This interview was a fun one! My buddy Chris has built a massive fan base of over 35,000 blog readers, 100,000 Youtube subscribers, and literally MILLIONS of annual visitors to his Caribbean cooking business. Buckle up and enjoy.
David: Well here we are again friend. It’s David Ledoux. Welcome to another episode. Let me kick it off by saying thank to your sponsors. LondonDivorceLawyer.ca the number one source for information on divorce lawyers in London. www.LondonDivorceLawyer.ca. LondonRoofRepair.ca Your number one source for roofing, eavestrough, flashings, flat roofs, tile, leaks and repairs and more … and that’s my buddy Jams, we study JiuJitsu together. He has a roofing company, LondonRoofRepair.ca He’ll give you a great quote. And finally, CoffeRoyalty.com Is it really possible to lose 10, 15 or evern 20 pounds just by changing your coffee or tea? Check it out at www.CoffeeRoyalty.com
Now, let me tell you friends, I’m excited about this episode. I’ve known this gentleman for 12 or 13 years. What he is doing on the internet is mind blasting. He has his own YouTube channel, he has his own cooking show, he has his own cookbooks, blog, and most importantly, thousands upon thousands upon thousands upon thousands of raving fans. I’d like to welcome to the show the host of the most popular cooking, at least in Canada, that I know of on the internet, Caribbean Pot, from Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, Mr. Chris De La Rosa. Chris, welcome to the show.
Chris: Such a pleasure, you’rehaving me here today David. It’s always exciting to join in.
David: Now we can just kind of roll up our sleeves here, because most of the guys listening to this are internet nerds like us. You are cranking the internet, you are making it your platform. You’re not going the traditional TV route, though you could if you wanted to. Your numbers are shocking. Where do you want to start? I want you to brag about what you’ve been up to.
Chris: Maybe we’ll start with how it all came about, and then we can probably build from there, and work our way through just about everything we’re doing. www.CaribbeanPot.com, I registered that domain back in 2008, but I didn’t start doing anything with it until 2009, that’s when I put up the blog. The whole idea behind the blog was basically to post recipes. Our kitchen, though we live in Hamilton Ontario Canada, it’s very reflective of a Caribbean kitchen where there’s a lot of spices, there’s a lot of different vegetables, which may be strange to a lot of North Americans, being cooked. And that’s the type of food our daughters were growing up on. They were a few years away from heading off to college or university or wherever education took them, and I thought, let me go ahead and start blogging, documenting these recipes for our daughters. So wherever they went in the world, they would have a taste of home with them. The thing about Caribbean cooking is that it wasn’t documented at all. Even to this day, if I were to call my mom. “Mom, how do you make Pear salad?” — “Well you put a little bit of this (with a strong Trini Accent) a little bit of that and you toss it” — “No mom, give me teaspoon, give me exact measurements, give me the formula that can’t fail”. And this is what I started doing. I documented the recipes in a way that the novice in the kitchen will not be intimidated to try new things. And I blew up from there. I come from an internet marketing background, as you know, we did our thing back in the day. And I remember, one of the things you and I discussed way back when, was content was king. So by putting up this content, I didn’t just want to leave it on it’s own. I did search engine optimizations, I played around with my keywords and everything else, my image tags, everything was up to par from an online perspective. So I knew sooner or later the search engines would pick it up. Well, the search engines did pick it up, and now on a monthly basis we connect with over 1 million people globally who are into Caribbean cuisine. And remember, Caribbean cuisine for most people, when think Caribbean cuisine, they thing curried goat, they thing rotie, they think jerk chicken. But, the thing abour Caribbean cuisine is, you’ve got to remember, at one point or the other, we were colonized by either the Spanish, French, British, Dutch or Portuguese. Then we have African slaves that came over. After slavery was over, we had Chinese and Indian indentured labourers come over, and at one point or the we had people from the middle east come to the Caribbean just for a better way of life. So we have so much, it’s like a true melting pot when you think about the influence on our cuisine. So there’s so much to offer that the content (going back to content is king) I will never run out of content. If I do run out of content, as far as traditional recipes go, you can always play around with fusion recipes. There is so much out there for me to do that it’s mind blowing. And I’m having fun, I’ve got to make that point, I’m having a ton of fun doing it.
David: Well, there we have it ladies and gentlemen. He put up a blog, he wrote a couple of recipes and he’s got a million visitors. That’s been another edition of the show, thank you for joining us. LOL!!!! Nobody actually wants to hear the in between part, do they? LOL A MILLION VISITORS Chris, that’s huge!!
