Fed & Fit

Ep. 61: Lexi of Lexi’s Clean Kitchen on Blogging Advice and Her Book!

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Ep. 61: Lexi of Lexi’s Clean Kitchen on Blogging Advice and Her Book!

On today’s show, I welcome my sweet friend, colleague, and special guest Lexi Kornblum of Lexi’s Clean Kitchen, to talk about her upcoming new book, how she turned her blog into a full time business, and advice for food blog start ups.

Cassy Joy: Welcome back everybody to another episode of the Fed and Fit Project. Today I’m joined by another friend of mine; I’m so excited about this interview series, because I’m bringing some of my favorite people in the industry together, to chat with them for a little while. Today I’m talking with Lexi of Lexi’s Clean Kitchen! If you haven’t seen her yet, you need to as soon as possible. She’s Lexi’s Clean Kitchen across Instagram; http://lexiscleankitchen.com/. She’s also on Snapchat where you can see even more of her most adorable golden retriever, Jax. She’s a good friend of mine, she writes incredible recipes, she’s always thinking about what would be the next best thing that I think readers would really like; like these one pan meals. Things like that; she blows me away constantly. She’s such a hustler, and she’s coming out with her first book this year, I’m so excited about it. And we’re going to be able to spend some time together at PaleoFx. So welcome to the show Ms. Lexi!

Lexi Kornblum: Thank you! I’m happy to be here.

Cassy Joy: I’m happy to have you here! This is so fun.

Lexi Kornblum: I love it.

Cassy Joy: Well, you could probably do a much better job, as always, of telling folks about your story thank I can, even though I stalked you thoroughly {laughs} before the call. But tell folks about your story, and I know you’re outside of Boston now, so what led you to Boston and what led you to starting LexisCleanKitchen.com?

Lexi Kornblum: Yeah, totally. So, I’m originally from New York, and I’ve been in Boston for 4 years now. I went to college at UMass Amherst and then met my fiancé Mike, and we decided to move here after I went to graduate school. So that’s why I’m here.

In terms of Lexi’s Clean Kitchen; well, did you know that I was an elementary art teacher?

Cassy Joy: I did.

Lexi Kornblum: Ok, so I was an art teacher until this past June, and I was also blogging. So I was blogging full time, I was teaching full time. I loved both but it was too much. [barking]

Cassy Joy: Aww, hey Jax! It’s ok. {laughs} This is real life.

Lexi Kornblum: Ok, good. So, I started Lexi’s Clean Kitchen about 3 years ago, and about 3.5-4 years ago I had horrible stomach issues. I had, what now I know was leaky gut and Candida and all sorts of stuff, but I didn’t know what was going on. I was bloated, I couldn’t go to the bathroom, I had all sorts of issues. It came to a point where it was getting in the way of my daily activities, so I decided to start an elimination diet. It was like, something has to change. So I started cutting out gluten and dairy, and I felt good but I didn’t feel 100% awesome or anything like that yet. So I took it a step further; cut out grains, cut out refined sugar, and some other stuff, and started feeling a lot better. Like, significantly life changing.

But I love food and I’ve always been like obsessed with food, so I still wanted to be able to eat anything, like pizza and bread and not buy gluten free crappy bread from the store. So I decided to start an Instagram account, where I was like; I’m just going to post what I’m making. A crappy iPhone picture, [barking] Sorry.

Cassy Joy: It’s ok! {laughs} He wants his 15 minutes.

Lexi Kornblum: Yeah, he only when I’m on a call. Our neighbors are getting a storage shed, and that’s what he hears because…

Cassy Joy: Oh.

Lexi Kornblum: Ok sorry.

Cassy Joy: No worries.

Lexi Kornblum: So I had all these health issues, all these ailments, and I started to feel a lot better once I cut out all these things from my diet. So I started the Instagram account, and I was just sharing iPhone pictures, and all of a sudden a lot of people started responding, and were following me, and kept asking me if I had a website where they could find everything. I didn’t, and that was when I decided to take it more seriously, and that will be 3 years in June. And it just kind of took off from there. And then this past June, I left teaching to do it full time, and to write my book.

Cassy Joy: That is so cool; I love it! That’s so neat to think, especially you, you just have such an awesome wealth of recipes. But to think that folks are getting started on Instagram, and Vine, and all the other platforms today.

