In this episode, I talk to Susie Bulloch, who runs Hey Grill, Hey, which started as a wildly successful food blog (to the tune of a million dollars or more a year in revenue). Then she did something that I absolutely love: she used her online business to kickstart a physical products company. Her sauces and rubs company in the barbecue space is now about to overtake the blog in revenue.
The online world of content creation is vastly different to the product manufacturing space, and as Susie explains, she is grateful that she didn’t know too much before she made the transition. Her top piece of advice for anyone interested in doing the same thing is to make products with the intention of fulfilling a need, not just because you have an audience online.
Susie describes herself as “terrifyingly driven,” and during our conversation, she talks about how she went from “I could never” to doing it all, the importance of celebrating business milestones, the value of having someone ask you, “Why?” regularly on your entrepreneurial journey, and her goal of increasing the representation of women-owned brands in the barbeque space!
In this episode, you’ll learn:
- The value in working for other people before starting your own company.
- Why it’s always worth taking the time to be grateful for the journey you are on and celebrating your achievements.
- What the life of a “terrifyingly driven” entrepreneur looks like.
- How to build trust within your community so they are happy to pay for your offerings.
- The only piece of advice Susie would give to someone interested in transitioning from online content creation to product manufacturing.
Links & Resources
- Follow Susie on Twitter
- Follow Susie on Facebook
- Follow Susie on Instagram
- Follow Susie on YouTube
- Subscribe to Susie’s Grill Squad
“Susie: It’s not enough for me to just make a product because I have an audience. I want to make the best freaking product. I want my products to have the same level of value and good, delicious things that my recipes do, so that you don’t cook a recipe and it turns out great, you buy a product and you’re like, “This is garbage.” That would be such a breaking of trust to me that it would ruin my whole day.”
[0:00:35] Nathan: In this episode, I talk to Susie Bulloch, who runs Hey Grill, Hey, which started as a food blog that became wildly successful, to the tune of a million dollars or more a year in revenue. Then she did something that I just absolutely love, and that is she used that to kickstart a physical products company, a sauces and rubs company in the barbecue space and I’m just blown away with what she’s been doing. She just got on a cool journey. She’s used the revenue from all of her digital products to fund building this, what’s going to be a massive physical products company.
I talk about this a lot in The Billion Dollar Creator, which is an article I wrote a few years ago, about how an audience is incredibly powerful and you should think about where you point that, where you direct that attention, what’s the highest ROI? Susie and I recently met and I was just realizing like, she’s living it out. The article that I – she hadn’t even read it, but she’s living it out in real time. That’s how she’s building her company and she’s building something absolutely massive. I think you’re going to love this interview. Let’s dive in.
[0:01:36] Nathan: Susie, welcome to the show.
[0:01:38] Susie: Hey, thanks for having me.
[0:01:39] Nathan: Okay. For some quick context, we met at Tastemakers, which is a food blogging conference. Is it always in Chicago? This is my first time going there.
[0:01:48] Susie: The first couple years, it was in different places, and it’s been in Chicago the last three. I think it will indefinitely be in Chicago now though, because it’s paired with the International Home and Hardware Show, which happens in Chicago every spring.
[0:01:59] Nathan: I love it. It was a super fun event and I met a ton of people. One thing that you and I immediately started jamming on and just completely nerding out on is how to take an audience and really point that attention to something that you’re building meaningful equity in. I wrote this article that listeners heard we talked about a bunch called The Billion Dollar Creator. As we were talking, I was like, you’re doing it. Here’s someone who –
[0:02:24] Susie: I’m trying.
[0:02:26] Nathan: Yeah. You see that playbook, I was immediately like, “Okay, you have to come on the podcast. We have to talk about this.” Because we have these examples of people who are all the way down the path, or they’re celebrities, or they’ve done something at this level, like Ryan Reynolds playing this out with Aviation Gin, or he actually just sold Mint Mobile.
[0:02:47] Susie: I saw that. For however many billions of dollars?
[0:02:50] Nathan: I think 1.3. I tweeted about that and some people were like, “Oh, but he only owns 25%.” I was like –
[0:02:57] Susie: Are you going to crap on 25% of 1.3 billion dollars? What level are you living at where that’s a problem?
[0:03:05] Nathan: Yeah. I got a good laugh out of that. I think people see these giant examples, or they see it in theory, and what I want to talk through with you is in practice, because you’re figuring this out and implementing it right now. Maybe as we dive in, why don’t you give the rundown on what Hey Grill, Hey is, and we’ll do a quick bit on how you started and then dive in on where we’re going?
[0:03:30] Susie: Yeah. Hey Grill, Hey is a business. That’s what we’re going to start with. Because in the past, I would have told you, Hey Grill, Hey was a food blog, and that was our main focus. Like you said, we’re in a transitional period right now. It is a food blog. We have a great audience online. We have a subscription platform that we built, this beneficiary partner called The Grill Squad, which is a recurring yearly subscription to an online barbecue school and community, so there’s an educational aspect to it and we have a line of barbecue seasonings and sauces that are sold internationally right now, which is pretty cool. Yeah, those are the three main pieces of our business. The content side of the business, the subscription side of the business and the product side of the business.
[0:04:18] Nathan: How long have you been running the site?
[0:04:20] Susie: I started Hey Grill, Hey just over eight years ago. But I’ve been working in the online content creation space for almost 14, since the early, early days of blogs. I worked from home raising tiny kids and writing content for an online deal and coupon blogger. I learned what WordPress looks like from the back end and how to create content. When she sold her site for a million dollars, I thought I would die. I couldn’t fathom that somebody was able to write about something on the internet that they were passionate about and share things that they just personally were excited about, like look at these cute shoes that I got for 58% off, and turn that into a business that was valued at seven figures. That was my first introduction before I ever even started Hey Grill Hey to what blogging as a business could look like, and that was a long time ago.
[0:05:09] Nathan: Yeah. When was it that you were working for her and she sold the site?
[0:05:13] Susie: I started working for her in 2008, and I think she sold the site in 2012, 2013. It was early days.
[0:05:20] Nathan: Yup. I mean, a million-dollar exit.
[0:05:22] Susie: It was 2009 that I started working for her. But still, it was really early in the space.
[0:05:28] Nathan: Yeah. I’m just thinking, I started following the space about the same time, 2008, 2009, coming from the web design world and learning everything there. But even going into 2011, 2012, some of the biggest sites on the internet were 20,000 subscribers. I mean, a million-dollar exit for a blog in –
[0:05:52] Susie: Was huge.
[0:05:54] Nathan: I mean, that’s incredible.
[0:05:55] Susie: I know. It was incredible.
[0:05:57] Nathan: When you think about that, did that make you really go, “Okay, I have to start my own thing”? Or?
[0:06:02] Susie: Oh, I wish. No, it made me say, “I know how much work it takes because I know what she put in to run it. I don’t think I have the skills. I don’t think I have the time. I don’t think I have the ability.” Instead of looking at her and saying, “Well, why not me?” I looked at her and said, “I could never.” I actually talked myself out of starting my own anything for a really long time and I bounced around from working for her for several years to working for a company that put on races, like the 5K color powder throwing races, I did their social media and email. I got a little bit of background in the space helping them manage their social media and engagement online.
