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Episode 208: Diversify Your Income Through Online Cooking Classes with Cynthia Samanian

In episode 208, we talk with Cynthia Samanian about how you can gain freedom, flexibility and fulfillment through teaching online cooking classes.

We cover information about why you should know online classes aren’t going anywhere, it will help you engage with your audience in a unique way you can’t through just blogging and you might love a new way to make money!

Listen on the player below or on iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, or your favorite podcast player. Or scroll down to read a full transcript.


Guest Details

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Bio Cynthia is an online marketing expert dedicated to helping culinary pros achieve more freedom, flexibility and fulfillment through teaching online classes, corporate demos and more. When her growing experiential marketing agency came to a screeching halt at the start of the pandemic, Cynthia  took her years of experience creating engaging events in food and developed Cooking Class Business School. The program empowers the students, including chefs, bakers, content creators and registered dietitians, to diversify their income streams through teaching online. On a personal note, Cynthia is the daughter of Iranian immigrants, which has shaped how she sees food as a powerful medium to unite people across cultures and backgrounds. This experience constantly fuels her desire to help her students connect with others around the world through teaching what they love online.

Takeaways

  • “Constraints drive creativity”.
  • When things are taken from you, when you don’t have the access to resources, whether it’s money or time, you have to find a way to make it work.
  • Done is better than perfect and you just need to get a product or service out the door to get started.
  • Put something out there and gauge the response. This can help take you so much farther than analyzing it in your head and spending all the time doing the research when ultimately the best research is the response from the market.
  • You have to be ready and willing to make a real time pivot, tweak, adjust as you put your product/service message out there and find your niche audience.
  • Learn and use the Know, Like, Trust funnel factor.
  • Rather than focusing on selling, familiarize yourself with your people so they know who you are, not just that you’re a food blogger but who are you? Connect beyond the surface.
  • ZEST – acronym stands for zero in, engage, sell and teach.

Resources Mentioned

Cynthia is the host of The Experiential Table podcast, a show all about creating engaging experiences in food such as online cooking classes, workshops and more.

Cynthia also has a signature program, Cooking Class Business School, that teaches culinary pros how to create and market profitable online cooking classes so that they can unlock more freedom, flexibility and fulfillment in their lives.

More On Monetization

Chef Evelyn gives you plenty of information on monetization in her talk about giving your revenue a boost by diversifying in episode 173.

Transcript

Click for full text.

Intro:

Welcome to Eat Blog Talk, where food bloggers come to get their fill of the latest tips, tricks, and insights into the world of food blogging. If you feel that hunger for information, we’ll provide you with the tools you need to add value to your blog. And we’ll also ensure you’re taking care of yourself, because food blogging is a demanding job. Now please welcome your host, Megan Porta.

Megan Porta:

Hey, awesome food bloggers. Do you struggle with knowing exactly what you should be doing to move the needle forward in your business? Do you struggle with knowing what to focus on next? If so, if this sounds like you, I have two solutions for you. Number one is mastermind groups. There is so much power in getting people together and helping to solve each other’s problems. At Eat Blog Talk, we have put together our own mastermind groups and we are hosting these weekly. You can join at any time. You can try it out for a month or you can sign up for a quarter or you can go all in and sign up for an entire year. Come join us. See if it’s a great fit for you, and this will really help you to solve those problems you’re having in your business and give you clarity about what you should be doing next to move your business forward.

The next solution is the Eat Blog Talk membership. I have spent all of 2021 so far putting so much value inside of the membership. It is such a supportive and wonderful place to be for food bloggers. We are learning so much from each other. We are joining together in monthly intensive calls, where we focus on very specific parts of food blogging in order to grow our businesses in massive ways. We also have guest experts come in and join us very regularly to talk about really specific parts of food blogging. We get one-on-one access to these experts, such as Matt Molen from email crush, Casey Markee from Media Wyse. So many great people are joining us in these sessions and they are super valuable. There are so many reasons why you should be in the membership. I could not even start touching on all of it.

If you’re tired of wandering around aimlessly in your business and not knowing what to focus on, give the membership a try for free for two weeks. Go to eatblogtalk.com. You can sign up for the masterminds there and you can also start the process of getting into the membership for two weeks, just to check it out. The rest of us can’t wait to see you inside.

