-life balance.
Last week on the podcast, Bjork shared five different takeaways from the book, “Rich Dad Poor Dad.” To go back and listen to that episode, click here.
Optimizing for Growth
Nisha is a Food Blogger Pro member, nutritionist, and registered dietitian, and she’s here on the podcast today to talk about her journey growing her blog, Cooking for Peanuts!
While she originally started just by sharing her vegan dinner recipes on Instagram, Nisha has evolved her brand by shifting some of her focus to her blog and upcoming cookbook.
In this episode, she shares some of the mistakes she’s made along the way, some tools that have been instrumental to her success, and some tips she has for finding a healthy work-life balance.
In this episode, you’ll learn:
- How she started sharing content on Instagram
- Why she adopted a vegan diet
- How she decided to only share vegan dinner recipes
- Why she ultimately decided to launch a blog
- Some mistakes she made when building her site
- What tools she used to optimize and grow her blog
- How she developed her unique video strategy
- How she balances her blog and personal life
- Why authenticity and patience are so important
- How to stay tuned for her upcoming cookbook
- Cooking for Peanuts
- Levels Glucose Monitor
- Forks Over Knives
- The Game Changers
- Feast Design Co.
- EOS Accountability Chart
- Tasty Recipes
- Yoast Video SEO for WordPress
- Tasty Pins
- Best of Vegan – Cooking for Peanuts
- Preorder Nisha’s book, Practically Vegan
- Follow Nisha on Instagram and Facebook
- Check out the Food Blogger Pro YouTube channel (and subscribe while you’re there!)
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!
If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions for interviews, be sure to email them to [email protected].
Transcript (click to expand):
Bjork Ostrom: This episode is sponsored by our sister site, Clariti. You’ve heard me talking about Clariti quite a bit on the podcast now. It’s the first-ever official sponsor we’ve had. It’s kind of fun because it’s a sister site to Food Blogger Pro. So it’s all kind of in the same family, but we’re saying, “Hey, Clariti. We want to not only test out doing ads on the Food Blogger Pro Podcast and get a feel for that.” But we also want to give some exposure to Clariti, this tool, because we are really excited about it and we have a lot of folks who have signed up who are using it.
Bjork Ostrom: It’s really fun for me to go in and see some of the conversations people are having. We have this Slack group where people are sharing the ways that they’re using it, some insights that they’ve had, feedback on the tool. We’re still really early stages with it. So it’s been a really exciting process for us to get this tool up and running.
Bjork Ostrom: Clariti really exists because what we found with Pinch of Yum was that we had this huge spreadsheet and we’re using it to keep track of changes that we were making. We’re using it to do campaigns. So an example of a campaign that we did a long time ago was like we want to go through every single post and make sure that nutrition information was added to the recipe. We wanted to go through every single post and make sure that every image had alt text.
Bjork Ostrom: We wanted to go through every single post and make sure that we were strategic about how we were linking, internally linking, and external links. And all that was managed through a spreadsheet. We said anytime you’re doing something with a spreadsheet, there’s actually probably a good chance that you can build software around that. And that’s what Clariti is, C-L-A-R-I-T-I. We’re in the early stages, but Clariti as a tool is going to be able to help you right away when you sign up.
Bjork Ostrom: First thing that you’re going to notice is you’re going to sync up your WordPress information and your Google Analytics information. That sync is then going to happen automatically. What’s great about this is you have WordPress and you have Google Analytics, but rarely are you able to see those things in the same place. So Google Analytics is going to be put right alongside your WordPress information. So you’ll be able to filter really easily and say, “Hey, show me the content on my blog within the last 30 days that has gotten the most traffic.”
Bjork Ostrom: Then from there you could say things like, “Show me of those pieces of content, the content that has gotten the most traffic, but has broken links or missing alt text images. That’s the type of filtering that you can do within Clariti. Another thing that you could do is you could say show me the… From the last 30 days show me the most popular content and then you could create a campaign around that. You could say, ”You know what, I think it’s more important for me to add video content to my most popular recipes as opposed to adding video content to new content because especially if you are running like a pre-roll video ad player, AdThrive media, something like that, you’re going to be able to immediately see a revenue increase from adding video especially video that has ads that are running against it on popular content.
Bjork Ostrom: So maybe you could justify that and say, “Hey, this piece of content is actually getting a lot of traffic. It doesn’t have a video. These five pieces of content. I want to bundle these together and create a little campaign around that.” You can do that within Clariti and that can be your video campaign, the things that you want to focus on adding video to. There’s lots of different kind of, for lack of a better word, recipes that you can use within Clariti to think about how you can filter and optimize your content.
Bjork Ostrom: So filtering, first looking at it strategically and then optimizing by creating a campaign around it. It’s one of those tools where you really have to see it to understand and one of the ways that we can do that is by giving you a demo of that. It’s a great time to do that because we’re doing something called 25 Forever. So for the first 500 people who sign up for Clariti, they get access to the tool for $25 a month forever.
Bjork Ostrom: So even when we change the pricing for Clariti down the line, that won’t be retroactively applied to your account. If you sign up as one of these first 500 users, which you can do by going to clariti.com/food. So clariti.com/food. That’s where we’re directing people who want to sign up as part of this 25 Forever plan, and start to understand how this tool is used. You can join the Slack group where people are sharing inside information around what they’re doing and the processes. We’re just really excited about it and think there’s a ton of opportunity here with the tool.
Bjork Ostrom: We want to thank Clariti for being our first official sponsor for the podcast. It’s a great one because it’s kind of like sponsoring or cheering on your brother or sister. So it’s like part of the tiny bit family and we’re excited about it as the Food Blogger Pro people are excited for the Clariti people because it’s a great tool in making some great progress, and it’s been great to have them as the first official sponsor, first official ad on the Food Blogger Pro Podcast. So be sure to check it out and we will jump into this week’s interview.
Bjork Ostrom: Hello, hello, hello. You’re listening to the Food Blogger Pro Podcast. This is Bjork Ostrom. Today, we’re talking with Nisha. She is a Food Blogger Pro member. One of the things that we’ve wanted to do is to showcase Food Blogger Pro members who are doing the work, getting traction, they’re growing their site, and doing so with some of the philosophies and frameworks that we talk about, and Nisha is going to be talking about getting a tiny bit better every day forever, 1% infinity. She’s going to be talking about how she grew her Instagram following to 400,000.
Bjork Ostrom: Even when we were making notes about the interview, we put in, hey, 399k followers. This is amazing. A few days or maybe a couple weeks later, I saw that it had grown to 404k. I’m sure if you were to look at it now, it’d be even more. She’s also going to be talking about some of the things that she’s learned in terms of balance. How do you maintain a healthy mind, body, family relationship, prioritize those things that are important while also doing the hard work of showing up every day, learning how she learns, how she connects with people and how all of those things have helped her advance her site.
Bjork Ostrom: She’s also going to be talking about an interesting take on how she’s viewing building her business which is focusing on growth, focusing on traffic as opposed to monetization, and delaying that as much as possible, so when that time does come she can flip that switch and be at a point where she’ll have more substantial income. It’s a great interview. It’s inspiring for me to hear from somebody who’s showing up every day and doing the work, and I think that you’ll learn a lot from Nisha as well. So let’s go ahead and jump into this episode. Nisha, welcome to the podcast.
