In episode 137 we talk with Alexis Watts, SideChef’s Director of Content Acquisition who closes content licensing and works with top tier chefs. She works with the Micro Influence program to find rising stars and nurture them, helping them build their influence with their audience.
We cover information about learning what a micro-influencer is, how you can work with SideChef, discover how to network like a boss and work with like-minded influencers to build your businesses.
As SideChef’s Director of Content Acquisition, Alexis Watts does more than close licensing deals, befriend top tier chefs, and wrangle commas. With more than 7 years of publishing and partnerships experience, Alexis is an expert in acquiring and producing world-class food content. Alexis also leads SideChef’s micro-influencer program that aims to nurture and grow rising stars in the culinary world.
- Micro-Influencer program – this was started because Side Chef wanted to drive more value to their current partnerships. Ipsy runs a successful influencers in the beauty and lifestyle categories.
- SideChef is interested in getting resources for food bloggers and supporting content and relationships with bigger brands and connecting influencers with Brands.
- A lot of food bloggers are 1 man shows and SideChef wants to help them partner with other businesses that could alleviate some of the work they are doing to grow their businesses.
- The overall mission of the Micro-Influencer program at SideChef is to provide value to micro influencers. Side Chef also wants to acquire partners more equitably too. They want to widen the net and bring in smaller bloggers and allow them to grow from where they are – not just looking for someone with big followers but also include smaller businesses but that has potential, where they might have a unique niche or another skill that can be nurtured.
- Learn from each other. Gain a sounding board with SideChef and other partners and food bloggers on board.
- SideChef is a good information source for influencers too. They share Brand needs and have in house knowledge with a lot of staff. This access can be important to people in many different levels of experience.
- SideChef is offering educational opportunities and webinars. Transforming Crisis Into Opportunities was one topic, Making Up For Lost Time was another.
- SideChef will work to connect partners to Brands that would want to work together. They are looking at different ways to support content production too.
- SideChef has a goal to create a program that can really benefit partners beyond monetary compensation.
- SideChef Premium is a paid membership for users to join, you will unlock new recipes and new partners. Recipes from all over the world are offered(Europe, all over the US, UK, Korea and beyond) so there’s so much variety.
- SideChef Premium has seen an increase in engagement since the pandemic and quarantine. Traffic has grown and people are interacting with the platform more. They have an integration with Amazon Fresh to shop for groceries and this has become a more utilized service too.
- Interested in learning more about or downloading SideChef Premium?
- Interested in becoming a culinary partner and member of SideChef’s micro-influencer program?
- Email [email protected]
- IG Alexis Watts
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What is up food bloggers? Welcome to Eat Blog Talk, the podcast made for you, food bloggers at seeking value for your businesses and for your lives. Today, I have Alexis Watts from a SideChef with me, and we are going to talk about what a micro-‘influencer program is and why bloggers should care about them. As SideChefs Director of Content Acquisition, Alexis does more than close licensing deals, befriend top tier chefs and wrangle commas. With more than seven years of publishing and partnership experience, Alexis is an expert in acquiring and producing world-class food content. Alexis also leads SideChef’s micro-influencer program that aims to nurture and grow rising stars in the culinary world. Alexis, I am so excited to have you here with me today to chat, but first, before we dive in, give us a quick fun fact about yourself.
Well, thank you so much for having me. We love working with you and I’m so excited that I can be here to talk today. I have kind of a random fact that people probably wouldn’t guess when they first meet me, but I actually grew up when I was younger on a hip hop dance team. I used to break dance and stuff. I mean, I was really terrible. I was very bad. I hung out with a lot of people who were very good and I feel like it’s one of the things like if you were to first meet me, I’m kind of like a bookish nerdy type. And it’s just not the first thing people think when they see me.
Yeah, I would not have expected that.
Yeah. It’s definitely like a secret fun fact. One of my best friends, her fun fact is always that she can parallel park a bus, because that was her college job. I feel like that’s just as shocking.
It is shocking. So can you do the, what is the worm or what does that word?
I probably can’t do anything anymore. It’s one of those things, if you don’t use it, you lose it. Yeah, I could do a fair bit of stalls and other things back in the day.
You even have terminology to stall. Okay. Well, that’s awesome. I love it. Now I’m just going to picture you break dancing every time I see you.
Please do not. It was not always pretty.