I also spent several years, both of those jobs parlayed me into a job for a grill manufacturing company who wanted to digitize their library of recipes, because at the time when you bought a grill or a smoker, they just handed you an old spiral-bound, little laminated book of like, “Here are 15 things that you can cook on your new grill. But beyond that, best wishes.” Because there weren’t a ton of resources online, specifically in the barbecue and grilling space at the time.
There were forums, but there really was only maybe one website and several cookbooks and a couple of TV shows that were dedicated to the art of barbecue and grilling. The resources were just really limited. When I got this job and they said, “Digitize this library of content, and then we want you to start making new recipes to live on the site,” I had no depth of understanding of what this wood-fired barbecue world looked like. I just knew how to create content online and I really loved food and cooking. They dropped a wood-fired grill and smoker off on my porch and said, “Good luck. We just need five recipes a week starting Monday. We can’t wait to see what you come up with. This is going to be so fun for you.”
That’s how I found myself in the world of barbecue online content creation was actually writing for another company. After, I think, I had been working for other companies at that point for six years, five to six years, I finally went, “Okay, maybe I have garnered enough skills. Maybe I have put in enough time working for other people and seeing what they’re building,” and I would see the traffic that was going to these barbecue and grilling posts and it blew my mind how much desire there was for this type of content and how little supply was available. A ton of this stuff that was being written assumed a lot. I don’t know if you’ve ever cooked from one of your grandma’s three by five recipe cards?
[0:08:37] Nathan: It assumes so much.
[0:08:39] Susie: It assumes you know so much. It’s like a pinch of this, a dash of that, enough of this to make it look like whatever. The recipes, because they had to be written in shorthand, because you had to fit 14 steps on a three by five card, left a lot out. That was so true with barbecue recipes. Every barbecue recipe I read, I’m like, “What are they even talking about?” They’re saying words I don’t know. They’re using terminology I’m not familiar with. They’re writing recipes that don’t make sense, because I’ve never used this medium before. I learned a lot about writing bad recipes and cooking from bad recipes and how to write good ones.
Finally, after all of these years of working for other people and accumulating all of these little skills from around the world, I found myself with no job, because all the jobs that I – like that one company that did the deal sold. I left the company that was doing social media, since it was taking so much of my time, and this grill manufacturing company decided, I’d been working from home, they decided to bring everything in-house. I didn’t want to commute. They just grew, which is good for them, I guess, whatever. But I was without a job.
My husband said, “You know, you have an opportunity here to do nothing, if you would like.” Because he had built up his professional career as a CPA to the point where his income could sustain us, so we could live off of a single income. “It would be lean, but we could make it work,” he said. “Or, you could choose something and build something if you wanted to. If you could do anything, what would you do?” I was like, “Barbecue recipes.” I fell in love with it so much. I loved the process of recipe testing. I loved the wood fire cooking community, like the barbecue community, people call it a barbecue family, because they show up for each other and full, happy people everywhere. They’re just so happy, because they eat so good and they cook for other people.
Barbecue really is a community meal experience. You’re not just making a salad, or soup. You’re making a whole rack of ribs, or a whole 14-pound brisket. People are coming over. I just loved that aspect of barbecue specifically. I loved writing recipes for these people, especially women in the space that had maybe been intimidated by it before because of all the terminology and because of all the things that they were supposed to know that they didn’t know that nobody told them about.
I saw an opportunity in the space to provide content that I knew people already wanted, because I was seeing the response from recipes I was already writing. I felt a little bit of a calling to be a representative of women in the barbecue and grilling space, because we were out there, there was just less representation. You would see a TV show and there would be one for every 12 dudes, or something. There wasn’t a ton of representation, but I knew a lot of women were cooking barbecue at home.
I wanted to be a little bit of a face for that, which is why I personally branded things from the beginning, where it was Susie telling you how to cook stuff, because I wanted to have that connection and I wanted to build that community. That’s how it all started.
[0:11:45] Nathan: I love it.
[0:11:46] Susie: That’s where it all came from.
[0:11:49] Nathan: I think a lot of creators have that transition moment that you have, of maybe seeing it and getting a taste of it, where something happens that you see as ridiculous. It breaks your mental model. You can’t sell a blog for a million dollars. That does not fit in the mental model of growing up. People are like, “What do you want to be? Do you want to be a firefighter? Do you want to be a chef?”
[0:12:11] Susie: Right. I want to make a living writing barbecue recipes for the internet. That’s what I want to do.
[0:12:17] Nathan: Yeah. You see something that breaks your mental model and it’s often how much someone is earning. Hold on, you can make $100,000 a year off of that? Or you could sell this for a million dollars. Or you have this flexibility in your time. Like, wait, you don’t have to show up in person to this office? Or you can make school pick up, and it’s not this crazy, stressful thing? Any of those things. There’s still a leap from realizing that it’s possible from an example and actually being able to make that jump for yourself, or thinking that you could do it.
[0:12:50] Susie: Well, to believe that it’s possible for you. Right. Because anything’s possible for other people. You can look at somebody that had this massive success and you’d be like, “Oh, well that totally makes sense. I could never.” Because that’s where I was those first five years was like, “I mean, I get it, but I don’t know, I don’t know. I know it’s possible, but I don’t think it’s possible for me.” That was a really transitional point and it did take a little bit of encouragement. Luckily, I had the privilege of having a spouse at home that said, “This is your opportunity. Do you think you can make something of it?”
It set that precedent really early that I was going to do it, because I was passionate about it, but I also was going to do it because I believed I could make money from it. There really was that transitional moment of going from, “I believe it’s possible,” to, “I believe it’s possible for me.”
[0:13:37] Nathan: Do you think that it just took time? Is there anything that would have accelerated that? Or, just seeing more examples of it and working in the industry more – I guess, the industry being content creation more so than maybe barbecue specifically?
[0:13:50] Susie: I think, seeing the content creation side of it helped a lot from the back end. I think it gave me a foot in the door, because people, my blog took off within two years, it was pretty successful. Within two and a half, I’d retired my husband and we were hiring employees, which is pretty rapid in the world of food blogging. People say, “How did you – Oh, my gosh. How did you do it so fast? You just started in 2015. How?” But nobody was counting the years before that I started in 2009, where I saw what content creation looked like from the back and where I saw what social media looked like, where I saw what the recipe development process looked like.
I had banked five years of skills before I started my own website. I think that was really crucial to my quick success on my own website. It was all the work that went in beforehand. I really think that that gave me a lot of confidence to jump in on my own. I also think it gave my husband a lot of confidence to say, “I think you can make something of this, because we’ve seen people do it, and you have skills and you’re capable and you’re terrifyingly driven. If anybody can pull it off, it’s probably you.” Having somebody else say, “You probably can,” was, I think, a big deal to me and not just it spinning around in my head like, “Could I? Could I? Could I?” Having a little bit of that validation from both experience and a support team that said, “I think you can pull it off.” It really helped me a lot.
