Jun 27, 2018
Today my guest is Laura Fuentes creator of MOMables, food plans to moms. Our discussion was all about how to start a business by solving a problem for moms, and I thought the interview was so good, I didn't want to cut anything out. So I've split it into 2 parts.
Part 1 is about how Laura has worked hard to build a community of like-minded moms by creating content they will enjoy, and Part 2 is about how she sells to them.
I think you're going to be impressed with how Laura has turned herself into a YouTuube influencer, that her community trusts.
[00:00:03] Welcome to the Blogger Genius podcast brought to you by MiloTree. Here's your host, Jillian Leslie.
Jillian: [00:00:12] Hello everybody. Welcome back to the show. I'm recording this intro in my new city of Austin, Texas. I'm recording it in my Airbnb, so it sounds kind of echoey but the interview will sound much better today.
Jillian: [00:00:40] My guest is my friend, Laura Fuentes. The interview went long, so I am splitting this one into two parts because I think it is that good.
Jillian: [00:00:46] Let me tell you a little bit about Laura, where she is the creator of momables.com. She sells food plans to families to help them eat healthier, fresh foods.
Jillian: [00:00:55] She's a cookbook writer. She is a YouTuber, she's been on TV shows like Good Morning America. I think you're going to really like this. So here is Part 1.
Jillian: [00:01:04] So welcome to the show, Laura.
Laura: [00:01:06] Thanks so much. I'm so excited to be here with you. I am a listener of your podcast. I love how helpful your emails that you send out are, you know I'm a fan.
Laura: [00:01:16] So what am I going to say. The ones are listening it is such a pleasure to be here.
Jillian: [00:01:19] Yes. And OK so we met as I said yep gosh maybe four years ago, and I went to your session, you did a session on email and I was blown away by what you were doing.
Jillian: [00:01:31] And I went up to you. We started talking and we became friends, and then we've seen each other I guess at other conferences and we're going to be at a conference together.
Jillian: [00:01:38] Mom 2.0 very soon so we'll get to hang out IRL. So will you share your journey and how you started creating recipes food plans all of that?
Laura: [00:01:51] Sure. So in the blogging age, I'm a dinosaur, seems like nine years ago now I started with a personal blog. It wasn't really even what we see today at momables.com or LauraFuentes.com.
Laura: [00:02:08] I really started blogging because after I came to the south for my MBA, I married a southern man. I live right outside of New Orleans, and my whole family is in Spain. I was born and raised in Spain and my mom was in California.
Laura: [00:02:23] And you know like we used to have these megapixel phones that took photos, and like my mom wanted me to share all the things that we were doing, and I just found it so tedious to tell my mom the things that we were doing, and my aunt and my friends.
[00:02:40] I was a newish mom at the time, and a friend of mine said, Why don't you start a blog? And I'm like, What is that?
Laura: [00:02:47] And she's like a blog is really just like a website, but instead of sending everybody an email with things that you're doing, or your mom, she's like you can just put it out there. It's called a blog post and you can put the pictures in the post and you basically say shared this story for everyone to read.
Laura: [00:03:04] So you don't have to customize an email to your mom and your aunt and your friends. And I was like wow that's brilliant. Right? Because moms didn't have a lot of time. So actually if you go to my blog, years ago, I still have old blog posts where the pictures are a tiny tiny tiny.
Laura: [00:03:21] And you know this was before DSLR cameras and stuff, so I started really just by sharing what I was doing with my family, and my mom wanted to know the recipes that were working for me, and the things that I was trying. So I started putting all that on the internet and on my blog.
Laura: [00:03:43] And I found out that at the time, you know nine years ago, eight years ago, you know there was no Pinterest, it was Facebook, and it was really in its infancy. People weren't sharing and consuming content like they are now.
Laura: [00:03:56] So the posts that I shared recipes that my kids enjoyed, or school lunches, or you know the things that were working. It really resonated with people and people started coming to me as a resource.
Laura: [00:04:08] So it really started shifting towards the documenting of my life into a place where I could just I realized that I had this creativity with food. And I could help other people make fresh meals possible for their family.
Jillian: [00:04:23] So you started this just for your family and then were other people coming to your blog? Were you surprised?
Laura: [00:04:30] Yeah I mean, we had the early Google you know I was one of the few people that shared a healthy school lunches.
Laura: [00:04:36] And my school lunch idea was, you know, and I am super practical by nature so of course like when I wrote something or created something it was all about, OK it's not just a recipe but it was like, "How do you pack it so it doesn't get soggy in a lunchbox?" "How do you store it for later?" "How do you prep ahead?"
Laura: [00:04:55] So I would answer all those questions even how to boil an egg, you know. I think that's sort of what defined my type of content. And then started creating later on, more strategically but really being a helpful resource of how to make it happen when you're a really busy parent.