Nisha Melvani: Hi. I am so excited to be here with you today. I have had a webinar with you that was six weeks long. So I feel I’ve gotten to know you and you are just a fabulous human being. I think you really actually care about people’s success genuinely.
Bjork Ostrom: Oh, thank you.
Nisha Melvani: It comes across, and you’re gentle. Your motto helps me every day to get a tiny bit better forever. It really helps me and I think of that a lot.
Bjork Ostrom: Well, thank you. It’s why we named TinyBit, TinyBit was the parent company over the other companies we have, Pinch of Yum, Food Blogger Pro. What we noticed is we’d go to conferences. We would talk with people. And whenever that came up, that idea of like tiny bit better, every day forever, 1% infinity, continual improvement, there’s a little bit of this sense of relief I think that people felt like, “Ah, I don’t have to do everything every day 14 hours.
Bjork Ostrom: I can commit to something for a long time, get a tiny bit better and there’s this relief it felt when people started to think about that or use that as a framework for how they approach their business. I’m curious for you, “What does that look like? Once you started to think about that idea of operating your business in a way where it’s a tiny bit better every day, did it change how you worked? Was it just like a framework that you thought about things differently. I’d be curious to know.
Nisha Melvani: Yeah. I think with what we do there is definitely a burnout feeling sometimes. And when I feel like that, there are days I just want to quit. I’m like, “I’m done with this. This is too much.”
Bjork Ostrom: Totally.
Nisha Melvani: And that sort of puts things in perspective that I love what I do, if I do it at the right pace.
Bjork Ostrom: Yes.
Nisha Melvani: I don’t want to not love it anymore because then I don’t want to do it. So that phrase in the back of my mind just says, “It’s okay. I don’t have to accomplish all that today. I’m still good at what I do. I’m still fine. It will still be there tomorrow to do.” It’s not a race, I guess. It’s not a race.
Bjork Ostrom: I think that’s a huge part of it. And kind of the subtext to that idea is how do you fall in love with a process like as opposed to trying to get to the end and have this massive success and that being the thing. Instead, it’s like how do you really love the process? And then it gets easier, not easy, but easier to get a tiny bit better every day because it’s like, “Here’s what I do. I show up. I do the work.” Some of the work might not be the stuff I enjoy the most, but a lot of it might be stuff that I really enjoy. And how do you preserve that for a long period of time?
Bjork Ostrom: So you have 10 months. Instead of 10 months, you think 10 years. Instead of two weeks, you think two months. Expand the horizon out, show up every day. You’ve done that and it’s been fun to see. I was looking at our show notes here for the interview, and it was Leslie or Alexa on the team had entered in like, “Hey, it’s been really cool to see Nisha growing her account. She signed up for Food Blogger Pro few months ago.” We’re aware of people who sign up and said like, “Hey, she has 399,000 followers on Instagram.”
Bjork Ostrom: Then I check today and it’s 404,000. I don’t know when that note was entered, but it wasn’t that long ago, and you’ve been seeing growth there. So obviously, you are showing up getting a tiny bit better every day and delivering content into the world. Did you start with Instagram? Was that your focus originally and then kind of introduced your blog or was it the other way around?
Nisha Melvani: So I am a nutritionist, a registered dietitian. When my kids were a tiny bit older, I decided to start Instagram. I’m not really a big social media person actually and I decided to start it more to share healthy food with people sure. I wanted to teach people how to eat healthier. I actually would go to restaurants and show them what was healthy. So it was very different. I had two followers, my mom, and a friend.
Bjork Ostrom: So your Instagram account, you would say like, “Hey, I’m going to this restaurant. Here’s how I’m going to strategically order a healthy meal at a restaurant which is sometimes really hard to do.”
Nisha Melvani: Right, yeah. I still should probably do that. Actually, I love doing that.
Bjork Ostrom: Sure.
Nisha Melvani: I think the first thing I posted was like bliss balls at The Elk which is a cafe I went to. I don’t even know how exactly it evolved. I think I started then doing my recipes. I was like, “Oh, this is fun.” I had an iPhone in my kitchen using terrible lighting and the photos were terrible. I think my mom bought me a camera because she sells Nikon. So I was lucky.
Bjork Ostrom: Nice. You know you have an in there.
Nisha Melvani: Exactly. It just sort of evolved naturally. There was no goal. It was a just for a love of it. I didn’t have a business idea. It has nothing to do with money. It literally was a passion and just a desire to help people and share and that’s how it started for me. I didn’t even know what Instagram was. It’s like all new.
Bjork Ostrom: Yep. It’s interesting. I think some people would come to the table and say like, “Hey, you have to start with something that’s your passion and then turn it into a business.” But for some people business is their passion. So they can start with something and think like, “Hey, I want to grow a really successful business and that’s what drives them.” But it’s obvious from reading about you, your about page, your transition into understanding food and nutrition, and even talking about like going through the process of getting a degree and then looking back at that and saying like, “Actually, I think the things I learned in school aren’t necessarily things that I believe to be true today.” And really just having a passion for healthy eating, that’s the thing that drove it.
Bjork Ostrom: Then eventually it tipped into, “Wait, there’s something here.” Right? Thinking strategically about it, obviously, making some decisions then around, “How do I actually grow this thing and turn it into a business of sort?” So two questions that I’d be interested in hearing about there. Number one, your story around health and nutrition and kind of where you are now with that and how that has evolved, and I think that’s a really interesting story with your upbringing, and as it relates to your transition to vegan. Then the follow-up question that we can tee up again if needed would be, the transition to from passion to, “Hey, this could be a business.” So let’s start with that first one talking a little bit about your story, transitioning into eating a vegan diet.
Nisha Melvani: So I think I wrote this somewhere. I was raised on a meat-based diet, not a plant-based diet. And my parents still really, they eat a lot of meat. And in Jamaica, they have, I think this thing called cow cod soup which I used to eat, which you should look up. And just heavy on the meat. Indian curries with goat and all that. I never really thought about it. I didn’t love to eat then. I don’t know. I was a bit picky, I guess. Then I went to boarding school in England, where it was again very like steak and kidney pie, liver, haggis. I don’t know. Strange meat dishes. I was like, “What am I eating? This is not even recognizable to me.”
Bjork Ostrom: Right.
Nisha Melvani: But you were forced to eat it. There was no choice of really being a vegetarian actually which is so interesting or definitely not a vegan. They would have probably expelled me. Anyway, so then I came and did my nutrition degree after graduating in New York. Again, I feel a lot of it is taught by industries that are promoting themselves or have a lot of money. So certain things were promoted to eat as healthy are based on studies done by those industries that want to sell you those foods. I didn’t really understand all that. I was so naïve.
Bjork Ostrom: Sure.
Nisha Melvani: I just read a lot of studies. My degree never really said anything about meat versus vegetables. Or dairy. It was just all about the macronutrients and what you should get, and saturated fats. Very focused on metric-
Bjork Ostrom: In India, macros are all going to be the same as long as you’re accounting for your macros and it doesn’t matter if it’s like meat-based versus not.
Nisha Melvani: Right, exactly. I think they still teach that, but for me personally and I don’t… I’m not one who preaches that everyone should be a vegan or anything. That’s not my thing. I just naturally evolved to eat that way. As I studied more and what made me feel better and more vibrant, like I wanted to feel vibrant. There was a period where I felt I was sleeping a lot, I was lagging. So as I started to eat more plant-based, it just became more vibrant. Then I had children. There was a decision there. Now, they make choices, but they don’t eat meat because that’s just what they were raised.