Lexi Kornblum: It’s totally crazy, I know. Instagram was my first little love of social media, and it was just totally random, and it was the start of something great.

Cassy Joy: That is so cool. I’m just curious, because there’s a lot of folks who listen to this show who are either looking to start a blog, or really turn their blog into a real business. When you left your teaching job, was there something; a milestone that you reached, or something that happened that you were like; now is the time to go full time!

Lexi Kornblum: Yeah. Well, I was gearing up for a while. We knew it was about that time. I was successful with the blog enough, that I knew I wouldn’t be struggling when I left; but you know, when I started blogging when I was still teaching, I would just kind of post a post. And then I was like; ok, this needs to be quality over quantity. This needs to be; you know, I upped my photography game, I invest a little more in cameras and lenses, and just kind of made it more of a business than just blog for fun. I set more of a schedule, and I work with a bunch of different brands and develop recipes for them, but then I made that more concrete and more contract like. I definitely upped the game a little, made it less casual, more professional.

Cassy Joy: Yeah, well you do a great job of it. Something that I really admire is you’re obviously a very witty business woman. So it’s killer. Folks if you don’t follow Lexi yet and you are looking to really launch your business or take it to full time, I think she’s a great example of someone to follow. Let me find my other questions!

Lexi Kornblum: Yeah.

Cassy Joy: Ok, so what is your favorite part about your job? I know it spans a lot of different things, but what do you think you enjoy the most?

Lexi Kornblum: I think what I enjoy the most is connecting with readers, and them writing to me; you know, telling me they made a recipe and how it’s changed or impacted them. And just writing me and chatting about daily things; or giving me, like, can you do something like this? I’m like, oh that’s awesome. I never thought of that, and that actually is great for me too.

Cassy Joy: Mm-hmm.

Lexi Kornblum: So definitely I think connecting with readers.

Cassy Joy: Yeah.

Lexi Kornblum: And even friends; virtual blogging friends.

Cassy Joy: I know, totally. The birds of a feather. It’s kind of like people always say; your best friends in life are going to come from the ones you work with in industry. Because you share so many common interests, and it’s so true! It’s just, in this industry, everybody is scattered everywhere.

Lexi Kornblum: Yeah. Exactly.

Cassy Joy: So that’s funny. And that is something that I say a lot on this show, is encouraging people to email. Like if you have feedback to give, give it. Because it really makes my world go round, and I hear that from other folks as well. It really means a lot.

Lexi Kornblum: Yeah, totally. Even like with website stuff; I don’t know if something doesn’t load right on someone else’s computer, so just hearing feedback across the board is always so helpful.

Cassy Joy: Totally. Yep. One of my favorite questions that I like to ask food bloggers; we have all these hundreds of recipes that we write in work, but sometimes dinners that we tend to make over and over again are not necessarily recipe worthy. It’s not like something that made it to the website. So I’m curious; what would be a go-to dinner for you in your house, that doesn’t necessarily follow a recipe?

Lexi Kornblum: Oh yeah. I’m so not glamorous, so most nights; everyone’s like, what are you making tonight? I’m like, not what you think I’m making.

Cassy Joy: {laughs}

Lexi Kornblum: Oh my go-to dinner, that’s probably just eggs. Eggs, some home fries or sweet potato and some bacon. Just like breakfast; or brinner. Breakfast for dinner.

Cassy Joy: Brinner {laughs}.

Lexi Kornblum: That’s my go-to.

Cassy Joy: I love it, that’s awesome. We do a lot of; because I cook so much for the blog, Austin my fiancé; not fiancé anymore, he’s my husband now {laughs}.

Lexi Kornblum: Hubby! I know, Mike still calls me his girlfriend. I’m like, I’m not your girlfriend!

Cassy Joy: It’s an adjustment period to remember what to call them. He will swoop in sometimes and just make me grilled dinners, so it’s essentially; we eat a lot of whatever can get cooked on the grill. {laughs}

Lexi Kornblum: Yep. Well, Mike can only cook eggs, that’s my fiancé. So, yeah. It’s just brinner all the time.

