Katie Greenway is a market research manager for SMART CPG Consulting and creator of Culinary Wanderings, a digital platform featuring Greenway’s culinary recipes. On this episode of the podcast, Greenway talks with Matt Waller about what inspired her to build her business, her content creation process, and her entrepreneurial approach. She also touches on how to balance a full-time job while pursuing ventures like Culinary Wanderings.
Learn more about Culinary Wanderings:
0:00:08.3 Matt Waller: Hi, I'm Matt Waller, Dean of the Sam M. Walton College of Business. Welcome to Be Epic, the podcast where we explore excellence, professionalism, innovation and collegiality, and what those values mean in business education and your life today.
0:00:28.2 Matt Waller: I have with me today Katie Greenway, who is an alumna of the Walton College of Business. And Katie, if I remember correctly, you graduated about five years ago, maybe 2015.
0:00:42.2 Katie Greenway: That is exactly right.
0:00:44.9 Matt Waller: And she is currently the Manager Market Research at Smart CPG Consulting, which is a division of Advantage Solutions, and she's been an Advantage Solutions for almost five years. Isn't that right?
0:01:00.5 Katie Greenway: Yes, it was right where I went out of college.
0:01:03.0 Matt Waller: Katie, thanks for joining me today. I really appreciate it.
0:01:05.9 Katie Greenway: Yeah, it's an absolute joy to be here with you.
0:01:08.9 Matt Waller: So Katie, I wanna talk a little bit about your background, but also the bulk of what I wanna talk about today is your new company, Culinary Wanderings, which I was really impressed with. And for those of you who are listening, Katie lives in Boise, Idaho now. But I saw someone post something, it may have been Instagram about Culinary Wanderings, I clicked on it, and I was really impressed with what I saw. And then I saw that this is an alumni of our college, and I saw that she also had some vegan dishes and I'm vegan, and someone who was looking for good options there. But Katie, when you were a student in the Walton College, I know that you worked as an intern, one of the companies you worked with, that I know of is Field Agent. You worked at Field Agent. Do you feel like that internship helped prepare you for the working world while you were still a student?
0:02:14.6 Katie Greenway: Oh, absolutely, yeah. I was able to do a lot of different roles at that job, so I went from being an administrative assistant where I learned just a lot of office management type skills, and then I went into the quality control group where I learned all about the back end of market research, which is the data cleaning and seeing how the responses come in. I feel like I learned a lot in that role as well. And then I went to a different group where I actually started on the front end of the market research, which was the scope of work development and the survey writing, and all of that definitely gave me a great interest in market research, which is what I ended up doing an Advantage.
0:02:55.8 Matt Waller: And for those of you listening, you may not have caught it, but she started out more as an administrative assistant than an intern. And I think that it's so important for students to go for internships and start even as an administrative assistant or anything else, just to get your foot in the door, and it really worked for you now. You interned for them for a couple of years, I believe. Is that right?
0:03:23.6 Katie Greenway: Yeah, I think two or three years.
0:03:25.5 Matt Waller: Do you think it helped you land your first job?
0:03:28.8 Katie Greenway: Yes, it definitely gave me more of a vision for what I wanted to do as a marketing major, I didn't really know what I wanted to go through after college, but I definitely developed a passion for the market research, 'cause it speaks to my creative side and my analytical side. So being able to get into the market research programme at Advantage really helped me having that background and get me through those interviews.
0:03:55.3 Matt Waller: So you were born in Fayetteville, Arkansas. You went to the University of Arkansas, which is in Fayetteville, but your first job out of college was in Boise, Idaho. That was a big change, wasn't it?
0:04:08.4 Katie Greenway: Yes, definitely. I met actually, I met the Advantage team at the Walton College Career Fair. They were one of dozens of people I talked to that day. I really liked the offering that they had because they had this accelerated career programme where I got to be really immersed in the company the first year out. When they were interviewing me, they asked where I wanted to go and I just said, "I'd love to move somewhere with mountains." And they said, "How about Boise?" And I gave it a shot and I absolutely love it.
0:04:38.1 Matt Waller: Wow, that's great. So I know you were a category analyst and a market research associate, but now you're working for a division called Smart CPG, how does that differ from Advantage and what are you doing there?
0:04:54.0 Katie Greenway: Well, Advantage is a national company, and it's made up of lots of little different hubs. They often grow by acquiring different organisations with particular skills that would help them grow as a company, so they acquired Smart maybe 10 years ago. And when I was placed into the accelerated career programme, I was placed into the smart office, even though at that time I was reporting to Advantage Corporate. So after the programme ended, I had to re-interview with Smart, and they decided to keep me on as a category analyst.
