I would not be where or who I am without the constant inspiration from fellow creatives. I absolutely feed off of the energy of those around me, and a HUGE player in much of my creative confidence comes from blogger, writer, photographer, all around bad-ass healthy living expert, Alyssa Rimmer, of Simply Quinoa. Not only is Alyssa a major player in the world of health-living and blogging, but she has been my best friend for nearly 10 years (side bar: holy hell, are we that old?). From sorority days, to being full-on (semi) grown-ups, Alyssa constantly inspires me to be better, to follow my dreams, and never taking no for an answer when it comes to what I want. That being said, it felt only right to have her be the very first person I talk to in this new Creative Conversations series, where I'll highlight creative folks who I admire and am so pleased to know.
1. So girl, while I know your life story, I want those who don't to get to know you better; how did you come to be a healthy food/lifestyle writer?
This all got started the year after I graduated from college. I was living with my girlfriends (Mary being one of them!), working full-time at a marketing company, and felt like I was on this pretty clear path in the corporate world. I was starting to learn how to cook more for myself, but it wasn’t necessarily healthy; I was focused a lot on calories and often reached for processed, convenience foods. About 4 months after graduation, I started getting really bad stomach aches. They weren’t debilitating per se, I could still go on with my day, but I was pretty much living in a constant state of discomfort.
I finally got to a breaking point and my mom suggested that I try removing gluten and dairy from my diet to see if it would make me feel better. I made the switch cold turkey and within just a few weeks I was feeling a million times better. That’s where I discovered quinoa: it quickly became a staple for me, yet there weren’t a lot of recipes out there using it (mind you this was 6+ years ago). So I decided to start a blog and share my quinoa recipes! I’d like to say the rest is history, but really it took a lot of hard work to build the site to where it is today.
2. What would you say was your "Aha moment"; when you knew you had to quit your day job and pursue blogging full time?
My "aha moment" came about 2 and a half years ago. I was still working for the same marketing company, but was now working from my new home in NYC, and I was just deeply unhappy. I wasn’t challenged, I wasn’t motivated and I just wasn’t finding joy in what I was doing anymore. And after looking at where I spent my time and what made me the most happy, it was my blog. So I did a little number crunching and realized that I was making about half of my salary from my blog. It was definitely a leap of faith, but I figured if I could dedicated 100% of my time to my blog, I’d be able to grow it to a point where I would make up that gap in salary (or hopefully surpass it).
That first year had a lot of ups and downs, but I ended up getting within $5K of my previous salary. Year two, I more than doubled that number. So for me, without that little leap of faith and trust in myself that I could do it, I’d probably still be unhappy, doing a job that wasn’t fulfilling and feeling sorry for myself.
3. What is your favorite part of what you do? What is the most difficult part of what you do?
It’s honestly hard to choose a favorite part of what I do, so I’m going to choose three. First, I love connecting with my readers, hearing their stories, and learning how the content and recipes I share has helped them reach their goals and lead a healthier life. There’s nothing better than that! I also really enjoy the content creation part of it—photography, video, writing—the creativity is inspiring and keeps me going. And lastly, I love the freedom I have. While I definitely end up working more than 40 hours a week, I have complete flexibility to make my own schedule. I can go to yoga in the middle of the day and not feel bad about it. I can go work from a coffee shop or visit my parents in Vermont for a few weeks, and none of it will negatively impact my business.
The hardest part of what I do is probably just managing so many things at once and doing it all myself. I don’t currently have anyone helping me with the business, so every piece of content, every photo, every video, every social media share is all from me. It’s fun, but tiring at the same time. Your attention gets pulled in a ton of directions, you’re juggling 1000 balls at once, and often times you can get a little bogged down with the admin stuff that you don’t have the space to be as creative as you might like.
4. You live in NYC. Where are your favorite spots to visit, food related or not?
Ahh NYC! I love it here! There’s so much to see and visit here, so it’s hard to say what my favorite thing is, but I absolutely adore the parks we have. Central Park is absolute magic! I also love the healthy food options we have here - from vegan and vegetarian restaurants, to cuisines from around the globe, there’s no shortage of new places to try and explore. My top three restaurants in the city are Print, Candle Cafe and Palma.
5. What piece of advice do you wish you had received/thing you wish you'd known when you started blogging?
This is probably more food blog related, but I wish I had known how important high-quality photography is. I spent the first two years of blogging having no idea what I was doing with my camera and I think if I had focused on the quality of my photos, I would have been able to grow more quickly. I also wish I had invested in more learning tools - workshops, courses, etc. - and not just relied on myself for leaning how to build my business.
6. What do you consider your biggest accomplishment this year and what are your goals for 2017?
My biggest accomplishment in 2016 was doubling my business. While I really try not to focus on the revenue side of things, it really felt amazing to see how much I had grown. And for 2017, I’m hoping to hire my first assistant and start to grow my team! I know this will be a game changer for me and I can’t wait to see how much having someone by my side will help the business grow as a whole.
If this girl isn't a total inspiration, I simply don't know who is. Make sure to check out simplyquinoa.com (and @simplyquinoa on Instagram) for Alyssa's fantastic recipes, healthy-living inspiration and seriously mouth-watering photos (plus photos of her adorable puppy, Trevi).
All Photography: Unique Lapin Photography