Cassy Joy: Yeah, that’s awesome. That’s a good one. So I’m curious, because you do constantly put out incredibly fresh content, and it all looks amazing. What really keeps you inspired to keep upping your game, and keep putting great stuff out there? It looks like you’re constantly publishing new stuff, so what really keeps you going?

Lexi Kornblum: Yeah. Inspiration; I get inspiration everywhere in terms of recipe content. Magazines, I mean I have pages and pages of lists in my notes on my phone. Just kind of everywhere; different cuisines, traveling. But what keeps me inspired to keep creating new content? I guess it’s seeing what readers enjoy the most. Like right now, one pan recipes are doing really well on the blog, and people just like them, and for good reason. They’re just like super simple and easy, and less mess. So kind of taking one idea and seeing how far I can take it or how creative I can get with it.

So you know, right now I’m doing a ton of one-pan stuff, but honestly just different cuisines, and different restaurants, and different travel experiences, and you know, kind of just all over the place. What’s in season, a lot of that too. So go to the CSA and I’ll get a big box of vegetables, and I’m like, I don’t know what that is, but we’re going to figure it out tonight.

Cassy Joy: Mm-hmm.

Lexi Kornblum: So kind of just all over the place.

Cassy Joy: That’s awesome. So just kind of keeping an ear to the ground, it sounds like.

Lexi Kornblum: Yeah. Just seeing what’s hot, also. You know, what’s trendy.

Cassy Joy: Mm-hmm. Smoothie bowls are trendy right now.

Lexi Kornblum: I did a smoothie bowl! {laughs}

Cassy Joy: {laughs} That’s awesome. I haven’t done one yet, but I feel like I should.

Lexi Kornblum: You should.

Cassy Joy: {laughs} That’s great. So, the book is a huge project. I would love to hear more about it. What’s going into it? I know you’re pouring your heart into it because you’re constantly posting all the awesome work you’re putting into it. So tell me about the book, and what you’re most excited about with it?

Lexi Kornblum: Ok! Yeah, yeah, yeah. So the Lexi’s Clean Kitchen cookbook will be out in stores Nov 8, 2016. It’s available for preorder now, so you can go on Amazon or Barnes and Noble and type in Lexi’s Clean Kitchen and you’ll find it. Basically, the book is over 150 recipes, all clean. Let me start over.

So, the cookbook, the idea behind it is, it’s clean eating, it’s healthy, and it’s allergy friendly in a sense; like, gluten-free, grain-free, dairy-free, refined sugar-free and all that. But I really wanted to take a step further than just being like a simple paleo cookbook, and make it more about clean eating, which is why I started the blog, also.

So it kind of transcends the dietary labels in that sense; it’s kind of for everyone, not just if you’re paleo or gluten-free, but just for anyone who loves to eat good food and cook. So there are over 150 recipes, and it’s just my favorite stuff. I’ve been pulling all of my favorite ideas and inspiration, just kind of compacting it into this one big resource, and I’m super excited about it.

Cassy Joy: That’s awesome. Everything you’re making looks amazing.

Lexi Kornblum: Thank you!

Cassy Joy: Mm-hmm. Yeah, I wish we lived closer together, I would come help you.

Lexi Kornblum: If we were neighbors, we would have such good food.

Cassy Joy: {laughs} We would!

Lexi Kornblum: No brinner for dinner.

Cassy Joy: {laughing} No brinner! No. We would just have to swap which days we’re working on recipes. {laughs}

Lexi Kornblum: So good. So good.

Cassy Joy: Oh, that’s awesome. Are there any other projects; I’m kind of blindsiding you with this question, but are there any other projects you’ve got for the blog or anything coming up that you’re focusing on?

Lexi Kornblum: Yes, kind of. Once I turn in the manuscript and we kind of wrap up the book and get it ready to be in stores and be with everyone; doing a lot of video stuff for the blog, working with some cool brands to bring some really awesome new content, so video will be the biggest thing coming up that isn’t on the blog now that will be.

Cassy Joy: That’s awesome!

Lexi Kornblum: Yeah.

Cassy Joy: Very cool. I’ve been teasing forever, as soon as my book is coming up to a wrap. And by this point, it should be, when this episode airs. Hopefully! I keep saying that. I’m just kicking the can a little further down the road. {laughs} But we’ve got a YouTube video series that we’re working on, too.

