Start-ups, Food, and and Another 48 hours
Chattanooga, TN has a burgeoning foodie culture and its residents are crying for local food options. Let’s Get Foodie was a website geared toward navigating restaurants from the Chattanooga area. Let’s Get Foodie stemmed from an outcry from the local audience. The audience that begged for local, organic, healthy food, yet living in the South, can be hard to come by in many local eating establishments. Let’s Get Foodie documented the journey eating out in the local area. The crew would visit local restaurants, events, street food vendors, and report back the healthy options we have in Chattanooga. My involvement with Let’s Get Foodie ended in August of 2012, here is how it all started:
In 2011, two of my social media contacts had a small idea to create a food blog in the Chattanooga area. We quickly talked about me coming on board to create the website and provide Internet marketing for their idea. I put up the first website in August 2011 within a few hours, photographs would soon be featured on the Today Show and they wanted the proper venue to showcase them. Let’s Get Foodie was born.
The initial site needed a lot of work, but again our first restaurant review was shortly after. I came up with the idea to have promotional contests centered around each post, as in gift certificates to further highlight the food we reviewed. Our first post had over 25 comments within the first 20 minutes all competing for a $25 gift card for a date night, and over 800 hits to that one post. I posed the question, “Why do you need a date night?” It was an instant hit with 75 comments and entries within the first 24 hours.
My goal was to create a concept of bringing the readers into our experience, so they could in turn, share their experience. The winner of our first post returned the favor and wrote for us about her experience, dining, and winning the contest. My idea and concepts for growing Let’s Get Foodie were growing at faster rate than even I expected.
As the idea grew, my thoughts and concerns were aligned with the business end of details. We had no formal roles defined, nor business goals set. To some it may have been seen as a hobby or a way to get free food, to me, it was an exciting project that I could work my online magic. My vision was to create not just another food blog that reviewed restaurants, but an online food culture magazine that would encompass the local burgeoning foodie culture in the Chattanooga area. Through our team of 3, we offered professional photography, copywriting, and social media while testing out the local flavor offering readers a review of our dining experience.
During the 9 months of the project, I continually leveraged my personal brand online to gain press coverage, radio interviews, secured interviews with prominent celebrity chefs, restaurateurs, and to provide coverage for local food related events including Taste of Chattanooga in 2011, and the only local food blog to cover the The Tennessee Aquarium’s Serve & Protect sustainable seafood initiative with Chef Alton Brown in 2011. Our mission was to also cover smaller local flavor establishments that needed a boost in revenue.
We grew the Facebook community to well over 400+ within a few months. I facilitated, moderated and engaged online social media communities, created WordPress web site, web site copy, edited photos, you name it, while creating a widely active social media presence. I also used Google Analytics to measure increase online traffic for returning visitor loyalty & monitor trends, devised content for marketing materials, designed and analyzed marketing programs and executed widely successful contests, giveaways, and promotions within the social media platform guidelines.
During this, I wanted to incorporate some ideas I’d had as far as design and content issues. But never had the time for the massive rework that I had in mind. I wanted to do a website rework, create marketing and media materials, and create a viable business model for revenue so we could create a larger scale impact on the Chattanooga foodie scene.
Also, all our expenses have been coming out of pocket for dining, hosting the web site, and let alone the time to promote this endeavor and those businesses we reviewed. It was getting expensive to maintain the project so I begged at the chance to create a sustainable model to help us along further. Besides, it was extremely hard to continue going out and promote these local restaurants with nothing in return let alone thank you for our time, hard work and my promotion skills online, so I really wanted to take this idea further. So, I decided to take the project to 48-hour launch in Spring of 2011, this time around seemed like the best time to collaborate with other like minded entrepreneurs work on those ideas.
The night started out with a bang, I immediately got to work on the website from re-editing pictures, applying SEO, working categories, to reworking and editing content and options for revenue such as pay per click ads, affiliates, and sponsored posts. Saturday, I received some of the best advice from 3 separate individuals.
I had worked for hours on the marketing and media package when we had locals like Doug Brock, that offered some invaluable business and marketing insight, which brought the ideas I had, to another unexpected level. We worked on a business/marketing concept that would blow your mind. Later that day, others stopped by to offer some techniques for working with the large images, layout advice for the content on the blog. It was a long weekend but worth the time, effort, and hard work because of the lessons I learned.
In the end, I decided to not pitch the idea at the 48 hour launch. I felt as if the idea needed a stronger more viable revenue model, and more work, before we sought any type of advertising dollars or sponsored posts from businesses.
The others involved in the project weren’t there for the event and showed no desire to show up for support, so it was extremely hard without group input. I learned a really big lesson in it all though. As an entrepreneur at heart, I see potential in idea such as this and want to run with it. However, when you have others involved, it can be hard to move forward without setting everything up correctly from the beginning.
Also when working with clients or groups the best design or layout advice may still not be what they want so you make changes despite your personal tastes and what is best from a design standpoint in order to please the client. Which is why a business plan, contracts, and communication when beginning any start-up venture or marketing plan are important. That way, everyone involved knows what to expect, and things are less likely to get messy with who contributed to what, one person doesn’t feel as if they are taking on additional roles, and because designers or marketers can only do so much without knowing what the clients goals are to begin with.
Communication is vital to any friendship, business, and client relationship. If we would have sat down in the beginning, as I suggested, I feel as if we could have accomplished more in 48-hours and who knows, maybe have pitched the idea in the end? As for the Let’s Get Foodie project, I did not continue on as part of the magic, shortly after I stepped down from my role.
My initial thoughts afterwards, if the crew doesn’t set priorities and goals now in order to continue on, we are only as good as the 48 hours that past.
All in all, it was a huge learning experience because it was both a success and a failure. It showed me I could indeed create an active and engaged audience online through promotions, contests throughout social networking accounts, and forge new ideas to create a large email marketing database. It also showed me how collaborating or communicating with clients, friends, or in business, the importance of setting goals and priorities before ever working on a project. And to not just dive in hoping it “works”.
How was it a failure and a success? I’d love to tell you even more details about it. Feel free to contact me: email@example.com
The Let’s Get Foodie web site was taken down August 2012, but there is still media that lingers online: