On Starting A Keto Food Blog With Over 8M Monthly Visitors
Hi! My name is Maya Krampf and I run two businesses, Wholesome Yum and Wholesome Yum Foods.
First and foremost, Wholesome Yum is a popular keto food blog, reaching over 8 million people every month. Our strengths are recipe development, writing, SEO, and food photography and video. While our first and current flagship product continues to be natural keto recipes for the masses, we’ve also expanded to offer other helpful products for the keto community, including a custom keto meal plan app, a hardcover Easy Keto Cookbook, and digital products like ebooks and keto cheat sheets.
Wholesome Yum Foods is a joint venture between me and a long-time friend, Jeff Lager. Since readers so often ask me for recommendations for the best keto products, I decided to develop my own to meet the demand for quality from my audience. We pooled my expertise in recipe development and marketing with Jeff’s extensive supply chain experience to create clean, keto-friendly products that people will love. So far, we offer keto sweeteners, superfine blanched almond flour, and coconut flour, with more products coming very soon.
Ultimately, the goal of Wholesome Yum is to be a one-stop resource for all things keto - recipes, articles, tools, and products. I’m a firm believer that this lifestyle doesn’t have to be boring or complicated, and love helping people adopt it into their lives in easy, delicious ways! I’m honored and excited to see millions of people visit us and use our products every month.
What's your backstory and how did you get into entrepreneurship?
Create your content and products for your audience, not for you. If you want a hobby and you want to do it for you, that’s perfectly fine, but make it a conscious decision. If you want a business, treat it like a business.
While I got busy and “life happened” during high school and college (I studied computer science), in the back of my mind I always wanted to have something of my own.
In my early 20’s, I started an eBay designer consignment business from my house, which made a little money on the side but was not wildly successful by any means. At least it helped support my online shopping habit at the time.
I started experimenting with a low carb lifestyle in 2010 and was amazed at how fabulous it made me feel. I had struggled with low energy, mood swings, anxiety, and sugar addiction since age 14, and eating this way made these issues virtually disappear. I also have a family history of obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes, so the more I learned about the benefits of low carb and keto eating, the more I was convinced that it was for me. Soon after adopting this way of eating, I started experimenting with my recipes.
In 2015, I decided to start a blog to have a place to record these recipes - Wholesome Yum was born! At the time, never could I have imagined that it would turn into my career and be seen by millions of people all over the world.
Take us through your entrepreneurial journey. How did you go from day 1 to today?
Success never happens overnight, and it took time and tons of hard work to get to where we are today.
For the first 7 months of Wholesome Yum after starting in August 2015, it had virtually zero visitors. I was a private person and didn’t want to have social media accounts, and I knew nothing about SEO, so it was practically impossible for anyone to find me. Besides, the blog posts were not written in any helpful way at all, the pictures were terrible, and if I’m being honest, I didn’t test the recipes as well as I should have. While I was spending a fair amount of time on it, I didn’t think it could grow into anything, so nothing I was doing had much of an audience in mind.
The first source of traffic that took off for me was Pinterest. At first, it was almost by accident, but once I got a taste of that, it made me want more very quickly. I changed my mindset from a hobby to a business. By June 2016, Wholesome Yum was getting over 100,000 visitors per month, mostly from Pinterest. Motivated by a taste of success, I opened up other social media accounts, got serious about recipe testing, and spent every spare moment studying food photography and SEO. While most people I knew spent their time after work relaxing or doing fun things, I woke up early before work to snap recipe photos and stayed up late into the night writing posts, studying SEO, and connecting with other bloggers in Facebook groups to learn everything I could about this business.
The hard work paid off. In January 2017, Wholesome Yum reached almost 1/2 a million views - and it has just around doubled every year since then. While my initial success felt amazing, I was hesitant that it could last and faced a lot of backlash from people I knew. My husband was frustrated with how much time I was spending on the blog, my friends had no idea why I did it, and my parents warned me about “throwing my life away” at the prospect of leaving my software engineering day job. I burned the candle at both ends, trying to do it all myself while trying to raise a newborn (my first daughter was born in March 2015) and maintain a full-time job. I hired some part-time contractors to help with some tasks and converted my dwindling eBay business employee to a blog assistant. I took 4-month maternity leave with my second daughter in 2017, and whenever the baby was sleeping, I was working on my blog. All of this still wasn’t enough. I was drowning.
By March 2018, I couldn’t take the pressure anymore. I was working 80+ hour weeks, trying to maintain a full-time blog and a full-time software job, and by then Wholesome Yum was making significantly more than my day job. Fortunately, my husband was supportive of the business by then. I left my job and felt a huge wave of relief.