Bjork Ostrom: There’s that interesting transition with kids where it’s you are making all the decisions for them. Just today I saved this article and it was from this company called Levels, which is a continual glucose monitor. I think most people do that with… If you have diabetes, you do that, but now a lot of people are just doing that to do it. I want to track all the things. So like Apple Watch, continual glucose monitor. The more that I can make myself part machine, the better.
Nisha Melvani: Step counter is a big one.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, exactly. I’m on the waiting list, so I get these updates. Most email newsletters, I just removed myself, but these have actually been interesting. One of them was like, “Hey, the impact of sugar on your kids specifically.” We have a nine-month-old and almost a three-year-old. You start to realize like, “Gosh, there’s a lot of added sugar in everything.”
Bjork Ostrom: I’ve cut out, attempted to, and have done a pretty good job of this cut out added sugar. When you talk about feeling vibrant or feeling different, you feel that when you make that change. There’s been a couple documentaries that we’ve watched lately, Forks Over Knives which is an old one. And then there’s this one on Netflix. It’s like The Game Changers, I think it’s called about vegan eating and athletes. Pretty compelling information and really interesting in terms of not just macros, but where those are actually coming from and the impact of that.
Bjork Ostrom: We don’t have to dive deep into that, but I can track with what you’re saying and interesting. For you, do you feel like is there any… For you, is it a health consideration? Is there any impact? I know for some people, vegan eating is around also environmental and impact on animals. It feels like all of those are a win.
Nisha Melvani: It’s both. Definitely, it’s both. And the funny thing which I find interesting is I’m not that tall and my husband is definitely not tall, but my kids are tall, at least two of them. The second is average at least.
Bjork Ostrom: Sure.
Nisha Melvani: But I remember people, when they were younger, if they don’t eat meat and dairy, they’re not going to be tall. They’re going to be tiny. Then a study recently came out that actually they have found that vegan kids actually may be taller. It’s the opposite of what you might think. Maybe that’s why they’re a bit tall because we’re not tall. I don’t know. Or at least very heavily plant-based kids.
Bjork Ostrom: Sure. It’s interesting to dismantle some of those core beliefs from growing up. I think of, as a kid, I was always like, “Oh, juice is healthy.” Just a huge glass of juice. And specifically juice that you buy at the supermarket and you look and it’s like, “Oh my gosh. There’s a lot of sugar in this.” As you start to, number one, be aware of what you’re consuming, which preaching to the choir, I think in a lot of ways for people who listen to this podcast. But you just start to learn pretty quickly like, “Oh, this makes a difference.”
Bjork Ostrom: What I’ve learned is the more that I prioritize that type of work so to speak like working, thinking about what I’m eating or working and thinking about how I’m exercising, that translates into actual work. If you’re sharper, if you’re more present like you’re able to do work in a different way. So in some ways I can see that directly impacting what it looks like when I sit down and put my hands on a keyboard and use my brain to think, which is essentially what we do, right?
Nisha Melvani: Yeah, I agree.
Bjork Ostrom: Like develop recipes. We document. We type. So at some point, this passion for you, these beliefs that you’re starting to shift and change and understanding, eating in a different way, you almost become… And you want to tell people about it. You want to evangelize this thing that has had a big impact on you, and you’re doing that through Instagram primarily at that point?
Nisha Melvani: So one very important thing for me was not to pressure people, not to make them feel bad about their choices. Yes. Even with my kids, it’s just not how I wanted to be. I realized with Instagram, what naturally happened for me because of raising three young kids that they’re like all born within three and a half years, so it’s pretty busy.
Bjork Ostrom: Wow.
Nisha Melvani: So I realized the most efficient… Everything for me, it has to be efficient. What I realized is the one meal I make every day is dinner. So I focus just on dinner. Now, I know there are many accounts. They do breakfast. They do snacks, everything. I wouldn’t be able to do that. So it’s more seeing what is actually feasible. Without me going crazy, what is a natural way to do this.
Nisha Melvani: Because I’m making dinner anyway, I would post dinner. So my account and my cookbook is all about dinners and vegan dinners. I guess the philosophy also there is even if someone who isn’t vegan can eat one meal a day that is heavily plant-based. I think that’s a help for the environment, for the climate. And it helps them ultimately. So that sort of became my thing as vegan dinners. It just was easy because that’s what I was doing anyway. So the posts I would make are what my kids ate for dinner.
Bjork Ostrom: And you’re doing it anyways so you can document that. Can you talk through what that looked like? So were you planning ahead like, “Hey, this week. Here’s what we’re going to do.” And then do you take 15 minutes before putting everything on the table? How did you execute in your head both preparing dinner for the night and documenting a piece of content that you’ll publish?
Nisha Melvani: Well, they just say cold food. No, I’m kidding.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, but seriously.
Nisha Melvani: Sometimes. So I’m not really a big planner. I see my creativity doesn’t really work like that. For me, it’s like I get up and I’m like, “What am I feeling today?” And luckily, I live near grocery stores. So it’s health food stores and all that. But it’s very hard for me to plan. I don’t know. I’ve never been a huge planner. I have like a big grand plan but the specifics evolve naturally. Your mood is different and the weather is different. So it’s just like a feeling I guess when I wake up.
Bjork Ostrom: Totally. And if it’s raining, that might result in you feeling like, “Hey, this will be a better meal tonight than if it’s 100 degrees.”
Nisha Melvani: Exactly. When do you make soup? When do you make… That sort of thing.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. I think that’s probably inspiring for a lot of people because I think sometimes what can happen is it can seem like everybody is just an awesome planner who has a month of content built out and they’re never stressed. Every day, they know what they’re going to do, exactly what they’re going to do and when. But I think the reality is for a lot of people that I know, and ourselves included, a lot of it is like, “Hey, you’re kind of doing this day by day week by week.”
Bjork Ostrom: A big part of it depends on what’s the best fit for you? There are some people who like, “Yes, I love planning. I love to know everything that’s going to happen.” There are some people who are like, “I love to wake up and think what am I going to make tonight?” And that’s how I can do that sustainably to get back to something you’re saying earlier the sustainability element is really important to consider.
Bjork Ostrom: So at what point along the way, this is getting to that second question that we had talked about where you’re like, “Wait, this could actually be something. It started as a passion. It started as an interest, but this could actually be something that I can think strategically about as a business”? Was there one inflection point or was it slowly over time starting to realize that?
Nisha Melvani: I think it’s slowly over time. It’s funny. I still don’t view myself really as a business because I have little things that happen. I think I’m more building towards when my kids are really gone for it to be a full-fledged business, but it’s important for me to spend time with them still and exercise and all those things. But I think what happened is… Oh, so for example with the blog. It’s all about ads.
Nisha Melvani: I remember you saying something in one of our webinars with you that really resonated with me, because I definitely evolve… The way I evolve, my things is very much like intuition, feeling and not… I don’t really listen to a lot of… Or look at everyone else and try and do that, because then I think I’ll lose my way. So it’s more like, “How do I feel about this? What’s my gut feeling?” My gut feeling, I’ll answer the other question in a minute, but about the blog was, “Okay, it’s all about advertising, but I want to have a good product first.”