Hey, food bloggers. Welcome to another episode of Eat Blog Talk. We’re so happy you are listening today. I am so excited to have Cynthia Samanian with me today. She is from hiddenrhythm.com and we’re going to have a discussion about diversifying your income through online cooking classes. Cynthia is an online marketing expert dedicated to helping culinary pros achieve more freedom, flexibility, and fulfillment through teaching online classes, corporate demos, and more. When her growing experiential marketing agency came to a screeching halt at the start of the pandemic.

Cynthia took her years of experience creating engaging events in food and developed Cooking Class Business School. The program empowers the students, including chefs, bakers, content creators, and registered dieticians to diversify their income streams through teaching online. On a personal note, Cynthia is the daughter of Iranian immigrants, which has shaped how she sees food as a powerful medium to unite people across cultures and backgrounds. This experience constantly fuels her desire to help her students connect with others around the world, through teaching what they love online. I love that bio Cynthia. I’m so excited to chat with you, but first we all want to hear your fun facts.

Cynthia Samanian:

Absolutely. I was excited for this. I’ve listened to your other episodes. I was thinking like, what will my fun fact be? So, it’s funny. Because sometimes you don’t think something’s interesting. So I asked my husband and he was like, tell them about that time you worked on a dinner train. So my first real job, well, my first real job was working at a pizza place, but then I graduated to the Spirit of Washington dinner train. It was a train that actually served a full three course meal. It would go up along Lake Washington. I grew up in the Seattle area. So Lake Washington is not huge, but you can basically do a round trip in an evening on a train. So I was a server on that dinner train and it was so fun because it was kind of kitschy. It was just a unique experience. It was probably my, I think really my first experience in hospitality and little did I know that I would continue working in food later in my career. I definitely took some detours, but it was a really fun job and unfortunately it no longer exists, but.

Megan:

Oh That sounds so fun. What a unique thing.

Cynthia:

Yeah. Super fun experience and serving food on a train that is on super old tracks. I mean, it’s an experience. I definitely have crazy respect for anyone in the hospitality industry, but being on a moving train while serving dinners, it was crazy.

Megan:

Oh my goodness. Just the fact that you were moving and you were on a train, I think makes it so unique. If you were just doing that in a restaurant. I mean, yeah. It’s still valuable and awesome, but it’s just different. But the fact that you were on a moving train on old tracks makes it so cool.

Cynthia:

Yeah, it was fun. Then it would go up to a winery, actually a really well known one in the Seattle area. It was such a fun job being, I think I was a high schooler slash college student and so, who knew that, that would come up years later in this conversation.

Megan:

That’s so funny. It’s your fun fact now. Who would have ever thought? I just wanted to just quickly dive into your experience recently with how you pivoted so awesomely in your business. I absolutely love Cynthia, how you ran with the changes that happened during and because of the pandemic. I was telling you a little earlier, how it’s so interesting how some people stopped dead in their tracks and just froze and didn’t know what to do. Some people pivot with such grace and with purpose. I feel like this is your story. So I would love it if you just talk to us through what happened when the pandemic hit and how things have evolved for you.

Cynthia:

Absolutely. I’m glad that it looked graceful on the outside because it certainly didn’t feel that way. So one of my favorite quotes that really sums up my experience is this quote of, “constraints drive creativity”. So when things are taken from you, when you don’t have the access to resources, whether it’s money or time, you have to find a way to make it work. That was truly my motto in 2020. So to give everyone listening some background before doing what I do now, which is running Cooking Class Business School, I ran an experiential marketing agency and that’s just a fancy way of saying that I worked with food brands on events. So brands like Bob’s Red Mill, Topo, Chico, Bare Snacks. I would work with them on creating these super engaging, high impact activations. So it could be, for example, I built an indoor apple orchard a block off of Venice beach in the middle of the fall to bring the season of fall to LA, to teach children about kind of how apples are grown.

So lots of fun experiences. I worked very closely with culinary pros, food bloggers, registered dieticians, people who were experts and brands who wanted to kind of tap into that expertise. So I worked with some great culinary pros on workshops that were done all in person. Now 2020 was supposed to be my biggest year yet. I mean, far and away. I was just building my business probably in the third year at that point. I just, I couldn’t wait. I also was pregnant at the time and had a baby girl due at the end of June, my first child. I looked at 2020 thinking, great, the first four or five months, I’m going to work really, really hard, take a maternity leave, come back and be right back into it for all of the holiday events, which is of course a huge season in food.