[0:15:23] Nathan: Yeah. I think, what you said about, like seeing it from the inside makes a huge difference, because we’re watching all of these blogs and we see maybe the highlights of what gets posted on Instagram, or a post that goes viral. But if you’re working behind the scenes, then you actually get to see, “Okay, what is this creator optimizing for? What metrics do they track? What’s the writing process?”
I was thinking about another creator whose name is Jay Klaus, and he’s had this fantastic rise. He talks publicly about his income numbers. I think he’s making $250,000, or $300,000 a year off of – still, not a huge audience. But if I think about his career, he worked for Pat Flynn. He was running the community for Pat Flynn. You get to see behind the scenes and you get to learn. Even that approach of like, “Okay, yes. I absolutely could dive in. Maybe I’m going to do that. Maybe I’m going to start my blog and publish once a month, or once a week and get this cadence going. But at the same time, I’m going to try to go get a job working for someone, either freelance, or on the core team,” because you can learn so much looking behind the scenes.
[0:16:28] Susie: It’s really interesting now, a lot of change has occurred in the trajectory of our next generation’s career paths. All the kids want to be YouTubers, or whatever the case may be. But the reality is that four-year college degrees are not carrying the same clout for these kids as they did for our generation. I’ve told my kids like, “I don’t really care what you do, but –” Because they all want to be entrepreneurs now. It sounds like, “Oh, you just are home when we’re home and you get to cook food? That sounds like a great job for me.” They don’t know what I do during the day, I guess, because they’re at school living their own life. It is this idyllic scenario.
I think it’s incredibly valuable to actually peek behind the curtain and not just – I mean, you’re going to learn either way. Whether you just buy the URL and start doing crap. I like to say, I got a degree from the University of Google in food blogging, because I was like, “How do I write a post?” Everything. There’s a huge learning curve, regardless of when you start, or how much experience you have. At some point, you’re going to have to make the leap. But having that little background of knowledge, even just working part-time from home for those couple years while I was raising my babies gave me a sense of confidence and a sense of background knowledge and a sense of scope. I could see what things could become and what kind of monetizing a space in this wild, wild west of the internet actually looks like.
[0:17:57] Nathan: Yeah. On that monetization, if we’re talking about a food blog, there’s some traditional ways that I’d expect you to monetize. Advertising, number one. Some level of affiliate type for other products, and then definitely, some of your own digital products, maybe a membership, that kind of thing. That’s what I would 100% expect. It sounds like, you built out a bunch of those. Can you talk about maybe the first million dollars in revenue? Because you built it to a pretty wild scale.
[0:18:25] Susie: Honestly, I feel like I tried everything. Because my goal from the beginning was to build this into a business, I’m like, “Well, how do people make money on the internet?” I’ve probably typed that into Google, honestly. I was like, “Give me a list of 10 ways we make money on the internet, people.” It was a process. Before I even qualified for ad revenue, because my traffic wasn’t that significantly high. This was the dumbest thing, I literally started my website on March 9th, right as March Madness kicked off. This company that I had been writing recipes for before launched a campaign called Meat Madness, where there were meat brackets with recipes submitted, where you could submit your recipe and have it voted on by the community to earn you up the bracket to win a cool prize, or whatever.
I had submitted and got accepted, one of my new recipes on my new website to be a part of this Meat Madness bracket. I noticed there were several other prominent Utahns who had their names on this bracket. I was like, “This is a great PR opportunity.” I wrote an email. I didn’t know what I was doing. I wrote an email to every single producer of every single local news station and lifestyle television show in Utah and said, “Look at all these cool Utahns. Here’s a link to the bracket. You should have us all on for a segment.”
One of them got back to me. By the time they got back to me, I was the only one left in the bracket, which was a relief, because I realized I didn’t know any of these other Utahns, nor how I would contact them to get all of us on television together. I just thought, “There’s a story here.” One of them emailed me back and invited me to be on their television show to come do a cooking segment, which I was terrified of. I bottle dyed my hair bright red, like grocery store Ariel from Little Mermaid Red the night before my segment. I invited my friends over with timers and notepads so they could give me feedback on my five-minute television segment.
I showed up and I did that segment. My husband was in the audience and he turned to my brother and he was like, “Who is she?” I transformed in that moment to a person who was incredibly qualified to do television, where I had no prior experience. It was magical, to be quite honest with you. I was like, “Okay, how do I make this part of my revenue experience?” I was actually able to parlay that into paid cooking gigs for brands. I also pushed that into paid television appearances. I’ve been on The Food Network several times. I had my own special on The Food Network. We had some really cool opportunities that way that was a little bit outside the traditional food blogger revenue model, but that was one avenue that I generated income without an audience and without a brand.
I just would go talk about your brand on the television every once in a while. It turned out to be a great jumpstart for me, because within the first month I had an offer for a brand for $500 to do a five-minute segment. I was like, “That’s real money. That is cash money within a month.” I was not making any money anywhere else and I had no idea how to. But that was just a really quick and early boost, a vote of confidence that, “This is an avenue that you can pursue and there’s a way that you can generate revenue from this particular business model.”
That was a really cool first moment of here’s how you made your first penny, first million. That was my first 500 bucks and it felt like a million dollars. I will tell you, it felt like a million dollars to be able to make money off of this thing that I love doing. Then as traffic built, we did see money coming in from advertising revenue on the website. We did a year of a lot of sponsored work, because that at the time was a really great source of revenue for us. Brands were really hungry for diversity in the barbecue and grilling space. That was a time where being a female and standing out from the crowd and being different and having the creation aspects of the business behind me was really beneficial, because I had a good audience online. I had a good platform to build on and I could develop recipes for other companies and post about them and got paid.
I also took side jobs, developing recipes for companies, like I did before I even started my own website. I did that for a while, until I realized, “Okay, I can make more if I just post them on my own site.” But it took a while to get to that point, to build up traffic to where your recipes are more valuable to your own site than they are to somebody else’s, because they were paying me money to put recipes on their website. That was an early source of revenue. We did two e-books that were an early source of revenue for us. Then I think it was almost three years into Hey Grill, Hey existing that we launched The Grill Squad, which is our online subscription platform. Then we’ve been running the product company for the last four years. It was like four-ish years of just that online and digital content stuff, before we actually launched our first product.
[0:23:12] Nathan: Okay. I want to talk about the products a lot, but to get a sense of scale, what did you grow revenue from the digital side?
[0:23:19] Susie: In the last couple years, it’s averaged about 1.5 to 1.75 million in ad revenue.
[0:23:26] Nathan: That’s amazing.
[0:23:26] Susie: Which is stupid. It feels like the most unbelievably stupid joke.
[0:23:30] Nathan: But that’s leverage, right? An audience has incredible leverage. We’ll get into that more, but yeah. I mean, you built it to the point where you’re making a year from just the digital side of your business, what that mind-blowing experience was of selling an entire site one time.
[0:23:47] Susie: Yeah. It makes me sick to my stomach when I stop and think about it, so I just don’t very often.
