I’ve chosen food blogger Whitney Bond for today’s “Case of the Fridays.” Whitney started her food blog a few years ago and it has since gained incredible popularity. Her site gets over 100,000 visits per month, she has her own web series TV show, and is regularly featured on sites like Yahoo and Huffington Post. I really wanted to interview Whitney because she has demonstrated a true pursuit of her passions in life, and has achieved a lot of success in regards to her goals. In college, she successfully produced a fashion show, was featured in Maxim magazine, and is now maintaining a highly successful food blog – all big achievements that shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Whitney is based out of San Diego but her work is independent of location. This allows her to travel sometimes up to 6 weeks at a time, and removes any pressure to be in one place in order to run her business. I’m excited for the years ahead for her, as I’m betting you’ll be seeing her on the food network in her own show.
I interviewed Whitney at her home in downtown San Diego, where she does the majority of her cooking, food photography, and blog writing. Here’s a visual for the conversation that takes place in the interview:
What is your name/age?
Whitney Bond – 28
What is your occupation?
Food Blogger – soon to be published cook book author.
Where did you grow up?
Edmond, OK. It was a good place to grow up – nice people, small town, grew up across the street from my grandparents, great cooking.
What level of schooling have you completed?
I have an AA in broadcast journalism.
How long have you been doing what you currently do?
It will be 2 years in August since I started my blog, but it will be about a year of being a full-blown food blog. I’ve been doing it full time since January, shortly before that I was working as a social media manager for another company.
Did you have a 9-5 job before that?
I worked one somewhat 9-5 for a few months, selling custom-made suits for men. That was probably the most normal job I’ve had.
How did you become involved in the work that you currently do?
I was in LA & started writing a blog about all the stories I had to tell…my brother’s best friend wrote a blog that I really liked, so I decided to make one for myself and follow a similar format. I liked cooking for my friends (I’ve always loved doing that), so I talked about that a lot when I first started.
In college I’d bake cookies and just give them to people in my dorm as a way to introduce myself. Being from out of town it was a good ice breaker and it was a great way to make new friends! Haha
I started experimenting with more foods, making my photography better, and sharing recipes on the blog – and more and more people started sharing them and commenting on my posts, so it just caught momentum from there! Eventually Huffington post emailed me asking to feature one of my posts – and that’s when I realized I was a “food blogger”. It was a *career path* that I was now heading down, and that made a pretty big impact on me!
How much longer do you envision yourself working in the field that you’re in?
That kind of depends on the food network and when they give me my own show (laughs). I’ll write my blog for the rest of my life…might be one post per week or maybe other guest writers to continue the food blog but I’ll keep writing going forever to journal my life. All of these goals and aspirations that I have for my life – I see the blog going along with it. It’s a part of me, and I can never really see letting it go.
So if the food network offered you a show next week, would you move your concentration to video and put the blog on the sideline?
I’m used to working a thousand hours a week – so if I’m doing the show and working 120 hours a week, I’ll still go and write a blog even at 2 AM to maintain consistency.
What is it that you love about your work?
I love being in the kitchen and making something from nothing and then being amazed at what I’ve created – how it tastes after I cooked it.
Giving people access to recipes to people that don’t intimidate them. Having pictures to show people helps take some of the intimidation out of the process, and helps assure people that they’re ‘doing it right’ along the way so they don’t run off course. You never know what recipes people are really going to latch on to. It’s an awesome experience to go from conceptualizing a dish to making a dish, to photographing the dish, to tasting the dish, and then putting it in a blog post and hitting “publish” - you have NO IDEA whether a thousand people are going to view that post or a million people will view that post. It’s so exciting…you never know. You just have to put yourself out there.
Do you feel like that carries over to other areas of life, or other businesses that people may be in?
Yeah, you know I really do put myself out there, I’m very social and I’m sometimes loud and crazy, but it’s all in having fun with what you do and putting yourself out there for people to get to know you. I never know what I’m going to get as a response from people – but at least I’ll know that they’ll either like me for being me or they wont like me for being me.
What is your least favorite thing about your work?
The business side – the side where I actually have to make money off of it. It’s such a personal thing – your putting yourself out there and now you have to commercialize it to make a profit. But you gotta pay bills, you gotta make money. I’d love to just write and not have advertising. But I love the products that I endorse, so it helps that I believe in them and actually use them.