With the ability to finally focus on Wholesome Yum full-time, I streamlined a lot of processes, started using a project management system, focused on batching, and hired out more work, while my traffic continued to grow - definitely with some ups and downs in between. We hired a couple more part-time employees that summer.
But now that the blog was my only source of income, I was concerned that it was supported entirely by ads. “What if the ad industry changes? I am so far away from retirement age.”
Determined to diversify, I launched a printable pdf subscription in October 2018. It almost completely failed, because I forgot to foresee a critical component of a subscription: customer service. Thankfully, by this point, the blog was making more than enough to exceed not only my old salary but my husband’s as well, and he left his job to join me right when the meal plans launched. His background is in IT infrastructure and management, and he has managed help desk teams in the past, so he created help articles and formulated a customer service process, just in the nick of time before the meal plans failed.
With my husband and I run the business full-time, 2019 was a year of diversification and team growth. It was time to get serious about diversifying, but also time to gain back some sanity and build a team we could trust, so we didn’t have to do it all alone. We hired 4 full-time employees that year, and one part-timer joined us full-time. I wrote my first print cookbook, which became a USA Today Best Seller. We made countless website improvements to improve usability and reliability. We finally backed up all our data and systems. We brought on a remote team of developers to create an interactive app to replace our pdf meal plans. Perhaps the biggest step was convincing Jeff to come partner with us full-time to create Wholesome Yum Foods.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
2020 has not been an easy year for the advertising industry. The onset of the pandemic sent ad budgets plummeting in almost every industry, which significantly affected content businesses like ours. Despite this, we are extremely fortunate and grateful to have a business with great profit margins that can weather the storm that has been this year. Now toward the end of the summer, ad budgets are looking up, but it’s hard to predict what the colder months will bring.
Still, despite the difficulties of 2020, it has been one of the most exciting years yet. We launched our Besti natural keto sweeteners in January, which have had an overwhelmingly positive response from our readers (monk fruit sweetener with allulose is the reader favorite!), with flours later in the spring. Our blog readership continues to grow, and I’m seeing more direct traffic than ever, meaning people are going to wholesomeyum.com directly to look for recipes. We launched our first-ever custom keto meal plan app on the web in May, with native iOS and Android versions coming soon. We’ve defined our team’s roles a lot more, with experts in various areas instead of everyone doing everything. We now have 8 full-time employees, including my husband and I. I’m learning a lot about offering digital products to diversify further and help my audience in new ways. Email list growth and ad-driven digital product sales have been a new focus.
Looking forward, I’m excited to see what the next year will bring. We plan to create more keto ingredients and other products for Wholesome Yum Foods (and hopefully you’ll see them in your local grocery stores very soon!) and release native mobile app versions of our Easy Keto Meal Plan App for iOS and Android. Perhaps another print cookbook and more digital products to help with the keto lifestyle are in the cards, too. But most importantly, we will continue to do what has always been the core of our business - create free, reliable keto recipes that millions of readers can count on.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
One of the biggest things I’ve learned is not to be afraid to hire out and to let go. I used to be a control freak, but the best decision I’ve ever made was hiring my team, and the worst decision was not doing it sooner. They are amazing and allow me to have the time to focus on building new things.
Another huge thing? Create your content and products for your audience, not for you. If you want a hobby and you want to do it for you, that’s perfectly fine, but make it a conscious decision. If you want a business, treat it like a business.
But truly, this question is hard to answer because I have learned countless things along the way. I now not only approach my own business differently, my view on other businesses is completely different as well.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
While I have a creative side, I’m a very process-oriented person. The right tools are everything. The two most important tools in our business are Asana (the entire team’s tasks live in there, including my own) and Google Sheets (we have a spreadsheet for everything!).
Off the top of my head, other tools we use include social media platforms (Pinterest, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter), an email service provider, a scheduler for Pinterest, photo editing software, online graphic software, SEO research software, and code editing software. I hesitate to list specific names of the tools we use because honestly, they change very frequently. I am constantly looking for the best tools and the best ROI I can get from them.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
To be honest, most of my inspiration has come from blogging, marketing, and entrepreneurial online communities rather than books or podcasts. I am so grateful to many bloggers who have helped me learn along the way. I have learned a lot from them and from doing research online, but probably most of all - and this is the fun part! - I have learned from experimentation and seeing what works for my audience. No two businesses are the same, no two sites are the same, and what makes a business fun is testing to see what sticks!
Where can we go to learn more?
I would love to have you come visit Wholesome Yum! Find me on the Wholesome Yum website, Wholesome Yum Foods, Pinterest, Facebook (and our keto support group), Instagram, and Amazon.
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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