[0:23:51] Nathan: Why does it make you sick to your stomach?
[0:23:53] Susie: Because, so I had some really crazy goals when I first started. It was certain benchmarks. “I’m going to make this much by the time I’m this many years old.” You set these goals for yourself. Then I would hit them and I’d be like, “So I think I just quit now?” I didn’t have an after plan. I just had this number, and it was so hard to get there, that when I got there I was like, “Now what? I just did it. Now what?” It’s always, make a plan for after, people, if you do actually hit your goals, because that was a little bit of a shock moment for me where I had to reevaluate all of my goals.
[0:24:34] Nathan: What’s an example of one of those goals and then what you ended up doing afterwards?
[0:24:38] Susie: I just moved the goal post, honestly. That’s what I keep doing every single time. Every goal that we hit, every benchmark that we’ve passed, we take a minute and I sit on it and I reflect back and I look at what it took to get us where we are, the things that were worth it and the things that weren’t worth it and where we want to go next. But I think it’s good to have benchmarks, even if you don’t have the backup plan ahead of time, because when you hit them, it’s always forced me into a period of reflection and a period of pause and saying, “Okay, this is where we are, this is how we got here.” It’s absolutely unbelievable and weird and hilarious and I just let myself be filled with all of the gratitude of hitting that accomplishment and the team that we have built that has got us to that point and the audience that has supported us through this journey and feeling the gratitude for the business really is the most reinvigorating part, because it’s hard and it’s exhausting and it’s a lot of work. To be able to stop and sit with it for a minute is really awesome before we set our sights on the next thing.
[0:25:47] Nathan: I think that’s something that my wife and I realized, maybe three or four years ago, that we’re really bad at celebrating and recognizing that moment to pause and reflect. Now, we make sure to at least do a nice dinner or something. Because we hit some milestones. I remember hitting 10 million dollars a year in revenue for ConvertKit, right, and being like, “Oh, that’s amazing. It’s a big goal. It tipped over, we hit that.” Then now, we got –
[0:26:14] Susie: On to the next.
[0:26:15] Nathan: Hold on. Yes, let’s go have some friends over for dinner. Let’s open a bottle of champagne. Let’s at least do something.
[0:26:23] Susie: We’ve started scheduling things. We tie specific things now to our benchmarks.
[0:26:29] Nathan: Oh, I like that.
[0:26:29] Susie: When we hit this next revenue goal, we have a specific trip that has been on our bucket list forever. Could we afford to go right now? Sure. Probably. But having it mean something and have it on the board as this is the celebratory event for that goal, has been really awesome for us. We just did one on my 35th birthday. We had a revenue goal and my 35th birthday, that was a big thing I had in my mind. “I need to hit this much money and I’m going to be on a beach. I’m going to be drinking a cold beverage and it’s going to be my birthday and I’m going to have made this much money.”
I didn’t know, my husband is actually, like I said, he came from an accounting background. He was a CPA in his prior corporate life. I didn’t know – I knew I was close, but I didn’t know if I had actually hit the number or not. He’s like, “I’ll look at it.” I’m like, “Don’t tell me. If I made it, you’re allowed to tell me when we’re there, but if I didn’t make it, we just never speak of it again because I don’t want it to ruin the trip for me,” because the trip was booked. We were going anyway, because I knew we were close. But it’ll be stuck in my mind forever. We were literally on a boat in the ocean and he handed me our P&L, our profit and loss statement. I had eked over it by six figures, which seems a lot, but it was a very big number so it was a little bit smaller in the overall scale.
It was a huge moment. It was a huge moment to stop and to celebrate and to acknowledge what we had actually accomplished and what we had built and to be able to share that together was really cool. I highly recommend, even if your goal is, “I got up 10 new posts this month.” Make celebrating those accomplishments a part of the journey, because otherwise, you’ll always be looking at what’s next? What’s next? What’s next? What’s next? What’s next? It makes the process a lot more enjoyable. It makes growing not just a number on a screen, but it has purpose and it has meaning and it should be celebrated.
[0:28:40] Nathan: I got into sailing a few years ago. We did a big sailing trip to Belize and that was once we hit a certain milestone that I’ve been working towards for a long time, then we’re going and celebrating with that. I love that idea. Okay, so you’ve done something with the business. I mean, first, you’ve built an amazingly successful food blog. To a level beyond what most creators ever do. Did you call yourself freakishly driven? What was the terminology that you used?
[0:29:16] Susie: Terrifyingly driven is the terminology that I use.
[0:29:20] Nathan: Is that a quote from a family member?
[0:29:23] Susie: Probably. Honestly, yes. It’s probably been written in a birthday card somewhere.
[0:29:27] Nathan: Yeah, exactly.
[0:29:28] Susie: “Happy birthday. We’re so glad to know. You are terrifyingly driven.”
[0:29:33] Nathan: Something else. Yeah.
[0:29:34] Susie: Something, something. Yeah.
[0:29:36] Nathan: Right. It’d be pretty easy to at that point say, “Hey. Okay, well, let’s run this on autopilot. Maybe let’s scale it back, throw a little four-hour work week action in here and do something different.”
[0:29:46] Susie: Sure.
[0:29:47] Nathan: You and I share some of this terrifyingly driven aspect. I think, there’s also just a curiosity of like, “Okay. Well, if I can do that, can I do this next level?” I have this goal of trying to build a business to a 100 million in revenue. If we can get it here, then I think I can get it there and I want to work on really big, hard things. People talk about moving the goalposts and that’s usually in a negative term of like, “Oh, he just moved the goalpost. He can’t ever be happy.” It’s like, no, no, no. This is the game that we’re playing. I’m curious for you, as you achieve one level, what did it mean to set the sights so much bigger?
[0:30:28] Susie: My husband and I have opposing personalities in all aspects. But he is definitely like, “We did it. Let’s kick it. We did the thing. You don’t have to work this hard.”
[0:30:40] Nathan: My wife is the same way.
[0:30:43] Susie: I think I’m so fortunate to have that personality be my balance. But his most valuable personality trait to me personally as a terrifyingly driven person is that he asks me why all of the time. Like, “Well, I want to do this.” Why? I’ll give a reason and he’d be like, “Really? You don’t need that thing.” I’m like, “Well, no. But I want it.” He just keeps asking why until we really get to the heart of the matter. In that journey of him asking, there was a lot of self-discovery and a lot of things that were uncovered. The reality is, I love building stuff. In addition to me loving the actual nuts and bolts of building this thing, I also have learned that people operate at different levels of stress, which becomes their comfort level.
My husband and I have very different levels of stress that we’re comfortable operating at, and I actually tend to operate at a higher – I feel better, I feel more accomplished, I feel more clarity, I feel more at peace when I have these moving parts that I get to pay attention to and that I get to work on. When it’s stuff that I actually love doing, it’s like, the skies open up, and I could do this forever. That’s the level of stress that I feel comfortable at. Even when I have tried to intentionally scale back and intentionally take more time off, or let my foot off the gas, I’m less happy, I’m less satisfied, I’m less clear and there’s less personal fulfillment in my life.