Nisha Melvani: I want to have it to be good user experience, really work on that and the content. Then when I think it’s time, then I’ll go into the ads. It’s funny, because I felt like that before you even said that. I wasn’t chasing after something, because I believe it will all come eventually and I don’t need to chase it.
Nisha Melvani: I mean, fortunately I’m in that position so I know everyone has a different position. So I can’t really say there was like one point. So I built my Instagram and I think Whole Foods was the first person to validate anything I did, because they posted this cauliflower crust pizza I made. I was like, “Oh gosh, if they’re posting.” I think, I grew by like 2,000 followers that day and I was like, “Oh my gosh. Maybe I should really consider doing this more.”
Nisha Melvani: Then you have a community who supports you on Instagram. So for me, when I joined, I was very much strict with myself that I would limit who I follow so I could actually engage with those people and not go in… It scares me to go into Instagram and suddenly I’m bombarded with other people’s posts or I get very nervous. So I know myself well. I’m like, “I’m going to follow very limited people.” I’ll still like a lot of people’s posts, go visit their feeds, but I just need my sanity here. When I go in, I can’t get overloaded with things.
Nisha Melvani: So that became a thing. I never followed family. I never followed travel because that would make me jealous. I just kept it very strict like that and I think that really helped to just know from the beginning this is a work thing. I’m not a social media person as such, but I’m going to make it strictly about this. Then a friend of mine who’s a big food blogger on Instagram said, “Why are you leaving all your content on Instagram? It’s unpredictable.”
Nisha Melvani: I kept seeing, “Wow, Instagram is changing. It’s so unpredictable.” She’s like, “You really should have your own space.” I thought about that. I was like, “That’s so much work and that’s so overwhelming. How will I exercise? How will I see my kids? I can’t possibly do it.” I put it off, and then I made the wordpress.org, wordpress.com mistake.
Bjork Ostrom: Sure, yep. Can you explain that for people who are like what does that mean?
Nisha Melvani: So initially, I claimed my domain name on wordpress.com. I realized it wasn’t like the organic WordPress where you get a plug-in and you do it all yourself.
Bjork Ostrom: Kind of a self-hosted WordPress versus the other.
Nisha Melvani: Right. They had a lot of control over me, I guess.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. It’s the benefit and the there’s good and bad with it. I have a mentor who posts his thoughts on spirituality and faith. WordPress.com is perfect for him. He’s not looking to monetize. He might write a book someday, but wordpress.com, great. He can go in, he can write. He doesn’t have to worry about keeping stuff updated. He doesn’t have to worry about a host. It’s just all there.
Bjork Ostrom: But to your point, if you want to start to have more control, if you want to have plug-ins that you want to install, specific ones, you have to wordpress.org which would be a self-hosted instance, would be the way to go, which is what we recommend. So you had to make that switch at some point?
Nisha Melvani: A lot of this has been help from other food bloggers. I’ve made friends along the way. I wasn’t part of any groups then. I didn’t know about you guys, Food Blogger Pro. I had no knowledge of anything. So a lot of it was just friends who supported me and said… One of them said, “Why are you on wordpress.com for what you do?” I was like, “Oh, there’s a difference?” So that was the first mistake. And then I switched all that. Then there was the whole thing of like, “Okay. I don’t have the funds from my…” I’m not a big enough business yet to have funds to hire someone.
Nisha Melvani: So it was how do I do this on my own? So I looked at other people. I was like, “Oh, what do they use? What’s their template?” I would see Foodie Pro at the bottom. I was like what is Foodie Pro? So a lot of it is just looking at what others did and trying to learn from them. And it still is. It’s always going to be that, I think. So then I looked up, the Feast design and I, first, again made another mistake. There’s a lot of mistakes, but you learn from them all.
Bjork Ostrom: Totally. Part of it is like you’re doing it like you’re moving forward. You’re implementing things and that’s how you learn.
Nisha Melvani: And my mistakes when I’d make them would make me quit for a while. Then I’d say, “No, Nisha. You can do it. Go back.” So I bought one of the just the themes at first. I was like, “This is way too hard because if I have to update it myself, I can’t do that. I don’t know anything about this stuff.” Then I realized they made a plug-in. So I got the plug-in and that is amazing for me. It basically updates everything for me. You just press update now. I love that button. Update now.
Nisha Melvani: They have a support system. So for me, it was creating different supports around this process that weren’t too expensive. Obviously, there are cost to all of this, but to me they’re much more reasonable. They just feel safer. I feel safe having these things around me.
Bjork Ostrom: It’s almost a safety net of sorts.
Nisha Melvani: Yeah. There’s so many different people I can ask things to through all these little things I’ve put together, the plugins.
Bjork Ostrom: Shout out to Skylar and the Feast team. We can link to Feast Design Company, specializing in the food and recipe space.
Nisha Melvani: Yeah, they’re great.
Bjork Ostrom: Their plugin that they have is kind of an all-in-one plug-in for a lot of different things. But what I love about that, what you just said and I think is worth calling out, I was thinking about this recently as it relates to building a team. You said, “Hey, too early to actually build a team.” But I think what you did is you essentially built a team, but just not a team of this person is going to work for me full-time exclusively. We use a company, operating system called EOS.
Bjork Ostrom: They talk about the accountability chart. And the accountability chart, this would be a good exercise for anybody to do is essentially saying like, “Instead of the people, you create roles or functions.” So it’s like one is photography. One is recipe development. One is updating WordPress, whatever it might be. Within a company, there’s lots of these different roles.
Bjork Ostrom: Then what you do is you go in and you say, “Okay, who’s sitting in this seat? Who’s fulfilling this function.” When you first started, if you were to do that, it would have been you and every single one. But what I hear you saying is you started to think through it and be like, “Well, maybe there can be somebody who I can go to like if a WordPress thing comes up. So I have this resource for some of the specific WordPress needs that I have.
Bjork Ostrom: Maybe you have a friend who is able to weigh in on kind of technology considerations. Slowly, what you can do, it doesn’t have to be full-time team members, but you can start to replace yourself in every seat with another go-to. So when something does come up, you can route to that person. We just did that with google workspace so like we have a team of 20. I was the one managing all the Google accounts and stuff like that. I was like, “Oh, we need to replace the person in that seat.”
Bjork Ostrom: So we hired a consultant to now when somebody has an update. I route that over to them, so I’m not having to figure out even if it’s 10, 15 minutes. Were there other areas that you did that with or other things?
Nisha Melvani: Yeah. So I think I did that in a cost-effective manner that felt like good for me. I also went with BigScoots as a host, and they have been so helpful. If anything goes really wrong, I reach out and they’re so nice and always help me. So that was another thing. Then I found you guys. I can’t remember how. I think the first thing was when you did the six-week optimization course.
Bjork Ostrom: Yep.
Nisha Melvani: Right.
Bjork Ostrom: We did a course where we went through and said, “Here’s how you can think about optimizing old content.” And this idea that we’re passionate about and a lot of people are focusing on, a lot of publishers is not just publishing new content, but how to go back to old content and update it. So we did a six-week course with a handful of members that went through that process.
Nisha Melvani: So that was great. I didn’t have old content yet.
Bjork Ostrom: Sure, yeah. Conceptually it still applies, yeah.
