Friends, meet Cynthia. As the founder behind Confetti Kitchen, Cynthia has continued to inspire us over the last few years as she’s evolved her blog from unique content destination, to community, and now to a custom events studio specifically for food brands. If it sounds like quite the journey, make no mistake—it has been!
We were inspired to chat with Cynthia about her blog journey because we think she’s a perfect example of a creative who has evolved her blog’s vision, learned as she’s gone along, and with time, created a business that works (and works for her!). Take heart that no matter how you feel about your blog today, it’s okay to keep shifting your focus as your needs—or the market—changes.
Let’s chat with Cynthia and learn more about her journey!
Q: First things first! Give us the boilerplate. Who are you and what is your business?
Hi, I’m Cynthia. I’m the founder and CEO of Confetti Kitchen, an experiential events studio for food brands. We design and produce one-of-a-kind events for many of the brands you’ll see on the shelves of Whole Foods, such as Kite Hill, Bare Snacks, and Simply Organic. We love the challenge of translating a brand’s story to the offline world through interactive culinary experiences.
Q: Ok, that’s the now; let’s go back in time a bit and talk about the then. When we first met, you had a totally different blog and business concept. If you can, quickly walk us through “where you’ve been” when it comes to being a blogger/digital creative. What’s your blog history?
Since 2008, I’ve always been in and out of the blogging world. My first food blog, The Midnight Cook, was just the beginning. I had been working in corporate finance, but always had a creative itch. At the same time, I was applying to MBA programs, and was getting so burned out from writing admissions essays. It was at this point when I started to discover my love of cooking, and was excited to share the journey online. Like all blogs in the beginning, it was pretty bad. I had a point and shoot camera and pretty much everything I shot looked yellow. Everything.
Fast forward to 2013 and I had graduated from business school and landed a tech job in San Francisco. After about 2 years of getting settled into my job, that creative itch returned. So I jumped back into food blogging, this time with a focus on food photography and styling. During the 5 years I had stepped away from blogging, digital photography had dramatically changed the game. Everyone was taking pretty great photos and I had some serious catching up to do.
So I bought a DSLR, took a few classes on Creative Live, and experimented on the weekends. A few months later, I launched The Simple Fare as a blog to highlight super basic recipes I would make for myself, friends, and family. Through The Simple Fare, I learned all about SEO, social media, email newsletters, and collaborations with brands.
Q: And cue when our co-founder Victoria met you! You’d been writing The Simple Fare, and our initial conversations about working together were around redesigning that site. But then the project pivoted, and Confetti Kitchen came into the picture!
Even though they both began as food blogs, The Simple Fare and Confetti Kitchen had a lot of differences. What prompted you to change your approach to content creation between these two sites, and in your mind, what were the biggest differences between them—from a branding perspective, voice perspective, content perspective, etc.? What shift did you feel from one blog to another?
Yes, I definitely approached the two sites very differently. Early on, creating content for The Simple Fare was a side project, not a business. I only posted recipes when I felt inspired and had the luxury of shooting with natural light, thanks to no deadlines. It was through this experience that I learned how to create and promote content in a low risk way. That being said, I always had a dream of launching a business in food. I worked on The Simple Fare with that long-term goal in my mind, but really had no specific idea to pursue.
As for Confetti Kitchen, I had big goals and intentions for the site from the beginning. I began working on it during the last 6 months of my tech job. I originally wanted it to be a media business dedicated to beginner home cooks aspiring to cook for themselves and their friends. The name Confetti Kitchen was inspired by the idea of food for gatherings—big and small—such as date night, weekend girls brunch, or even a work potluck. I enjoyed cooking for others and knew that my friends wanted to do the same. So originally, Confetti Kitchen set out to be the trusted, go-to resource for this audience. It was less focused on me—Cynthia, the blogger—and more about a team of talented writers and recipe developers sharing recipes, entertaining tips, ideas, and more.
Another big difference between the two blogs is the initial investment I made in each site. Again, The Simple Fare had started as a hobby, whereas I knew going in that Confetti Kitchen would be different. I made some serious investments in the branding, site, and content for Confetti Kitchen. In order to compete in the crowded food media space, I knew that the branding needed to be fresh and consistent. Through working with Victoria, I learned that branding not only meant defining the colors, logo, and fonts, but also the voice and overall feel of the brand. Still to this day, I get compliments on the logo, colors, and overall aesthetic of the site. It’s one of the elements of the business I’m most proud of today.
So essentially, in the beginning, I ran Confetti Kitchen as a mini media company with freelance contributors writing articles and developing recipes. But it was thanks to my photography study during The Simple Fare that I felt comfortable shooting and editing all of the site and recipe photography. Plus, all the other blog skills I’d gained from The Simple Fare came into play immediately with Confetti Kitchen!
Q: One thing we’ve really admired is how adaptable you’ve been with your company. You started out intending for Confetti Kitchen to be a media company, and now it plans events! Could you walk us through that evolution, and how you got from Point A to Point B? How did you know when it was time to evolve your original site vision?
So much has changed with Confetti Kitchen since launching the site in August 2016! Every 6 months, the focus of the company would shift as I’d discover a new opportunities to grow the business. Really, the only metrics I focused on in the beginning were readers and revenue.