I don’t like people saying mean things – some of the comments I get are just so mean-spirited. Sometimes people will make some kind of mean comment about my cheese – “what’s wrong with my cheese? Why would you say something about my cheese?”
Are there any questions that random people ask that you might feel are inappropriate?
“How do you make money?”
“How much do you charge your clients?”
Is there anything you miss about life back home?
Yeah, the simplicity of it. And of course I miss my family. That’s the hardest part of everyday – going without seeing them on a regular basis. I just miss a simpler life – being out on the lake, no cell phones – no computers. Just you and your family out at the barbeque. Warm summer nights. Everything gets more complicated the older you get. Living in a city is just more fast-paced. I think people in Oklahoma have good values while Californians lean more towards a self centered culture.
What are some of the advantages of your job compared with the regular corporate career?
I get to eat REALLY delicious food everyday – so I’m very well fed! Haha. Great for my soul, bad for my waist-line.
I can go home for a week and see my family, and still work from Oklahoma. I can extend my trips back home, or if the Thunder keep winning like they did last season, I can stay for 6 weeks! Haha
I’m not confined by anyone – I have complete control over my business and my brand. I understand why when you work in a corporate environment – rules can be so structured to protect what they’ve built.
I had a mother of 4 boys emailed me telling me that the first time she cooked for her family was one of the recipes she had found from my website. You don’t get that kind of feeling when you’re working at a corporate job.
Wow! That’s pretty remarkable.
I want some kid to go home and ask his mom to make him a recipe from my site and go, “Mommy, I want that buffalo chicken that Whitney posted on Little Leopard Book”.
What are some of the disadvantages compared with the regular corporate career?
No salary would be #1. You’re completely on your own when it comes to money coming in the door. I know there are other perks – health insurance, benefits…although I maintain a pretty healthy lifestyle so that doesn’t really play in too much. I guess it’s all that bacon grease that I grew up on in Oklahoma.
Mainly the biggest thing that I miss is just having someone deposit a bunch of money into my account every two weeks. Haha!
How different is the dating scene for you? Is it easier/harder to make time to be with your significant other?
It’s tough. I feel like I’m never going to meet anyone that works as hard as I do. I feel lonely a lot. I feel like not a lot of other people understand or identify with what I’m going through with my business. My friends are THE BEST – and it’s not that I feel alone – but sometimes I just don’t feel that not everyone can identify with what I’ve got going on during a weekly basis…except my mom.
I feel guilty because I don’t want to squish someone’s fun – they should be able to go out and have fun on nights & weekends or whatever. I just want to find someone that’s passionate about their work and wants to go until 10 o’clock at night because they love what they’re doing. They don’t necessarily have to be an entrepreneur, but someone that’s just stoked on what they’re doing for a living.
What do you think about work/life balance? When is it too much?
It’s hard because I think a lot of successful entrepreneurs will say the same thing – they’ll set “personal time” off to the side until after they’re done with a project. But then once the projects done, something else comes along. And when does that stop? When all your personal relationships deteriorate? It’s a difficult thing to balance doing what you love with spending time with the people that you love.
Is there enough time for a relationship?
I think there is. I don’t mind giving someone my time as long as they don’t waste my time. Sometimes relationships can go pretty quick because I realize that a certain person isn’t someone I want to be with for the long run – I’ll recognize red flags early on & just end it before we both waste our time.
Do you tend to prefer to live paycheck to paycheck or with a savings plan accounted for? Is your income predictable and regular, or entirely dependent on what you produce?
Haha I definitely don’t spend it on luxurious goods – it all goes back into the business. There’s no such thing as savings right now. My number one motto in life is to live everyday. If you’re saving all your money and not doing the things you want to do right now, I think that’s one of the biggest mistakes you can make during your youth. I have a friend who always says she wants to go on all these trips but can’t because “she can’t touch her savings”.
And to me I’m thinking, “What?! What do you mean can’t touch your savings? Are you serious? If you die on your way to work the next day – that money’s gonna go to someone else.”
If you have that entrepreneur mentality where you know that you can find gold at the bottom of the ditch, you wont have any problems if you lose all your money. Like, say all my clients decided they were going to suddenly stop advertising on my site – I’ll figure something out – I’ll start doing social media consulting, I’ll start doing catering. It’s not the end of the world. Financial security should not be your top concern in life – it should be having a good life.
