Time to make some changes

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Last night, I had a dream that I suffered from a concussion and couldn’t remember the past 24 hours. It was such a strange feeling, dreaming of “I wonder if this is real or if this is a dream” but then concluding that it was NOT a dream. Immediate dream-panic.

At the moment of peak panic, I startled myself awake. Naturally, the first thought was “WOAH. Was that real or a dream?”

I reached out to touch my husband next to me. Skin. real.

Then our dog, Lainey who sneaks up on the bed in the middle of the night, farted like the SKANKIEST fart evvvvver. So foul you could taste it. Lainey is my totem in Inception.

Like an idiot, while trying to fall back asleep, I began furiously reciting details of the past 24 real hours just in case I landed back into the same dream. Once I got through that, I just kept going backwards, this week, last week, last month, last Christmas….trying to recall only just the good stuff, things I wanted to keep in my memory. Because, like frequent flyer miles, memory is “use it or lose it.”

I guess the best way to explain is to tell you that I “bookmarked” certain cool little memories that I like to replay in the future. If only memory recall was that easy!

Anyways, all this to get to the point of my story:

I miss writing stories on Steamy Kitchen.

When I rolled back memories of when we first started Steamy Kitchen, I was a story-teller. Not a great story teller, but I gave all five of my readers (Mom, Dad, brother, Mother in Law and Scott) a peek into my fascinated, twisted mind. Most of the little stories and vignettes were funny. I loved making my dear readers laugh or giggle.

I miss that. How did it change?

I began retracing the decisions and steps we made over the 7.5 years that I’ve been blogging on Steamy Kitchen. The company has been our full-time family business for the past 6 years.

Like any business, you apply tried-and-true practices to ensure that the business doesn’t become one the 8 out of 10 small businesses that fail.

I devoured books on marketing, branding, business essentials. I became an expert in how to create a thriving business from a blog. I spoke nearly at every food or blogging conference on the subject.

Our business was ROCKIN’. Like doubling revenue every single year rockin’. Like, “Damn, we could hit a $1 million a year soon” kind of rockin’.

We were so crazy busy that if I could have velcro’d the laptop, iPhone, iPad, Flip Camera, dSLR to my hip, I would have done it. I was wired to the hilt. I was a Tweeting maniac, quickly becoming one of the most influential food personalities on social media.

As we exceeded our numbers month after month, Scott and I began to question if there was a better way to make this business work for our family, instead of the other way around. Could we manage to create a business that allowed us to work 2 days a week? Could we achieve that yin/yang work/life balance that all the gurus say is attainable? [Read a past post where I talk about our decision on create balance]

For our business to operate and THRIVE only working 2 days a week, we had to make some changes. I’ll talk about those changes in detail another time, but gist of it is that we had to cut out the 80% of the “work” that didn’t produce results and only focus on the 20% of the opportunities and work that did the heavy lifting in terms of traffic, results, income.

Several things happened very quickly.

Yes, we were able to achieve our 2 days a week schedule. The rest of the week is for play! Family! Personal Growth! Being lazy on the couch binge-watching full seasons of shows on Netflix! Ahhhh, life was (is) grand. Our kids loved it as well. So much free time to do whatever we wanted to do.

The point of having a business is so that you can have freedom. Making the business work for us meant freedom of time and energy to pursue the wondrous things that life has to offer.

The happier we were as a family, the happier Steamy Kitchen business became. We purposely pulled the reigns back on future business growth.

More opportunities = more revenue = more growth = less time for family

If it didn’t fit our 2-day work schedule lifestyle, then we didn’t pursue it.

Perfection. Balance.

*I had originally included some $ figures on how much our Steamy Kitchen revenue changed — but decided to take it out because I’d like to devote an entire section on money, talking about money and changing beliefs about money. I think telling you exactly how much we make in this particular post without background on our views and beliefs about money isn’t productive. 

However….(you knew there was another side to this bliss, right!?)

The site became formulaic. We relied so much on the formula that allowed our lifestyle that it became a crutch.

Our formula was simple:

The 80/20 Rule really is true: If we only wanted to work 2 days out of the 7 days in a a week, we could only have the time and energy to focus on the most important aspects of the company that provided the most impact. Goodbye Google Plus. See ya later, Twitter. Sayonara Instagram. (I still use Twitter occasionally, but only when I feel like it and having something to share or say)

Tech and social media changes SO freakin’ fast. Once the darling of the social influencers, Twitter is now dying. (Whether you believe the story or not, there are more social media choices than ever before)

Sidenote: If you’re curious about what our 20% is, let me know in the comments and I can plan on another post to got into detail. Just be aware that my 20% won’t be the same as your 20%.

The most popular posts were Asian recipes of course, so we kept creating more and more Asian recipes (YAY!) We added video to each and every recipe because that’s what people wanted!

To streamline the video process, we had a template (another formula!) that we followed with graphic visuals, music background, how recipes are presented, etc. etc. to keep consistency and ease of editing. Video production was quite the learning curve. Editing video is both an art and skill, neither of which Scott nor I possessed.

We hired Cheri to help us. We love Cheri…she helped us make video super easy.

As time went on, the formula didn’t change much and it was a well-running machine. Why change something that worked!?

But the consequence is that you lay awake one night realizing Steamy Kitchen has lost its soul. You realize that all the *spark* and fun of blogging that became the catalyst for wanting to turn blog-to-business can’t fit into a formula.

All this to say that perhaps it’s time to juggle out some of the items in the 20% and mix back in some quirky things that I used to love talking about.

I don’t know what this really means just yet (this dream I started the post off with just happened last night!)

Some things I have to think about:

  • I really don’t enjoy Twitter anymore. Should I just completely abandon it with over 131,000 followers? I’m not a fan of hiring out my social media – if I can’t do it myself and I don’t enjoy it AND it doesn’t really add much to site traffic or direct revenue, then is it really worth it?
  • Pinterest is a time-suck. Fun, but a time suck. Does it add joy and happiness to my life? I like making photos easy for people to pin and we have over 13,000 followers, but I’m pretty sure I can use the time that I spend pinning recipes or stuff I can’t afford, crafts I’ll never do more wisely.
  • I love love love my email newsletter subscribers! All the little personal stories and updates in our life went from being posted on SK to being written in our email newsletter. I need to make sure that moving forward, we still keep our biggest fans feeling special. Big thanks for everyone who has subscribed, all 82,105 of you! Would you like to be added?
  • Get the kids more involved in posting. They primarily work behind the scenes in the business, with recipe ideas, taking care of all of our animals and helping make business decisions at our “Board of Directors” meetings at our family dinner table.
  • Feature more weekday recipes (less ingredients, healthier, less complicated) and then more elaborate, more time-intensive, gluttonous recipes that are really meant for weekends (when you can really slow down and enjoy the cooking AND eating process!)
  • We LOVELOVELOVE growing micro greens! I’m encouraging Scott to create an invention to make microgreens growing super-simple and inexpensive. The nutrient density of micro greens are astonishing – red cabbage micro greens has 40x higher levels of vital nutrients than the full-grown thing.
  • Maybe I should apply the 80/20 rule to all the clutter and “things” in the house??? We’re about to remodel the kitchen. Do I really need 8 silicon spatulas and 33 plastic containers (half of them have missing lids).

I’d really would love to hear your thoughts.


p.s. I feel a little silly that I just had my very own Jerry Maguire moment.