I find myself pushing on the gas again and bringing a little bit more on to my plate, because it’s more comfortable for me in that period of introspection, in that reflection. Literally last week, my husband and I had this conversation and we made some transitions in the business where we’re removing stuff from his plate and putting it on mine and he’s taking some other things that leave me less fulfilled and carrying that banner. Whether it’s at home with the kids and family, or whether it’s in the business, it’s this constant reshuffling and rebalancing to where we’re both operating at the point of the most comfort and ease and joy with the level of stress that we’re carrying.
It’s not that he’s necessarily carrying less stress, but he’s carrying things that are less stressful for him, but they’re super stressful for me. I will forget about signing the kids up for baseball, because it will slip my mind, I guarantee it. But he’s happy and he loves carrying that. This is the best. I’m like, “Okay, fantastic.” Because I would rather build out projections for sales through the end of the year and he’s like, “Pass. Hard pass.” Anyway, he’s a great balance for me specifically, but it really is just finding the things that I love to do and it’s terrifying to people outside of the space, because they see all the balls in the air and they’re like, “I could never.”
I know, because I was there when I started working for other people, I was like, “I could never.” But having found myself in this space and still pushing myself further into the space, it’s just what feels good. It’s what feels right. It’s what feels joyful and fulfilling to me, so it doesn’t feel hard.
[0:34:13] Nathan: Yeah. Okay, so let’s talk about what you’re saying about having someone in your life who will ask a few layers of the why questions, because I do the same thing where I’m like, “Is it this?” A lot of people just be like, “Okay. That’s fine.” Having someone ask, “Really? That’s why?” Making you dig through several layers. That is good. What’s next? What’s the goal that you’re scaling towards? Because you have these products that you’re getting in grocery stores, you’ve got the sauces and rubs. Where is this business going? Because it’s going to be a hundred times bigger than the massive blog that you’ve already built.
[0:34:50] Susie: This ties heavily into your article about the Billion Dollar Creator. I was able to build a really great audience on the website and use that to fund my own product company. You talk in your article about how products – at some point, you have to sell a product. I started training my audience really early. It’s interesting, this creator transition, not a lot of people talk about it, because all they want to talk about is how you have built an audience that loves you and they’ll buy anything you put out there.
It’s a little bit different in a lot of ways, because we have trained our audiences to get things for free, articles for free, videos for free, content for free, information for free, free, free, free. Just come read my website and come watch me on social media and thank you so much for being here. There is a transaction of time, but not money. Making the transition from somebody who is giving you a lot of free things in exchange for your time, now wants to give you real things in exchange for real money. Building that level of trust with a community is different. It takes a little bit of time and it takes a little bit of work.
We very intentionally built our product company knowing that it was going to take us a little while. We didn’t expect overnight success, which I think has been really crucial to us having long-term success, because we didn’t get let down, or disappointed when things didn’t explode immediately, or all these things. We slowly got to build this transactional relationship with our audience that has been really special and really cool, because there is that level of trust. I feel like the relationship has actually deepened. When it becomes a little bit more of that hard transaction versus just time for information.
It’s been really cool to witness and really cool to build. We’re in a transitional period. This is one where I told you right before our phone call like, I’m in the middle of it, so I can’t speak as an expert on how to do this thing, or the right way to do this thing, because we’re making all of the mistakes as we go and learning as best as we can, but we are growing our product company in a way that feels really authentic. It feels really well tied to the relationships we’ve already built with our community and our audience. But what’s next is to continue growing that.
For me as CEO and owner, it’s learning how to scale a product company, which I’ve never had to do before and have no experience doing. It’s learning how to manage a team of really talented, really smart, incredibly creative people and letting them do what they’re best at, instead of putting a monopoly on all parts of the business, because I’m the one that started it and it’s scary. It’s learning how to be a business owner and to make hard decisions and make fast decisions and also, hold on to the accountability of making wrong decisions. That’s what I feel like is next. It’s just learning all of the things.
[0:37:53] Nathan: That’s what’s coming.
[0:37:54] Susie: Yeah. The goal is, like you, a 100-million-dollar company. I don’t know how long it’s going to take me to get there. Hopefully not the rest of my life, but I’m ready to put the work in and put the time in, because I feel really passionate about the product that we’ve created. It’s not enough for me and this is part of it too that I think has really built the trust with our audience. It’s not enough for me to just make a product because I have an audience. I want to make the best freaking product. I want my products to have the same level of value and good, delicious things that my recipes do, so that you don’t cook a recipe and it turns out great and you buy a product you’re like, “This is garbage.” That would be such a breaking of trust to me that it would ruin my whole day.
We focus really hard on our products. We’ve won several awards for our products, because they stand up and they stand out and they’re good stuff. That takes a lot of time and a lot of focus. When you talk about groceries, that’s a big one for us. It’s adjacent to the reason that I first started the blog in the first place eight years ago was, if you walk down a store aisle that sells barbecue sauce, or barbecue seasoning, how many women-owned brands do you see on that shelf?
[0:39:15] Nathan: I think very few. Any?
[0:39:18] Susie: No. I mean, you hear Rays, Subs, Goose, Babe, all of them are dudes. They’re all dudes. It’s just like the digital landscape, or the television representation, or the public representation of women 10 years ago. We’re just behind in the product space and we shouldn’t be, because I know some really amazing women that are creating killer products and need that representation on these grocery store shelves. One of my goals is to make some space on the grocery store for women-owned barbecue sauces and seasonings. Anyway, that’s one of our big vision goals, but through the process to build out that 100-million-dollar company. If I ever make it, that would be amazing. If I don’t, hey, man, at least I tried.
[0:40:04] Nathan: And had a good time in the process.
[0:40:06] Susie: And enjoyed the process, truly.
[0:40:08] Nathan: We talk about that a lot at ConvertKit of journey over the destination and making sure that the journey is structured in a way that you’re really going to enjoy it. I think physical products of any kind feel so much more intimidating to creators than something digital. Like an e-book, totally. I know how to write, let’s blog post all of that. I know how to work with a designer to package that up and sell it. But hold on, someone’s going to ingest this? Or like, “I’m going to have to manufacture this?”
[0:40:36] Susie: Oh, oh. That’s actually terrifying. Yes, yes. We’re making a food product.
[0:40:43] Nathan: If you’re talking to someone who’s like, “Hey, I’ve got a 50,000 subscriber email list. I’m in this space. I’m about to make this leap. I understand the principles of The Billion Dollar Creator. I know that I have to build something that I have equity and I’m selling a real product, building a brand, all of that,” what would you say to them and what are some of those things that you learned early in that process of making that digital to physical leap?
[0:41:04] Susie: Oh, my gosh. I might not say anything. Not because I don’t want them to get in the space, but because if I knew all that went into it, I probably would have talked myself out of it, truly. If I knew all of the potential pitfalls, if somebody had sat me down and said, “Okay, you’re going to do this, but you gotta go in with eyes wide open. Here’s the 12 things that could go wrong. Here are the difficulties you’re going to face. You’re going to learn about cash flow and POs and unfulfilled orders and damaged shipping.” I’d be like, “Pass. I’m going to stick to e-books. Thank you.”