Oh goodness. Well, you are definitely not here to talk about doing the worm. So let’s talk about micro-influencer programs, which is something that you’re also very good at. And I think Alexis, the term micro-influencer is a fairly new term that people maybe aren’t so familiar with. So I’m excited for you to shed a little bit of light on what that means for food bloggers. So I would love it if you started this conversation by talking through your background a little bit and how you found yourself in the role you’re in and what exactly you do for SideChef.
Basically I started my career in publishing. I actually ended up going to school a bit for it in London and did some short-term work over there until my visa ran out and then did some work at Chronicle Books, which is a great independent publisher. Based in San Francisco, they do beautiful books of all kinds, but they also do cookbooks that people may have heard of. They did Tartines book for example. And then I did a stint of about four years at Penguin Random House, but it was in the transition from Penguin to their merger with Random House. And then I did a sort of larger partnerships public programs role at The New School, which is also in New York. But all my roles really were built around lifting up content, creating content partnerships, working with authors, sort of marketing, that kind of realm sort of hybrid experience of overlapping.
So it was really fun and I was at The New School and I got approached by SideChef. We want to start building out our partnerships in a new way. We want to start talking to publishers and thinking about our publishing program in a different way. Would you be interested in becoming a part of the team? And yeah, I definitely was. It’s really exciting. So I’ve been here for about a year now and what I do at SideChef is a few different things. So I look to acquire new different partnerships for our app, but also for other opportunities. We have a lot of B2B work that we do. And so sometimes I recruit partners for various deals we do in that space. I also work with our free partners. I also work with partners coming on to our new premium initiative, which you’re familiar with and which we’ll talk about a little bit later.
And so day-to-day, that looks like, negotiating partnerships, cold calling and emailing new potential partners. I also work a lot with our content team in general. So we’ve been doing more original content than ever in terms of recipes and non-recipe content. So working with our team to make sure all of that looks great as well. And then I also work pretty closely with our BD team to sort of support from a content or a culinary partner point of view on any sort of bigger deals that they might be building with brands like LG, GE, Bosch, Amazon, that kind of thing.
That’s so cool. I love your background and how that kind of just led you so organically into the role that you’re doing at SideChef. And I mean, it sounds like on paper, you were the perfect fit for your role. And I think you add just such an element of awesomeness to the already awesome team. I know a handful of you guys at SideChef and you guys are just amazing. I couldn’t say more good things about you, so I am glad to meet you and to get to know you. And it’s so great to work with you guys. You’re just killing it right now, at SideChef.
It’s a really exciting time.
So many exciting things. So tell us a bit about the inspiration and mission behind SideChef’s micro-influencer program.
Right. So I was really inspired by a program that I noticed that happened at Ipsy. Are you aware of Ipsy? They’re a little bit like Birchbox. They’re a subscription box with products.
Yes, I have heard of it. Yeah.
I had kept an eye on them before looking for various partnerships I was building at different places for inspiration. And what Ipsy did is they built a content strategy where they were able to provide resources to micro-influencers. So bloggers, beauty bloggers, lifestyle bloggers, where they would help them generate better content. So by better content, I mean providing tools and a studio for these bloggers to come in and record and have the right technology that they want in exchange for featuring Ipsy products. And that’s how it started. It grew from there. They now provide educational opportunities, more studio space.
They also act as a liaison between beauty brands and consumers through this micro-influencer program. One thing that the beauty industry was really facing was that their same old sort of ad strategy in terms of print ads and certain online ads, weren’t getting the same kind of attraction because so many people now trust these influencers in their lives that they get to know and they trust their opinion and they can try out these products. And I was super inspired by that. So when it came to SideChef, it was one of the first things we’d already been considering it. Sandy who was featured on this podcast before, she was really interested in driving more value to our current partnerships. And so it kind of just developed organically from there with kind of this Ipsy model as an inspiration. So we basically wanted to create what that could be for us. So what kind of resources might food bloggers need? And this is something that we survey our partners for, that we do research around, how can we support content? How can we support relationships with bigger brands, especially for culinary partners that maybe have never negotiated or are not sure where to start in terms of working with bigger brands? That kind of thing. So that’s what the inspiration was. And those were the kinds of tools that we hope to create here.
So really it delivers value all around for you guys, for your partners, for other influencers and just making sure that the gaps are filled everywhere. And that definitely shows that you guys focus on that.
Yeah. We want to make sure that we can provide things to help make everyone win. We want to connect ourselves and other brands like us to a wider audience, obviously. But we also want to make sure that, I know a lot of bloggers out there, at least in our research at least, and who we’re talking to are sort of one men or women’s shows, they’re doing kind of everything themselves and how can we alleviate some of that? How can we make that easier? How can we help you step up your game and then connect you to other people who can either provide revenue streams or other value in some way?