I have more business ideas than I do time to carry them out. So I’m sure that I’ll figure things out should obstacles arrive financially with Little Leopard Book.
How do you imagine your retirement, or lifestyle past 60?
I don’t think I’ll ever retire – I love working. When I was a little girl, I played “own my own business”. I had a bank, a post office, many restaurants…I always had all these businesses – I didn’t play with barbies. I had my mom bring home deposit slips from the bank so I could pretend and use them for my own pretend bank. I never dreamed about my wedding, I dreamed about being on the today show.
Why sit on the beach when you’re 60 – you’re gonna be all wrinkled and old! I’d rather sit on the beach now while I’m fit!
I don’t ever see myself just trotting around the globe and not working. Maybe not directly running my businesses like I do in my 20′s and 30′s, but I’ll still have an active interest in how I make a living.
Do you see your career facilitating a lifestyle suitable for a family, or do you have the desire to have a family?
You know…it’s not my priority right now. I’m a very fairytale dreamer where I feel like there’s one person for everyone – if I’m lucky enough to meet him tomorrow, then sure. I’m not the girl that brings up the conversation about marriage after 6 months.
I think those commitments can be made without having to go to a courthouse and signing documents. I’d love someone to be there to share the highlights and be there for the bad days. I love kids – probably more than everyone I know, but I never saw myself as having my own.
If I do, I’d imagine myself having one kid that would travel with me and come along for the adventure rather than having my life completely changed and oriented around raising children.
What are your top priorities in the ‘big picture’?
My business is right now my #1. Making it to where myself and my family can live a comfortable life for the rest of our lives. I want to be able to live in the same place as my family, spend time with them and be around them – my mom is my best friend and I love hanging out with her. She’s come out here because I’ve had meltdowns and she’s come to just be there & go hiking, or go eat In & Out on the beach. Or we celebrate when my business is doing great. And then I get to treat her to a nice restaurant or go to Disneyland together.
Definitely on the giving back side – as far as my time is concerned, I’d really like to speak to younger girls. Most families aren’t as encouraging and supportive as mine has been – sometimes even critical and tell their kids that their not going to make it or achieve much. I’d love to go back to my hometown and share my story with girls who wouldn’t imagine a possibility of moving to California or making their dreams come true.
I want to be able to be there in their corner to help them believe in themselves. To be willing to put in the hard work.
The second part – the monetary thing – I’m gonna go back to the restaurants that I worked at when I was young, and leave a $10,000 tip because waitressing is THE WORST job ever. And it’s the toughest! Those people really deserve it and it will be one of the best days of their life…it will be awesome to give them that feeling.
I have recurring nightmares from my waitressing job when I was younger – people don’t realize how tough that job really is!
If you had any advice to someone just graduating college or thinking about switching careers, what would it be?
Don’t settle for the first thing you do. If I did that, I’d still be working at Sonic. My first business was a modeling agency. I used to tell people “not” to eat, now I tell them “to” eat.
If you have that feeling of wanting to go in a certain direction, definitely pursue it – but don’t think of it as being your end-all. There’s so much thing as a failed business. You learn from everything you experience.
At 18, all you’ve been doing is f*ckin’ around in high school. I had no doubt in my mind that I was going to be the first 5’3’’ supermodel. when I was that age. That’s what was in my mind at the time.
You have to be flexible – you have to figure out what you love and figure out how to make it profitable in life. It’s a unique path – take a route on something that you’re passionate about.
If you have passion for your work and what you do, it carries over into all other areas in your life.
You know, you made me realize something about entrepreneurship and a learning lesson that comes along with – by understanding the amount of time it takes to work on something or make a goal happen, you subconsciously realize how valuable your time ‘outside’ of work is as well. Does that carry over into who you decide to spend time with.
Totally. My group of friends is absolutely f*cking awesome and I definitely want people that make me feel better by being around them, not bringing me down but being supportive of one another. I would hope that they feel the same way by hanging around with me. The ones that have been there through everything mean so much to me.
If someone wanted to do your job, what is important to maintain a position?
Consistency is huge in a lot of aspects. You have to be consistent with your blog – if you’re not regular, they’ll follow another writer. You have to be consistent with your brand. I think branding is huge. People expect to come and see something they can get value from. You have to produce similar kinds of content on a regular basis. You have to be on top of things when big companies like HuffPost email you looking for a certain recipe or a piece on something seasonal, etc.