Lexi Kornblum: Oh I love it!

Cassy Joy: It’s so fun. Videos are the most fun.

Lexi Kornblum: Yeah. It’s going to be a learning curve.

Cassy Joy: For sure.

Lexi Kornblum: We’ll get it figured out.

Cassy Joy: That’s true of anything, though. You know when I look back at some of my first blog posts, I’m just; they were; I’ve come a long way. {laughs}

Lexi Kornblum: Oh yeah. My photos are real bad. I’m like, oh.

Cassy Joy: {laughs} Oh that’s funny. Ok, I do want to pick your brain on business stuff.

Lexi Kornblum: Yeah.

Cassy Joy: Like I said, there are a lot of folks listening who do really want to start something. Do you have advice for people who are looking to really make that leap? When is the right time, do they really need to pick a niche, or they just need to just start creating? Generally, what would you want to tell somebody who’s trying to decide if they should go for it.

Lexi Kornblum: Yeah, I’m really glad you went back to this question because I feel like I have more to say about it than I said initially. I think the biggest things you need, when you start something, or start a business, or take it and get serious with it; first of all making sure, of course, that you love what you’re doing. And that you’re excited about it, because other people will feed off that energy. I think quality content, being excited about it, having a good platform that’s easy for people to follow and navigate. So, like a clean website or a clean place. So whether that’s bringing on a designer or a tech team, or kind of taking something and making it unique; taking a Word Press platform, or something, and making it your own. So it’s easier for people to follow.

I think, mm, this is a hard question.

Cassy Joy: It is hard. You’re giving great advice.

Lexi Kornblum: Ok. Well I think if you’re starting a blog and you’ve never had one, I think it’s starting with the basics. Picking out what your name is; picking out what kind of content you’re going to provide, and then just getting it out there and being pretty strong and consistent on social media I think is key. Also, being consistent with blogging. So, if you blog once a month, people aren’t going to know to come check you. If you’re doing it every Monday and Friday, or Monday, Wednesday, and Friday; or even once a week then at least people know that every Monday they can go to your site and they have new content. Consistency is so important.

Just kind of blowing it up on social media; don’t be afraid to bother all your friends and make them like all your stuff. People are always like; I don’t want to bother everyone. I’m like, do it. You have to be annoying sometimes.

Cassy Joy: {laughing} That’s really good advice, because I tend to be that way too. Is, oh well, you know, if they want it then they’ll come find it, right? {laughs}

Lexi Kornblum: Yeah, you have to just give it to them, even if they don’t want it. I looked at my friends; I see that person not following the page yet, let me just send it to them again. {laughs}

Cassy Joy: Uh-huh. That’s funny.

Lexi Kornblum: But yeah, consistency, social media, doing something that you’re passionate about, and investing a little in what you’re going to be doing. If it’s photography, if it’s writing, maybe take a course on it. Something that you’re going to pursue.

In terms of the niche thing; that’s something that I’ve thought about a lot, because I kind of border on the line of the real foodies, clean eating type of thing, and like the paleo world. And I’ve always tried to stay in the middle of the two; not because I don’t want to be in one over the other, it’s just because I find myself wanting to go in both but not wanting to be stuck in one, type of thing. So that’s something I’ve dealt with and thought about a lot for Lexi’s Clean Kitchen.

I think when bloggers first started, way before I was blogging, if you were a vegetarian blogger, it was fine, there weren’t that many. Now there’s like a million, so I think you definitely need to stand out in your specific niche, but I don’t necessarily think that you have to be like; I’m only going to do coconut milk recipes, and that’s going to be my blog. You don’t want to limit yourself too much, too.

Cassy Joy: Totally. And something that I found, and this is probably, everybody, I feel like has experienced a version of this. But you realize, as you start working in the material, that your niche almost just becomes you. And your take on it.

Lexi Kornblum: Right.

Cassy Joy: How you write, the recipes you like; I love casseroles, for whatever reason I’ve got an entire chapter of casseroles that are going to be in the book and a lot of them on the blog. But that almost evolves into a part of your personal brand. So be yourself, and do the things that you love, and in hindsight you kind of created your own niche.