Jillian: [00:05:17] How many kids do you have?
Laura: [00:05:19] So I have three kids. Currently they are 6, 10 and almost 12.
Jillian: [00:05:23] OK got it. So you were solving your own problem and then sharing about it.
Laura: [00:05:28] Exactly. And what happens when you do that is you actually really connect with people that are like-minded. I don't try to appeal to the masses. I try to appeal to people that are going through what I was going through and and still am in the world of parenting.
Laura: [00:05:46] And that's really how I realized and I connected with people and then we know as we've evolved I really created a whole business of sharing my ideas with momables, cookbooks, video, like all that stuff. At the the end of the day I really love connecting with this community that I built over email.
Jillian: [00:06:11] OK. So you start emailing, you start blogging about food and about being a mom and how to kind of solve the food issue. As a mom with kids.
Laura: [00:06:24] Picky eaters.
Jillian: [00:06:25] I have a picky eater so I so relate. You know, literally I will still to this day go, "I don't know what to make you because you are a picky eater."
Jillian: [00:06:37] So then how did you start to think about this as a business, like you ultimately make most of your money via meal plans.
Laura: [00:06:49] Right. So yes. So I started thinking about scaling what I knew. So if you don't know me very well. You're listening. My background is really on strategic like strategy global economics.
Laura: [00:07:04] I think about scaling and you know if you were a blogger and you're listening you know that you start very passionately about something and then, it's almost like your life and your time gets consumed with creating and promoting your content.
Laura: [00:07:20] And then you begin to think about, "my time is worth something" right and I need to figure out how to make money out of this.
Laura: [00:07:31] And ad revenue was really in its infancy and I didn't really have like millions of page views at the time that would really make a significant impact in the revenue that I was bringing in. So I had to think about it I was like, "How can it create something that solves the problem that my community has that I can be authentic relatable helpful and make money."
Jillian: [00:08:01] Love it.
[00:08:02] So that's where the meal plans were originally born and my original meal plans were just school lunches. I solved the what to pack for lunch.
Jillian: [00:08:13] I need you. Okay. And then, so you started you created let's say a prototype or a template or something, and you started putting it out on your blog and saying, hey guys if you want to buy this?
Laura: [00:08:28] Yup, I learned really quickly that if you don't ask no one will buy. But I also had to learn how to create the ask.
Laura: [00:08:42] I knew that on social media people would share my content. So I started creating content around the meal planning and solving problems. I started creating content that would attract the kind of customer that was seeking.
Laura: [00:08:57] So this is a really early say 2012-2013 before I think I might have just gotten a Facebook page at the time and it would be definitely before Instagram and Pinterest. So I knew that it was up to me to think about content in a way that people would share it.
Laura: [00:09:19] But then I thought okay it's great that people share it but I can't put a Facebook post that says, "Hey buy my plans!" People are like "that's spammy." You know so I knew that building a relationship with people was key.
Laura: [00:09:33] So about a year earlier I started really studying online marketing and I realized that bloggers or content creators. I wouldn't even say bloggers, like really content creators of all walks and niches, they really weren't focusing on email strategy.
Laura: [00:09:53] They were just like in the days when we had RSS feeds, Feedly, you know. People felt that their content was so good that people would just come to their blog, or maybe subscribe to their feed. But I just thought gosh, that is just such a passive way of like, "Oh if you like it, grab it grab the feed."
Laura: [00:10:23] But the reality is that the readers at the time, like they weren't so educated in how to do all that right. And I knew that there was one thing that would never go away. That's email.
Laura: [00:10:34] I wake up in the morning at 5:00 a.m. or 5:30 I check my email. I sort my inbox. I mean I've been doing that for years so I knew that my customer avatar or people that I wanted to attract really primarily gather their information sorted their inboxes subscribe to things you know.
Laura: [00:10:53] And I remember people telling me like OK so you're capturing their email and now what? And I'm like oh my gosh, that's my opportunity to build a relationship with these people via email every single week via newsletter.
Laura: [00:11:07] So that's, you met me four years ago. You know probably a few years in speaking about how to create that newsletter that people would want to open and read. So I had already been doing that for about four years.
Laura: [00:11:21] I've been sending out a newsletter on Sunday nights at 8:00 p.m. Central for the last seven years now.
Jillian: [00:11:30] Yes. In fact you opened my eyes to email marketing, email funnels and I was blown away when you talked about it, because it was so intentional. And it was so not spammy. It was going to provide value.
Jillian: [00:11:47] And if you like it buy my product. If you don't just come along for the ride.
Laura: [00:11:52] Totally and that's what you want. You know you want to build a relationship that people see you as a resource a trustworthy person.
Laura: [00:12:03] And sometimes they're not buyers. I have customers who I've had on my list for like five or six years when they just had babies and they wanted to eat healthier themselves, and now their kids five years later are going to school and now they're buying my meal plans.