Well, we all know what happened. Our 2020 came around and literally Megan, my complete pipeline for 2020 had disappeared. Completely. I mean, at first there were conversations with food brands that said let’s just wait it out for a week and see. It very quickly turned into, Hey Cynthia, I need my $20,000 deposit check back. Which is life-changing money for a small business. I’m sure everyone listening can understand. I was counting on that money to pay the bills. While my husband works full-time in a more traditional job, we still live in the Bay area. It’s expensive. So at that time I had a choice. I was either going to throw in the towel and just try and apply to some company somewhere. I do have my MBA and I have a marketing background and I figured, okay, maybe I could find a “normal” job, but that’s not my DNA.

I like to make things challenging and choose the windy path. So what I did is I basically looked at the skills that I had and what I knew I could teach. I will set this up by saying I had invested in online marketing skills for a few years before COVID. So I had learned how to create an online course. I had learned email marketing, Facebook ads, all of these things were in my toolkit for that one day I would eventually go out and build an online site for my business. I knew that events wouldn’t scale. So my dream was never to have a huge events agency. I figured, well, if I could supplement it with an online course that could teach people how to run events, that could be a perfect balance. Well little did I know that that time would be March 2020. So with all of those tools that I had, I hunkered down and said, okay, I have a due date of June 28th, which is my daughter’s due date. I got to create, launch, sell this course and teach it and be done with enough time to deliver this baby. That’s what I did. It was crazy. It was called All Night Experiences for food brands, which has now evolved into Cooking Class Business School. But essentially I pre-sold the course. So I didn’t quite know if there was demand. So I put it out there and I said, one person buys it, then I’m going to create it. That ended up happening. I actually had more than one person buy it ahead. Dozens of students. They actually all were culinary pros. They weren’t food brands, which was my initial audience. They were chefs, bakers, caterers, people who had lost their main source of income due to COVID. We worked really closely together and I helped them figure out how they could teach online cooking classes so that they could still gain some income and grow their audience during this really challenging time for the industry.

Megan:

Good for you. Nice work. As you were talking through your story, I was thinking what a rock star to have that deadline and to actually meet it. That’s a really tight deadline. So from March to June, you had and you knew you had to get it done. You said this in the beginning, constraints drive creativity. That’s so true. When we have timelines, somehow we pull out that magic and we just find that motivation to get things done more than if we don’t have the deadline. So nice work. I want to hear about your course and how did you structure it? Do you have any highlights or tips about things you learned during the creation of it?

Cynthia:

Yeah, absolutely. So the course has since evolved and I will say in the beginning, in a perfect world, I would have done one-on-one coaching with these culinary pros. I would have really done a more in depth process to understand their needs and wants, but I didn’t have the time. So I think if you are kind of a perfectionist type, a person, you may feel the urge to want to do all the right things along the way. I am that person. I think what 2020 taught me is that sometimes done is better than perfect and I just needed to get it out the door. My normal state would have spent eight months creating what I was able to create in about two. So I mean, looking back at that, my biggest lesson to myself and to those of you listening is, put it out there because I, like I said earlier, thought that my audience would be food brands.

So the marketing person at Bob’s Red Mill or someone at a food brand who wanted to promote their brand online through demos and other cooking experiences, but who ended up signing up for my program were all of these chef preneurs, these small business owners who were just so eager to just jump on something because what they had, their main bread and butter was lost. So had I not just taken that plunge, I probably would have never discovered that audience. The silver lining in all of this is that I love that audience more than the food brands, no offense to anyone who’s listening, but no, I mean it’s so exciting to empower this audience and they’re primarily women. A lot of them are career changers. To give them the tools that I honestly took for granted in my own career and assumed everyone knew, well, it’s not the case.

So anyways, a long answer to your question, Megan, but basically just kind of putting something out there and gauging the response, took me so much farther than me analyzing it in my head and spending all the time doing the research when ultimately the best research is the response from the market. So the program eventually evolved into Cooking Class Business School, and it’s structured into recipes. So kind of playing off of this culinary theme, there are six recipes. The recipes walk my students from the very beginning of understanding who is your niche, really defining it, identifying who do you want to serve and how do you want to serve them and walking them all the way through building your email list, your marketing funnel, your sales page for your online classes and experiences. Then at the very end, we do a whole recipe on the tech.