Chris: I think one of the things that really helped drive the engine behind this (and I never knew I had it) supposedly my personality on YouTube has really helped things along. When I first started putting up videos on YouTube, it was just still shots done on a Windows Media Player with just me narrating, and it wasn’t anything good. Caron, my wife, said you’ve got a good personality, why don’t you film yourself? So I said ok I’ll give it a try. I started filming myself doing the recipes, mind you it’s a lot of work because being a one-man show, the pot doesn’t really wait for you to stop and pause and record and everything else. There’s a lot of timing that has to go into it. But I started to do that and appear in the videos and things really skyrockets. I have close to 110,000 subscribers, I think we’re close to 12 million views on YouTube and so much so that I have those private agencies contacting me almost everyday, asking to ‘Join our network’, everyone wants a piece of Chris and Caribbean Pot now. The other thing I wanted to mention is Facebook. The kids are off Facebook now. Back in the day the teenagers were running things on Facebook, but today I find that anywhere from thirty-something to middle-aged and older people are on Facebook and they’re very engaging as well. Once you engage them, they give back to you, they’re quick to give you advice. It’s so easy to poll them and everything else. The key to the development of Caribbean Pot.com on Facebook, again my personality and treating the people who are fans of Caribbean Pot on Facebook as part of my family and extended family. So I will share birthdays, I will share events. As simple thing like my book. WhenI got my book delivered to me, I did a video clip and put it up there. So I make them feel (and they are) part of the entire process from being a small website to a bigger website to a ton of traffic to, only recently publishing and receiving my book. You hear so much about engagement, but you’ve really to engage, in this day and age that’s what I’m finding, for people to get back to you and to really spread the word for you.
David: Okay. Let’s break it down because that’s a huge amount of info. Let’s start with your YouTube Channel. You go from doing Windows Media stills with narration and it’s kind of clunky, you get out in front of the camera, you start to shine. In 5 years, how many videos have you made?
Chris: On YouTube, I believe there’s close to 250, on the website there’s about 300+ recipes on there. But, not all of them were documented as videos, but on YouTube itself, there’s about 250 or somewhere around there.
David: I remember when you hit the 100,000 mark, that’s a big benchmark, and you’ve just blown right by it. 110,000 subscribers. So if you put up a video right now, some of them are first responders, you get 1000 or 2000 views probably your first day, don’t you?
Chris: Well it depends. The thing with YouTube is that it depends on the sort of screen shot you attach to the video, the thumbnail. If it something that I really focus on and is bright and colourful and tasty and stuff like that, I will get anywhere from about 4000-5000. The average video will get close to 3000 within the first 24 hours or so.
David: And you’ll probably get what, 2 or 3 or 4% of them to comment?
Chris: The comments and the likes, they’re pretty much around that point as well. I’m not sure if you have ever tested the whole thumbnail thing, but we were down in the Caribbean for Carnival back in February, and I did a short video clip of, it’s what’s called Playing Mas, so you’re in costume you’re on the streets, music, rum, big party basically. But the screenshot I used was a girl in a bikini, a masquerader in a bikini. Within 24 hours, that thing got 15,000 views. I was blown away. So I was thinking, this is why those guys put up all those bikini babes videos because it captures. All these guys watching on there, they see a girl in a bikini, and they want to click through. And the beauty about it, it’s not just about clicking through. When I look at my drop-off rate, they’re watching the entire video. So it’s not one of those things where I got you to click on there and you didn’t watch, they actually watched the video.
David: Fantastic. So, YouTube must be your friend now. They’re inviting you to be part of their partner program. Are you monetizing it through AdSense, their little ads?
Chris: Yeah. I think it was about a year and a half ago, maybe 2 years ago, YouTube sent out (this is before it was hard to get in as a partner), they had contacted me, they looked at a few factors. How often you add content; if you work on a schedule; they type of content you have … you mentioned earlier about people commenting and liking the videos and stuff. So they reached out to me a little over a year and half, 2 years ago, to be a part of the partner program. I’ve been with them, and every video I upload is monetized now. YouTube itself, let’s say for some reason or the other, I didn’t to continue blogging, I just wanted to concentrate on YouTube. It would turn out to be a good source of income for me, that could be a stand-alone business on its own.
David: I know their terms of service, you’re not supposed to disclose your actual income. But just to whet the appetites of people dreaming out there. There’s 2-figure cheques, there’s 3-figure cheques, there’s 4-figure cheques … give the listeners an idea on when you have 110,000 subscribers, what size cheque do you get because of our YouTube views?
