Aside from her passion for food, Jennifer Lam has a knack for telling brands’ stories.
Back in the day of weblogs, Jennifer noticed that her food recommendations were highly sought after. So she created I Ate My Way Through. Today, the site has over 15 contributors and is a go-to destination for everything food and travel. Apart from blogging, Jennifer is also the founder of The Bamboo Garden, a digital agency that helps small businesses succeed online.
Read on to discover this Australian entrepreneur’s top tips for aspiring founders. Don’t forget to check out her page and learn more about her company.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m passionate about the power of digital and its ability to connect people and enrich lives. I’ve been blogging since 2006 and I’m always humbled by the diverse reach of the I Ate My Way Through community. I love learning about why people start businesses and helping them to tell their brand story. I made this my full-time focus in 2009 and at the same time, started another business — The Bamboo Garden online marketing & PR agency — and I haven’t looked back! I believe in celebrating creativity and ideas, and conserving cultural traditions and artisan techniques.
You run an awesome blog, I Ate My Way Through. What inspired you to start it?
I started blogging at a time where blogs were called weblogs – my blog was literally that, a web log of my eating adventures! I had just started working so all my of disposable income went into food and I quickly became the go-to person on where people should eat! This was before Facebook, so back then, I used to share food recommendations with my family and friends via my camera (physically pulling it out of my handbag to show them food photos!), instant messenger and email. The blog made it easy for me to write about it once, and send it out to multiple people.
You mentioned that you rebranded your award-winning food blog. What led to this decision and how did it impact your online brand?
A few years into blogging, friends of friends and my readers would email me asking to take them out to the places that I was writing about, so I Ate My Way Through food tours was born. For a while, it made sense to keep my personal food blog ‘Jenius’ separate but I was later struggling to keep up as there were so many new restaurants opening all the time, and so much of the world to cover! I decided to park ‘Jenius’ and grow I Ate My Way Through as an online destination for all things food/travel, and I opened it up to contributors. This was 3 years ago – we now have a team of over 15 contributors and we’ve been able to produce so many more stories, events and tours than if I had been doing it myself.
You also founded an online marketing and PR agency, The Bamboo Garden, what prompted that venture?
A lot of people really struggle to make sense of online media but my team and I have an innate ability to help brands to craft their brand story into engaging conversations and content. I think it’s really magical when you can partner a skill and passion with a market need/opportunity. When we sign on a new client, it always feels like such a privilege that they’ve chosen us to help them to tell their story and grow their business.
The first client is sometimes the most challenging to get. How did you go about getting your first client at The Bamboo Garden?
Someone reading my blog thought my passion and personality would be a good fit to host a series of cooking demonstrations at a food festival that they were sponsoring. After a successful few days, we were talking about their online presence and a lightbulb went off in my head when I found out that they needed a new website and social media management. The demand was there so I naturally leapt at the opportunity.
What’s your top tip for businesses that want to stand out in the digital or social realm?
Stay true to what you stand for as a brand and the value that you can add to your customers. Businesses wouldn’t exist without their customers so we’re always looking at how we can surprise and delight.
What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made as an entrepreneur and what did you learn from it?
I ended up in a fair amount of tax debt early on in business because I took poor accounting advice and didn’t understand my numbers. I’ve learned that in business, cashflow is everything and I now look at my figures on a weekly, monthly, quarterly and yearly basis.
What are your three tips for aspiring entrepreneurs in the online space?
Know your why – the online space is pretty saturated so it’s important to identify why you’re doing it, what your unique selling proposition is, and always come back to this when you’re stuck at crossroads
Don’t be afraid to reach out to other people in the industry to pick their brain – be specific about what you need, don’t take up too much time, and always see how you can help them in return. Is there someone you can introduce them to?
Constantly innovate, never get complacent.