Nisha Melvani: Yeah. I mean, you always have, right? Yesterday’s content is old. Food Blogger Pro has the community forum, the courses you guys have, the podcast. I still have so much more to get through that. It’s going to be hugely helpful. And just asking the community questions was huge. Again, it’s such a great resource I find. Then I realized, “Oh, there’s a Tasty Recipes thing they have too.”
Nisha Melvani: Because I saw other people having this different format to their recipes. I’m like, “Where did you get that? What are you using?” Then I realized that was actually related to you guys. And that’s a great tool too because you can do step-by-step videos. Now, I wasn’t doing a lot of videos at this point, but I just actually was inspired by the fact that I could have videos in my recipes. That’s so cool.
Nisha Melvani: So again, what inspired me was not everyone else is doing it, because I actually I’m a bit of a rebel that way. I don’t want to do it then. But more of the wow. I want to see what that looks like. Because then I went to yours and you had a Brussels sprouts video. I was like, “Oh, it’s in the recipe.”
Nisha Melvani: So I remember, I just shot videos so I could see that because it was so cool to me. Then I was like showing my family, “Look, the videos are in the recipe.” It’s still a bit new, I think. So it was novel for me.
Bjork Ostrom: You don’t see it a lot, yep.
Nisha Melvani: So that’s so fun. So I think these kinds of things-
Bjork Ostrom: Can you talk about how you do that?
Nisha Melvani: Sure.
Bjork Ostrom: You obviously don’t have like a video team, but you’re still able to pull that off. So what does that look like for you to do it step-by-step?
Nisha Melvani: This is actually my whole work area, like this behind me. That’s it.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. So for those listening, it’s like you’re in a room and you have your… All your stuff.
Nisha Melvani: I have a bit of my living room. That’s it. And kids shouting at me like, “Why do you have so much stuff around?”
Bjork Ostrom: Get this out of here.
Nisha Melvani: It really is just like a little bit.
Bjork Ostrom: It should be the other way around, isn’t it? You should be yelling at your kids that they got to move their stuff.
Nisha Melvani: I know, it’s true.
Bjork Ostrom: What does that look like for you to shoot video for step-by-step cards in a way that doesn’t drive you insane?
Nisha Melvani: So the thing is I did try videos for Reels. It’s funny. Still images are better for me on Instagram. That’s why when they say follow everyone, I think it just depends on… And you have to monitor how is your feed doing with what you’re doing. So I don’t want to follow everyone because reels I would work so hard. And then they wouldn’t do that well. I felt disappointed because I don’t have… There’s a certain style for Reels sure and I don’t have that style yet.
Nisha Melvani: I’m going to try and learn it, but my way of thinking is much more like I’m a teacher. I’m much more that kind of person than like, “Oh, I’m going to make this fun vibey thing.” I love it. I love watching it. I just can’t do it.
Bjork Ostrom: Lindsay talks about that just in terms of content creation. You can be a teacher or an educator. It can be informational. You could be somebody who’s like entertainer. You could be comedic. There’s these different buckets of content. All of those perform different and better in different places, but I think it’s smart for you to think like who am I and how am I creating content and what feels like the best fit? Then once you realize that, then say, “Where am I going to focus on knowing what I know about myself and how I create content?”
Nisha Melvani: Exactly. I mean, I really appreciate those more comical, those people who can make fun videos. I love watching them. I’m a little bit jealous of them. I’ll admit that.
Bjork Ostrom: Totally.
Nisha Melvani: Anyway, I’m much more like a teacher step by step person. So this recipe thing was great. And what I would do is I’m like, “Okay, if I’m going to go through all this work and make a video, I need to use that video as much as I can, wherever I can.” Maximize the use of it. I edit them in Final Cut Pro. I used to do Adobe, but it was too hard. It just took too long. I’s enough for me. I’m not making big movies.
Nisha Melvani: I split the video into steps for the recipe like just take out pieces. But then I have the whole video now as one piece and now I’m starting to put that because you actually told me that the best way to do ads eventually is to have videos. I haven’t approached Mediavine yet or anything. But the best thing… Actually, the more successful… Right.
Nisha Melvani: So then I was like, “Well, I have the videos. I’m going to make them into full-length videos too.” It’s the same work essentially. I’m going to put them into Vimeo and just put it onto my site. So I just started to do that and then you said… I listened to a podcast from you yesterday about Yoast video SEO. I never knew that existed. So yesterday evening-
Bjork Ostrom: That’s probably an older one.
Nisha Melvani: … I got Yoast video SEO.
Bjork Ostrom: That’s great. Good for you. What’s fun for me…
Nisha Melvani: I already asked the community some questions.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Continual execution. It’s like hearing it, researching it, and then actually doing it, which is awesome.
Nisha Melvani: Well, I have to do it quickly or I’ll forget.
Bjork Ostrom: Sure.
Nisha Melvani: But then I use the full videos, the pieces of videos. And then something else came to be evolved. I never worked on my Pinterest account. I kind of just put my Instagram link to Pinterest when you just say, link to Pinterest, whatever. I never worked on it. I think, I had 70,000 views, something like that. One of my friends said, “You need to work on Pinterest if you have a blog because that drives traffic.” I was like, “Oh my god, really? Another thing. I can’t do it. I just want to quit. I just want to quit.”
Nisha Melvani: So then I’m like, “Okay. How can I use Pinterest?” Because she’s like, “You need to do like five pins a day or six pins a day.” I’m like, “You’re out of your mind. I’m never going to do that. There’s no way.” So how can I again make this work for my life where I can sustain. At that time Pinterest was really changing. This was like a month ago maybe. I looked into Tailwind and I was like, “For me personally, this isn’t what I need because I’m not going to be doing the five a day. I just can’t.”
Nisha Melvani: Then I was like, “Oh, idea pins. Okay. I’m going to use the videos there too.” So I’m really getting a bang for my buck. So I flip them, I rotate them. I just flip the video, the angle. So when I film, I keep in mind, this is going to be both directions because I’m one person.
Bjork Ostrom: Horizontal and vertical. Then you’re putting the video content on Pinterest.
Nisha Melvani: Yeah. I grew to like, I think today, I looked and it was like 750,000. So I was like, “Wow, I took it from 70 to that by just looking and seeing what was doing well.” Because I don’t know anything about Pinterest. Now, I’m still very small on Pinterest, but that’s okay. I mean, that’s just where I am.
Bjork Ostrom: Just to make sure I’m understanding that, so you will cut, you’ll do the video, you do it horizontal. The point that you made there was something we’ve talked about which is the ability to earn more from pre-roll ads on video content. So there’s display ads. Those are the traditional ads. You’d see mobile and desktop. They’d be in the sidebar. They might be in the content. But there’s advertisers who are looking to advertise against video content. There’s not as much video content.
Bjork Ostrom: So there’s a supply and demand thing. They’d be willing to pay more to get in front. So you can earn more. To your point, you’re not doing that yet, but you’re kind of… My understanding is you’re getting the snowball to a point where it’s going a little bit faster, getting a little bit bigger because you don’t have the restrictions of ads slowing down your site impacting the user experience.
Bjork Ostrom: So at some point you’ll switch that on. When you do, you’ll convert those videos over to the ad-based video players through whatever it might be, Mediavine, AdThrive. And that’s an important piece especially for creators who have a have built up a following and have video content. Even if you don’t have video content, find your top five, 10, 15 pieces of content. Add that video in and see if the ad network you’re working with can create that as an ad player.
