Food bloggers’ $128 and smart business tactics built a six-figure firm

How a once-homeless food blogger established a six-figure company with her last $128 and a few astute business techniques

Gracie Nash is the author, photographer, and recipe creator behind the popular culinary blog Sweet Tea and Thyme. Before the blog’s success, she and her husband were homeless after losing their renting apartment and rapidly ran out of money.

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“We had no idea about investing, side hustles, or passive income,” she says Insider. “We were essentially advised to ‘go to college, find a job, and work till you retire.'”

Nash and her husband had both served in the military and felt alone in the civilian world once their duty ended. “The military looks after you and assists you. You never have to worry about food, shelter, medical care, or anything else, “She clarifies.

After completing their duty, they did what they were instructed: seek employment and establish a career. Her husband worked many jobs while she stayed at home with their minor child. “We worked our butts out, and nothing happened,” Nash explains. “We were just eking out an existence.”

Then, in 2016, they encountered unprecedented adversity. Their landlord defaulted on his property, leaving the young family homeless for three months, sleeping in motels and their SUV.

“I was thinking, ‘We don’t have any assistance here,'” she recalls. “And no one is coming to save us; no one is coming to assist us.”

However, spring 2016 was also when Nash founded Sweet Tea and Thyme, forever altering the family’s approach to earning, saving, and investing money.

“‘We’ve got to go ahead and do this ourselves,’ I reasoned. How can we do this?’ Because performing it the way they instructed us was ineffective, “she asserts.

The family now resides in a property just outside of Washington, DC. Nash’s husband — who was hospitalized in 2019 for a severe illness — is retired, and Sweet Tea and Thyme generate yearly revenue above six figures.

The company began using a tax refund

When Nash considered other revenue streams, food was at the top of her list. She’d attended culinary school, but the prospect of working in a traditional kitchen did not appeal to her. “Spending at a restaurant would entail working inhumane hours in hot kitchens, therefore enriching someone else,” she explains.

However, about this time, some of Nash’s favorite bloggers began posting their earnings reports, and she recognized that working with food might be more than a pastime or passion project – food blogging could be a vocation and a company.

“I replied, ‘Okay, then I need to do this,'” she says. Sweet Tea and Thyme was established when she combined her culinary skills with her love for teaching others to cook.

Nonetheless, it needs some initial cash. “We used $128 that we didn’t have,” she recalls, “but we knew we’d receive our tax returns the next month.” This first payment covered the expenditures associated with setting up the website.

It was a bold move at a time when $128 could have purchased a month’s worth of supplies, when “having to withdraw money from an ATM (and so incurring a $3 charge) forced us to pawn something to recoup the $3 to pay our rent,” she recounted in an Instagram post.

When they received money from the IRS the next month, she was able to continue investing in her new company. “The tax [refund] enabled me to purchase the camera and laptop I knew I needed to make this a reality,” she explains.

Monetize blog by establishing a variety of cash sources

While her competence as a recipe creator and instructor attracts visits to her website, this alone does not generate revenue. Nash has had to develop new revenue streams and income sources and has learned to be competent in her approach to monetizing her firm.

She now makes money from advertisements on her website, affiliate marketing, brand collaborations, and her food blogging mastermind course, in which she teaches people how to create successful food blogs.

“I think of my ad money like a paycheck,” she explains since it is paid steadily. “I’m in a position where my ad income from the blog will always cover my expenditures, so I receive a paycheck from it and often retain the remainder for savings, business needs, and so on,” she explains.

Even better, she claims, this revenue stream is relatively passive, requiring her to log on to her computer just once a day to generate money. “I’ve taken months off from food blogging and continue to get compensated,” she explains to Insider.

Creating “evergreen” content — blogs and recipes that readers will return to — help optimize this revenue stream. Additionally, she develops “advertisement-friendly” pieces, which she teaches in her mastermind course. Perhaps most significantly, she understands her audience and how to build stuff they’ll like reading.

Negotiator and is aware of her value

However, it is not just her editing strategies that enable her to manage a six-figure company; it is also an attitude. “I understand the value of my work,” she adds, especially regarding brand collaborations.

She adds that when businesses approach her, they’re receiving more than an iPhone image of a meal. It’s hours of recipe formulation, professional photography, and editing equipment, and all of the time, she’s dedicated to honing her skill – and she understands its importance.

“Typically, they are million-dollar businesses, but content production is a multibillion-dollar industry,” she argues. “Therefore, I have no qualms about charging four, five, or even six figures.”

She only works with companies who appreciate her prices and her, stating that her value is not just monetary but also mental health-related. “I like cooking food and recording movies and images, but I will refrain from doing so if I am unhappy or mistreated,” she tells Insider.

She is accumulating money for future generations.

Earning money does not necessarily imply possessing money. However, Nash is adamant about being strategic with the money in her bank account.

“A large portion of it is invested in the stock market and cryptocurrencies,” she explains. “And in the education of our kid.” They’ve established a 529 plan for him and make monthly contributions. “We are not abandoning anybody; we are not waking our kid up at the age of 18 and then asking him what he will do.”

Around 60% of blog earnings are reinvested in the site, covering expenditures such as food, software, education, wages, healthcare, and taxes. Another 10% is set aside for corporate “emergencies” and personal savings. “You never know when your little child may knock over your camera and tripod by mistake,” she explains.

An additional 10% is invested in the stock market, and her spouse is a cryptocurrency miner. The other 20% is invested “straight to the future” in Roth IRAs, her son’s 529, and CDs. “Now that we are allowed to do so, we ensure that everything is covered,” she explains.

And, since they understand the critical nature of financial planning, they’ve arranged an appointment with a financial counselor to discuss their long-term objectives. “To ensure we’re on the right track,” she adds, “and determine what has to change now that our circumstances have shifted so dramatically.”

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