Personality. A blog is different than a website because you’re subscribing to get a story. You go to the food network to get a recipe – with my book – you go to get a recipe and a story.
Who inspires you?
My mom. She’s just the happiest person I know. For no real reason – she just has the best attitude and sees the best in everything and everyone.
My dad inspires a lot of my cooking. He’s so creative in the kitchen and is so supportive of everything that I do.
My grandma – she was just so happy being at home cooking for the family, living a simple life.
What do you think of authority?
I’m not good at authority at all. I think that’s a big reason for me being an entrepreneur so I don’t have someone telling me what to do all the time.
Meter maids really get to me – I love it when I pull up to a meter and there’s still 30 minutes of green left. Feels like I “won” one against them. I don’t know how someone can be a meter maid.
How do you establish a clientele and a following who regularly attend your events? Was it hard to get the initial momentum going in the first place?
My initial following were my mom’s friends and my friends. Mainly going to other people’s blogs and commenting on their posts and they’d come to mine. From there, the majority of my major following came with stepping up my ‘picture’ game. When my photos and my food looked better, it’d get published more around the web.
What did you want to be when you want to be when you grew up?
What are some of your favorite sounds?
I liked trains until I moved here! Haha. The sound of the oven beeping, haha.
When my grandma passed away, my dad asked if there was anything that I wanted from her house – I told him “the bell”. When I was a little girl, my grandma would cook dinner for us all and there was a china cabinet that housed this little glass bell. And it was the dinner bell that I would get to ring when my grandma was finished cooking. You could ‘only’ get to ring the bell right before dinner, so that made it special.
What’s your favorite curse word?
Fuck. I say fuck all the time. My mom gives me so much shit for having such a potty mouth.
What’s your favorite memory from your past?
When I got the acceptance package for SDSU. I didn’t even pull all the way into the driveway – just ran into the house screaming that I got in.
I remember when I found out I was going to be in Maxim (for modeling). I always wanted to be published in a nationally recognized magazine. That was like my end goal – I had done everything that I had wanted to do, and at that point, I was like “what do I do now”?
It’s a cool feeling, but it’s scary. I sometimes think that if I were to die, I wouldn’t be really worried like, “what! I didn’t do this, or I didn’t do that” - I’ve led a pretty good life. I feel like I’ve really lived.
If you were an animal, what kind of animal would you be, and why?
A monkey. I don’t know they seem like they’re having a lot of fun swingin from tree to tree.
What are some of your favorite smells?
Flowers. I love having fresh flowers in my house.
What did you get into the most trouble for when you were young?
Oh! I got in trouble for a lot! Just throwing fits & just being a brat. My mom would tell me to go to my room and think about what I’ve done. I would scream and kick because she would send me there and I would hate that authority.
Most kids would just go through the punishment and just take it. I’d kick and scream and just throw a defensive up about the whole ordeal. I think I remember getting in trouble for hitting my brother with a spatula – so I guess cooking just carries over into every area of my life, haha.
If you were a character in a famous movie, who’s role would you play?
I’d definitely say Reese Witherspoon in Sweet Home Alabama because it’s so similar to my story. Small town->big city, ends up going home and marrying the guy. Except with me, it’d be moving to the city and starting a business.
If you could go back to any point in history for a month, what time period would you visit?
I would say the 50’s.
If there was one celebrity you’d like to punch in the face, who would it be?
Oh man there’s so many! Can I get a double punch of Kanye and Kim. Chris Brown!
What age do people become “old”, what’s the secret to staying young?
It get’s older every year that I do! Haha so when I was 10, it was 20 – when I was 20 – it was 30 – now it’s 75.
What’s your favorite quotation?
“If you’re not with me during my struggles, don’t expect to be there during my success.”
It might sound bitter at first reading, but I kind of take it the other way. One time I had to move 6 times in one month when I was living in LA – and the same group of friends helped me move each time…I’ll always remember that and I’ll always be there to support them when they need it.
If someone wanted to get in touch with you and ask you more about what it takes to get involved in your career, what would be the best way?
If they’re genuinely interested in doing it and willing to put in the time & effort, and sharing their recipes with people – I’d love to help. They can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org