Bjork Ostrom: We’ve done that for a Pinch of Yum. If we earned $1,000 a month from YouTube on ads from video content, we had embedded. It might be 10 to 20,000 from that same video content embedded through a video ad player. So it can make a really big impact. So I think that’s an important piece to point out. Then the other piece is like continually building on these tools that help you do what you need to do.
Bjork Ostrom: You mentioned Yoast and the video site map that goes with that, why that’s beneficial because then Google Search Console is indexing your videos. You mentioned a recipe plugin, Tasty Recipes. I appreciate that shout-out. So that’s helpful. The Feast plugin. Great. You said Tailwind. Didn’t need that. It’s a great tool, but you’re able to just simplify Pinterest and do video content on there because that was working. Other things that you’ve layered in as like plugins or BigScoots, you had mentioned that just as you’ve continued to level up?
Nisha Melvani: Right. So I have Tasty Pins too.
Bjork Ostrom: Sure.
Nisha Melvani: I feel like I have a lot of your products and this is not sponsored by you.
Bjork Ostrom: Right. Open to other solutions out there in the market. They’re not the only options.
Nisha Melvani: Definitely. I think there’s so many great things. This is just what I happen to choose. So many things that work differently for other people. Always in life it’s like that.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.
Nisha Melvani: But also as a nutritionist, it was important to me to have some sort of label, nutrition fact label somewhere. So I use the Nutrifox. Then also, I don’t have time to check all the broken links and the broken images, and the alt texts. For me to sit and do all that, I won’t be able to make recipes. And that’s really where my joy is, is designing recipes. So I needed all that to be done where I can just go and say, “So that’s through Clariti.” So some of these tools are really for bigger blogs, but I would rather implement them now, so I don’t have to go back and fix things. To me, it’s like start right and just do it right even if it’s way too big for you right now. You’ll grow into it.
Bjork Ostrom: That’s interesting. Just this idea that you could wait to do some of this stuff, but if you start in EOS which I’ve talked about a couple times in the podcast. It’s kind of like that. We started, maybe you’re on a little bit on the earlier end. It was probably just about right, but with this organizational, entrepreneurial operating system, EOS like a way to run our business, we couldn’t have done it when we were one person. Me and Lindsay, couldn’t have done it when it was like three or four. It was still pretty early, but my thought was like, “Hey, let’s do this.”
Bjork Ostrom: So it’s in place where we’ve hit the ground running. We don’t have to introduce a new system later on. It sounds like you’ve taken the same approach where, “Hey, if this is best practice or it’s going to be helpful, let’s implement it now, figure out the routine around it and then use that moving forward so you don’t have three years down the line change up the routine that you have and how you are doing things on a day-to-day basis which was… One of the questions that I wanted to ask was, you’ve talked about essentially balance making sure that you have time to exercise, be with your kids, but continue to do this as well.
Bjork Ostrom: We talked about tiny bit better every day forever, continually showing up. What does that look like for you to strike that balance in a way where you’re continuing to grow, 399 into 404,000. So your Instagram is growing. You’re launching this blog. You’re introducing new tools. But also, it sounds like you’re prioritizing time with kids and exercise, taking care of yourself. What does that balance look like and do you have to consistently check yourself to make sure that you’re keeping that balance?
Nisha Melvani: I think when I first started the blog, I realized I was sitting a lot. I’m not really a sitting person, which is why I like the cooking thing because you’re standing, you’re moving, you’re standing on step stools to try and get angles on your food and you’re climbing everywhere on your windowsill. So I realized, wow, I’m sitting a lot. But then I was like, “Well, be gentle with yourself because this is the beginning phase.”
Nisha Melvani: It takes an investment of time to get it going. I’ll get through these few weeks where I am sitting a lot and then I’ll go back to moving more. So I paid attention. I guess, it’s paying attention to how you’re feeling, to what you’re doing and not being hard on yourself if every day doesn’t go perfectly, if I don’t achieve what I thought I was going to achieve in the morning.
Nisha Melvani: Then I took those weeks to sit and build a blog. I told my kids, my husband, this is what I’m doing right now. I don’t want to do it in piecemeal because I’ll lose what I learned yesterday and I’ll forget. Then once it started to feel like I had a hold on it, I was like, “Okay. I’m not going to be so invested.” I post a lot, but it takes a lot of time to make a blog post. So I try and do two a week if possible, but I’m alone.
Nisha Melvani: I sort of just see how the day looks when I get up. What are they doing, and then try and gauge it off that. But if I see like I’m sitting doing this blog post for just too long, what I started to do lately is I’m like, “Okay. Every morning…” because I get up really early, just naturally, I’m going to go for a long walk outside and take my coffee and just be present and maybe talk to some friends. But they have to live in England because no one is awake in America. Sure. I’m from England. So I have a lot of friends there.
Bjork Ostrom: In that sense, you become on the same schedule like if you get up crazy early.
Nisha Melvani: Yeah, they’re having lunch and I’m walking around.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, right. You’re on lunch break.
Nisha Melvani: Yeah. It’s a time to just reach out to others to just be present and move. And then I’ll come home and say, “Okay. This is what I’m making.” Sometimes I don’t even know what I’m making at that point because it comes clear to me while I’m walking. Oh, I feel like this will be good. Then I’ll go to the supermarket, whatever, the health food store nearby. I’ll get the stuff and then I’ll come home. Now, lighting is an issue because light changes.
Bjork Ostrom: Sure.
Nisha Melvani: But I kind of had to give up on that and just do my best.
Bjork Ostrom: Yep.
Nisha Melvani: As long as it’s not dark. And then every evening I go for a walk with my kids. They all have step counters now I’ve since covered because you know it like took away all their school activities. So my husband is like, “We should count our steps and I wasn’t on board until recently.” But I don’t use that as like, “I have to reach this.” Again, I can’t do that in life. I’m just not good at that pressure thing. He always sends me his and they’re so high and I’m like, “Can you just not do that? It’s really upsetting for me.”
Bjork Ostrom: It’s not helping.
Nisha Melvani: Yeah. It’s like don’t tell me. I don’t care.
Bjork Ostrom: Right.
Nisha Melvani: The good thing about it all is really what’s helped is they all eat my food. You look at some of those dishes and my friends are like, “Your kids eat that?” I’m like, “They really do.” My husband eats that. He hates when I don’t cook. You would think like he’s a guy and they don’t want to eat those bird food-looking things. I don’t know. They all eat it. Sometimes it’s not the best and they’ll tell me and that’s helpful. I know I’m never wasting time, when my recipe doesn’t go great because they’ll eat it anyway. And I’m not wasting time because I learned something.
Nisha Melvani: I think that’s the most important thing. When a picture doesn’t go well, the sad thing is the post goes well when the picture is good. But it’s very hard to always have a good picture. You just don’t. Sometimes they tank, but you just learn. You just say, “You know what, it’s okay.” Next time, I know this is what I did and it didn’t work and I’ll just do it different next time. I think that took a while for me to not be hard on myself about. I always just think I wasted my time. But it’s never a waste of your time. That’s what I realized. It just never is.
Bjork Ostrom: I think there has to be a point as well where it’s kind of like songwriting. I haven’t watched this documentary, but I’ve seen some people quote it where Ed Sheeran talks about how he’s able to write the songs he has now because he essentially got all the bad songs out. He wrote so many songs through the years that he refined his skill as a songwriter, but he uses this idea of getting the bad songs out.
