Our new series comes from Natalina Campagnolo, who turned her passion for cooking into a full-time job. Natalina will tell us why and how she built her business—and show you how you can turn your hobby into a second career. To learn more about Natalina, check out part one of the series and her two-part Freedom Film series.
After the Municipal Building Department and the local Health Department approved my plans to open a cooking school, and the contractor began working on building a professional kitchen in the lower level of my home, I started to get the word out about my new business.
I began by recruiting my friends and family—because let’s face it, they have to help—to start telling people about my new business. Some friends of mine own an Italian market, which seemed like a natural place for future clients to shop, so I asked them to distribute some advertising postcards I had made up. My friends kindly agree to place a postcard in every grocery bag, and this campaign turned out to be the single most successful tool in starting my classes!
Until I started my business, I only used Facebook to connect with out-of-town family and friends. I quickly learned that nothing tempted future students more than some tantalizing food photos! First, just using my phone, I took shots of everything we made and immediately posted the photos on Facebook at the end of the class. This proved to be a quick way of getting my brand out there. Getting lots of likes, shares, and comments quickly created buzz.
Starting this business really taught me the value of social media. Paid Facebook ads were inexpensice, and I could attract my own audience and get results fast! Eventually I bought my first digital camera, the Canon Rebel, and spent more time and effort on class photos. I still took lots of photos of food, but I also captured images of my clients cooking. This illustrated that my classes were “hands on,” which was something I was often asked about.
As I started experimenting with different advertising methods I made sure to keep track of what strategies are the most effective. I still ask clients how they heard of my school and make note of what is working and what is not. This helps me make sure that I am only putting time, effort, and money into advertising campaigns that are proven to be successful—and avoid those that go nowhere.
This tracking was very useful during my second year of business when I purchased print ads in a publication that catered to my community. I placed ads in the November, December, and January issues and not one client mentioned the ads during the three months they ran! I stuck to digital advertising and growing my social media presence after that.
As I gained more followers and started using platforms like Twitter along with Facebook, I experimented with new tactics. I added short videos and saw engagement increase. Online followers were regularly showing up in my classes and tagging themselves in my photos. I now have a large community of former students helping to spread the word about my business—all because I could tag them in Facebook photos.
Now, with almost 26,000 combined followers on numerous platforms, regularly posting photos and videos on social media has become a vital part of my business. I am convinced that a small business such as mine could not have attracted clients from as far away as a three hours drive without it!
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