How Ninong’s Grew our Instagram Following Organically

I wish I knew more about social media. Getting older, it makes it harder for me to keep up with the new trends out there. There’s always something new – a new app, an new upgrade, new features and changes being made to social media platforms.

During my live stream with Heather last week they asked me how Ninong’s grew our Instagram following. Full disclosure, it’s not like our following grew overnight. But! They’re organic followers which means real people, real likes, real comments.


So, why did we choose Instagram? Well for one, Ninong’s is on almost every popular social media outlet. You name it – Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, etc. But Instagram is where we saw the most engagement, it’s where we got the most traffic, it’s where we can control the conversation. Not to mention, 59% of the users on Instagram are our key demographic.

Why don’t we do all social media channels? For Ninong’s, it’s important for our brand message to be personal. Our brand story focuses on the idea of a family business/restaurant and inviting people to our “house” to eat. When you dine at our establishment, you’re eating recipes created by my aunt, my mom, my husband, etc. Our social media presence had to be us, not anyone else. Instagram allowed us to do that. We did try to do all the popular social media outlets, but because we’re a small operation we were forced to realize that it takes a lot of time and energy to do social media right. It turned out to be the biggest blessing in disguise. When we decided that focusing on 1 social media channel and doing it well was going to be our focus we saw consistent growth. We’re averaging about 20 new followers a week. I know it’s great to have a presence on all outlets. But don’t forget, if you don’t put shareable, useful, relatable, and authentic content on each channel then don’t do it. Don’t put 50% effort into something, you gotta go all in. 100%. That’s an entrepreneur’s golden rule with anything we do.

Now that we figured out why, let’s figure out what.

What did we do to grow our reach on Instagram? Well first, we had to identify our signature product and ask questions about it. This isn’t just beneficial for social media, it’s important for your business period. I know you want to cater to everyone, that you want your product or service to have a wide reach. We wanted that too. But that’s where we made a mistake. Cast a smaller net, really get detailed about your target market. The wider reach will come, trust me.


So, for our restaurant’s sake, our signature product is Ube Pancakes. Like I said, don’t just identify your product. Figure out why it should be your signature item. For us:

  1. The color is unique. Most people have never seen a purple pancake before.
  2. The flavor is very different, unlike anything we’ve ever tasted.
  3. Not many people were serving it at the time, let alone in our area.
  4. Our business is a cafe and pancakes fit very well in our business model.
  5. It’s the perfect catalyst to tell people about Filipino food and culture.
  6. It’s familiar to all cultures, not just our own. Since our mission is to share our family’s Filipino recipes and dishes with the world (not just other Filipinos) this was the perfect product to push us into the direction we’ve always dreamed of.

Okay that’s done, now what do we post? People love behind the scenes stuff. They love to see the people and the process that makes the end product. We post raw ingredients like eggs, the mixers whipping some icing, etc. Make your followers feel like they’re an exclusive club by letting them be the first to know that you have new products. Or even, show them the struggle of being an entrepreneur. Authenticity and transparency is key. People can see right through you on social media. Don’t pretend, be you – you are why people will be interested in what you have to offer.


Another suggestion is to inform your audience. Tell them who you are, what makes you different. Mix it up! We don’t just post your signature product over and over without some variety. We try to post as regularly as possible.


Last suggestion is repost your followers! We actually did this out of desperation because we couldn’t think of anything to share, but our customers and followers loved it! I think that reposting from another user just allows an unbiased account of our product.

It’s that simple! The main thing you want to think about is looking at it from a viewer’s perspective instead of the content creator’s perspective. Who is look at you? Who do you want to attract? Who would need what you have to offer? Create content that would be useful for them.

When you post, remember to always provide value. Don’t just post to promote. Show your audience and potential tribe that you care about them. Share a little bit about yourself (this is your brand story), inform them about your products and why it’s different from the rest, share insight, and share your journey!

xoxo,

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Entrepreneurship = Roller Coaster

I wish I could tell you how great entrepreneurship is every time you ask.

I wish I could tell you that I’m living the dream 24/7

I wish I could say that money is always steady and that I never think about going back to being employed by someone else.

I wish I could say that I have tons of free time and that I could come and go as I please.

I wish I could tell you that I’m 100% sure I’m doing the right thing.

But I can’t, cuz that would be a lie.

I’m a hands on entrepreneur. It’s just who I am. I guess I just have a passion for people. I like to give direct guidance and leadership. I like to make lists, cross off tasks, and get things done.
I like my team to see me, active, in the trenches with them. I like to be completely transparent with them. Some days are good, some days are bad. At times you’ll have a lot, other times you won’t have enough. Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. That’s the nature of the beast. Entrepreneurship is a roller coaster. Every day is a new adventure, every day is a new challenge. 

Last week I was doing my weekly live stream with my friend Heather. I was telling her about how this past month has been a challenge for our restaurant business mostly because here in California, specifically Los Angeles, minimum wage increases every July until we hit $15 by 2021. With the team of 12 (not including share holders) I have at Ninong’s, our business has to make about $350 more per week to keep up with the hike. Not to mention, our prices from our vendors have increased across the board so our Cost of Goods Sold has increased as well which has resulted in an approximate increase of $750 per week. *insert panic face here*


Now don’t me wrong, I’m a firm believer of a fair wage for all workers. But really, minimum wage earners should really consider their cost of living not just the dollar amount of their checks before they think they’re winning in this scenario. Your wage goes up (yay!), your prices go up (boo!). Another possibility is prices may stay the same but portions may go down. What used to be $1 for 10 oz. might be $1 for 6 oz. now. I know it’s going to take more work to see whether or not you’re actually netting more in the end, but we all should really know so we can make educated decisions. It’s worth it, trust me.