Bjork Ostrom: But I think still to this day, I would imagine you write songs that nobody ever sees or nobody ever hears. That’s just part of the game. That’s the game you’re playing is you are creating something and sometimes you connect, and it’s exactly what you want and sometimes you don’t. Sometimes you have to have… When I worked at a non-profit, they would talk about whether it’s like a brochure or an email that they’d send out. They had like a percentage. They said, “Hey, 90%. That’s what we’re shooting for. We can’t get everything to 100%, but our marker is 90%.
Bjork Ostrom: And if we get there, then we can press publish. If not, maybe it doesn’t ever see the light of day and that’s happened with a lot of Pinch of Yum content where we might work on something. The team will create a video. We’ll do recipe development and it just doesn’t get there and we don’t publish it. To your point, can potentially feel like, “Wait, no this is a failure.” But that’s just the name of the game. When you’re creating things in the world, some of them will see the light of day and some of them won’t.
Bjork Ostrom: My dad, who’s a potter crushes 50 to 75% of the pots that he creates because they just aren’t what he wants them to be, and he wants to be super selective about it. For me, I look at it and like, “Wait, what? No, that’s fine. Don’t.” He crushes it. So I think it’s important to mention that as a creator.
Nisha Melvani: I think, I do have a high bar. A little bit of a high bar. And if it’s not the standard I want, I’d rather just not put it out there. Whereas my kids are like, “But that’s a good picture. I like that.” I’m like, “What do you know? What do you know?” In fact, interestingly enough-
Bjork Ostrom: You don’t have to publish it.
Nisha Melvani: Yeah, exactly. They don’t have social media. They hate social. None of them. My eldest is 17. None of them have it. They have phones, but they’re just not interested.
Bjork Ostrom: Good for them. Yeah, that’s great. And maybe simplifies a few things for you as a parent.
Nisha Melvani: Yeah. Well, maybe they saw the whole Instagram thing like, “Oh my god. We’re not doing that.”
Bjork Ostrom: I don’t want to do that. Too stressful.
Nisha Melvani: But actually, another important part of this I think is when I started Instagram, I would post every day. For me, personally, a lot of people can do that and that’s great. But for me that was burnout too. I don’t have that pressure on myself. I’m like, “Okay, I’ll do it.” Definitely, I want to be regular enough so that no one… Everyone is like, “Where’s she gone? We’re going to leave.” Sometimes it’s like every three days. It’s okay.
Bjork Ostrom: Yep. What I’ve learned about content over the years is it’s better to do less that’s higher quality than more that’s not as high quality. So if you can do something that’s twice as good, but post half the amount, that’s going to be more impactful than if you are posting more frequently and it’s not as good.
Nisha Melvani: Yeah. And I think it’s your brand. You want your brand to be good. I think at the end of the day, I do think about that. Is my brand going to be all over the place or do I want a consistency of quality that represents my brand?
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, that’s great. So if you think back at the last few years, what are the things that you could pinpoint and say, “These were some of the most important things I did in order to achieve growth, traction”? The things that you look back on and you’re like, “Gosh, this was super helpful,” and advice that you give people who are wanting to also grow or wanting to get kind of traction in some certain areas. Would you have something that you’d be able to pinpoint?
Nisha Melvani: Be authentic.
Bjork Ostrom: And what does that look like?
Nisha Melvani: Don’t try and copy everyone else, and do what works for you, and what feels good to you, and what makes you want to do it. I think that for me has probably been the most important driver.
Bjork Ostrom: It’s hard to do though because you can look at other people who are having success. In some ways, there’s a combination of authenticity layered in with inspiration from people who are doing things really well. To your point earlier, hey, this person is using this theme or getting advice from people. It’s a little bit more technical, but this combination of inspiration from people who are doing it well. But authenticity, in what, your brand, your voice, your direction, what are those? What would be included in the category of authenticity? What areas?
Nisha Melvani: Yeah. You said it perfectly. It’s not that you don’t look at other people’s work or you don’t learn from them. I think you have to. That’s how everything is. But then you don’t try and become that if you’re not that. I know a lot of people put themselves as the image of their brand, and so many of them are so good at it and should do that. I am not at that point, so that’s another thing. I’m not going to put myself out there at this point because it’s not authentic for me. I don’t feel good doing it.
Bjork Ostrom: Right.
Nisha Melvani: I like to pretend I’m an introvert and that would go against that.
Bjork Ostrom: Sure. Yeah, right.
Nisha Melvani: Because introversion is cool, I think.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. But the idea being, “Hey, I’m not necessarily building up… I’m trying to build a brand, not just a personal brand.” This isn’t you. This is the brand that you’re building. Is that a little bit of what you’re doing?
Nisha Melvani: Right. For me, it’s the recipes and it’s just the information. I love when people can do both. Lindsay, I think does both. I think it’s beautiful together. I now really like people. It took me a while. I like communicating with people a lot, but I just feel for me it’s the product right now, and it always was. That’s how I started. I’m also scared of change. That’s a big change and I’m not ready for that. So I think patience.
Bjork Ostrom: It might never be and that’s okay.
Nisha Melvani: Yeah, exactly. A lot of it is also patience like not rushing to do something because others, but just seeing… Actually, all of this patience is another thing, like patience to put out the ads, patience to approach me, different brands to do sponsored posts. All of it for me is just like… But again, I have that luxury to be patient. I see both sides of everything.
Bjork Ostrom: That makes sense. Last thing that I’d be curious to hear a little about is you’ve signed a cookbook deal and you’ve been working on that. How did that come about and what have you learned through that process of writing and developing a cookbook?
Nisha Melvani: So I felt like a validation from that. Just being on your own and doing this all your own, and being scarred by Instagram sometimes depending on numbers. You don’t really get validated because it’s not where you go to work and you get paid every week. It’s not like, “Oh, you’re doing good work.” No one’s telling you anything essentially, only when…
Bjork Ostrom: On your own for the most part.
Nisha Melvani: Right.
Bjork Ostrom: It’s not like there’s people who are there to be a part of the team working on something together. It’s just you.
Nisha Melvani: Right. And the most validating thing about what I do is when people make the recipes and share the photos and write something. That’s the validation of it all, I think. And the cookbook was a huge validation that someone would care enough that Penguin, Rodale Books would care enough to actually pay me to put my work out there.
Nisha Melvani: It was at the beginning of COVID actually that I signed the contract or even had the interviews, anything. Everything was so thrown off, but I guess everyone was cooking then. It tied into this huge cooking fest. I think I was very nervous to do it. I didn’t want to do a cookbook. It was never something, I thought would be in my cards. Everyone said, “Make any money.” I was like, “Then why would I do that?” It definitely wasn’t something I really was going to pursue and then it happened very naturally. So I got that and I think it saved me in COVID honestly.
Bjork Ostrom: In terms of focus, anchor.
Nisha Melvani: Mentally.
Bjork Ostrom: Or something to do, right?
Nisha Melvani: Yeah. Otherwise, I would have focused on all the negatives. I didn’t have time to dwell on everything that was going on.
Bjork Ostrom: Right. A gift of distraction.
