Jessica Randhawa is the head chef, recipe creator, photographer, and writer behind The Forked Spoon, a website dedicated to family-friendly recipes for the everyday cook. Her story about how she got to where she is now is interesting and holds a message – especially for those who are just starting out on their business journey! Jessica’s dedication to her business is equal to her passion for owning more experiences through travel and having fewer things. She’s a great example of a female entrepreneur who’s intentionally leading the life she chooses.
* Throughout the interview, there are photos of Jessica’s cooking creations – click on the photos to be taken to the recipe.
What inspired you to launch a web-based business? I first started food blogging back in 2011 after graduating from the University of California Santa Cruz with a Bachelor of Science in Molecular, Celluar, Developmental Biology. I was employed at Stanford University School of Medicine when my boyfriend (now husband) and I decided to pack our things into boxes, say goodbye to our jobs, and backpack through Nepal and South East Asia for six months.
During this long trip, I fell in love with the blogging community, traveling, and cooking (plus eating) new foods and flavors throughout that journey.
While traveling through Asia and expanding my taste palate, I learned some of my favorite recipes by taking professional culinary classes at various cooking schools with some fantastic chefs.
My husband is a tech guy, so he has always handled all the technical stuff around our recipe website business, like the website itself, servers, photography gear, and operations. With my husband focused on all the tech stuff, it made it easy for me to handle all our business’s creative aspects, including recipe development, photography, writing, and publishing. It is great that we each specialize in our separate areas, focusing on what we are each good at.
What do you love most about having your own business? The thing I love most about having my own business is that I get to make my own schedule as I see fit. When I am feeling ambitious and highly productive, some days I can work 12 to 14 hour days with no regrets. But at the same time, I can take off the next day entirely if I see fit.
What is the most challenging about running a business? The most challenging thing about running a business is mitigating stress. Staying ahead of business stress in a continually changing world can pose severe challenges to any CEO. 2020 and 2021 were stressful for many business owners for many reasons. I firmly believe that finding outlets outside of work and scheduling those outlets regularly has helped me stay focused and less stressed in my time for business. Pre-pandemic, I was a massive fan of Cross Fit like High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) group classes, which I would do 5 to 6 days per week to clear my head, spike my heart rate up, and get my endorphins pumping.
With my gym shut down in 2020 and no opening insight, I have had to look for new ways to get those same benefits, which will help me grow my business. I turned my focus to trail running with my dog in the hills behind my house. While it is not quite the same workout level, I can clear my head in nature while enjoying flora and fauna (not including our local rattlesnakes). These long runs help me stay focused and allow my headspace to be refreshed and less stressed when I return to business.
What are some professional risks you’ve taken that led to positive outcomes? If you don’t love doing a specific task, outsource it, or delegate it. This allows me to be more productive in areas that I enjoy and where I know I can move the needle. I try to get referrals for parts of my business that I want to outsource so that way, I have a good idea of the quality of work that I am outsourcing. But outsourcing can be risky overall.
Where is your favorite place to get work done? I have a full studio set up with a beautiful view in my California house in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada – all my cooking and photography is done there. I go through phases where I like to get publishing work done. In the cold winter months of December and January, I tend to work in front of my fireplace in our great room with my computer on a lap desk. Since the pandemic restrictions eased for the past month or so, I have been doing all my publishing work at my gym’s cafe. Every few months I migrate to a new place to get my publishing work done.
Name three web tools you can’t live without.
My favorite web tools are :
What is the one book you would recommend other female entrepreneurs read? Being a female entrepreneur who is also an influencer, I loved reading Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead. I loved the chapter “Don’t Ask Anyone to be Your Mentor”, as it helped me realize that getting a diverse view of the advice from both people, senior and junior, can be more effective than having one single go-to person for advice. After reading this book a few years ago, I still keep a diverse group of people around me whom I go to as sounding boards.
Do you have favorite podcasts? I don’t listen to podcasts often, but I listen to the Food Blogger Pro Podcast every now and then to hear about what my competitors are up to.
Are you part of any mastermind or networking groups? If so, which ones?
I am in quite a few mastermind groups, but the best ones are the Facebook Groups:
- Food Blogger Central
- Mediavine Publishers – have to be with Mediavine Advertising to get in
- Mediavine Premiere – invite-only for Mediavine’s top advertisers
What does your typical day look like? My typical day starts with first seeing how the traffic wind is blowing. In my online publishing world, this means reviewing Google Keyword Gains and Losses that morning from SEMrush, looking over Advertising Income from the previous day, and checking Analytics to see what is trending to push it harder on Social Media if need be. After my morning routine is complete, I jump right into Content Creation for the day: recipe development, recipe cooking, recipe photography, or typing up the recipe post copy, which tends to take up most of my time.
How do you unplug from work? I unplug from work by scheduling regular travel trips aboard. During these vacations, I don’t do any publishing. In January 2020, I was lucky enough to be one of the last visitors to the Cook Islands before they locked down their country. Last summer, I spent a month in Greece island hopping in the Aegean Sea. For spring break this year, I am going to Thailand. Traveling unplugged without having to work refreshes me to go hard when I return.
What tips for maintaining work/life balance would you give to other businesswomen? My best tip for maintaining a work/life balance for other businesswomen is to schedule time for yourself on your calendar and commit to it. Many of my best ideas have come in my scheduled downtime, and even well-respected business newspapers like The Economist agree.
What’s something you do every day to take care of yourself? I try to exercise at least once daily. Not only does it make me feel better afterward, but it relaxes my mind in the process.
What is a quote you live by? “So often in life, things that you regard as an impediment turn out to be great, good fortune.” – “the notorious” Ruth Bader Ginsberg
What investments have most helped your business grow? The biggest challenge that held back my success for a few years was pushing for the wrong Content Management System of Squarespace after transitioning from the Blogger Content Management System. While Squarespace was straightforward to use, it didn’t help me grow the traffic to my website. While on Squarespace, I increased my profitable full-time business by 20% year over year, which is substantial profitable growth for most small business owners.
However, traffic to my website didn’t grow during this same period because of the limitations of that content management system. While there are many different avenues to drive traffic like email and social media, one of the biggest traffic drivers for most professional websites and blogs is Google Searches. I found out that having a domain on a high-quality host with WordPress as the Content Management System enables the building and configuring of a much more search engine friendly and social media friendly website.
We have been on WordPress for over four years now, and we have grown our traffic by over 3000%.
Business-wise, where do you see yourself in 10 years? In ten years, I hope to have multiple successful hardbound cookbooks published and a small recipe empire that I manage 🙂
What advice would you give your younger self? Try new experiences as often as you can, as life experiences make you the sum of who you are.
What is the number one piece of advice would you give to someone who wants to run a web-based business? Invest in the best technology from the beginning, as there is no need to reinvent the wheel with fringe technologies.