0:05:24.5 Matt Waller: So you have your experience in market research started while you were an intern in college, and of course, you learned about research as a student, market research, so you have quite a bit of experience under your belt now. And so your new side gig is Culinary Wanderings. You've got a website, culinarywanderings.com. And I also follow you on Instagram. What made you decide to start this business?
0:05:58.8 Katie Greenway: Well, cooking has always been what I do to unwind, it's always been what I just am absolutely fascinated by. When I'm at home, I spend all my time just researching recipes and watching people who are amazing chefs.
0:06:12.0 Matt Waller: And your parents are great chefs, right?
0:06:18.3 Katie Greenway: Yeah, they absolutely are. And so I was stuck at home during all of this quarantine, and what I did was I started cooking the world. So I drew a map, every week or so I would try to cook from a different country, and I was started sharing some of that experience with my friends and family, and they just were always so interested by what I had to cook. I never thought what I was cooking was very interesting, but I thought with all this time, I'm channelling it into cooking, why don't I make more of an effort to share it with people and maybe even explore it as a career passion.
0:06:49.9 Matt Waller: I didn't know you knew how to build websites.
0:06:52.5 Katie Greenway: I did not. As a market researcher, I think research is in my nature, so initially what I did was I just researched. I got online, I watched tutorials, I read articles, and I ended up choosing WIX, which is a really easy-to-use platform to help me build my website. And it gives you a little bit more autonomy, which I liked because I'm kind of particular about where I want things to look and flow. And so it's been an entire learning experience.
0:07:22.6 Matt Waller: I can't imagine. You also, when you're developing a website like yours, photography is important and writing is important, and your photography is outstanding. Did you do that yourself? Or did you hire someone?
0:07:37.9 Katie Greenway: I did it myself and I was very nervous about it, 'cause I've never been a big social media, taking lots of pictures kind of person, but I just decided to just start doing it with my iPhone. I bought a new iPhone recently, so I got a decent camera and I have been using Lightroom to edit the photos. That is also something new I've had to learn how to do. I did a lot of research about how to do food photography. I still am looking forward to growing and improving in those areas. One of the things that I do to help me feel better is I often go to my favourite food bloggers and I scroll back to some of their first posts and I'm like, "Okay. If they made it this far, then I can as well."
0:08:20.1 Matt Waller: But you also have to... When you have a website like this, especially in your case, you also are writing, you're writing the instructions, you're writing about the dish. For example, I just clicked on miso-glazed baby zucchinis, which looked really good. You're right, if you are looking for a way to brighten up your vegetables, this is it, these baby zucchinis are marinated with miso, Dijon and lemon juice. They are light and still crisp and a perfect side dish for your next dinner. So you have to have short introductions like this. And then you write more about it. I had a surplus of zucchini this year, anyone who has grown zucchini will know the feeling. And you go on and explain it before you actually get into, "Okay, here's how you actually make it. Now, if you were just doing a few of those, that's one thing, but you've got five categories of vegan, baking, breakfast, desserts and drinks. What kind of a cadence or you want in terms of writing these new recipe blogs, and what kind of cadence would you like to be on going forward.
0:09:35.3 Katie Greenway: Yeah, I'm posting once a week on Fridays. I tried doing twice a week and it was a bit overwhelming with holidays and travel and having another job as well, so I've dialed back down to once a week. And I think it's a little bit of an interesting cadence for me because I can cook more recipes than I can post for once a week, but twice a week was a little bit too much. When I started, I sat down and I proved to myself that I could do this. I opened up an Excel document and I made myself write 100 original recipe ideas. I figured if I could come up with a 100, then that's something that I could do long-term. And that's where I started dividing them into categories and planning them out, planning out my posts and everything from there.
0:10:22.0 Matt Waller: So it really is a skill to write these kinds of posts, because it's gotta be short, it's gotta be interesting, and in particular, it has to appeal to the values and attitudes of the persona that you're going after.
0:10:40.1 Katie Greenway: Yeah, if you read a lot of food blogs, you may know that most people don't make short posts. I'm not a very long-winded person when it comes to talking about myself or my food, I just like to capture the attention, and I think some of that comes from my job as well. We're challenged to dial down the idea of whatever we're researching or analysing into its key parts. And so I think that's what I try to do with my blog as well.
0:11:07.1 Matt Waller: And writing, there's quite a bit of writing. Have you always enjoyed writing?
0:11:13.3 Katie Greenway: I actually have not. I've not always been a very big writer. And even just putting myself out there and posting about things is a little bit of a challenge, 'cause I'm not big on social media or sharing things, so even just the idea of creating all these social medias and broadcasting and marketing myself has been a little bit of a challenge, but I'm excited about doing it.