Chris: Well, let’s just say my wife took 6 months off work 6 months ago. We were paying the bills and everything else here. It’s pretty decent. I would say 4-figures a month.
David: So you can keep a roof over your head. You have 6 million views?
Chris: We’re close to 12 million views.
David: You know what’s crazy? That’s not going to stop just because you’re doing a podcast.
David: You, know, you’re probably getting a view right now.
Chris: Well I just uploaded a video about 10 minutes ago. And I’m already seeing people hitting it and viewing it — just before we got on the air here, I was taking a peek at it. So, that’s one of the beauties of this is is that it’s residual income basically. I’m still making money off videos I uploaded 2 years ago. For instance, my vegetarian fried rice which has about 1.2 million views on there, that is probably the most popular video I have on there, as far as views as well as income from it. And that was done about 2 years ago.
David: So everything is wonderful. Driving around in a solid gold Lamborghini. But let’s talk about the dark days. You start your blog, 90 days in, what was it like in the very beginning after working hard for 2 or 3 or 4 months on it. What were the numbers like? And how did you deal with the reality of the smaller numbers?
Chris: Back then, remember, this was never supposed to be a business, never was supposed to be an income generator. It was supposed to be a hobby for me and something to document recipes for our daughters. So I didn’t go in expecting much. The average recipe takes me about half a day, because I’ve got to plan the recipe, I’ve got plan how I’m going to shoot it. How I’m going to take my pictures, and then you’ve got to condense it. You’ve got to write up the description and remember it takes a lot of work. So when you look back now, you’re 3 months in, you’re doing a recipe a week at least. Actually, I was doing 2 recipes a week. So you’re looking at 8 recipes a month, so that’s 24 recipes in, that’s a big load of work and time and energy and stuff like that. So you’re looking at it and thinking … wait a minute, I’m doing a lot of work here, maybe it’s time I should start seeing some money from this thing. Because at the end of the day, we’re all out there trying to make some money as well, no matter what we say, if we can turn a hobby into a business, we would love to do that. So looking at the small numbers and everything else, I’m thinking that maybe it’s time to up the game a little bit and that’s when I started to do the whole Facebook thing and the YouTube thing didn’t start off as me putting up recipes for people to see. It was more for getting backlinks back to CaribbeanPot.com so within the title, within the video itself, I would shout out CaribbeanPot.com and then down in the description tag, I would put links back to CaribbeanPot.com. I just wanted to see more results from the work I was putting in.
David: So you’re 3 months in, you’ve done 25 recipes and you’re getting what 7 views? It must have been discouraging.
Chris: Ha ha ha. Yeah, it was, I’ll be honest with you. It was discouraging. But, you know, back then I realized that the work I put in then would pay off in the long run. I just wasn’t sure if I had the long run or the time to really continue doing it. I’m glad I did though.
David: Let’s talk about Facebook, because that’s something that you’ve really done well at. What’s in your Facebook strategy or experience? Have you made any catastrophic mistakes? What words of wisdom would you give the listeners?
Chris: Mistakes? Maybe the one mistake I made at the start wasn’t putting me in front of things. I didn’t build me, Chris De La Rosa, I focused more on CaribbeanPot.com, and it took a while for it to really take off, because people were only seeing CaribbeanPot.com, there was no face behind CaribbeanPot.com. Once I put that face in front of people on FaceBook, things started to really get going. That’s when people started to say, this is a real guy doing real food and he’s having fun. They could see it in me. And this is when I really started to engage my audience on there. Again, tell them “this is what I’m doing tomorrow, be on the look out for it”. I would post previews to recipes. I started this thing on FaceBook where I would take a picture of a tropical fruit or vegetable, I would post it onto FaceBook and I would ask ‘can you guess this fruit?’ And when I did those, those things got a ton of responses. And now, when I look at other Caribbean type Facebook pages, they’re doing the exact same thing I did a couple of years ago. They saw it working for me and they started to copy it. The other thing about Facebook is there’s a balancing act on there. People can be rude, that’s the general nature of the internet, people think they’re anonymous, they can say whatever they want and get away with it. There’s a balancing act in disciplining, I don’t know if that’s the right word, but disciplining people and allowing them to voice their opinion as well. There are times people can be outright rude, especially on YouTube as well. And you’ve to sometimes let things flow or stop in it’s track and say ‘wait a minute, hold on, this is not the forum for this’. So that’s one of the areas you’ve got to really focus on, if you’re going to be doing this thing on YouTube and Facebook, for instance, is to monitor what people are saying, when they’re saying it and how they’re saying it. It’s easy to build a brand on there, but it’s also easy to have your brand take a lot of heat on there.
