When Jaden Hair was growing up, her mother was always busy cooking up something great in the kitchen. Jaden, however, would avoid the room at all costs, lest she be tasked with a chore like washing vegetables or doing the dishes.
Fast forward to today and the kitchen is one of the places that you’re most likely to find Jaden. Through her website Steamy Kitchen, she has developed a passion for cooking that has turned into a successful business that she runs along with her husband and two sons.
Over the years, Steamy Kitchen has helped introduced its thousands of readers to the world of Asian cuisine by making it much more accessible.
“My audience loves Asian food but they’re a little intimidated by all the different ingredients and all the different cooking techniques,” Jaden explains. “What I do is break down the recipes to make it so simple that you can cook it for dinner tonight.”
Over the past 8 years, the easy-to-follow format of Steamy Kitchen has amassed a large enough audience that Jaden and her husband, Scott, are able to focus on the blog as their full-time jobs; but that doesn’t mean they work 9-5, Monday to Friday. In fact, the pair only need to put in 2 days of work per week to keep the business going. This luxury, however, is a testament to all of the work that had to go into getting to where they are today.
“It took a lot of wrong steps and learning from those wrong steps to get to this point,” Jaden explains.
To understand how Jaden developed Steamy Kitchen into the success that it is today, we need to first go all the way back to where her passion for food first began.
The Language of Food
When Jaden and her brother were very young, her family moved from Hong Kong to North Platte, Nebraska in order for her father to attend college. This was a great opportunity for her family, though the lack of an Asian community made the transition difficult — particularly because her mother spoke no english. Despite this language barrier, her mother was able to use food as a way to connect with their new community.
“They would teach her how to make apple pie and she would teach them how to make egg rolls,” Jaden recalls. “It was just amazing that she used the language of food to connect. That’s really how her love of food started.”
Though food played a big role in her upbringing, it wasn’t until Jaden moved away for college that she began exploring food on her own. Being accustomed to her mother’s great cooking, crummy dorm food just wasn’t cutting it for her. Equipped with a rice cooker and an electric skillet, she began to cook her own food instead. When she moved out the following year, she worked out a great arrangement with her roommates: they would buy the groceries and clean, and she would cook all of the food.
While this was a great introduction to the world of cooking, it wouldn’t be until years later that her love of Asian food would be rekindled after she and her husband moved to Bradenton, Florida. Similar to her upbringing in Nebraska, Bradenton did not have much in terms of an Asian community. As a result, Asian restaurants there had bad ingredients, basic dishes, and virtually no authenticity.
“I realized that there was a huge opportunity where I could actually teach people what’s the difference between Thai food and Vietnamese food because here it was just lumped together as Asian or Oriental food,” Jaden recalls.
Starting Her Business
Though Jaden is best known for her work as a food blogger, many of her readers don’t know that Jaden has a long history in Internet marketing.
“When I first started in the Internet industry, we had meetings with CEOs of major corporations and I remember having to convince them to let their employees put their email addresses on their business cards,” she remembers.
The marketer in her was able to clearly see the opportunity that lay ahead: teaching people how to easily prepare delicious, healthy and authentic Asian recipes.
“I quickly wrote a business plan on paper, read it, and then threw it away because it was so boring and uninspiring,” Jaden recalls. “I’m a very visual person so instead I got a big poster board and a stack of magazines, and then started creating a vision board.”
The vision board — which now hangs proudly in her office — ensures that Jaden is reminded of exactly why she started her blog in the first place every time she gets to work.
“As long as I stay focused on how I want to feel and how I want my readers to feel then I always do the right thing,” Jaden explains.
Getting The Perfect Domain Name
Once Jaden had her great idea, the next step was to secure a great domain name for it. Initially she was unsure what to call the blog, but knew that she wanted it to have the word ‘kitchen’ in it. After searching for available domain names, she stumbled upon steamykitchen.com. As soon as she saw this, she knew that she had found the perfect domain name, largely because it reminded her of her mother.
“My mom was always cooking,” she explains. “There was always a pot of soup simmering on the stove and the kitchen was always steamy, so ‘Steamy Kitchen’ is sort of a nod to my mom and her love of cooking.”
Though it can seem impossible for aspiring bloggers to break through the clutter of the thousands and thousands of blogs out there these days, Jaden believes that there is always an opportunity — as long as you go about it the right way.
“I say absolutely start a blog,” she urges, “but have a clear vision of how you want to make money.”
This all comes down to identifying your audience, finding a need that they have and offering a solution.
“You can start any business you want as long as you’re solving a problem,” she explains. “Whatever your niche market is, you have to know what the desperate need is that they’re trying to solve.”
Additionally, though Jaden has cultivated a very large audience on social media, she maintains that it is important to have direct relationships with them and not completely rely on social networking.
“I focus on email marketing and owning my platform instead of renting it,” she explains. “Every single social media platform I’ve seen throughout all of these years have come and gone. When someone else makes the rules, you’re not in control of your business.”
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