So you touched on this a little bit, but do you have anything to add as far as what your mission is for this specific program for your micro-influencer program?
I would say our overall mission, above all, is to provide value to our micro-influencers. I think that can look a lot of different ways, but we always want to make sure that we’re putting our micro-influencers to the forefront and what they need to the forefront. I would also say a secondary thing for me, especially is, to help us as a company, acquire partners more equitably. Usually when bloggers get approached, they need, or at least in our research, we see that they need to have a certain following size, either by brands like us or brands like someone else. By opening this up to a wider net, we allow for newer, lesser, like maybe less well-known bloggers to come into the fold and learn from our network and get opportunities that they could actually be a good fit for at the stage they’re at. We want to create opportunities across all of our partnerships, not just like our biggest following partnerships, that don’t need to just rely on blogger reach, but can be a content creator’s potential, or whether their content is a really good fit for whatever the opportunity is. Cause sometimes we need sort of niche content or brands need a sort of niche content that may not be the exact 1 million followers or whatever.
So people shouldn’t be intimidated by that oh, we’ll never get into their program. And how many micro-influencers do you have and do you have a cap? Are you cutting it off or do you just keep welcoming people in?
We’re welcoming as many people as want to be a part of it. I would say we probably have about a group of a hundred right now who are involved in our programs and forums, in our discussion forums and getting access to our educational opportunities. But we definitely don’t want anyone to feel intimidated. Our hope is that you kind of come into the fold, even if you are a small blogger and we can help you grow to be as big as you want to be.
So you guys are such a support and you do, it really does shine through that you are trying to add value to our lives as well as just obviously you want to do great as a business, but that really does come through with all of you. I appreciate that. I know a lot of other influencers who are a part of your network that really appreciate that as well, because that’s not always the case. You know, sometimes we get that feeling like, Oh, they want, they want what they want. And they’re not really thinking about us as influencers and how much work we put into our jobs. And you guys really do understand that and you value it. And I appreciate that.
Yeah, we hope so. We want to be always, within this program we do a lot of surveying and talking to our partners and we want to make sure that we’re constantly checking ourselves. Are we really putting you guys first? Are we thinking about the things that you really need? The things you need now may not be what you need in six months. So we try to stay tuned in to make sure that we’re adaptable as your guys’s priorities change.
Yeah. So it talked to us a little bit about the importance of that partner network. Do you have some points to talk about?
I think one thing that is great as, you know, learning from each other, I know that there’s so many forums where you guys can talk to each other, but this can be another one where you can talk to more experienced people, have a sounding board sort of discuss what works and what doesn’t from a content marketing SEO. We also share some of our learnings because we are also looking at all of that stuff constantly. What content is working, how our audience is reacting. And we try to share sort of overall data that we get that might impact how you guys are creating, both for us and at large. I think we can also be a good information source. You guys have each other to talk to in this program, but you also have us to talk to and we can talk to brands so we can share brand needs, you know, from all the B2B stuff that we do.
And we can also share our in-house knowledge. We have a lot of people on staff who regularly negotiate contracts, who are regularly filming content for us. One thing that we’re building out, which you were a part of, which you know of, is sort of our webinar opportunities. We are able to bring in like our in-house staff as well to share that. And so both of these things are just I would say, access that can be important, I think when you’re first starting. Or even as an established person, I would assume. I’m not very established.
No, I like that you guys kind of look at the big picture and just see how important that networking is because, Oh my gosh. It’s so nice. I can tell you from my perspective to have a different kind of forum, because we’re all involved in those food bloggers, entrepreneur only forums or spaces. So it’s really nice to have people who are knowledgeable in our fields, but also have those connections to brands or have information about brands that maybe we don’t necessarily have. So that is super valuable for me. And I love going to the Facebook page and just checking out like what’s going on? You guys provide all those fun facts and just really little good little chunks of information that are fun.
We try to share a lot there. We also try to share a bunch in our newsletters and other opportunities to learn. And we’re always just trying to share things that have surprised us, you know, especially just in data around how cooking has changed, especially in the last six months.
Yes, for sure. So food bloggers are listening to this episode, as you know, and I know they’re going to want to hear specifics about your micro-influencer program and what it provides, what it offers them. Can you talk us through this?
Yes. So right now is sort of phase one for us, we’re going to be building on this constantly. But the things that we’re offering now are educational opportunities and webinars. We’ve had a couple so far. We had one from one of our bloggers, A Step Stool Chef, her name’s Toria. And she talked about how to transform crisis into opportunity and how to think differently to prepare for this current pandemic and how things will be changing and how to think about that from a content point of view. You did one, which is great.
Making Up For Lost Time, time management for bloggers. So we try to pull in our experts within our community to sort of talk about different things that might be great. We have a couple more on the horizon, which will be a little bit more sort of nuts and bolts around content. We have a culinary studio team and we’re going to bring on some of them to talk about best practices that we found for filming and production and editing.
And then again, like I mentioned, we have some in-house knowledge around, contract negotiation and cold emailing. And so we’ll be rolling out different kinds of opportunities or educational opportunities to learn from people who we have or who we have in our network. So that’s one thing. Then I would say we’re also doing a lot of work to try to, like I said earlier, sort of connect our partners to brands that may want to feature them or work with them. I can’t talk too much about this right now because a lot of the stuff that’s happening hasn’t been announced yet, but we are seeing some traction on this and it’s really exciting. And as we look ahead to the future, we’ll be looking at different ways that we can really support content production in more tangible ways, but that stuff is still sort of being ideated and dreamt about.
The secrets. No, I know I get that. You guys want to develop that and then roll it out when it’s ready, but that’s all exciting stuff. And I think one of the really good things for you guys is that there are so many different parts of food blogging, that you can really focus on so many different aspects of it to provide value for your micro-influencers. I mean, pick a blogger and they’ve got so many different realms of expertise in various things. You could go on and on, like you talked about video production and I mean there’s time management and how to deal with the crisis. I mean, the world is your oyster. So I think you guys probably aren’t lacking for content to share.
I would agree with you. The greatest thing about this is how many people are so enthusiastic about what they are experts in and what that knowledge sharing can really mean for the community or I hope it can mean for the community at large.
Definitely. Do you have anything else for us, for like visions for your future? Or did you cover most of what you wanted to talk about?
I think I covered it. I think our vision and hope for this basically is to provide value and to help people grow in the ways that they want to grow, based on their goals.
So SideChef Premium is something you guys have been working really hard on. I know you’re getting launch ready. I mean, it was kind of semi-launched and it’s finally here, right? Tell us a little bit about SideChef Premium and also how it does the micro-influencer program tie into it once you’ve explained it.
Right. So SideChef Premium is a brand new way of experiencing our app. It’s a paid subscription and it unlocks a bunch of new partners and a bunch of new recipes. All of it has been produced within our studio or within individual bloggers spaces. It looks so beautiful and the recipes are from all over the world. We have people in Europe, we have people in the UK, we have people all over the U S so it’s really, really exciting. And we hope that this helps people sort of take their cooking to the next level and really experience new flavors that they might not have considered trying before. Because we do have so many global offerings. I would say this fits into the micro-influencer plan in that like, we hope that that community continues to grow and that we do see sort of people who are interested in becoming a part of Premium through that program.
I have a question for you. How has the pandemic been quarantined? How has the pandemic and quarantine affected the way people consume SideChef content?
I wish I had pulled up some data for you, we’ve just seen an increase in engagement across the board. We see different sorts of spikes and we have seen different spikes in terms of what kind of dishes are most popular at different points in quarantine. Some of it has been kind of great. Like I know our McNugget recipe was trending at some point early on, you know, and everything was sort of close and it’s been really interesting. We’ve definitely seen from our web point of view, a huge increase in traffic as well. It’s just exciting to see more people interacting with the platform overall. And especially if anyone out there uses SideChef, you know this, but if you don’t, we have an integration with Amazon Fresh grocery delivery, and we’ve also seen an increase there. Which has been exciting people sort of like adapting that new way of shopping for groceries.
Yes, exactly. I kind of wondered if that would start to become more of a trend, the ordering groceries, and honestly, just the way people are doing things in the kitchen and the way that they’re seeing food and seeing recipes has totally changed. A lot of food bloggers have seen the same thing. So I was hoping that you guys had seen an increase of activity.
That’s great to hear. So SideChef Premium, you told us about that. That’s super exciting. Do you have anything else to share with us about that and the launch?