0:11:34.4 Matt Waller: If you were to think of who would be the stereotypical persona, what would be the person that you're really writing to?
0:11:46.7 Katie Greenway: I think the cook that wants to try to challenge themselves to take something a step further. I'm not like a 30-minute meals kind of person. I really like to challenge people to broaden their horizons and take things a little bit further. I think if you can read a recipe, you can do almost any recipe, even though it may seem challenging, you just take it one step at a time. And I really like to explore with my cooking and try new things, that's kind of where I came up with the name of Culinary Wanderings.
0:12:15.5 Matt Waller: Well, that's great. Now, you've got a recipe in here for a drink that sounds really good. All of them do, but this one caught my attention, and it's called Smoked Sage Mojito. I've never tried that, but it sounds interesting. How did you come up with that idea?
0:12:37.5 Katie Greenway: Honestly, it's because in the house that I recently bought, there are five sage bushes, [chuckle] and I was running out of ideas of what to do with all of that sage. When I was a barista at a coffee shop, we used to make her own simple syrup, so I like creating my own simple syrups, and I thought it would be really interesting to try smoking the simple syrup as well, which just meant that I lit the sage on fire before I tossed it into the sugar and water.
0:13:04.9 Matt Waller: So you just light the sage?
0:13:06.3 Katie Greenway: Yes, and then you cover the lid really quickly, so that the smoke just kinda stays in the pot while it summers. So then I used that simple syrup and the mojito that I made one summer afternoon.
0:13:19.0 Matt Waller: I see. So do you enjoy coming up with new recipes?
0:13:24.2 Katie Greenway: I do, yeah. I like to come up with different flavour ideas, or often I will cook a dish on then when I think back on how I would have done it differently, what maybe would have taken it to the next level or cared more to my flavours. So I almost never follow a recipe just straight. I love cooking lots and lots of recipes, but I almost always add my own spin to them.
0:13:47.3 Matt Waller: So clearly you're gonna have to figure out a way to monetise this at some point. I think a lot of listeners wouldn't understand that process, especially the students who are listening. Would you mind talking about the monetisation process?
0:14:04.1 Katie Greenway: Yeah, absolutely, that is something that I really researched at the beginning before I decide if it was something I wanted to go after. And most food logs actually do make quite a bit of good money after, but it takes years and years to develop the audience. And the primary way that food bloggers make money is by placing ads on their websites, so you can partner with a company like AdSense, which is through Google, to place the ads on your website, or you can also set up affiliate links through Amazon. So you could set up like, "Hey, this is the specific food processor I used for this recipe, if you want to check it out." And then there is also brand deals, so that's something that generally larger food bloggers would get brand deals, where a brand would approach them and ask them to feature their products in a post.
0:14:51.4 Matt Waller: And then I know you're promoting your blogs on Instagram, do you have other social media places, platforms that you promote your work on?
0:15:04.5 Katie Greenway: Right now, mostly Pinterest because it functions as a search engine. Whereas an Instagram post may be there in someone's feed for a day or two, Pinterest, somebody could type zucchini and then my blog post could come up. So that is much more far-reaching than just my primary audience. So Pinterest is one of the ways that I pour a lot of work into, and I hope to expand into Twitter soon.
0:15:29.2 Matt Waller: So Katie, I would imagine you've got a full-time job that's challenging, and you've got your Culinary Wanderings business. How do you balance that time and manage your time?
0:15:42.1 Katie Greenway: Yeah, it definitely is a little bit of a challenge sometimes, but I really wanna make sure that I keep those time separate, so I mostly spend my weekends working on the food. So I will, usually on Saturday work on testing and writing the recipes, and then on Sunday I will try to recreate them for the photographs. And then in the evenings throughout the week, I will work on editing the photos and writing the posts and preparing it to go live on Friday.
0:16:09.5 Matt Waller: Well, good talking to you, Katie.
0:16:14.3 Katie Greenway: It was good to talk to you too.
0:16:14.4 Matt Waller: And congratulations on your new business.
0:16:15.8 Katie Greenway: Well, thank you. Thank you for thinking of me and putting me on your podcast.
0:16:21.0 Matt Waller: Thanks for listening to today's episode of the Be Epic podcast from the Walton College. You can find us on Google, SoundCloud, iTunes or look for us wherever you find your podcasts. Be sure to subscribe and rate us. You can find current and past episodes by searching BeEpic podcast, one word that's B-E-E-P-I-C podcast. And now, be epic.