Laura: [00:12:16] Right. So it's really not about that instant sale. I would rather have a community of engaged people that are like-minded. That also finds the rest of my content that I produce that it's free helpful and they're going to share that online with their network and therefore attract other parents who might be at the right time to purchase my meal plans or any of my other programs.
Jillian: [00:12:42] So in your newsletter what do you write every week?
Laura: [00:12:47] So in my newsletter I write a personal story about my life. The person that I am, what happened that week, my traveling, How did I pull it together to jump on a plane and still left my family with food. You know it's basically an email from me to a friend.
Laura: [00:13:10] And I literally write an email I know it goes out to thousands of people but I imagine that I'm just writing to one person.
Jillian: [00:13:34] Oooh. yes. And do you always put a recipe in your newsletter?
Laura: [00:13:43] So I do it a bit differently now that I used to but my newsletter is built around the new content of the week. So whatever items were published Monday through Friday that week go in my newsletter.
Jillian: [00:13:56] Okay. And one thing we haven't touched on is you create amazing video.
Laura: [00:14:01] I love video production.
Jillian: [00:14:05] Yeah, and like you have your own studio that you built. And you like you have this amazing process where you like have a team come in and shoot a bunch of video a bunch of recipes, and this is how you also work with brands. Right. Which is you'll create video for brands.
Jillian: [00:14:22] We'll come back to to your newsletter and to your email strategy. But could you just quickly talk about that. Like how many videos a week are you making?
Laura: [00:14:30] So my newsletter includes no only blog posts but it also includes video content that I release every week.
Laura: [00:14:36] So I've made a commitment to release a new video every single week. I've been doing that for three years. So since Fall 2014 I believe.
Jillian: [00:14:52] And are these always recipes?
Laura: [00:14:54] They are mostly recipes. So what happens is that I taught myself how to cook and you know I feel like cooking is something that anyone can do. If you have a good process and recipe.
Laura: [00:15:07] So back in 2014 I realized that video was the direction that people were consuming content. This is really early on and of course look at where we are today.
Laura: [00:15:22] And so I had never been in front of a camera in my life and I competed on Food Network that year.
Jillian: [00:15:30] In what?
Laura: [00:15:32] And won!
Jillian: [00:15:34] What show?
Laura: [00:15:35] Oh it was called Rewrapped. So it was a show at the time recreating recipes. You know you just showed up and you had to recreate a popular snack item or something from the grocery store. Right.
Jillian: [00:15:48] OK. What did you recreate?
Laura: [00:15:55] I recreated this old snack called cheese wise/wise cheese. I can't even remember the name of this thing. But it's like these cheesy waffle things.
Laura: [00:16:05] And you know what's interesting about that is that it's not even winning or creative, I honestly learned that I could create on my feet and I was really good at it.
Laura: [00:16:21] And then that I could do video and I had never been in front of a video camera in my life. I was never the person. I'm not like my kids who have grown up with like mom holding the phone. So it just taught me that I could do it.
Laura: [00:16:34] And I was very raw, not very good. Some days I want to take down my old videos on YouTube but you know we all have to start somewhere and it just helps you polish your craft.
Laura: [00:16:50] So I started doing video and now I create. I released one video a week sometimes two sometimes they're sponsored sometimes they are not sponsored. Most of the time they're not.
Laura: [00:17:04] And I do anything from cooking to the lifestyle of living a fresh lifestyle. You know what that looks like. A lot of it is meal prep is really the things that interest my audience.
Laura: [00:17:22] But I don't shoot every week. I do one video production day or two a month and we produce six to seven videos per day to be up to 10. But it's crazy. So 6 to 7 is like a good number.
Jillian: [00:17:35] And how big is your team when they come in and work with you to create all these videos.
Laura: [00:17:40] Yeah it really depends on the project. It used to be one video person. Sometimes two cameras. We now have technology that really has helped cut that down. So now it's one video guy and myself. So it's a two man team.
Laura: [00:17:59] And then I have a part time assistant that will be here on video day just to you know swap the food, pick up, basically transition from one video to the next while I'm producing the video with the video guy. So extremely barebones.
Jillian: [00:18:26] OK how long does it take to shoot one video?
Laura: [00:18:29] On average about an hour ish. It really depends on the recipe. Sometimes we have like the banana bread it's like 50 minutes in the oven. So what I do is I just put that banana bread in the oven and move on to the next video and then I come back to it.
Laura: [00:18:42] But I pre-produce everything, so the key is in the production part of it. In your organization. I don't just go like, "I think I'll shoot a video today."
Laura: [00:18:52] We've really been planning, video day is an investment in my brand because it costs money, a lot. So I also have pre-production days so I outline a script, I read the piece through and through. I know exactly what we're doing. I measure some ingredients you know.
Laura: [00:19:12] So a lot of this is really streamlined.
