Each month, I will introduce you to a public health consultant or entrepreneur and they will share their path to self-employment and outline key pieces of advice for aspiring business owners.
Today we welcome Elaine Gordon from Baltimore, Maryland!
1. Please share your educational background and business title/name.
Master of Public Health (MPH), Master Certified Health Education Specialist (MCHES)
I am the Owner of Eating by Elaine.
2. Tell us how you entered the field of public health and what your education and work experience was prior to consulting.
Since my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer I have always been incredibly passionate about my personal health. In college I took a public health communication senior seminar and fell in love with how public health uses evidence-based, data-driven approaches to solve public health issues and help others live healthier. I loved how interdisciplinary the field of public health is and how it drew from my background in communications and mathematics while focusing on my interest in helping communities to live healthier lives. After undergraduate school I went immediately to graduate school to get my masters in public health degree. During the MPH program I was lucky to have found a job with a local start-up wellness company, LiveHealthier. I ended up growing with that company for over ten years. We created workplace wellness programs using public health theory and data from health risk assessments and biometric screenings. We essentially were creating tailored corporate wellness programs to encourage employees and their families to live healthier lives. It was the perfect job for me as it allowed me to learn the business side of public health as well as gain exposure to all different aspects of wellness including diabetes prevention, heart health, nutrition, physical activity, stress management, cancer awareness, screening and prevention and more. Within these areas my greatest passion was always the nutrition/healthy eating piece and I’m thrilled that all my public health experiences have culminated to now creating healthy recipes for all!
3. When did you start consulting and what were your motivations for pursuing self-employment?
I’m fairly new at it but absolutely loving it so far! I started just over two years ago while I was pregnant with my third child. At my previous corporate job the company was bought out by a large healthcare organization and things were changing rapidly with regards to the culture. After having my second child I decided to go from working full-time to part-time and after moving over an hour away from headquarters I was working remotely from home to spend more time with my family and less time commuting. I was loving the independence and flexibility I was starting to feel. On the side, I started freelance writing and creating nutritious recipes for The Washington Post and was gaining confidence in those areas. I loved flexing my creative muscles with both writing and recipe creation. Meanwhile, my “hobby” food blog on the side was starting to gain traction and I was loving the time I was able to spend on it whenever I could.
Now that I work for myself I feel like I can balance my work-family life exactly how I want it at any given point in time. And, I love being able to decide what projects I take on and when. As a blogger I get to wear multiple hats which keeps my day to day work super varied and interesting. There are so many aspects of blogging including social media growth, website creation and maintenance, writing, food styling, photography and business development. And, of course, recipe creation, cooking and cleaning! I do crave variety in my work and I love to be creative.
4. Who is your ideal client? What services do you offer?
In addition to recipe development and freelance writing about healthy eating, I’m focused on growing my following with individuals who will really benefit from my recipes. My recipes are nutritious but also plant-based and allergy-friendly. My goal is to create simple and approachable recipes that work for all diets (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan and even nut-free). I personally have many food allergies and sensitivities and grew up in a family that did as well. I love food and finding ways to make delicious meals within the restrictions of common food allergens to help others realize it is possible to eat delicious, healthy food that won’t cause digestive problems, allergic reactions and other health issues.
When I’m able to sign on a client whose product aligns with my recipes and the needs of my followers I am able to partner with them on social media posts and/or sponsored recipe posts where their product is featured in my recipe. For example, I recently worked with the North Carolina Sweet Potato Commission to create recipes featuring sweet potatoes. I am working now with the California Avocado Commission and will be featuring avocados in five upcoming recipe posts throughout 2019. Ultimately, I love to represent organizations or brands that I truly love and use in my personal life so I can stay authentic and true to myself.
5. What is your favorite type of project to work on and why?
I love creating recipes for publications. And, I feel lucky when I can represent brands and organizations that I’m truly passionate about in my personal life. In addition, I’m starting to think about creating products to sell directly to my readers. For example, I might start with a smoothie e-book and based on how that goes poll my readers for what other types of e-recipe books they might be interested in me creating for them. Stay tuned!
6. Many of our readers are considering a career as a self-employed public health consultant. What is your best piece of advice for those considering or just starting out in consulting?
Just do it! And go all in on it! Every industry is different, but with food blogging it just wasn’t something where working on it part-time enabled me to really focus on it the way I needed to and to gain enough traction. It might feel scary to go off on your own and get started without the comfort of a cozy 9-5 job. But, I promise you, you will never regret following your dreams and doing what you love every day. I have never looked back! When I receive messages from my followers that my recipes are helping them to live healthier lives it gives me such a sense of joy. It motivates me to continue creating!
I love to time block my days to stay focused and ensure I complete my daily (and ultimately my long-term) business goals. I also love the learning process and pushing myself beyond my current limits. For example, learning the food styling and photography piece was initially challenging for me but I look back at how far I have come from some of my early photo shoots and I feel such a sense of pride given I had never picked up a camera prior to starting the food blog. If there is one thing I have learned it is important to invest in yourself in the beginning to refine your skills and become better at what you are doing. I learned a lot by connecting with others in my industry and not being afraid to ask for help and advice.
7. How can readers connect with you? Please share links to relevant websites and social media accounts.