I don’t know. I’d probably just be like, “Best wishes. Call me when it gets hard and I’ll talk you through it.” I don’t think there’s any way to properly prepare someone for the journey of manufacturing products. Is it worth it? I would tell you, at the end of the day, “Go for it.” I would never talk you out of it. But what I’m saying is I would have talked myself out of it, because it’s just like in the early days of working for other creators and seeing from the inside like, “Oh, this is hard. It’s possible for you, but not for me, because I don’t have that skill set.” I probably would have done the exact same thing with products.
I’m glad that I didn’t have a full understanding of the scope of the work that it would take, because I was able to jump in and figure it out and just be like, “We’re in it now. We’re making it work, baby.” I’m glad that that was the attitude that I had going into it. Products for us, too, I will say, one thing before you get started is, make sure your product fills a need and don’t just make product to make product. Because even specifically in the barbecue rub and sauce space, I’ve seen a lot of creators blow up on social media and then, well, the next thing is you make a product, right? That’s just the next thing you do. But it wasn’t that anybody even really wanted it. So, their product line fizzled out after six months, because they realized how much work and how much overhead and all these things that go into it.
I’ve seen it in the food blogging space also. They were told, “If just 1% of your audience buys a product that you have online, you could make $250,000 a month. That’s crazy.” because the volume numbers were so high. Maybe nobody wanted your cheese board with tiny cheese knives, Brenda, that you just sourced and white-labeled and put your name on.
Product for the sake of product, I feel like it’s a mistake. Product with purpose and product with intent, I think, is probably the biggest piece of advice I would give. If somebody was saying, “I’m ready to make the leap. I’m ready to get into product,” I would ask them, “Okay, who’s it helping? Why?” If their answer is, “Well, because I just need a product to build out my business.” I’d be like, I’d do the same thing my husband does to me, “But why? Really, but why?”
For our rub and sauce, we actually put it off for two years longer than when we wanted to start. It finally got to the point where we were getting daily requests from our audience, because here’s a weird thing about my product, all of my recipes are available on my website. They’re not secret, or proprietary. You can cook with my sweet rub today without ever buying a bottle. But we were getting requests like, “Hey, I’m making this a gallon at a time, and I would just love to have it in my fridge, please.” Once we had those requests build up enough, we said, “I guess, we’re doing this now.”
I wanted to stay in the digital space forever. Product was not on our business trajectory at all. But we saw a need within our community and they specifically asked for it and I thought, “This is something that I can answer.” That’s how I ended up making barbecue sauces and seasonings when my recipes are available for free on the internet. Anyway, that’s what I would say. I would ask why, “Why? Why are you making product?” You can find a winning product in your space, regardless.
I think, if you take a little bit of time before you just start making something, just so that you can say you’re making something, you’ll have a better product that’ll last you more in the long run and anytime you have intent, anytime you can ask like, this is the theme we come back to, “Why? Why? Why? Why?” If you can drill down your intent and your purpose, it makes the hard days easier. It makes the hard work more worthwhile and I can tell you, when I get an email from somebody thanking me for the product that I’ve manufactured, because it made their life easier, or more delicious, or their experience better, it makes it so much more fulfilling, because it filled its purpose. That’s been the coolest part of having a product-based business is that the work equals the result, which equals that fulfillment that we get to experience. It’s really cool.
[0:45:34] Nathan: One thing that I think I’m picking up on what you’re saying is there’s people who have an audience and they’re trying to tack a product onto that. They’re basically saying, “I have this opportunity. I’ve got 100,000 people paying attention to what I do in this space. What could I sell to them?” And so, if you think about it, it’s 90% an audience and 10% a product. I think what you’re saying is – well, I mean, you’ve talked about it, right, as you introduced yourself, you’re building a product company. You’ve created an audience first. You have an audience to kickstart a product company.
But if we look long-term, I don’t know what the split is now revenue-wise, or that sort of thing. But long-term, everything about how you run the business, if I understand correctly, it’s going to be 90%, 95% product and the content is just a distribution channel.
[0:46:26] Susie: It’s going to support the product. Yeah. That’s a huge transition to make. We’re almost at that tipping point in the transition, where the product company is going to start out-earning the website. I think it might be this year. That would be really cool. If it’s not this year, it will be next year. My business today is unrecognizable to the business that I started eight years ago. It’s even unrecognizable to the business that I had five years ago, before we started manufacturing products. The change is so significant.
[0:46:59] Nathan: What are some examples of that?
[0:47:00] Susie: The focus of our entire team. I mean, we had writers and social media managers, where the whole goal was to drive people to the website to check the recipes. That entire goal has shifted.
[0:47:10] Nathan: To get ad revenue, or to get subscribers, something like that?
[0:47:15] Susie: Exactly. The goal now is to get people familiarized with our brand and familiarized with our product. Either that means that they’re going to go online and order, because they want to recreate the exact thing that they saw me cook online, or when they walk by in the grocery store, they say, “Oh, my gosh.” We get this one. This one’s also really cool, by the way. When people send us pictures from their local barbecue pro shop, or their grocery store where our products are carried. “Oh, my gosh. You’re here in my store in my tiny town in Kansas. You’re here.” To be able to have that type of experience is so cool.
They grab one of everything, because, “I’ve seen this on the internet and it’s here in real life.” It’s like those as seen on TV aisles at the checkout line, or something. It’s that same experience. Like, “I saw this on the internet and it’s real. It’s here in real life.” That’s a big way that our focus has shifted overall. The goal has shifted overall. Like I said in the very beginning, if you would have asked me a couple years ago, I would have told you I was a food blogger. That’s my business. If you ask me now, we’re building a product company in the barbecuing and grilling space.
It’s a complete identity shift. When I first started, I told people, “It’s like starting a second business,” because it was. We still had to keep the content side running at the same pace, because our content business funded our product business entirely. Unbelievable. So cool.
[0:48:50] Nathan: Yeah, you haven’t raised any outside capital, right? That’s amazing. Because what you’re doing is not cheap.
[0:48:56] Susie: No, it’s very expensive, it’s stupid.
[0:48:58] Nathan: The moment someone says, “Minimum order quantities.” People who don’t know are like, “Oh, okay. So you have to order more of something?” If you know, it’s like –
[0:49:06] Susie: Yeah. Like, “We just have to keep going?” Yeah, it is. It’s a journey for sure. But it was like two separate companies. We had to keep this content side rolling. Wow, we’re trying to build up this product company, product company, product company. Just in the last couple weeks, like I said, we’re in a transition period, we’re about to tip the scale either this year, or next year. Our focus has tipped as well to where the long-term potential lies and that really is in the product space for us. That might not be the case for everybody, but for us, I feel like that’s the future and that’s where this business has the most opportunity to grow. Because you’re going to hit ceilings no matter what.