Nisha Melvani: Yeah, exactly. It was just a natural thing to do because it’s all about you the whole cookbook is dinners, vegan dinners. Easy and affordable because that’s what my whole site is. They’re easy. Sometimes I’m embarrassed by how easy they are because I went to culinary school. So six months at the natural gourmet. So not intense culinary school, but some sort of culinary school and we learned very hard things, but I never use them because when I got home, I was like, “I’m not going to sit and make my pasta from scratch.”
Bjork Ostrom: Well, and nobody else does a random workday and weeknight.
Nisha Melvani: Exactly. So it wasn’t about showing off my skills. So I’ve probably lost a lot of them honestly. But it wasn’t about that. It was like, “How am I going to help people? How do I help people as me surviving with three kids? It has to be easy. The recipe has to be easy or I won’t get it done. So it became easy, budget-friendly and just dinner times. So that’s what the book is and I think it’s more than a hundred recipes. It just ended up being… I did way over what they asked, because COVID just kept going on and it never ended. So I might as well do more recipes.
Bjork Ostrom: You can do it. So if people are interested, what’s the best way to follow along with that? Obviously, it’ll be a little bit. I know that you’re still working on it.
Nisha Melvani: No, it’s actually done on my part mostly. So it will come out in spring of next year and I’m going to start saying stuff about that on my Instagram. So Instagram is still a big part of what I do. I know a lot of people sort of move from it, but for me it’s still a big part, I think.
Bjork Ostrom: That’s awesome. Super helpful, really insightful. Anything else that you want to share as we’re kind of coming to the end here, Nisha in terms of your journey building your account, your blog? Any final thoughts?
Nisha Melvani: Yeah. I think something I actually heard on one of your podcasts that I thought about a lot is I definitely do compare myself to others sometimes. I’m not immune to it even though I say, “Oh, you shouldn’t. I definitely do it.” For example, I look at Pinch of Yum videos and I’m like, “Oh my god Mine, they’re so bad.” Then I’m like, “Are they helping people?” Okay, they’re not going to be… And then I have to remember. I don’t have that team you have. I don’t have that and I’ve never done this in my life.
Nisha Melvani: So it’s important for me to say, “Okay, I’ll just admire them from afar.” If they’re helpful to people, they may not be aesthetically amazing. Then isn’t that what I’m trying to do. At the end, what am I trying to do? I’m trying to make this reachable for people, make them able to make this recipe. They may not look pretty, but they’re clear, they’re concise, and they tell you what to do. I think someone in one of your podcasts said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” I think it was yesterday I heard. I don’t know. I was trying to prep for this interview so I listened to 10 podcast.
Bjork Ostrom: Sure, cram.
Nisha Melvani: Exactly, scramming. Like an exam.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, exactly.
Nisha Melvani: So comparison is a thief of joy. I think it’s so true, and I’m going to think about that when I feel I’m getting lost in that world because you get lost in it and you pull back from it. I guess more now I try and just appreciate the beauty in other people’s work when I remember that.
Bjork Ostrom: That’s great. I think it’ll be an always present reality and something worth thinking about. Whether it be actual systems like you had mentioned before, strategically thinking about who you’re following and thinking about like if I see this account, “Am I feeling better or worse?” Travel is an example. I think a lot of people could relate to that like, “Oh my gosh. This person is traveling to 32 places and taking these beautiful photos.” I generally show up and sit here and drink the same coffee and eat the same granola every day like, “Oh no. My life is uninspiring.”
Bjork Ostrom: But the idea of being strategic and saying like, “Hey, maybe that’s a withdrawal. Maybe I shouldn’t follow that person being strategic about that.” But also having to your point mental framework to say, “Here’s how I’m going to decide to think about that if I come up against a thought like that,” I think is a really valuable takeaway and insight. So I appreciate that.
Nisha Melvani: I’ve done a lot of meditation. I don’t do it anymore, but I meditated for maybe five years. I think as much as I like to dis meditation now, because I don’t do it. So I dis it because I feel guilty.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, right. Feel better about it…
Nisha Melvani: But I think the values I got from that, really did help.
Bjork Ostrom: Like what? What’s an example?
Nisha Melvani: Being present. He thinks when I look happiest is when I’m actually styling a bowl like trying to photograph it. Because you don’t think about anything else. You’re so present in that moment.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. It’s like flow.
Nisha Melvani: Yeah, exactly. Flow. Also, just when I’m starting to get off track and get upset because someone else is traveling or someone… It’s more like, “Okay, I’m here right now. What do I have here?” That practice of being grateful, writing down what you’re grateful for.
Bjork Ostrom: Gratitude, yeah.
Nisha Melvani: Yeah. For me that helps a lot because there’s so much I can be grateful for. Coffee is the main one.
Bjork Ostrom: Totally, small things are the big things.
Nisha Melvani: My coffee tastes so good. I love it. I think I’ve mastered the art of making good coffee with my Chemex beaker. It’s so simple.
Bjork Ostrom: Right. That’s great.
Nisha Melvani: Simplicity. Simplicity is I think very valuable.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, that’s awesome. Nisha, for people who want to follow along, I’ll obviously talk about your story a little bit as I’m queuing up the podcast and doing an intro. But as we head out, where can people follow along with you and what you’re up to and track along to for when your book comes out?
Nisha Melvani: So I am a Best of Vegan contributor so I do have more information about myself and some of my nutrition articles are on there too. I have my blog which has an email link. And Instagram I check pretty frequently so DMs and the email link there too.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, awesome. Cooking for Peanuts for all of those. We should have started with this. Background for that name is what?
Nisha Melvani: Cooking for Peanuts. And for the name actually, it’s funny because none of my family liked that name when I chose it. They didn’t get it and I was like, “You’re Cooking for Peanuts, which is kids. I love peanuts, so I’m cooking with peanuts, but I don’t always use nuts. And I’m Cooking for Peanuts. I make no money at that time.
Bjork Ostrom: Sure, yeah. So it’s like multi-meaning of that.
Nisha Melvani: Yes.
Bjork Ostrom: That’s great. I love that. We’ll be sure to link to those spots in the show notes as well. But Nisha, so great to connect. Thanks for…
Nisha Melvani: I’m so honored to be here. You’re a wonderful human being. Honestly, I can tell.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. It means so much. Thanks, Nisha. We’ll be in touch.
Nisha Melvani: Thanks, bye.
Bjork Ostrom: That’s a wrap for this episode. Thank you to Nisha for coming on sharing her story. There’s a couple times Nisha had mentioned some of the things that she plugs into with Food Blogger Pro membership. She talked about a little mini-course or webinar series that we did, talked about some of the community elements for the Food Blogger Pro forum. If you’re interested in any of those, you can check those out. foodbloggerpro.com and learn a little bit more.
Bjork Ostrom: Just as a really easy step, first step, maybe you’re not even interested in the membership site, but if you go to foodbaggerpro.com, there’s a spot to put your name in your email and you can sign up there. It’ll be kind of this series, email series that talks a little bit about not only how you can think about growing your site, but also talks a little bit about what Food Blogger Pro is and what we’re all about. So if you want to take the really small next step to learn a little bit more, that’s going to be the best way to do it is just to go and sign up for that email list.
Bjork Ostrom: Thank you for tuning in. Thank you for following along with this podcast. If you are a frequent listener or a first-time listener, we really, really appreciate it. And couldn’t do this without you. So signing off from the Twin Cities here in Minnesota. This is Bjork. Thanks for listening. Make it a great week.