Jillian: [00:19:16] Yes. And then who's editing the video?
Laura: [00:19:19] The production company my production notes are basically, as my guys call it, like editing on paper. So I edit on paper and then they do all the editing on the computer.
Jillian: [00:19:35] And then this ultimately lives on YouTube? Is that right?
Laura: [00:19:41] Yes, on YouTube.
Jillian: [00:19:41] And then you will repurpose this on your blog and then send this content out in your newsletter?
Laura: [00:19:47] Yes. So I create video, the long form, like that three to five minute videos or whatever they get embedded on a blog post and then the post gets promoted in my newsletter.
Jillian: [00:20:03] Got it.
Laura: [00:20:04] As well as on site online on social media. But my driver of traffic is my newsletter for sure.
Jillian: [00:20:12] Wow. So you monetize working with brands, and selling meal plans, and cookbooks.
Laura: [00:20:22] Yes although my cookbooks are published by a traditional publisher so if anybody knows, I mean, after the first 10,000 copies I probably make a dollar per book.
Laura: [00:20:35] Cookbook authors, they really don't make a lot. But I like my cookbooks because they're all my favorite things in one place. And it's nice to have.
Jillian: [00:20:44] And also they give you credibility.
Laura: [00:20:46] Yes. So. Yes. Thank you. I'm I not a traditional chef or trained cook. I am self-taught in every aspect so I felt like a cookbook would provide me with credibility over an area like family food.
Laura: [00:21:05] And now I'm releasing my fourth cookbook in August and it's called the Taco Tuesday Cookbook. Because I love tacos. And so again it's all my favorite things in one place.
Jillian: [00:21:18] So you are, like what you've done so well is created a brand around a lifestyle, but you're also, I would say relatable that you recognize this isn't perfect.
Jillian: [00:21:35] Like you can aspire to this perfect lifestyle but like you're not living it. You're trying to live it.
Laura: [00:21:41] Oh no, it's so messy. I mean it's so messy. And that's one thing that you have to sort of accept. If you go on my Instagram feed. It's not planned. It's not all the same filter.
Laura: [00:22:00] I don't do the things, maybe that's why I don't grow as fast? I don't know. But like I don't do those things. I do me, and I do me really well because no one else can do me.
Laura: [00:22:14] And I think that's something that when people start out yes, you have to mimic what other people are doing. But you have to do you in all things of your own your life because it's the only way that you're going to be able to stick with it long enough to A. see success, whatever that may mean to you and B.actually monetize.
Laura: [00:22:34] You know, you've got to be you.
Jillian: [00:22:37] I agree. I absolutely agree. And I think that you are really good at that. I mean you just said it. But it's true. I feel like I know you based on your newsletters.
Jillian: [00:22:49] I mean I know you in real life but you're not that different.
Laura: [00:22:54] Yeah, I just I want people to read my newsletter and go, "Oh thank God she had a shitty week last week," or you know or she didn't keep it together. She went to Chick Fil A this week.
Laura: [00:23:09] You know, I try to kind of talk about the "How does she do it" in my newsletters. Because people wonder, like how do you run a full time business? How did you get there? You know I'm going to be talking more about that.
Laura: [00:23:23] But like how do you cook? I cook every night of the week unless we're up at my parents eating dinner or are my in-laws. We have family meal every night and that's a priority for me.
Laura: [00:23:37] So I also work really hard to relate to people who are who have struggles that I may not be struggling but I can acknowledge that they're struggling in that area.
Laura: [00:23:49] So I'm 100 percent honest like, you know what, Jillian, I know what really helps is to pay attention to your life when you can make your life the best life for you, as opposed to live your life through what other people are doing online and try to mimic in their life.
Laura: [00:24:08] Because I honestly don't have time to keep up with the Joneses. You know I don't really care what big bloggers doing and what this other blogger is doing.
Laura: [00:24:16] You know a lot of times people come to me and they're like, "Did you see all the bloggers copying what you doing?" and I'm like you know what, good for them they're doing them. You know, they're doing their thing.
Laura: [00:24:24] Like I know what I have is really special to me and to my community. And so I do me.
Jillian: [00:24:33] I love that.
Jillian: [00:24:35] That's the end of Part One. Isn't Laura great? In part two of the show we go into how she sells her meal plans using her email list. It's really good.
Jillian: [00:24:46] Please come back and if you're trying to grow your social media followers and your email list definitely check out MiloTree.com. It's the app we built.
Jillian: [00:24:59] It's growing our social media followers on Catch My Party like crazy. Definitely try it out.
[00:25:03] You get 30 days free. You install it on your site. We have a WordPress plugin. We are GDP compliant. We are Google friendly. We are non-invasive but noticeable.
[00:25:15] It will really work. So try it out. You have any questions. Just reach out to me and we'll be back next week with part 2.