Nicky has had a pretty remarkable and unorthodox journey that brought her to jump in the deep end and launch her business online.
Origin: A dream deferred.
Going back to Nicky's childhood, she loved to bake so it was no surprise when she had to make that dreaded career choice after matriculating, that she decided to go to culinary school. About halfway through her course in 2003, she found herself completely burnt out and distraught that something she loved so much could be so stressful. It was a tough time in her life where she had to go back to the drawing board. Three weeks later she took a job doing admin at a restaurant where 6 months of complete hustle and responsibility restored Nicky's self-confidence.
Following her restaurant gig, Nicky went to work for her folks doing corporate sales for their company. The experience with sales later led her to taking the entrepreneurial path as she found a niche representing small local upmarket food products and helping them get into retailers and farm stalls. She learnt a ton about the business of food distribution and food retail industries. In need of a role that paid a decent salary Nicky, jumped into doing ad sales in the publishing industry where she settled in nicely before the opportunity to travel led to a big move to Shanghai. While living in China Nicky started a blog called Delicious Monster where she shared her travels, recipes and photography. She took on the role as Director of Content at a tech start-up called SideChef, who produced a cooking app. She found a ton of joy in both of these spaces and loved being able to re-explore the world of food and cooking which she had put aside at times in her life.
There's so much more to Nicky's incredible journey but in short things didn't work out the way she had hoped in Asia and then in London where she spent a year in 2018. Cooking was the one thing that helped her cope with some tough times as she was navigating the next phase of life. She had come to terms with the fact that she needed to chase her own dreams and headed back to South Africa to figure out what those dreams looked like.
Coming back to South Africa wasn't easy but Nicky was able to reconnect with some remaining publishing connections she had, and she started building up her book of business as a freelance photographer and consultant in the editorial and digital project management space. Just as things were looking up Covid-19 ramped up and with it most of her work vanished. While on lockdown she decided that now would be the time to bring her passion and skills together to create something. In a matter of 3 weeks Nicky managed to create an eBook based on her passion, food and cooking. It was no small feat for her to do what she thought would take months in just weeks.
The Product: eBook and Beyond.
A book dedicated and born out of lockdown. This book is a passion project, created out of a blend of a love for food, photography, cooking and content creation.
Simple yet creative recipes. This book is unlike your typical cookbook with complicated, impossible to recreate dishes. It's made to be simple yet elegant, for everyday people to create amazing dishes out of your everyday pantry.
The entire project was self funded, this was a passion project turned eCommerce business.
Building an Online Store. Choosing a platform and getting it built.
Delicious Monster had been using Squarespace as a blog but decided to start from scratch using Shopify after learning more about eCommerce through Insaka Academy. Shopify was easy to use and has a ton of functionality built into that makes managing it easy enough.
What theme do you use? Why did you chose it?
Delicious Monster is using Narrative, a free theme from Shopify.
Are there any challenges with the Platform you are on?
Squarespace was more designer friendly and the blog was easier to use. Shopify's editor sometimes acts up and isn't great. Also, premium themes on Shopify are really expensive.
What Apps and Services do you find most useful?
Kit is a AI chat tool that helps sellers access data and make decisions about ad spend. It's free with Shopify and is super easy to use.
SEO Ranger is an app used to boost your stores SEO rankings which leads to more traffic.
Mailchimp is the most popular email marketing platform in South Africa and enables businesses to send mailers and handle all kind of other marketing automations.
How has Covid-19 impacted your business? How have you responded?
Delicious Monster's online store and ebook was born out Covid-19, here's a quote from Nicky on the experience:
"In times of crisis people handle things differently. After I’d gotten over the initial shock of what my fate might be over the next few weeks, I went into survival mode. How would I get through this? What would my next move be? How could I use my skills to generate an income during a time where people are having contracts cancelled, being retrenched, freezing positions and closing their businesses? I'd do what I know best - cook, bake, photograph and create content which people needed. And so began what I hope will be something that I can successfully do now and continue doing after this is all over." -Nicky Barber
The Growth Journey.
Early book sales were super encouraging and exciting for Nicky, but figuring out how to boost growth and figure out what to do next was tricky and very early days. The entire site and marketing was built out on her own and she's learnt a ton. Early growth was aided by sharing the story of the book with friends and family who used good ol’ WhatsApp groups and social media to get the word out. Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest are Nicky's favourite social channels to push. She feels that Pinterest is under-utilised by a lot of brands and she's found it to be a great source of traffic. She's experimented with a few hundred Rand in ad spend here and there and has found some success in driving traffic.
While Nicky enjoyed kicking off her business with an eBook she knows it's tough to scale book sales if you aren't Jamie Oliver with unlimited cash to live off while producing them. She's launching a curated food and lifestyle store where she sells things she loves from various vendors, although plans are in place to self-publish her third book which will feature recipes inspired by her time spent living and travelling in Asia. She’s also developing a range of her own food and lifestyle products, which will fall under the Delicious Monster umbrella.
Who do you use for Payments? What are the pros and cons of these services?
They are currently using Payfast for payments, it was really easy to get setup.