Really, I hope everyone checks it out. I mean, you’re a part of it, which is really exciting and one of our launch partners and we love all of your content there. So I hope everyone out there at least wants to check it out for that reason alone. You guys will not be disappointed. It’s just really exciting and it’s something we’ve been dreaming up and working on for a really long time. So it’s just nice to see it kind of out in the world where people can enjoy it.
How long has it been in the works? I’m just curious.
It was one of the things we discussed when I first came on, so yeah, over a year ago.
And can you share just a couple other partners that people might know because this might just strike a connection.
Okay. So we have Manon Lagreve. I don’t know if anyone out there is a Great British Bake-Off fan, but she was part of the 2018 group. She’s the first French contestant on Great British Bake-Off. So it’s really exciting. We also have Beth Moncel from Budget Bytes. If anyone’s looking to check out some meal plans around that, which is exciting. We have Seung Hee Lee. Her recipes are amazing. She does modern Korean fusion foods. So kind of bringing in traditional Korean flavors to modern kitchens. We have Michael from Symmetry Breakfasts, that’s his blog. Some of you might know he does International global flavors. So if he takes a lot of inspiration from his travels and sort of brings it into the kitchen and it makes it a little bit easier to cook with. Who else, who else do we have?
Jessica Gavin, food scientists extraordinaire.
Love her so much. We have Sarah Bond from Live Eat Learn. She’s great. She does a bunch of great vegetarian stuff. Another one is Result Kiel LOA. She’s a recipe developer and writer from California. She does California Filipino fusion food, which is so delicious. It’s taking fresh seasonal produce from California and bringing it into traditional Filipino dishes, which is really exciting. Love her stuff.
I am starving right now.
We also have Calum Franklin, he’s an executive chef of this restaurant in Lennon called The Holborn Dining Room. He’s really well known for his pies there, meat and otherwise. And he’s brought a bunch of traditional British foods, to the now, his stuff is really great. It’s delicious. Yeah, so there’s, there’s more people than we’ve mentioned, but they’re all really good.
And such a like collection, right? I mean, there’s such an array there of so many different flavors and places of the world. So you guys have selected a great, great collection of people and foods.
Yeah, I agree. And we will end up rolling out new people, you know, consistently. So, there’s definitely more to come here, which is exciting.
If anyone’s ears are perked after listening to everything that you’ve just shared about the micro-influencer program, Alexis, how do they go about getting involved with it?
So the best way is to go to our websites. Sidechef.com/partners, but you can also send an email to me. My email is very easy. It’s [email protected], but there’s also a form you can fill out on sidechef.com on our partner page, which is super easy and I’ll be able to get to that email as well. So either way works.
That is so great. So is there anything that you feel like we need to touch on before we start saying goodbye or did we cover it all?
I think we covered it all. Thanks so much. This has been a pleasure.
Yeah. This was very fun. I am so grateful I got the chance to talk to you. So thanks for being here, Alexis. And I like to ask all my guests to share either a favorite quote or words of inspiration for food bloggers. So if you have anything, you can share it now.
One of my favorite things, and I hate to be cliche, but it’s an Anthony Bordain quote. He said that the way that you make an omelet reveals your character. And I’ve always been really really into the idea that eggs are super versatile and they can kind of tell you a lot about a person. The way they cook their scrambled eggs, the way they soft boil an egg. Like, are they a six-minute egg person? Are they an eight minute egg person? I think also growing up, someone told me that the one thing you need to learn how to cook really well in the kitchen is eggs. And so that’s just something that I think is interesting to consider. And there’s such a versatile ingredient and there’s so much you can do with them. And there’s so many ways to show who you are based on how you cook eggs.
I love that. Eggs are like, if you look at an egg, it’s so simple and unassuming, but you can do so much with it just by adding the perfect amount of flavor and texture and ingredients. And also just the way you cook it, like you said, I love that. I didn’t know that was an Anthony Bordain quote, but that seems to suit him so well, somehow.
Yeah. Maybe because it aligns with, you know, my feelings on eggs, but yeah, it works out.
Yeah. Well, we will put together a show notes page for you, Alexis. So if anyone has any questions about anything we’ve talked about today, all of the information will be there. You can find that at eatblogtalk.com/AlexisWatts with two T’s. And I think we’ve already covered this, but Alexis, tell my listeners the best place they can find you online.
Probably for me personally, Instagram, my handle is Lexiladles. I will supply a hyperlink for you to share the notes page.
That’s awesome. That’s perfect. All right. Well, thank you again so much for being here. Thanks for taking the time for it. And thank you for listening today, food bloggers. I will see you next time.
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