So how to get your camera set up and how to make sure that you have a tech set up that looks professional, but isn’t crazy expensive or impossible to manage. So that’s the content piece. Then we also have coaching. So I lead coaching calls and we have a community element as well, where the students get to meet in these small groups. Every week they get to connect and have a smaller, more intimate experience in the program. So all in all it’s a four month program, but the content itself is only about six recipes that could be done in a month or so. But really the meat of the program is what happens after you learn everything and you need to implement it. So that’s how the program evolved. I added more coaching and support elements so that people really have that community while they’re getting their businesses off the ground.

Megan:

Your course sounds amazing. Oh my gosh. I mean, you have everything involved in their understanding. Their niche is the first step, I think, always for anything. Then going down the line, the email and the tech and everything in between. I want to point out what you said, Cynthia, about just not needing to be perfect in order to get started because, myself included, I feel like so many people get hung up on that and we try to work through a project in our minds to the point where it’s like not perfect, but like really good. This is what it needs to be. If there are question marks, this is what I do. I’m like, well, there’s a question mark. Maybe I need to sit on it more and wait, but in fact that’s not true. Get it out there so that you can get feedback about what you need to change. You had an entirely new audience come to you that you didn’t even know would come to you. So that was a huge reason to do it. Maybe there’s a group of people waiting for you to put your thing out there that you don’t even know about. Love that whole message. I want to hear about your marketing and how you marketed all of this so quickly. Was it hard? Do you have anything to share with us if we have to market something really fast?

Cynthia:

Like I said, I had the benefit of being exposed to the strategies beforehand and having this toolkit that I would one day use. It’s actually really funny for those of you listening, who have children you’ll laugh at this. I thought my original plan before COVID hit was that I would have my events business, have the baby in June/July. Then while on maternity leave, I would work on my online course. While I am laughing now, you’re laughing at me. I mean, that’s crazy.

Megan:

But you had no way of knowing that. I mean, you had nothing to compare it to, but in our minds we think, oh, I can do this. I’m super human.

Cynthia:

Exactly. Totally. So fortunately it worked out in a way that I did have those few months of just full on dedication to this project. I wasn’t working on anything else. So mid-March, I decided I would pivot to this program. I quickly f created a skeleton of what the program would include and came up with the name, the messaging. I believe I started promoting it in early April. The course closed at the end of April for enrollment. So let’s say I had 30 days. What I did is I was, so I knew I didn’t have a lot of time to build, and in my program I talk a lot about this concept of know, like, and trust. You really want to build a relationship with your audience. You don’t just want to jump to the sale. So I had to find a way to really accelerate that.

I did use a webinar framework. So I would run ads on Facebook that would get people to sign up for my webinar. The ads in the beginning were really different from the ads at the end. Meaning, at first I was like, Hey, food brands, now’s the time to take your business online, blah, blah, blah, sign up here for my free training. Which was the webinar. Well, as I started to see who was signing up, I literally, this is kind of creepy Megan, but I would look them up on Facebook and be like, who is this person? Who actually is this person? I saw this trend of most of these people signing up were chefs. They were bakers. They were chocolate tiers. Some of them were food bloggers as well. I realized like, wait a minute, the people who are signing up are not the people I’m talking to in the ad.

I did about, I think, five or six live webinars, and I had them two or three per week for about a two week period. After the first or second webinar, I quickly changed my ad messaging. I changed the creative and it was like, Hey chefs and changed, I mean, everything. That actually brought in more of the people who were signing up. So it was a real time pivot, tweak, adjust. I had no idea if I was going to even like serving this audience. I mean, I couldn’t be picky. I really was desperate to make money. I am so fortunate that it has now connected me to this audience of primarily women in the culinary space, who I have so much passion for serving. So I’m glad it worked out that way. But to answer your question, it was Facebook ad strategy.