Lexi Kornblum: Exactly. Yeah, people are going to come and follow you and see what you have to say, and want to see what’s going on when you’re excited about it. So if you’re just like; I feel like I have to do an ice cream recipe this week, you’re not going to be pumped about it, no one else is going to be pumped about it. You have to just kind of do what you’re interested in, what’s going on in your life, and people will respond.

Cassy Joy: That is such great advice. Killer! Ok, I have another question. So, you work a lot with brands. Do you have advice for people who want to work with brands and help develop recipes? I have been a brand ambassador for a couple of different product lines in the past, but I know you do a whole lot more of it. So if you had to give someone advice on how to get started, what would that be?

Lexi Kornblum: Yeah. Well for starters, a media kit is huge. I don’t know; I can elaborate a little more, but basically my media kit outlines my stats, so it outlines my unique visitors, my page views, my total reach, including social, my email list and all of that, so it’s like pretty clear for the brand; here’s what you’re going to get. It outlines opportunities, it has some examples. So then I have my one-pager, and then my longer spill, which has examples of past work, it has examples of reach from a specific post, it has a pricing guide and all of that.

So having those set up to match your brand will really make you look super professional. So I think if you’re going in; if you’re reaching out to the brand or a brand reaches out to you, having that to be able to go, ok here you go, here’s my media kit. It outlines everything; I also have some ideas of how we can work together, here’s a list of things that I think would be awesome, and then go back and forth like that.

Media kit is huge; only working with brands that really would benefit your readers I think is really important, because if you all of a sudden start promoting a brand that totally; you know, I turned down a lot of stuff because it just doesn’t fit. I’m not going to work with, I don’t know, some nasty chicken. I don’t know; Perdue.

Cassy Joy: Yeah.

Lexi Kornblum: You know, it just wouldn’t fit. So definitely being true to your brand. But I mean, you could definitely; a lot of brands will reach out to you, or their PR agencies, if you have a brand that you’re super passionate about working with, you can usually, and they’re big, you can usually Google their press release and find who their PR agency is, or reach out to them directly. You never know if you’ll find the right contact or it has to be connected to the right person. But reaching out never hurts.

Cassy Joy: That’s great advice; I would have never thought to Google press releases.

Lexi Kornblum: Yeah, that’s a big one. Because most big companies have a PR agency that handles all the media stuff for them.

Cassy Joy: Mm-hmm.

Lexi Kornblum: Yeah.

Cassy Joy: That’s a really, really great idea. Man, awesome stuff.

Lexi Kornblum: Man!

Cassy Joy: Girl, you’re killing it. Media kits are huge, and that’s something that I kind of entered late in the game. I found myself emailing folks who inquired; I found myself responding to them, recreating a typed, essentially the material that goes into a media kit, over and over again, in the emails. {laughs}

Lexi Kornblum: Yeah, I can just make this into a pretty little thing.

Cassy Joy: Exactly. So that evolved into a word document that I just printed to PDF. And if you’re not ready to jump into the full design mode,

Lexi Kornblum: Yeah!

Cassy Joy: That’s an option, you know.

Lexi Kornblum: Totally.

Cassy Joy: Use some headings and consistent nice little formatting in word, and print it to PDF, and that could be a good go-to. But there’s also; gosh what are those called? It’s an online networking platform where you could get connected with graphic designers.

Lexi Kornblum: Oh, what is that called?

Cassy Joy: There’s a bunch of them out there, and you could probably Google something of the sort, you could probably find it. Or you can get connected to somebody who might be able to turn that into something really beautiful. You send them some photos, and you’re…

Lexi Kornblum: For cheap, super cheap.

Cassy Joy: Yeah, for cheap, exactly. So Lexi nailed it; it really makes you look really professional.

Lexi Kornblum: Yeah, and then also just going back to the things for your blog; a logo, I think is really important, or consistent font, or consistent something where people are like; oh, I think that might be Lexi’s photo, or I think that might be Cassy’s graphic, or something, you know? So if you have a log that you can even; Oh! Is it Fiver, or something? Is that the thing?

Cassy Joy: Oh, that’s sounds right.

Lexi Kornblum: Yeah, something like that. So even if you use one of these sites that you can get a logo made; you have two or three fonts, and then just be consistent with them. Because you want people to start remembering your brand.

