CrowdInk had the chance to sit down (virtually) with Jodie Blight, creator of the award-winning Hello Table App. She has some phenomenal advice on balancing motherhood and entrepreneurship and how to turn an idea into a reality.
CrowdInk: What was the inspiration behind your brand/business?
Jodie Blight: After graduating from University, I spent 10 years working in the finance industry as a Marketing Director of a Funds Management Company. Then my husband and I decided to start a family, and within 2 years our lives changed forever. We ended up moving to the Netherlands with my husband’s work when our firstborn, Benjamin, was only a year old. Moving halfway around the world was a huge decision and an even bigger adjustment and we had so many wonderful experiences and challenges during this time that included adjusting to the lifestyle in a non-English speaking country that was completely different to Australia. This was on top of having our second child, James.
Life in a small Dutch village for 4 years with no family support, no takeaway food shops, the supermarket closing at 5pm on weekdays and no Sunday shopping, forced me to change my approach to many things. That included cooking and I had to creatively plan and prepare our family meals. And that is where the concept of Summer TABLE was born!
I often got ‘caught out’ with ideas and had to produce interesting and tasty meals with whatever I had in the fridge. Out of necessity, I realised I needed to think ahead. The ‘hostess with the mostest’ in me always cooked way too much and our tradition of Sunday roasts resulted in lots of leftovers. As a lover of good food (and I admit, a little frugal), I didn’t want to simply reheat yesterday’s food and serve the same meal again, so I became accomplished at creating tasty, quick, and healthy meals with the abundance of beautiful food left over from Sunday. And no one knew they were eating leftovers.
I set myself a personal challenge to use the leftovers in innovative new ways and found myself deliberately making extra for the Sunday roast, (since it required no more time or effort). My husband was often surprised at how much food there was and regularly asked, with a concerned look and a quiver in his voice, “How many people are coming today?”
When we returned to Australia, my friends begged me to write a cookbook and share all my fast and delicious recipes, but I knew if I was to write a cookbook, I needed to have an edge and it needed to be different to everything else out there. The cookbook space is a pretty crowded market, so that’s when I decided to develop the Hello Table App.
It’s not rocket science, for me it just seemed like the next logical step, but it had never been done before. Cookbooks have been through a challenging time, competing with the digital world. But my simple and logical idea was to combine the old world of hard copy cookbooks with the new age of technology, rather than to pit them against each other.
Everyone loves a hard copy cookbook, but they also want the convenience of fast and simple technology. The app allows the user to browse their cookbook, scan the recipes they wish to cook and it automatically creates an amalgamated shopping list on their phone with all the items sorted by the supermarket sections.
And what’s even crazier is that I had never actually used an APP before developing the Hello Table App! I was just a mum with an idea who had no experience in this arena, no contacts in the publishing industry, and no idea what I was doing. But I did know that I had an idea, which would resonate with other busy people, and I knew I had the determination to do it.
This was no ordinary cookbook. This was a cookbook of the future, so taking it one step further, I developed the app as a white-label concept meaning that other publishers and cookbook writers could license the app and brand it with their own look and feel.
CI: Congratulations on your win – the Best Cooking APP in Australia. That’s a phenomenal achievement. What is the competition all about? What did it take to win? What does that mean for your business? Tell us about your trip to China, and being in the top 3 finalists in the world?
JB: Thank you, I am very proud of what I achieved, especially in such a short space of time and with no idea what I was doing. Edouard Cointreau founded the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards in 1995 and every year, they honor the best food and wine books in the world. Books (and chef-authors) from 209 countries participate in these prestigious awards in the only international competition of the cookbook-publishing sector. The Gourmand Awards have been called the “Oscars of food awards,” as the Olympic games and their spirit inspire the concept of the awards.
The trip to China was amazing – tricky with the language barrier, but such an amazing experience. Meeting so many wonderful and highly regarded and awarded authors and chefs and TV personalities was so inspiring. There were so many cultures and different languages, but we were all there to meet like-minded people, share ideas, celebrate our successes (personally and as an industry) and have a lot of fun.
Because of our success and notoriety in the awards, I have been asked to attend the Frankfurt Book Fair in Germany in October (the largest book/publishing fair in the world). Edouard Cointreau counseled me to attend as he knows of a lot of publishers who are desperately interested in my APP and he has offered to assist me in meeting and establishing relationships with these publishers from all over the world. Australia is such a small market compared to the rest of the world. In particular, there has been interest from China and Germany, two of the largest and most influential publishing countries in the world. Very exciting.
CI: Tell us about yourself, has cooking always been your passion? Where did you work prior?
JB: Well, like I’ve stated, I had to be creative with my cooking when I was living overseas, so the passion came with opportunity and time. But, yes, I love to cook (and eat) on the regular, so the passion emerges when it’s fun and I have time to create. So it is a passion, but I still get sick of cooking dinner every night, just like everyone else.
I decided to take on this mammoth project partly as a bucket list dream, but also as a mum who wanted to go back to work but had to find a role which could still fit around the family and the children. It’s a tricky quandary, which many mums face when looking to get back to work (and using their brains again).
CI: What has been the biggest challenge in running your own business?
JB: There were so many challenges; writing the book and project managing the whole process as well as developing an app all within 6 months was definitely a challenge. But I have to say nothing compared with after the book was launched – the distribution, marketing, PR, the lot was hugely challenging and definitely were the larger and harder part of the process. It’s a bit like having a baby, the pregnancy can be difficult, but nothing compared to when you have the baby.
Just trying to juggle all the aspects of the business, as I was the only one (accounts/invoicing, delivery, sales, marketing) and also being a wife and mum was another challenge. Balance was, and continues to be the biggest challenge of running my own business – separating time for work and time for family gets tricky, especially when the office is just in the next room. It’s very easy just to pop in to check a few emails and send out a few orders, but before you know it, 2 hours have flown by.
CI: What are your goals for next 12 months (only if you want to share)
JB: So many goals ahead, I need to prioritise a bit because I have so many goals and there are not enough days in the year! This includes the release of Summer TABLE internationally (UK and USA), the impending release of Winter TABLE (scheduled for 2017), the co-partnership with Woolworths and looking towards partnering up with other businesses too to get the app expanding into different industries. It’s all very exciting!
CI: What tip do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?
JB: Nike said it best – Just do it. It can be demanding, grueling, and exhausting but that’s what makes the end result so much sweeter. And don’t just do it for yourself, do it for your children, it shows and teaches them that hard work and determination can pay off! They learn that no one hands you these things on a plate, you have to work for it.
By taking the leap, you will learn so much more than you ever expected. You will look back on your journey one day with no regrets and be so proud that you gave it a go.
CI: How can people connect with you and download the Hello Table app? Do you have a book coming out/already released?
The Hello Table app is free for those who buy the book, but will soon be available to purchase via the Apple AppStore or Google Play. As for the books, Summer TABLE is out now, and Winter TABLE will be out in April 2017, so keep your eyes out!