I just had to throw money at it, hoping that I would get my return. I did. I mean, I wasn’t spending like tens of thousands of dollars. It wasn’t that much money in the grand scheme of things, but it was still a bet because if people came to the webinar and no one signed up, I would have been in the red. But fortunately it was able to be profitable. I was able to kind of have some profit to use for my next launch in September after I had the baby. So that’s how I marketed it really quickly. But after that first launch in April, I knew that I wanted to double down on this business. So I created a marketing strategy that was a little bit cheaper and more organic. So I started to create content around the topics that I teach in Cooking Class Business School, and to have my podcast, The Experiential Table. So I had more time to do some of the slower organic marketing, but in the beginning I just needed warm bodies to attend that webinar as quickly as possible.

Megan:

Get people in. Did you have experience with Facebook advertising prior to this?

Cynthia:

A little bit, a little bit. So I had taken a course that taught me basically how to use Facebook ads to get people on your email list. So I primarily used it for, I had a freebie or lead magnet. In my case it was like a free guide. It was a PDF and I wanted to get that in front of my ideal audience. So I would run Facebook ads to get people to sign up for that with the hopes that, okay, now they’re on my email list. If I’m good with my email marketing and I’m consistent, then I’ll start to build that relationship with them. So that one day when I do have something to sell, they will be ready to buy. So I actually did have experience with that, but of course, the past few years before COVID I was testing out different ideas with different audiences. So I spent a lot of money acquiring an audience, a community of people who actually I have since purged because they were more focused on the event marketing side and less of what I do now. So it was an expensive practice round, I’ll say.

Megan:

That happens though. I’ve had expensive practice rounds many times and I always pull a lesson away from it. So I think that’s sometimes necessary, unfortunately.

Cynthia:

Yeah. Honestly, I mean, if I look back, well, having those low pressure situations when I was running Facebook ads, helped set me up for March 2020 when I had to run them because the health of my business was dependent on them. I now have a much more balanced strategy. Even in Cooking Class Business School, I have a bonus around Facebook ads. A lot of people have been burned by them because if you don’t know exactly how to use them, you can just be giving a lot of money to Facebook and not getting results. You have to be really, really careful about how you’re using that.

Megan:

I’ve done that. I remember looking at my budget after a year went by, or maybe it was even two years and thinking, oh my gosh, I spent that much money on Facebook ads. I didn’t even know what I was doing. So I basically just donated money to Facebook.

Cynthia:

You’re like, here you go. Here, you probably don’t even need this Facebook, but it’s true. One of the biggest traps I think is when people, at least my students who come in, they boost posts or they have an online cooking class event set up on Facebook and they just run ads to that, to random strangers all over the world. And so those are really ineffective strategies, at least for my audience and what my community is trying to do. But I do believe that there is a huge opportunity in using ads on Facebook, but you’ve got to know what you’re doing and you have to be really strategic otherwise, as you said, you can just throw money away.

Megan:

In your notes, you have a few things that you need to have in place with marketing before you do it. So one is that believing your class is not for everyone. You have to find that niche because if you try to deliver your content to everybody, you end up delivering to absolutely nobody, in my opinion.

Cynthia:

Exactly.

Megan:

That’s why I love it. Then you have also not focusing too much on sales, which I think is such a big thing that we get trapped in. For me, it’s been more just focusing on value and delivering value to people that I’m passionate about and really, truly caring about the people that I’m delivering value to. I think it can take time, don’t you think to get there? Because when we first started business, we’re like, I have to make sales. Money, money, money. But it’s more about just getting that value to people. Once you do that and in a really genuine way, I feel like the flood gates open, magic starts happening. People see how authentic you are. What are your thoughts on that?

Cynthia:

Absolutely. So it’s funny because I talk about these mistakes in more detail in my masterclass, which we’ll talk about later, but people will say, wait, you don’t want me to focus on sales? Cynthia, I’m here to learn how to go create and market my profitable online cooking classes. If they’re not selling, how can I be profitable? You’re absolutely right, Megan. The key is rather than focusing your marketing efforts on, buy this, signup now. Register. We hear a lot of those messages, especially when people are promoting their classes and any offer really. That only works if someone knows who you are, they like what you offer and they trust you and they’re ready to buy. So that Know, Like, Trust funnel factor. I treat it more as a funnel frankly, is the key. So rather than focusing too much on selling, exactly what you said, Megan, thinking about how you can get people to, first of all, know who you are, not just, oh I’m a food blogger that focuses on gluten-free baking, but like, who are you?

Why do you care about gluten-free baking? What’s your story? Really connecting beyond just the surface level of this is what I do and here are the recipes. I’m sure your audience knows this. I mean, food blogging is so much about storytelling. So I think your audience gets it more than maybe other audiences that I work with because story is such a big part of building a food blogging business. So making sure that people know who you are and then making it really clear how you’re different and how what you’re teaching them is important to them. Because sometimes when we focus on just selling, we’re like, okay, come learn how to make these gluten-free brownies. It’s like, that’s fine. That’s what you’re teaching them, but why should they care? How will it improve their lives? Or what context is it for? Is it a holiday season recipe? We just have to think beyond just the transactional value of here’s my class sign up. Here’s how much it is. Hope to see you there. There’s so much more to it.

Megan:

There is! When you hear that word, transaction, you just think about going to the store and purchasing some lemons. That’s a transaction, but you want to provide more than that. You don’t want to just sell something that people are buying. You want to actually provide them with the value, with the transformation and you have to communicate that. I think that is the, one of the hardest things about marketing is learning that, that it’s not all about the transaction.

Cynthia:

Exactly. I went to business school and off the record, no, I’m kidding. I didn’t learn a whole lot. It was another very expensive decision in my life. But one of the things that I learned is this concept of the jobs to be done. So basically when you are buying a product, let’s just say a luxury handbag. What are you actually hiring that handbag to do for you, right? Why are you paying for that handbag? Well, it’s not just to carry something because we all know you could spend nothing and get a tote bag or a plastic bag at the grocery store and you could carry something, right? So when people buy a luxury good, they are hiring that product to make them feel better, to give them confidence, to give them a status.

So I think about that a lot in the world of online cooking classes. Sometimes my students think, well, I am teaching them how to make gluten-free brownies. That is why they are coming to my class. Well, that’s one part of it. That’s the very, very surface level reason why, but are they also coming to you because they want to connect in a community with others in a live class setting? Are they looking to feel belonging and to feel like they’re with people who understand the challenges of being a gluten-free parent. So there’s so much more to it than just someone coming to me to learn this, or someone is buying this product for just the function. There’s a whole psychological aspect. There are benefits that aren’t so crystal clear when you just look at it at face value.

Megan:

Hmm. I agree with that. I love how you worded that. Can you talk us through what your framework is? You have a four step framework for creating and marketing profitable, online cooking classes. I want to hear this.

Cynthia:

Yeah, absolutely. So I talked about the six recipes in Cooking Class Business School, but kind of looking at it a step higher, thinking about it in four steps. I have this framework, it’s called zest, which is great, right? Who doesn’t like lemon zest? It stands for zero in, engage, sell and teach. So it’s essentially those six recipes I talked about, but distilled into four steps. The first part is zeroing in on who you teach, what you teach your pricing, all of those key decisions that you need to make in the beginning. This is actually where most of my students spend a lot of time in the program. I tell them, don’t rush this. They’re so tempted to just skip to getting that fancy camera or moving into which platform they should use to sell their classes on.

But I tell them if you don’t know who you are teaching and why you’re teaching them and your unique brand story, all of that juicy stuff, then the rest of it really doesn’t matter. So zeroing in is very important. It is the foundation. Then engage. That’s the E. It’s really about what we’ve talked about here, Megan, which is how to connect with your audience, how to invest the time and the energy to share who you are, what you offer, why they should care, really building that relationship so that when you’re ready to sell, which is the next step, sell, you have this audience that’s warm, they’re excited. They know what you offer and they’re ready to buy from you. So in that step, you also need to think about what platform you’ll be using. There are some third parties out there, or if you want to just add a purchasing widget on your own site, if you have a great site on WordPress or another platform.

Then we also in this cell, the cell step, it’s not just around the platform, but it’s also around promotion. So creative ways that you can promote your classes. I’m a big fan of teaming up with others, whether they are other culinary pros or small brands, even non-profits, those are just very successful tactics to get your classes out there and to reach more people beyond your audience. Then the final step is teaching. Which is the one that is the most fun because people just love being able to get their setups ready, test out whether they’re using two cameras or one. In Cooking Class Business School, we actually have what we call demo week, which is a chance for everyone in the program to teach one another in a very low risk, fun, safe environment. We have sushi chefs and chocolate tiers and macron bakers, like basically all in the same program. So it’s a really, really, really fun experience.

