As we near the end of June we will be closing out the Women-Owned Small Business Entrepreneur Series soon with just a few more interviews this Summer.
Today we are featuring Nicole Ciuppa of Nutritionally Nicole. Nicole writes about food allergies and her experiences with them and also has created an allergy-friendly recipe eBook with plans to publish another one soon.
Ah, the “tell us about yourself” question. This question actually give me some anxiety and pressure to fit all that I do into about three sentences. The truth is, I am a twenty one year old food allergy friendly blogger and video content creator who shares allergy friendly recipes, focuses on food allergy advocacy, and shares my life experiences with the Nutritionally Nicole community.
What does your business do?
In creating Nutritionally Nicole, I hope to provide a place of belonging, spread positivity, and inspire food allergy friendly homemade cooking. Helping others with food allergies is a main goal as I wish there were people sharing their experiences when I was younger. Being vulnerable and showing people the challenging not so insta-perfect parts of my life is challenging but important and, hopefully by doing that, they will know they are not alone.
Who is your target audience or market?
Everyone is welcome into my community as it is crucial for the world to understand how to handle food allergies. I focus my blog towards those who have food allergies, like myself, as well as those caring for people with food allergies.
What year did you start your business?
I created my Instagram account close to 2015 and launched my website September 2016.
What were you doing before starting your business?
I originally started a fashion and lifestyle YouTube channel, nicoleciuppa1996, at the beginning of high school because I found a passion for video editing and social media content creating. As time passed by, I wanted to share parts of my life that were food allergy and nutrition related on my channel but quickly realised there was not a place for it- it did not blend with my existing content. This sparked the idea to create a blog and separate YouTube channel, Nutritionally Nicole, for food allergy and nutrition related content. From this point on, I began to see an entrepreneurship with Nutritionally Nicole.
Where is your business located? Do you have a dedicated workspace?
I currently work from home with the occasional writing of blog posts and editing of videos in coffee shops and I love it! I make all of my recipes and have food photoshoots in my dining room next to the large bay window to reap all of nature’s beautiful light.
What would you say your biggest success has been? What was the key action that led to this success?
Being completely honest with you, I cannot say that there is one pivotal moment during the last 3 years that has been my biggest success. For me, the little- maybe to someone else meaningless things- all add up to my idea of success. Each time I receive a comment saying that I inspired someone to learn to cook or experiment with a new food allergy friendly recipe makes me so happy. When I receive private messages from followers asking for advice on situations in their lives or telling me that I make them feel like they are not alone in dealing with food allergies when there is this feeling of hopelessness, my heart bursts with love. I cannot tell you each individual experience like the ones mentioned but they are all the reason I do what I do. The key action leading to these community interactions is being open and honest with people. Being vulnerable online for the world to see is not easy but it creates a trust with the person on the opposite end of the screen. Authenticity goes a long way when building an online community.
What would you say your biggest failure has been?
Again, no one moment sticks out in my mind as “That was horrible! I shouldn’t have done that! What was I thinking?” but I am a major perfectionist who is constantly criticizing my photographs, blog posts, and recipes until I think they are the absolute best I can produce. This may seem like a great attribute but it is a hindrance in some cases as it has lead to me not posting content that probably was amazing to anyone else but I was not fully satisfied with the end product.
What did you learn from this failure and how have you changed things to prevent this from happening again?
Throughout the years, I have learned that in being so self-critical, I begin to lose the passion for what I do. When I feel that fire for my work begin to reduce to flicker, I take a step back and reassess. I remind myself that the number of likes of my Instagram photo or how many hits my website receives that month is not the reason I started Nutritionally Nicole. It was because of the love I have for food, nutrition, and for wanting to help others deal with food allergies.
What has been your biggest challenge as a small business owner?
My biggest challenge is finding the time to create consistent content as I am full time Nutrition and Dietetics student in University preparing to apply to the Dietetic Internship this coming Fall. Moving on to the next chapter of my life is incredibly exciting but also very overwhelming. Balancing all of my educational responsibilities with being a solopreneur is challenging so I work to stay organized and batch create content.
Was there ever a point where you wanted to give up? If so, why?
Giving up is an interesting concept. I don’t think one can ever give up on their true passion as it will always find a way to creep back into their life. I cannot see myself ever losing my fire for food and nutrition. I may change the way I create content or alter my online image but the core values of helping others, sharing my life with the Nutritionally Nicole community, and creating beautiful food allergy friendly recipes will always be present.
What do you love MOST about being an entrepreneur?
One of the coolest aspects of building your own business is the freedom that is tied to it. No one else is telling me how to post, what to say, how to edit, which subjects I can and cannot talk about-it is all my own decisions. Not being confined into a corporate standardized box allows me the creative room that I crave to explore Nutritionally Nicole in all entities.
What do you love LEAST about being an entrepreneur?
Because I do most of my work from home and by myself, being an entrepreneur can become isolating. Cultivating friendships with people who have common goals is challenging when it is not through an Instagram DM or computer screen. However, when I do find those people, it is all the more meaningful.
Did you always see yourself owning a business? If so, is this the business that you thought you would be owning? If not, what did you think you’d be doing?
I did not create Nutritionally Nicole with the thought of making a profit or it being a business. It was the calling to make a change and do something that is valuable and rewarding that I did not see anyone else doing. When I was younger, I always knew that I had unique ideas about things and my loved one always told me I would do great things in life. I had no idea that a couple of years later, I would have published a recipe ebook, cultivated an online community with purpose, or have turned my passion into a business.
Where do you see your business in the next 3 to 5 years?
In the coming years, I plan to publish a second book- this time in print to be sold in brick and mortar stores. Sharing my passion for food photography, food allergy friendly recipes, and my journey along the way is something I am itching to tell in a tangible medium. I will keep you updated on this one!
What advice would you give to other women that are interested in starting their own business?
I would say to just go for it! You will never know all of the incredible things that could happen if you do not try. As long as there is a passion for whatever it is you want to do/create, you are golden. I support you and if you are looking for a sign to tell you that this is the time to start your dream business, this is it.
What is one program, tool or app that you can’t live without for your business? (If you have more than one, please feel free to share more!)
I am a planner so using apps that allow you to arrange photos and plan your instagram profile is my best friend. I use the app UNUM but there are plenty of great apps just like it that allow you the same features. I really like UNUM because it happens to be free. I also love the app, Facetune, to edit my photos. I receive questions from others all the time about how I get my photos to look the way they do or if I use expensive programs like Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop and the answer is that I currently only use Facetune and add my favorite filter. There you have it-my secret is out!
What does your day to day in your business look like?
Having an online business allows you freedom and flexibility to work any hours anywhere. For example, I can blog my newest story from a local cafe or my bedroom in pajamas. I batch create content, for example, I will photograph three new recipes in one food photoshoot to schedule out posts and keep consistent content. This allows me the compartmentalization to be able to keep up with my school work as a full time Dietetics student.
As a business owner it can often be hard to find time for ourselves. What are your favorite hobbies and what do you like to do when you are not working?
When I am not creating content for my blog, youtube channel, instagram, or planning community events, I love to be active. Practicing martial arts has been an intense passion of mine since I was 4 years old! First Taekwondo, kickboxing, and my new current favorite, Krav Maga. I love being able to defend myself and always leave the mat feeling empowered. I also enjoy regularly practicing Yoga to destress and strengthen the awareness of my inner soul. It is a lifesaver. Other than moving my body, spending quality time with family and friends is so important to me and having that circle of positive supporting people around you is one of the best feelings in the world.