Another thing that is interesting to me is that medium and large businesses with more than 25 employees are required to increase their minimum wage $12 but small businesses are not required until January of 2018. While some small business can celebrate for a mere 6 months I challenge small business owners to do the same as wage earners. Think about if it will really benefit you by holding off your price increases until January if others have already increased theirs on you. Moreover, if an employee looking for work has a chance to work at a bigger company for $12/hour and I’m hiring for $10.50/hour who would want to work for me? Yes, there will always be applicants but remember sometimes longevity of an employee can sometimes be more beneficial and economical. Quick turnover of employees is always difficult. Something to think about.

Like I said, I’m a firm believer of a fair living wage for all. Everyone that works hard deserves to be able to make a livable income. But let’s be realistic here. Let’s think about a way for that to really be possible. I’m no economist, so I don’t have a solution. I really wish I did.

Entrepreneurship is a roller coaster. Not just a roller coaster of events but emotions too. You have to find that perfect balance of keeping your doors open and your employees happy. At least I try to. Sigh, the struggle is real.

Thanks for letting me dish! Is there something that you struggle with too in your business? Would love to hear about it!

xoxo,

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Las Vegas Market Summer 2017 – Part 2

Finally recovering from the crazy week we had in Las Vegas! I wanted to take a few days to let all the craziness subside and really think about how I feel about the show’s outcome. This being my first show I honestly did not know what to expect so I just tried to be as prepared as possible and put my best foot forward.

The World Market Center is open year round. For those of you that have never heard of Las Vegas Market it takes place 2x a year (January and August) at the World Market Center in Las Vegas. It’s a wholesale trade show where buyers can come and shop the showrooms and booths for their retail establishments. They have different items that are sold there in the furniture, home, design, gift, and handmade categories so you can find anything from jewelry, to stationery, to bedding, to furniture, to wall decor, to Christmas decor.


So if you’re wondering about exhibiting at Las Vegas Market or how my business did then read on.

Since it was my first trade show I don’t really have a unit of measure to really compare to. Moreover, I didn’t really have a sales goal, my only real goal was to make contacts which I think I did. 

I was in the 2000 row with some fellow friends I had met through Tradeshow Bootcamp. Our row was sort of in the middle of the Gift section. I had a 10’x10′ corner booth and I think it definitely had its advantages. My corner booth was in the middle aisle and I was really happy with the location. My only gripe was the heat, OMG the heat. Traffic coming into my booth in general for me was slow, some days better than others. But I think there were multiple factors that played into that for me personally. For instance, I’m new not only to Las Vegas Market but also the wholesale side of stationery so my brand is still very new. But I did get compliments on my booth and how polished my presentation and product was! So yay to that! I could have definitely done more to prepare, though.

As far as budget goes, I had a budget of $7000 (booth space, hard wall build out, hotel and travel) and came in below budget. For booth expenses, I got the hard wall package from the show because it was my first time and made a decision early on that I wanted it to be as stress free as possible. The thought of building my own hard walls and to ship it to Las Vegas was an overwhelming undertaking in my mind so I thought it would be better for me to have them build the walls for me. I could have definitely saved money in that category and lowered my spending by over $1000. But it definitely had some big advantages:

  1. The walls were up and ready when I arrived for set up on Thursday
  2. Lighting was already provided and you would normally have to pay extra for this
  3. Electricity was provided which you would also normally have to pay extra for
  4. It only took me 7 hours to set up and 35 minutes to tear down

That being said, depending on what is more important to you it might not be that bad to spend the money on the hard walls. I also bought a table and 2 chairs from Ikea and paint/supplies from Lowes. I brought everything else in luggages. I rented a car for 1 day to do all my running around, next time I’d probably rent it for 2. Travel expenses were really cheap for us, got an Airbnb at MGM Signature so we were able to cook and save money on food. We were also able to take the free shuttle to and from LVMKT which made it unnecessary to keep the car rental and saved us money there. I also found the shuttles to be very convenient instead of waiting in line to get out of the parking garage if I had taken a car.

The thing that’s really weird and throws me off about this show is the separation of the show between the showrooms and the pavilions. If you go to the show, you see these beautifully designed buildings and then when you see the pavilions (where we were) are across the street and they’re a temporary tent type of thing it just doesn’t give me the excitement that the permanent showrooms in the buildings do. I also think some buyers just don’t want to go to the pavilions because they either need to wait for a shuttle (in the heat) or walk there (in the heat), and then on top of that it’s hot when they walk into the pavilions.


Overall I think this show has great potential for us stationery and gift kids but I think it’s not quite there yet. It’s going to take some time and investment to make this a go-to place for what I sell. And as much as I want to, I just don’t have the funds to commit to 2x a year. It’s a process, trying to grow your business. Things take time, especially earning money for big investments.

When will I be exhibiting again? I’m not sure. I want to try Las Vegas Market again in the winter, but 2018 is a mere 5 months away. I’m not going to be ready by then, I have some great ideas for my brand and product line but it’s going to take a different investment this time. It’s going to take time. Who knows, I’m not even sure it’ll be a good fit for the wholesale market. I hope it will be!

I learned a lot about myself and my business at LVMKT. I am so glad I did it and I hope to be able to do this again. Trade shows are tons of fun for me. But now it’s time to take what I learned and grow. I have a lot of great ideas, make sure you stay tuned for what’s next!

xoxo,

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