Megan:

Oh, I love your idea of demo week. No expectations, just low maintenance. You can just demo to people who are doing the same, who maybe want to demo back to you. So I love that.

Cynthia:

It’s fun. Selfishly, I get to benefit from it too. Because I drop in on a lot of the classes and I’m a food lover and I used to be a blogger and love the culinary world, but I certainly don’t have the level of expertise that my students do. So it’s kind of like a free cooking school for me.

Megan:

Absolutely. I would want to drop into and just see what’s going on. How many people do you have taking the course? I’m just curious. Then what benefits are coming from this? So it’s under a year old. Oh my gosh. It’s already May, it’s already almost June. You launched it at the end of June. So it’s almost a year old. So what are you seeing that people who are in it, what benefits are happening for them?

Cynthia:

I know. I can’t believe it’s been a year. So the program right now, it is on a model where you can basically sign up. We have rolling enrollment available. So before we had these cohorts where you had to sign up in this 10 day period, and then you would be in our January cohort and that would go for 10 weeks. But I just know that with things starting to open up again and people’s schedules getting busy, that doesn’t necessarily work for everyone. So now we offer enrollment on a rolling basis based on spaces available. Like I mentioned earlier, there’s a coaching element that I’m very much involved with. It’s very hands-on. So my goal is to have the program be a size that’s reasonable for me to maintain and isn’t overwhelming. So right now we have about 50 people who are going through it.

Some of them are wrapping up, others just enrolled yesterday. So we have key people in our student community who they’re all kind of engaging and chatting and helping each other out. But there are new people joining basically every day. The results have been amazing Megan. It’s been so exciting to see what’s happened. Even as things are opening up in this post COVID world, we are seeing a lot of students have success, not only with their public classes, but specifically corporate classes. Companies have been geographically dispersed before COVID and they will continue to be. I mean, that’s, that’s what I believe. A lot of these companies are for team building projects or team building events that can bring their employees together no matter where they are working, whether they’re working from home or they’re working at remote offices.

So many of my students have been able to really capitalize on this need in the corporate space and that’s helped them make great money. People are booking $3,000 classes, which is literally a 90 minute class that they’re teaching.

Megan:

Oh, that’s so awesome.

Cynthia:

$3,000, right? I had a student recently, I was working with her and she was able to get two corporate clients, each booking $3,000. So that was $6,000 in one month. Her normal business, that would be one of her, I don’t wanna say one of her busiest months, but the fact that she only had to do less than five hours of work all in to get that was life-changing. It just opened up so many opportunities for her. So those are the types of results we see. We also see people starting online cooking class memberships and doing more consumer facing classes and those are doing well, they’re competitive.

So like anything, the niche element is so important and that’s why in my program, we start with it because I want to make sure that one of the biggest mistakes I see is people go out there and they don’t have a niche and they just sell their classes to everyone. It doesn’t really rise above the noise. So you’ve really got to focus on that. That’s where we see a lot of our students have the most success. The ones that have the most obscure really, really, really, really focused experiences. Those are the ones that people talk about because they’re interesting.

Megan:

I always say this too. If you’re going to do a cooking class, do something that’s really interesting or weird or just different, off the wall and really super specifically unique. That is a theme across the board, not just with cooking classes, but with blog themes, with the blog niches, with Facebook groups. The really, really strange, really unique things are the ones that are getting all of that traction. So I love that you are on the same page with that. This really is, Cynthia a huge opportunity for food bloggers.

Cynthia:

Oh my gosh. Absolutely. Because the thing is the thing with online cooking classes is you don’t need to drop everything you’re doing to do it. In fact, most of your audience listening, they already have the recipes, they have the story, they have the niche, they have a lot of the elements. Now it’s about putting it together and packaging it. They have the audience. So I think for food bloggers, it’s a no brainer. If you want to bring in an additional source of revenue, if you want to diversify your income and if you also really just want to engage with your audience in person, even if it’s online, that’s a benefit that I don’t talk about often, but one that my students remind me of. Which is just being in this zoom classroom with people who are excited to learn from you. That energy, that connection, that is something that you can’t fully get when you’re reading comments on a blog post or it’s a different type of engagement. I think it’s one that blog readers will be excited to partake in. So there are benefits beyond just financial. You can really literally get in front of your audience and they can learn from you in a way that’s a bit different than say watching a video or reading a recipe.