If you’re niched down tight enough to where you can really talk to your audience directly, there’s only so many of these people that you’re going to be able to reach eventually. You know what I mean? You’re going to cap out in one way or another. Finding those avenues where there’s still potential is a big deal. Right now, that’s where we see product.
[0:50:02] Nathan: Right. How’s it been going from digital to retail? It sounds like you’re fairly early in that process. Maybe first, what’s the revenue split between online sales –
[0:50:14] Susie: I know what you meant. Yeah, yeah. Ecom versus business-to-business, wholesale, retail, all these terms that I had to Google, again, what are we talking about?
[0:50:23] Nathan: You would be going for like, “Uh-huh. Let me Google that really quick.”
[0:50:26] Susie: All the freaking time. Google and crap. Yeah, I totally know what you’re talking about. B2B, for sure. There’s so much terminology that you just don’t know until you know. I think we’re about 50-50 right now, ecom to retail. It wasn’t always that way. Some companies never will be. Some companies stay direct-to-consumer and that’s their sweet spot. For me, like I said, one of my goals is more representation in the retail space specifically, so that’s a big focus for us.
We actually have a couple of big partners that are coming on that’ll probably tip the scales for us in the next few months to where we’re pushing more wholesale and retail than we are direct-to-consumer.
[0:51:03] Nathan: An early example that inspired me to write The Billion Dollar Creator article was talking to Mark Sisson, who had his blog – who doesn’t know, Mark’s Daily Apple, early in the recipe space. Then he started Primal Kitchen, basically out of his own need. He’s like, “Hey, I want sauces. A mayonnaise, ketchup, a barbecue sauce that match this diet.” Then he ended up scaling that and eventually selling to Kraft for 200 million, I think? It was a lot.
[0:51:35] Susie: Cool.
[0:51:35] Nathan: The blog was absolutely crucial to that. He asked the question that I love, “If I have this audience and this attention, what’s the highest ROI?” He decided like, “Yeah, I can keep making 1 to 3 million dollars a year as a content creator,” which, as we’ve already established, is insane.
[0:51:58] Susie: It’s still significant and insane and ridiculous. Yes.
[0:52:02] Nathan: Yeah. But then he’s like, “Or, I could scale this brand that’s individually worth a huge amount.” But one thing that he did that I thought was absolutely brilliant and that I loved is he used his online audience a lot to give him an edge, playing the classic retail game. I’m going to get the exact retailers wrong, but as an example, he’d get early distribution in Whole Foods. They’d be like, “Okay, sure. We’ll try this out and we’ll put it on the shelf in these two stores and we’re running this test.” He would of course go into his email tool and select subscribers within 50 miles of that location and be like, “Hey, big news. We’re on the shelf here. Please, go buy it.”
Of course, it would sell out and whoever his wholesale rep was would be like, “That test went really well.” Privately he’s like, “Well, of course, it went well. I told them to buy it. I have thousands of people on this email list within that space.” He was able to expand that way because he was able to use the audience as a huge advantage, because he could have this army of people doing it. I’m curious for you, are there any times in this that the audience has turned into this unfair advantage to bridge the gap? You’ve been able to leverage the online side in a big way.
[0:53:23] Susie: We’ve seen it a lot in several spaces, and it’s been interesting how it has come to be. In some circumstances, we’ve picked up new retail partners by having our audience and our fan base go to the store owners and be like, “You need to have this here. Here’s the website. Shoot him an email.” This needs to happen. Because I want to just come in here and buy it and you guys don’t have it. We’ve picked up a ton of retail partners just by online fans going in and doing things.
[0:53:51] Nathan: You asked them to do that?
[0:53:52] Susie: “I’m sick of paying shipping.” No. It happened organically. I will tell you, we have not done a lot of dealer outreach. A lot of brands spend a lot of time messaging, chasing down, courting various dealers saying, “Carry our stuff, carry our stuff, carry our stuff.” Everybody’s come to us thus far. It’s because our audience has requested it through the store, or the store owners themselves are fans and cook my recipes and cook my stuff and especially specialty grocers, their buyers are in the space. They’re buying for this barbecue section of the store specifically. They’re already probably interested in barbecue and they’re interested in cooking.
The good news of having one of the highest traffic barbecue and grilling websites on the internet is that when you’re searching for recipes, my name comes up a lot. After a couple of exposures, you start to go, “What is this place? Why am I here again? Why do I keep finding myself in this area?” A lot of lead generation has just truly happened because people are cooking our recipes, and they’re managers over these specific segments.
[0:55:02] Nathan: I think what’s really interesting about that is that if you were to sit down with a professional in this space who’s like, “I’ve launched 14 brands over time and product companies and all that.” They would say, “This is how it works.” We would sit down with the distributors and they talk to the buyers and we have to convince these people and we have to be at these shows and here’s how it works.
[0:55:26] Susie: You go to the shows, you hire the brand reps who take a certain percentage to represent your product to all these buyers that they know and it’s an old boys club and they shake each other’s hands and they do their store visits once a month and they go out and get a beer. That’s how you get your new product into stores.
[0:55:41] Nathan: What you’re saying is, “Right, I understand that that’s how the industry worked. Instead, how about the store owners, or managers are just friends – and the buyers are just fans and we just bypass this entire old way of doing?”
[0:55:55] Susie: How about we just do it that way? Yeah. It’s been really fascinating. Because honestly, and this is a testament to how little I know. I didn’t know how to get retailers to carry my stuff. I didn’t know the system. I didn’t know the process. I just knew a couple of barbecue store owners on my own that I had met, because I shopped there and I was like, “Hey, we’re coming out with products. Would you guys want some?” They were like, “Okay.” They placed an order and we were like, “Cool. I guess that’s how that works.” Then we did that a few times, until people would message just and be like, “Hey, I saw you were in this barbecue pit stop. Can we get your stuff?” I was like, “Oh, sure. I guess, yes. That would be lovely.”
We just had no concept at all of how it was supposed to work, so we just went with what was working and the experiences that we had. That has been true for us for national retail partners. Now we have great national partners. One of my favorite stories ever of how we ended up in – I don’t know if you’re familiar with Buc-ee’s. It’s a chain throughout Texas and the south. All of our rubs and stuff are in Buc-ee’s now. We just happened to know the head buyer of the barbecue thing and we didn’t know that’s really who he was, or what he did. We just ended up at a couple of events together in the barbecue and grilling space and world and we knew him. We were on a first-name basis.
He was cooking on our friend’s team one time. That funny guy, and I had been cooking on a whole hog team in Memphis and May. I got hog injection all over my feet and my shoes and I was supposed to be on a phone call with a brand. I sat down covered in hog injection, and my husband grabbed a water bottle while I’m on a work call and he starts washing it off of my feet before it becomes dust encrusted and attached to me as a part of my body.
This guy that we had known and we’d met a couple times walked by, flops down next to me, takes off his shoes, Todd starts washing his feet and they ended up in this silly bro hug at the end and he was like, “You just washed my feet, man.” He was like, “Well, you put your feet out there.” Two weeks later, we had a PO from Buc-ee’s. It’s business the way that business used to be done. It’s a totally different landscape I feel like now with the creator space existing and these audiences demanding products in a way that just didn’t exist before. We have no idea what we’re doing, or why it’s working, but we’re just going to keep doing it, because we’re moving in the right direction.