Cassy Joy: Totally. That’s a really good point. When I redesigned my website, the lady who redesigned the site also helped me; she gave me a list of the fonts, which I use over and over again, and all the graphics, but she also helped me build my email template with the same colors and the same fonts.

Lexi Kornblum: Yeah.

Cassy Joy: So, just like you’re saying; your branding all looks the same. And Logos are huge! And they also don’t have; you can find someone to do one, like she said, really inexpensively, or you could be like me and just make one in power point! {laughs}

Lexi Kornblum: Yeah.

Cassy Joy: My first one was, and it worked fine, but consistency.

Lexi Kornblum: Oh, you didn’t see my first one. It’s hysterical.

Cassy Joy: Oh my gosh.

Lexi Kornblum: If you go back in the Lexi’s Clean Kitchen; I feel like it’s in the profile pictures, you’ll see. It was really bad generic fonts, and it was like Lexi’s Clean Kitchen just in a row; so bad.

Cassy Joy: I love it. I want to see it. Mine is this swoopy Fed and Fit; oh my goodness.

Lexi Kornblum: It’s so funny how they evolve. And how, just, I ditched my whole peach look on my website and just going for a whole new color scheme, took off the fork and knife. Just kind of; it definitely evolves. It definitely grows up as you grow. I always say that; when I’m a mom, I might be a mom blog, you know. Who knows?

Cassy Joy: Totally. Yep. I totally hear you there. Oh man, this is great. This is really wonderful stuff. I was going to ask you one more question, but I can’t remember it right now. Thank you so much for coming on the show!

Lexi Kornblum: Thanks for having me!

Cassy Joy: Yeah, oh wait I remember what the question. So you do a lot of really awesome infographics, and if you guys haven’t seen Lexi’s infographics, you should check them out. They are killer. So, do you create your own infographics? Did you learn, kind of in the design world or is that something that you’ve developed a relationship with somebody to help you build those?

Lexi Kornblum: Yeah, I work with a designer on most of those. I develop the content and then he brings it to life. But I’ve done some; I mean, they’re not as amazing as his. But it’s definitely doable not as lavish as his amazing skills. I work with a designer; I develop the content and he brings it to life.

Cassy Joy: That’s still impressive, though, because I’ve had in design, and I dabble in it sometimes. I can make tiny little edits to things that my designer sends me; but when it comes to creating something from scratch, I’m just…

Lexi Kornblum: No, I say, can you convert it into Photoshop because I can’t figure out In Design.

Cassy Joy: {laughs}

Lexi Kornblum: I could use Photoshop; but In Design, not there yet.

Cassy Joy: Oh that’s so funny; all these programs. And if you guys want more tips like this, please leave a comment in the blog notes, and maybe one day we’ll do a full wrap up of all of the different programs that bloggers tend to use. That might be a cool thing. And as time evolves; I mean, I just adore Lexi so I definitely would love to have you back on the show, especially after the book comes out.

Lexi Kornblum: Yeah!

Cassy Joy: Yeah! So this fall, we’ll chat again. And by then we’ll both have books that will be on shelves.

Lexi Kornblum: It’s going to be so amazing!

Cassy Joy: We can take deep breaths again!

Lexi Kornblum: We can breathe.

Cassy Joy: Yes, exactly. Thank you so much for coming on!

Lexi Kornblum: Thanks for having me.

Cassy Joy: Oh my gosh, it was a pleasure. And remember you guys, you can find Lexi at http://lexiscleankitchen.com/. On Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook; all of the…

Lexi Kornblum: Twitter.

Cassy Joy: Twitter. All the medias.

Lexi Kornblum: Pinterest.

Cassy Joy: Pinterest. Oh, I need to look up your Pinterest, I bet it’s really cute. So definitely make sure you check her out, and look up her book in Amazon, Lexi’s Clean Kitchen. Available for preorder. It’s been such a pleasure for talking with you. And we’ll link up to all that in the show notes so you won’t have to miss a beat.

Lexi Kornblum: Great, thank you.

Cassy Joy: Thanks Lexi.

Lexi Kornblum: Thank you! Bye guys!

Cassy Joy: Bye!

   

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