Megan:

I’d say not only connect with you, but get to know you much more deeply because you think about even those connections you’ve made over the years, maybe via email, and then you have a zoom call with somebody and suddenly your relationship is so much deeper just in 10 minutes. It could be just having that face to face interaction and having somebody see you in person is so, so cool. I think there are so many benefits there.

Cynthia:

Like some of your listeners, they’re like celebs for their audiences, right? Their readers are excited to get to see what it’s like in their kitchen. I know that there are some food bloggers that I would totally be fangirling over if they opened up their kitchen and I could just watch them cook and cook along.

Megan:

Oh my gosh, that’s so true. Yes, that is so true. So I want to hear about how we can access your course, if anybody listening is interested in checking it out, how do they do that?

Cynthia:

So really the best way to learn about Cooking Class Business School and to learn my teaching style and see if it’s the right fit for you is to watch my free masterclass. So it’s available various times throughout the day, which is great. You don’t have to wait for me to do it live, which is really convenient for people. So you can go to hiddenrhythm.com/masterclass, and then you can set up a time slot that works for you. I will share some strategies and tips to help you with your marketing today. Then at the very end, I will talk about Cooking Class Business School and how you can enroll. So we do have spots available as of the day that we’re recording this and we are growing and I would love to get your audience in the masterclass so that they can hear what it’s all about and see if it’s the right fit for them.

Megan:

Awesome. So go check that out if you’re interested. Cynthia, I’m curious if you could take away one thing that you would want food bloggers to know about this topic we’ve talked about today, what would it be?

Cynthia:

Absolutely. So this is my all time favorite quote. I think it rings true, especially in this last year that we experienced and it’s, “luck is when preparation meets opportunity”. I think it’s so true. People will come to me and say, oh my gosh, Cynthia, how lucky that you stumbled upon this? Yeah, that’s true. But I worked really, really hard and I seized an opportunity I had in front of me. Not just me, but so many others in the culinary space have done the same. I think the lesson here is that it’s never too early to start preparing yourself for another opportunity or to explore a different revenue stream. You’ll find yourself in a position where you feel lucky. But if you look back, you’ll realize you put in a ton of work to build your food blogging business and you can use online cooking classes to capitalize on it and to continue to grow your income. I think that’s truly the definition of when you say luck, well, I don’t know if it’s really luck. I think you’ve just done a lot of hard work and you’re seizing an opportunity in front of you.

Megan:

Think that’s one of the, my favorite things about your story is that you unknowingly prepared yourself for this business that unfolded, which is so cool. It’s like your subconscious knew or something. You had to prepare. We’re always doing that. We’re always doing things that we’re like, is this going to be valuable? Then down the road we’re like, oh, wow, Iook at that. I’m actually using that. So I think that is a good thing to remember. It’s not always about luck.

Cynthia:

Yeah, absolutely. Thank

Megan:

You so much for being here. This was super fun and I hope this inspires some food bloggers to get out there and put their faces in front of their audience and in a new way, and to maybe explore the world of online cooking classes. So thank you for all of this information, Cynthia.

Cynthia:

Thank you so much for having me, Megan.

Megan:

We are going to put together a show notes page for you, Cynthia. So if anyone wants to go peek at that, we will put links that we’ve referred to and some main takeaways in there. You can find it at eatblogtalk.com/hiddenrhythm. You already shared about where to find your course, but where else can people find you online? Are you on Instagram? Anywhere else?

Cynthia:

Yeah. So I love Instagram. I am also Hidden Rhythm on Instagram and hiddenrhythm.com is my website. So pretty consistent all over the internet.

Megan:

Awesome. Well thank you again for being here, Cynthia. Thank you for listening today, food bloggers. I will see you next time.

Outro:

We’re glad you could join us on this episode of Eat Blog Talk. For more resources based on today’s discussion, as well as show notes and an opportunity to be on a future episode of the show, be sure to head to eatblogtalk.com. If you feel that hunger for information, we’ll be here to feed you on Eat Blog Talk.


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Megan
Megan

Megan started her food blog Pip and Ebby in 2010 and food blogging has been her full-time career since 2013. Her passion for blogging has grown into an intense desire to help fellow food bloggers find the information, insight, and community they need in order to find success.

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