David: Good stuff. From Facebook, from YouTube you’re leading them back to your blog. And I notice you have a mailing list there, an opt-in?
Chris: That’s correct. Again, one of the things that maybe you had left with me years ago is building your own list. Right now that list is about 39,000 people and the beauty about that list is that when it started, even until today, it was never to market anything. Because I never had something to market to people until I released my digital e-book back in December 2012, and now that I’ve released my book. So, it is pretty much a virgin list that’s never been marketed to, other than receiving recipes and updates about the growth of CaribbeanPot.com. And again, that’s one of my key growth areas there. I speak a lot of about engagement. This is how I engage my readers, I tell them when there’s something big happening, and I’m always thanking them for the support. You’ve got to make people feel appreciated. Saying thanks. You’ve go to take the time to say thanks, and it comes across as being genuine and humble at the same time.
David: You did that really well on your 100,000 YouTube subscriber — when you hit that. It was just a thank you video.
Chris. Yeah. You’ve to thank people. They’re the ones who’s making this happen for me. What’s it going to take, a few minutes to stop what I’m doing, say thank you and move on I guess.
David: Building your subscriber base of your opt-ins on your email — you just gave, and gave and gave for a couple of years before you actually asked them to buy something.
Chris: I would have been about 3-1/2 years solid of just giving recipes. So what I did was, whenever I would post a recipe to CaribbeanPot.com, that would automatically (not the entire recipe, but a teaser for the recipes) link back to the recipe and that would go into my email sequence. So let’s say you were to join today, my mailing list which is called Sizzle, once you enter your name and email address, you confirm that you really want this. You will start getting a recipe every 5 days for probably the next 4 years or something. Because whenever I add a new recipe, I update the auto responders within the email management software.
David: Every 5 days for the next 4 years they get an email from you with a teaser that drives them back to your blog. and I noticed you’ve got some monetization there, you’ve got AdSense and a few sponsor ads.
Chris: From day 1 we’ve had AdSense on there generating income. What I’m looking for though is, and I’ve been in discussions with a few major companies in the food industry, is to get an actual sponsor on board. To allow me to remove some of the ads that are on there, I’m not sure how distracting they are right now. But once I can get one solid sponsor on board, it would free up so much more of my time as far as having to manage, to sell ad space and stuff like that.
David: So, listeners if you’re in the food space, or cooking space … what other spaces? Organics, gluten-free, a site like yours lends itself to so many markets … weight loss, vegetarian. What was your launch like when you launched your ebook 18 months ago. What was that like?
Chris: We had set a goal for selling 2000 copies. We launched it in December, and we stopped selling in March or April. We hit our goal then, and that was the end of that. What we did, we took a page out of Disney’s marketing. Back in the day, when Disney would release a movie for 2 months then they would archive it until 3 or 4 years, and they would do it again. Well, I thought, we’re going to hit 2000 copies, that’s our goal, and I’m going to archive this thing. To this day, since then, I have questions every day “Chris where can I get volume 1?”. Well, Volume 1 is no longer available. What I was trying to do was to create that buzz around marketing that book, and I want people to know that when I say it will not be sold again after April or May or whatever time, then it will not be sold again after that. You’ve got to train people to understand your way of thinking and your way of doing things. That’s what we did, and it was quite successful.
David: That’s great. Volume One, so it’s a series. Every time you have a great recipe ….
Chris: This is what I tell people. I had a meeting with a friend yesterday, and he’s trying to get into the space, and it’s important from day 1 to not only treat this as a business, but treat this a something you will build on a long-term. So from day 1, this is why I did the Search Engine Optimization, this is why with the book I came up with Volume 1, and Volume 2 is our now. Working, I’m 47 recipes deep into Volume 3 which would be a vegetarian book, and I have enough content on there, I can do grilling, which could probably be volume 4 or 5, I can do the gluten-free. There’s so many things I can do, I can just keep launching a new book every year if I wanted to, because remember all the content, that 300+ recipes that I have on my website, the content is already there. It’s just a matter of polishing it up and having an editor go through it and putting it into a format,with the graphic designer, for a book.
David: You’re 4 or 5 years into this project now. I assume Google loves you. Other than word of mouth, is it safe to say Google’s your number way people find you?
