One casual Saturday afternoon, I was browsing on Instagram looking for meal inspiration (as you do) and found a profile I had been meaning to explore further for quite some time. I clicked on The Girl on Bloor’s account and found the most delicious looking mango salad I’ve ever seen. I’ve had my share of mango salads in these 26 years of life, but have never made one myself (I am really bad at cutting mangos, avocados too). However, The Girl on Bloor, owned and operated by writer, creator and food guru Taylor Stinson, inspired me. And so, I created a mango salad to die for and enjoyed every bite.
When I finished eating, though, (like my grandmother always says: “First food, then people”), I reached out to Taylor to learn more about The Girl on Bloor and her journey to online food writer royalty and influencer for advertisers and other brands! I also praised Taylor for her food photography and mango salad inspo!
Enough about me, though. Read more about her!
- Tell me about what inspired you to create The Girl on Bloor brand…When and how did this journey begin?
I started The Girl on Bloor when I was applying to the Master of Journalism program at Ryerson University in order to gain experience in food writing! The blog was originally a restaurant review blog exploring different areas in Toronto before I realized that recipe development was my real passion!
- When did you first start finding an interest in food, cooking? What type of food is your favourite to make?
I have always loved cooking! Ever since I had the opportunity to make a few recipes as a teenager, I have really enjoyed the process, mostly because it’s so social and a great excuse to get together with friends and family. Food really brings people together! My favourite food to make is definitely Mexican food – so much flavour!
- What about writing? When did your love for words begin?
Reading and writing have always been a core [part] of who I am and how I have intellectually developed. I have always journaled during difficult transitions throughout my life as a form of therapy, but I also just really love recording memories and being able to read about them later. Writing is such a staple part of tracking the highlights of your life and food writing is no different!
- Do you remember the first meal you made on your own? What was it? How did it turn out?
One of the first meals I made on my own was a shrimp kung pao recipe out of the newspaper, and it turned out fantastic! I have always loved cooking with lots of spice, though nowadays if I make an internationally-inspired recipe I try my best to make it as authentic as possible, which usually involves supporting small, local markets with international ingredients.
- How many years have you been cooking and blogging under The Girl on Bloor brand?
I’ve been cooking and blogging for about two years now!
- You also freelance on the side – what is the best part about the freelancing world? Where can our readers find your work?
I have freelanced for the Yellow Pages completing their business stories and neighbourhood profiles. I also write occasionally for HuffPost Canada Living and I develop recipes on a freelance basis for a variety of companies, most recently the Canadian Produce Marketing Association under their Half Your Plate brand!
- The most challenging part?
I think pitching ideas is one of the most challenging parts of freelancing. I have yet to really nail it – most of my freelance gigs have come from companies and brands approaching me as opposed to the other way around, which is traditionally how freelance work works.
- Being a creative person always leads to having hands in many, many pockets! Sometimes, though, things can get a bit too busy. How do you say no to opportunities? How do you prioritize?
I simply say no to opportunities that aren’t a great fit – I think that’s the easiest way to keep on track. I try to only take on work from brands that I feel passionate about. Sponsored posts with companies I already love and support practically write themselves!
- On your about page, you talk about how you’ve had different relationships with food and eating – what do you mean by this?
I think my tastes have changed so much over the years, and I really prioritize eating more whole foods and consuming as many fruits and veggies as I can. It can be hard to do that when you get busy and are constantly working, but you can really only function at your most optimal level and have the most energy when you eat well! Lucky for me, I really love fresh produce!
- You’ve posted your income reports online – some months are better than others, which of course comes with the business of freelancing and being an entrepreneur. How do you manage your budget? What lessons have you learned that other freelances and creators could benefit from in terms of money management?
I’m not sure that I would be the best person to ask about money management right now as I am so new to freelancing (I only started freelancing full time as of June 2016), but I would mainly say that in order to build something, you need to invest in it, whether that is time or money. I try to be the queen of DIY and do everything mainly myself, but I have hired someone to work on the technical aspects of my site and I have also purchased different business items such as props and instructional books as a way for me to continue growing my website.
One other piece of advice I would give is to find as many ways to diversify your income as you can. For instance, I started making videos recently in order to be able to offer this as a new service to clients and increase my income. Finally, as a general rule, I am very frugal and focused on saving as much as possible and that usually helps balance the budget!
- What is your favourite social media platform to use to bring awareness to your brand? Why?
I think Instagram and Pinterest are my favourite social media platforms because they are very visually oriented and allow you to share the most beautiful highlights of your posts!
- Least favourite? Why?
I used to really hate Snapchat when I first started using it, but now I see how much fun it can be to share activities in the moment and it’s a really great platform to share sneak peeks with my readers! I have definitely grown to love it though now.
- Where do you see The Girl on Bloor in five years?
I want to continue doing videos and perhaps even take my blog into more of a consulting direction, or do some contract work with food tourism boards and some cooking classes. I can also see my blog evolving into an advertising business as it is already starting to go that way – I mean, who wouldn’t want to sell food/recipes for a living, right?!
- What would you say is the hardest part of your job(s)?
Managing my schedule and not knowing that I’ll have a steady income. It’s great because I can earn more some months but then other months are slower and this can give me quite a bit of anxiety. Right now, I’m living with my parents for a couple years while I continue to build the business and pay off my student loans so I can afford to have an unstable income, but I definitely want to have a better idea of what my monthly budget will be when I’m back living on my own.
- Is there someone who continues to motivate and inspire you, today?
I think all of my fellow food bloggers really inspire me, to be honest! This can be such a tough industry and it’s fantastic to have such a great network of people who are always so helpful and supportive. The Food Bloggers of Canada in particular has been a really wonderful network and I really look up to Melissa [Hartfiel] and Ethan [Adeland] for building their brand into the resource it is today!
- We’ve all experienced jet lag and creative fatigue (eugh! It’s the worst)! Where do you go to find inspiration?
Again, other bloggers – they are all usually so on trend and it’s cool to see everyone’s different takes on seasonal recipes and ingredients. And I absolutely love seasonal magazines like Food & Drink Magazine by the LCBO. They have so many awesome, high quality photos and food styling as well as table setting inspiration. I get so excited for each of their magazine launches as the season changes and really look forward to each issue.
- What would you tell to other up and coming Canadian entrepreneurs and business owners?
Just keep at it! Part of your success will come from sticking in the game longer than others and not becoming disillusioned by slow progress. Slow progress is still progress after all, and success will come largely from equal parts hard work, talent and strategy!
- Do you have anything else to add that our readers should know?
Follow your passions and your dreams – really, as millennials in a rough job market, loving what you do is key to achieving love, success and happiness in this day and age!
Thank you, Taylor! Now we’re starving (for food and more of your content). Follow The Girl on Bloor on Twitter and Facebook for updates! And brave the mango salad just like me, friends. You won’t regret it.