I write about African cuisine and get paid for it. I love food! It does not matter whether it is food I eat, like curry or groundnut sauce; or food I drink, like tea, I love it and I write about it. Food is my passion. Telling the world about African food is my mission. And what better way is there to have a cultural exchange than through food?
Yesterday, I told you about how it came about that I write about food and get paid for it and I promised I would come back today and tell you what I think I was doing right that got me here, or what elements I had that made things work. Before I do that though, it is important for you to understand that writing is big business, as are other forms of business. But the key thing to remember is this word: BUSINESS.
I had wanted to start a business for the longest time. It is just in my blood and is something that just made sense to me. Whether it was selling houses, or artifacts, earring or my service as a “freelance” hair dresser. Hey, I went to university is Australia, where there were virtually no hair salons for African hair, so I had to do it, and I braided people’s hair, and they paid me for it… kerching! But I digress. I had a strong desire to start a business, but for many years I did not know exactly what to do but I just wanted to do something.
Someone very close to me would listen to me talk about it over and over and over again. But the one thing they always told me was to do something I was passionate about. And I would say I am passionate about making money! We all are, but that does not count when you want to do something as bold as launching a business. I actually did not understand that advice for many years and so I just carried on with life. As a matter of fact, almost 8 years had passed before that advice finally made sense to me, and little did I realise that the formula had always been right under my very nose. The following is what I did right, although I did not know it at the time. And not in the exact order either.
There was something that I always had in me, but I suppressed it for many years because like any typical African, I grew up in a society where only doctors, lawyers and PHDs mattered. I always cooked, since the age of 8. I cooked. And the first thing I ever did was boil pasta with my father right beside me. It was a chore, one of the duties I had at home as the eldest girl, but I loved it because it piqued my interest and allowed my imagination to run wild. But in growing up and excelling at school, going to university and finally graduating as an electrical engineer, I stopped allowing myself to play and have fun. Until one period I went through in my life where there was nothing left to do but cook. I was so angry and frustrated. I had all this negative energy in me, but I found a way to channel it into something positive. I would come home and focus on creating something out of… not exactly nothing, but just raw ingredients. I would forget the outside world and all my worries. I would just C-ook, RE-juvenate myself and ATE what I made… C-R-E-A-T-E! And in cooking, and forgetting my woes, I allowed myself the luxury of enjoying what I did, the moment, the result, the love, and my passion finally came alive. I don’t want to say much more than the following, because it is such an important driving force:
“Passion is when you put more energy into something than is required to do it. It is more than just enthusiasm or excitement, passion is ambition that is materialized into action to put as much heart, mind body and soul into something as is possible.”
– Urban Dictionary
2. Tell Someone About It, Just Do It!
As I cooked, I would take pictures. One thing I did every single day was eat. But I would photograph what I ate so that I could capture it and perhaps remind myself of how I cooked a certain dish. You see, we used to hold a lot of dinner parties at home before the kids came along. And people loved the food I cooked. They just loved it. But I never cooked from recipes, it was always in my head.
It was not long after I started doing this that I just wanted to express myself. I thought, “Perhaps I could let people know about my passion one day when I publish a book or something.” But I had this impetuous need to express myself right there and then. I started sharing my photos on Facebook and Flickr. They were nothing to write home about, but I still shared them. I was expressing my passion even though I did not put words to it. But one day I decided to put words to it. I thought to myself, “Why do I have to wait until forever to tell the world about my passion. That day may never come!” And so I started blogging and there came my outlet of expression. I did it all for free. It cost me nothing but my time, but it gave me a chance to channel my passion and energy into creating something until I could one day figure out what my business would be.
3. Brand it!
When I started my blog, I gave it a name and a tag line so that people knew what it was about as soon they came across it. My Burnt Orange, the home of the Afro Cosmopolitan diet. I did not start consistently blogging about a particular theme but my message was consistent enough for people to identify me as an African food blogger. I was still doing all this for free, and still do so today. The prospect of actually making a business out of what I lived, breathed and ate everyday did not come about until the opportunity actually presented itself. The rest is history.
But this was my serendipitous journey. I am very passionate about African food, it is a part of my identity and life. And I am getting rewarded for delivering my passion. I felt my message was important enough and just got it out there. I did not do it for money to begin with. I did it because I had to, it was and is important. And now I get paid to do what I had been doing for years. I became an expert in African cuisine for an internet giant.
Your journey does not have to be as accidental (happily) as mine, it may be a little bit more deliberate. You may not be interested in food or anything close to what I am doing, but one thing needs to be very clear from the word go when you start your business: know your passion. Brand it and get the word out. Say hello!