Chris: Without a doubt. Being a page rank 5, I think at one point I was a page rank 6 and they probably got vexed at me for something and dropped me back down to a 5. But, I would say that about 80% of the traffic that comes to the website is via Google. I’m talking about organic traffic. We can also track some traffic from the mailing list, remember once you sub (and it’s close to 39,000 people) you get an email from me every 5 days, so that is residual traffic coming back from that. Facebook, and I’m looking at the stats and I’m seeing a lot of people now. Only recently, YouTube has allowed for embedding links into videos, so you can actually link from a video to a location. And that is something I’m testing right now and it’s turning out to drive a lot of traffic to my website.
David: And you can be talking right at them into the camera and point down and say click down here to go to this special page.
David: That’s powerful. Do you play around on any of the lesser channels like Vimeo or Dailymotion, or are you just staying a YouTube person?
Chris: So far, I’ve stuck it out with YouTube. I know at one point, about a month and a half ago, there was talk that Yahoo was recruiting, but I haven’t heard from them, because I know they’re about to launch (or maybe they’ve already launched in Beta) they’re supposed to be launching their own platform soon, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they come knocking on my door. Let’s say there are a couple other food blogs, Caribbean-themed, but they don’t do it as a business, they do it as a hobby, and it shows. They don’t spend time to be on a schedule, they don’t spend the time to do the SEO and everything else that we’re doing. So competition is pretty much non-existent for me at this point.
David: Nice. Shooting wounded fish in a barrel. And I’ll tell you, the video that I got engaged by was you cooking with ghost peppers. You had body armour, and goggles, and masks, and you’re saying get the kids and cats out of the house. And I’m thinking, Come on! And then I google what a ghost pepper actually was, and there’s just endless YouTube videos of people rolling around on the floor after eating these things. That inspired me. I’m growing a Naga Viper this year.
Chris: That is deadly stuff man. I grew some last year. I had the Trinidad Maruga Scorpion, I had the one you just mentioned, I had the Chocolate scorpion, and a few others. Quick story, we were going to be away for a couple of days and I had spinach, what we call calalou, planted in my garden. So I called my aunt and I told her, I know you like this stuff, I’ve got extra in the garden, why don’t you come by. Just open the gate, be sure to lock the gate when you leave, but come by and pick some and you can take it home and cook it up. 2 days later I come back home, and there’s a message on my answering machine. My aunt lives with my cousin, her daughter, freaking out on the phone. “What did you do to my mom? My mom was in pain and she was bawling and crying!” I’m thinking ‘What are you talking about?’ I called her back, and I say “Sophie, what’s wrong with your mom?” She says, “mom took one of your peppers, she saw they were nice and bright and she loved the colours of them, she took it home and she bit into one”. Big mistake. She was on the floor rolling and everything, she said he felt as if her head was about to explode. This is a woman who is accustomed to cooking. She’s from the Caribbean, she’s accustomed to hot stuff. She’s accustomed to Scotch Bonnet peppers. I tell you David, these things are absolutely lethal man. I made a hot sauce with it, a couple of them, but the one we have in the kitchen right now, after I harvested peppers last fall, I made a huge jar of it, and to this day it’s almost as if you need a prescription for this thing. You need one of those medical droppers like you use to drop cough syrup into a baby’s mouth. That’s how you have to put on your food. This thing is lethal.
David: The evil plan is to bring my harvest over to your house and shoot an episode, because I don’t do well with Scoville units. I love them, but they don’t love me. I would break out in sweat just looking at them. But I enjoy it. You start getting over half a million or a million Scoville units, it’s taking paint off your car.
Chris: It can be pretty extreme, to put it lightly. One of the things I’ve got to mention though, once you go to CaribbeanPot.com, and this is one of the misconceptions about Caribbean foods, is that it’s hot. The thing is that the food can only be as hot as you make it to be. So, with me, when I’m eating curried chicken, I want it to be spicy, so I maybe use half of a Scotch Bonnet pepper. But, you can certainly cut back, or even not use that hot pepper in there. You will still get pretty much the same results, except you won’t get that heat. Something I lovingly call Caribbean sunshine when I refer to Scotch Bonnet peppers and the heat from them, but you can play around with it. At the end of the day, you’re the one who’s going to be eating this, and it doesn’t make sense for you to spend money on ingredients and spend the time to cook it and you can’t enjoy it. I always tell people, use the recipes as a guide. If you know you don’t like spicy food, cut back on the spice level of it.
David: You control it. It you’re sitting around the table, grandma and grandpa have different taste buds than an 8 year-old, and everybody in between.
