Our latest customer story comes to us down under from Perth, Australia. I had the pleasure of speaking with Tenina Holder, the owner, creator and Head Mixtress at Cooking with Tenina.
Like so many Ecwid customers, Tenina launched her business after many years experience working in corporate roles. A former staff recipe writer at Thermomix, Australia, in 2011
In the five years since her launch she has taught countless cooking classes and written eleven original cookbooks that have sold thousands copies. In addition to the books she sells cooking tools and ingredients on her website, and is about to launch another exciting new venture.
We sat down with Tenina to learn about her journey, lessons she’s learned, and the next frontier for her delicious business.
Passion for Creative Cooking
Tenina’s passion for cooking and creating new recipes stems back to her college days when friends flocked to her Sunday Dinners. There’s just something about a home cooked meal that creates feelings of community and comfort Tenina shared, noting that she’s always found her creative force in the kitchen.
Though she loved to cook, when she married and had children — Tenina is the proud mum of 5!
Soon after she landed a dream job writing recipes for two different brands, and ultimately Thermomix, that lasted almost a decade. Working for Thermomix was a great experience, Tenina said. It gave her the opportunity to expand her cooking expertise, travel the world, and learn business skills that have served her well in her private venture.
What is a Thermomix?
For those who aren’t familiar with the tool, the Thermomix claims to be the most advanced cooking appliance on the market. It combines 12 functions — weighing, mixing, chopping, milling, kneading, blending, steaming, cooking, beating, precise heating, stirring and emulsifying — into one durable and compact package. The possibilities for creating new recipes are, quite literally, endless. The Thermomix has been popular in Europe and Australia for many years and will be making its American debut later this spring.
Thermomix users are a niche clientele hungry for new ways to use their device. Niche markets are perfect for small online businesses. You will stand out from the crowd when your shop appeals directly to an engaged market. Tenina’s work experience and unabashed affection for the Thermomix made for a smooth transition into
Social Media Foundation
With help from an IT savvy nephew, Tenina’s first blogging website came online almost 13 years ago. I was so excited when I reached 1,000 followers on my blog! Tenina said.
In the beginning, the blog would receive about 2,000 views per month. I was starting to see the potential to reach a much larger audience via the web, Holder explained. This was in the early days of blogging and Tenina was also busy working a full time job and raising her family. The seed to branch out on her own was planted, but it would still be almost a decade before it sprouted into the thriving business that receives over 100,000 monthly website visits today.
Before she officially launched her new brand, Tenina dipped her toe into the social media pool by creating a Facebook page to share her foodie passion with the public. Later that year, she asked her 400 early fans If I ran a cooking class in Perth, would anyone come?? Just asking…(you’d have to pay!) Her post received over 50 comments in a single day: Yes! When? Sign me up! eager fans replied.
Instagram is the next frontier for Tenina. A perfect platform to engage new customers with beautiful foodie pics like this yummy chocolate berry tart that she recently shared on Valentine’s Day.
With an encouraging personal network in place, her Facebook following has since grown to over 70,500 fans! Here’s how she did it…
A Recipe to Create Community
With the support of her family, and encouragement from more than 50 facebook friends, Tenina left Thermomix in July 2011 to launch her own brand of cookbooks and offer localized Thermomix cooking classes for a small fee. Classes were held in Melbourne, Sydney, Perth, Brisbane, and Mandurah. Each was
She also landed a three part interview series with another
Additional advice from Tenina — harness your personal network and ask for feedback and shares. Friends and family will gladly share news about your business and may become your first customers. These early wins help build momentum for your business, and motivate you to keep moving forward on the tough days.
In the earliest days of Cooking with Tenina she wasn’t selling online, but that changed later in the year when her nephew added Ecwid to her website to sell class passes. With a swelling social media following behind her, the first classes that Tenina offered using her Ecwid store sold out within a matter of days.
Soon thereafter, she published her first cookbook for the Thermomix — The Dinner Spinner. Sales of the book exceeded expectations, the first printing sold out within just a few weeks!
Harnessing the Power of the Web — Global Classes & Egoods
Through 2012 and 2013, Tenina’s local cooking classes continued to sell out. She realized that she was reaching maximum capacity and began to explore new outlets. By this point Tenina regularly shared new blog posts, had created a monthly email newsletter, and began to increase her social media marketing efforts.
I spend a lot on Facebook ads. At first it was scary to spend the money, but they have really paid off and helped extend my reach to new customers, Tenina shared.
As sales and web traffic increased she recognized that her website needed a refresh and her catalog was ripe for expansion.
Her nephew helped create the new site and Tenina manages the online store operations and blog updates.
When it came time to move the site, Tenina appreciated the flexibility Ecwid offered. [Ecwid] was great because I didn’t have to change anything. My catalog stayed intact and we just popped it into the new Craft hosted site Holder reported.
At the relaunch, she offered cooking ebooks alongside the hard copies previously available for shipment. Ebooks have been really great for me. Clients can download their purchases immediately, saving time for the customer and printing and shipping costs for me.
She was concerned about the potential for ebooks to be pirated, but has found that customers are proud of their purchases and are more likely to refer curious friends to her site than give away the downloaded copies.
The website expansion also allowed Tenina to expand her courses to online webinars, where participants from around the world can learn from the comfort of their own kitchens.
Marketing the Mixtress
When I asked Tenina the secret to her success she advised: Believe in yourself, do what you love, and keep trying new ideas. She also believes in butter, chocolate, good wine, and has a wonderful family support system.
I’ve been doing this pretty much on my own; I’ve been fortunate to hire a full time assistant and I recently contracted with a social media advisor. Between us, we manage the store, class and travel schedules, customer communications, and we also package and ship every order.
For the last five years, there’s been a whole room in Tenina’s house filled to the brim with merchandise. As my product catalog has grown, my home seems to have shrunk! Tenina exclaimed. A supportive spouse, and grown children leaving the nest, made the home centered business mostly manageable.
A new special ingredient product line is in the works, and shipping woes are about to change. Tenina recently joined forces with The Parcel People, a parcel fulfilment company, that link into her Ecwid store to handle all of her shipping and distribution from a centralized warehouse.
In addition to Facebook ads, Tenina’s monthly newsletter has been a great marketing tool for her business. She currently has over 19,000 newsletter subscribers and 70,500 Facebook followers.
When I announced the new book, Cooking with Tenina: More Great Recipes for the Thermomix, on facebook
The overwhelming response from newsletter readers is a testament to the engagement of her audience. Tenina uses MailChimp and sends about two newsletters per week. Making communication a priority with direct customers keeps them engaged and inspired to try new recipes. She teases readers with tasty preview recipes that encourage purchases of her larger compilations — no additional marketing dollars required.
There’s Always Room for Dessert!
With all that Tenina has accomplished in the last five years, you might think she’s ready to sit back and enjoy the rewards of her success. Not even close! In addition to her new ingredient line, Tenina recently added a Foodie Travel Trip to Bali to her list of products.
Tenina is also in the midst of launching a monthly membership that will give participants VIP access to new recipes and how to videos. Check out a sneak peek of her new cheesy asparagus video.
At Ecwid we are thrilled to be a part of Tenina’s recipe for success. By the end of our conversation I was looking for previews of the American Thermomix and wondering how I can get an invitation to Sunday dinner at Tenina’s home in Perth!
Interested in sharing your story with other Ecwid fans? Drop me a note and we’ll chat!