[0:58:32] Nathan: Yeah. Oh, I love that. The landscape has changed in so many ways. Are there other companies, or individual founders that you look to as inspiration, like, “Okay, I’m trying to copy that model,” either in the barbecue space, or especially around the web who have done this really well?
[0:58:50] Susie: What’s really cool about the barbecue space, specifically, and I mentioned this a little bit earlier is that barbecue family. I have not asked anybody for advice that has turned me down. These are people running multiple seven figures of product sales a year at this point with the goal to grow to eight figures, nine figures, same goals as we have. Nobody has ever been anything but willing to sit down and give me the time. There’s a guy named Heath Riles and he’s absolutely phenomenal. He has a huge sales background. When it came to actually talking about retail stuff, he’s like, “I’ll tell you everything I know.”
There’s another guy, Cosmos Cue, that is prolific in the e-commerce space and the ad buying space and he’s like, “Yeah, let’s sit down. Let’s talk for a couple hours.” Everybody’s been so willing to give us that time. That’s been super huge for us. We saw the same thing in the food blogging space. I have a group of food blogging women that did the same thing, that opened the curtain a little bit and said, “Look back here. Here’s what’s possible.” It was huge for me growing my food blog to that space. Yeah, I think both those guys in the barbecue space are huge. As far as entrepreneurs in the wider scale that I look up to, man, I feel like there’s so many. I’m a consumer of books. If they’ve written a book, or an audiobook either it’s sitting on my nightstand, or it’s in my bookshelf. I’m constantly trying to learn and it was initially, how to be a digital content creator, how to shoot video that doesn’t suck, how to all these things. Now, it’s how to build a business and how to scale a business and how to run a business.
My reading has shifted a little bit over the years. But anyway, I don’t know. I’m always grateful to anyone that’s willing to put their knowledge down on paper and share what they’ve learned so that other people can get their feet underneath them a little bit, because it’s been super helpful to me.
[1:00:47] Nathan: Yeah, I love it. Especially when people share real numbers. That’s been such a big thing, because then you can find out how people are going in this journey, what actually works. Oh, there’s an opportunity to sell a blog for a million dollars, or build something to a million dollars a year, or beyond that. The last thing I’m curious about is, in your own goals of building something so much bigger, do you get push back from other people of like, “That’s too big of a goal”? I’ve gotten some pushback from people, where they’re like, “Why aren’t you satisfied with what you have?” Or I felt this idea of, “I don’t know, should I even push it to that level?” Even though it’s core to who I am. I think a lot of creators are like, “I’m really happy with this and I want to grow at 10X, or a 100X, and I think I can,” but they feel really awkward talking about it. I’m curious how you’ve addressed that.
[1:01:41] Susie: I think a lot of it is personality. Some people prefer to make their moves in silence a little bit. I think it’s twofold. There’s less fear associated with it. If they don’t meet it, then they didn’t disappoint anybody. Additionally, you don’t get any kickback. You can just do what you want at your own pace and there’s no feedback. Then there are other people that I think really value, like you said, they like knowing other people’s numbers. They like having that open dialogue and that open conversation.
I don’t think there’s a right or a wrong answer that way. I think you get to choose your own comfort level. I don’t know. I’ve always been pretty open about where I’m going and what I want to do. One of the greatest blessings of my life has been being surrounded by people who also have big dreams and big goals. Not only are they not shocked by what I say, they’re like, “Oh, you can. Totally, 100%.” It’s like, when at very first, my husband was like, “I think you can do it,” that was my first dip in the toe in the water to see what was possible. We did get some pushback initially when he quit his job, like I said, he’d been in corporate accounting for a decade. That’s what his licensing was in. That’s what his college career was in and his dad literally was like, “Are you an idiot? You have to be a real idiot to do this.”
We’ve won him over. But it took my husband pulling out a bank statement and showing him, “This is how much she’s earning and you want me to stay in an office eight hours a day for what?” We had to have some conversations like that. By and large, I really do think that I have been so fortunate to be surrounded by people who share that same sense of vision and drive. One of my best friends is a food blogger and she’s unlocking the boss level. It’s just like a Mario game when you were a kid. You beat one level and it’s like, we gotta to beat the next level. It’s gamifying the process. It’s enjoying the journey. It’s loving the work that it is.
The destination, like, why would you spend hours beating a video game? Because it’s fun. It almost loses that tangible value. But the process itself is so enjoyable. Unlocking that next accomplishment is so enjoyable, so that’s a real motivating factor for me. Also, I don’t know, maybe it’s my personality. Maybe it’s the way that I say things, but very rarely do I get pushback from people on anything, because I will look you in the eye and I’ll tell you, “This is what I’m doing.” Maybe there’s just not a lot of room for people to question that. But I haven’t had to deal with a lot of sexism. I haven’t had to deal with a lot of misogyny and maybe it’s happening behind my back, but people aren’t saying that to my face, because I don’t think they’d want to see what would happen if they did.
Even though I’m nice, I have a scary face. I hear it all the time like, “Ooh, you’re intimidating.” I think when you know what you want, it is intimidating to people. Maybe that’s why I’m considered terrifyingly driven, because it’s not common to see that drive on display and it can be a little bit alarming to people when we’re used to being told to play small, or to be reserved and quiet.
[1:05:03] Nathan: I love it. The moment that Haley on the ConvertKit team ,who you’ve known for a while, introduced us, I was like, “Oh, we’re going to be friends.” Just that level of ambition and then a clear methodical process to get there. We don’t know all the steps that it’s going to take, but we know the next two or three steps and we’ll learn more as it goes. Yeah, thank you so much for sharing all of this and I’m really excited to see how you build it.
[1:05:36] Susie: Hey, man. Me too.
[1:05:39] Nathan: Where should people go to buy your product?
[1:05:41] SB: You can find us at heygrillhey.com. We have over 600 barbecue and grilling recipes to help you cook better barbecue at home. But we also have The Grill Squad, which like I said, is my online barbecue community. If you’re ready to take things to the next level and you want to really dive in, we have 12 different classes to help you cook better food at home. Also, there’s an apron when you join. We’ll send you an apron with patches. As you take the classes and pass them off and post about them in our group, we’ll send you a new patch. It’s like barbecue boy scouts. It’s the funnest thing ever.
[1:06:14] Nathan: I love it.
[1:06:15] Susie: Then we have our line of barbecue seasonings and sauces. This year’s been really fun. We’re rolling out limited edition seasonal kits. Right now, we have a ham kit for your Easter hams. We do turkey kits around Thanksgiving time. We’re going to do some gift kits that are available for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. We have a wing kit that I am very excited about for a smoke fried wings. Anyway, so lots of fun stuff happening all of the time.
[1:06:43] NB: I love it. Well, Susie, thanks so much for coming on.
[1:06:46] SB: Yeah, thanks for having me.