In the beginning as a media business, it was all about content. The goal was to build a substantial, niche readership and monetize the site through advertising, such as sponsored content. To support this model, we needed to create content on a daily basis and do everything we could to promote the site and attract readers. The idea was that readers would lead to revenue.
But, while running the content machine, we would promote the site through pop-ups. I always loved the idea of building a brand offline, especially given how noisy the digital world has become. We hosted a series of ticketed pop-up dinners called CK Supper Club. We’d get 30 people in a room for a themed, family-style dinner. It was a way to bring strangers together and build a community around Confetti Kitchen. I loved these dinners. So much so, I would procrastinate writing a 500 word blog post in order to plan the next one. This was my first foray into events and I had no clue it would be anything more than just that. It was also a hint that what excited me most about the business had shifted away from content creation.
After 8 months of the editorial grind, I was beginning to lose steam (and money). Beyond the crazy amount of work and cost required to publish content regularly, my motivation had dwindled. I needed to get serious about revenue fast. Events were our biggest revenue source so I decided to double down on events to support the content side. That lead me to plan our first brand-sponsored event in June 2017—our CK Summer Solstice influencer dinner. I picked a date and started pitching a bunch of food brands I loved. It was so much fun to plan and my gut told me I was onto something big. I continued to host a few more sponsored events and pop-up dinners in 2017, but it was still about using those events to promote and fund Confetti Kitchen, the food site.
Around this same time I was experimenting with a table decor line called Table Pop. I had always been obsessed with the idea of creating a physical product, but after running that short test, I quickly learned that it would be impossible to run that business line on top of everything else.
To sum it up, at the end of 2017 I had many coals in the fire. Content, events, and physical products. But looking back, maybe it was a good thing, because it forced me to focus again—one thing I knew for sure was I couldn’t continue doing it all. I had to pick the best business for me and go all in. And the answer felt pretty obvious. Working with brands on experiential events was what I loved doing the most. For my own personal fulfillment, I knew I had to be doing work that was creative and innovative, and the project-based nature of events fit my personality. Confetti Kitchen kicked off 2018 as an experiential events studio for brands, and it has been so much easier to build a business with a focus!
Q: It sounds like focus was a big part of the evolution of your business. How did you know when to let your focus be wide, and when to hone in? We imagine revenue was a big factor, but as an entrepreneur, when did “signs” or intuition come into play?
I figured out and focused on what motivates me! A lot of my motivation to have my own business stemmed from a desire to create something new. I felt like when I was casting a wide net and trying different ideas, the ones that interested me the most were the ones when I was doing something different, or meeting an unmet need.
For example, playing around with Table Pop, I initially thought I would love curating and selling physical products, but I quickly realized it wasn’t my thing. I think casting the wide net was important to test different business models—like a snippet of each thing that sounded interesting—but then deciding, “No this definitely doesn’t work for me,” or saying “Ooh, I love planning events because they’re more finite projects yet also different every single time.” I think part of it for me was realizing I was attracted to newness—I like shiny objects! But overall, once I thought I wanted to focus only on events, I realized quickly I needed to drop everything else. I needed to focus on that one thing vs. continue trying all these other things. It was time to go all in.
Q: We completely agree with that. Especially in blogging, it’s a great opportunity to have your own space and experiment, but once you realize something’s not for you, it’s ok to pivot! Sometimes as bloggers it’s easy to paint ourselves into boxes of creating content or running a site the way “everyone else is doing it,” but that’s usually pretty stifling long term.
So on that note: We meet so many creatives who are interested in starting something, but aren’t sure where to begin, or worry they don’t have it all figured out. Any advice for them? Did you ever feel like you were in the same boat?
Two words: Just start. There’s zero chance I would have landed with the current Confetti Kitchen business model had I not gone through the rollercoaster ride since launching the site.
As a recovering perfectionist, I completely understand the desire to have the perfect business model laid out from day one. But guess what? That’s never going to happen. There are no overnight successes. You can’t get to the aha! business opportunity without moving through ideas that don’t work. The key is to put ideas out there, learn quickly, and try something new.
Q: How do you see CK evolving over the next 1, 3, and 5 years?
Confetti Kitchen, in its event studio form, is rather new so the next year will be all about building our event portfolio and refining our website to reflect our work. I’m also focused on growing our team, both freelance and in-house, as there’s only so much I can do on my own! And of course focusing on the p-word: process. I actually think that having a good process in place frees up time to do your best creative work.
In three years, I’d love to see Confetti Kitchen running events in parallel across major cities. The team will undoubtedly need to grow to support this, and I get so excited thinking about bringing in creative talent from event producers to graphic designers to culinary staff.
Beyond that…who knows?! I think there’s a lot of room to grow and even redefine the experiential event space. My dream is to have Confetti Kitchen lead the way.
Q: Last thing: tell us all your favorite resources!
Ooh, good one. For podcasts, I’ve been into The Accidental Creative; How I Built This, of course; and Seth Godin’s new podcast, Akimbo. Let’s see, at work, I rely on Asana to manage my business—all of our events get their own project in Asana. Other than that, I rely on the A Color Story app in Instagram, both to make photo edits and to plan out my Instagram grid. Those are the biggest ones, for me!