Chris: And you know, now that you’ve said it like that, it really brings home something that I never gave much thought to. In the Caribbean, just about everyone’s home has a special homemade pepper sauce, a hot sauce. So we may not cook with a lot of heat in the dish, however, that hot sauce is there so when granny doesn’t want to eat that extreme fire or even anything spicy, but myself would want to eat it, I can add it to the dish and use it as a condiment basically. I know you’ve been a number of times throughout the Caribbean, so you would have seen those little reusable bottles that these roadside vendors have with these colourful-looking pepper sauces and hot sauces. And that is something that is really traditional in the Caribbean, and maybe that’s one of the reasons why we have so much so we can add to the food after it’s been cooked.
David: I guess, long-term, big picture, with a brand that you’re building like CaribbeanPot, having your own hot sauce line, or food line, down the road is very realistic because you have a built-in client base.
Chris: The hot sauce market is very saturated and it’s hard to break into. So what we’re looking at is taking the same idea, the same ingredients of the hot sauce and presenting it differently. I can’t talk much more about that, but within the next 6 months or so, you will see some products coming out of CaribbeanPot.com One of the things I look at as well, and this is the marketing person in me, I look closely at the emails I get so if I get emails like ‘what sort of curry powder do you recommend?’ ,’ what kind of a dry rub can I use on chicken?’, so many different things that people write in and ask. I have my little notes file that I keep on my computer, and pretty much similar to a swipe file, but it’s things that I can create into products. Once there’s a need and I can fill that need for a customer, it is something that I’m willing to explore. So, definitely, there is
*****03:42:16 PHONE CALL INTERRUPTION *****
*** David: So while Chris is off answering the phone, let me tell you, when you have 100,000 subscribers on YouTube and 39,000 on your mailing list, it gives you the horsepower to experiment, listen, that’s a built-in client base of 100,000 people telling you what they want. What he means by swipe file is when these inquiries and questions come in, and you’re wracking your brain about what you’re going to blog about or do a video about, they’re telling you. ‘what kind of curry powder? what kind of dry rub?’. When you apply that to your niche, and make a celebrity of your reader or viewer and mention them by name, you’re really building a community that is loyal. And we live in the attention age. That’s true value commodity right now is getting people’s attention.
Chris: I do apologize for that David.
David: Hey, people go “Wow, that’s real life!”. LOL
Chris: Back to the line of products and stuff. There’s a lot of things we’re working on in the pipeline right now. And the thing about is since the website is doing a lot of traffic, the Youtube channel is getting a lot of attention, having more and more companies contact me now. They want to private label and do different things. I’ve even had a company out of South Africa who wanted to do a Caribbean-themed fast-food chain down there, they contacted me to see if I would be willing to come in as a consultant and help them. I’ve had people from Australia, I had a woman from Japan email me — I don’t know where they were going with this email, they were just opening themselves up for lawsuits and stuff like that. ‘Chris, we use your recipes in our restaurants and we’re doing excellent business’. I’m thinking, Okay. LOL The one from Australia was from out in the Outback somewhere and I’m thinking ‘she’s doing jerk chicken with my marinade out in the Outback in Australia’. I wonder how jerk kangaroo would taste, that would be interesting.
David: I was sitting, thinking this morning, I went to jiujitsu and I was thinking what could you do with your brand? You could sponsor chicken wing eating contests, but that would be less in the vibe, and it’s more a jerk chicken eating contest. Or you have viewers around the world showing photos of them eating your recipes from all over the world. It’s just amazing what you’ve done in about the length of time as to go get a degree at a university.
Chris: You touched on something there about the users sending in pictures eating something they prepared with one of my recipes. One of the marketing campaigns we’re going to be starting pretty soon … so right now we’re shipping out books to people who have pre-ordered the book. What we’re going to be doing is a monthly contest where you hold the book in your hand and do a selfie. (I know selfie is the new ‘in thing’ now, everybody’s doing selfies). You do a selfie at a landmark in your city and you submit it. And randomly one person will be chosen, and we’ve still got to come up with the prize we’ll be giving out, but I just want to show people (and this will give me the opportunity) to show people from all over the world that the book is being used, and shipped and delivered all over the world. We’re looking at the shipping manifest that we’ve been printing up for the past 2 weeks, and we have France, Italy, Australia, New Zealand, all over the world this book has been ordered and already enroute to these customers. So thought, I’m going to run a competition. Just take a selfie. There’s a guy standing with the book in front of the Eiffel Tower just to show the book is in Paris, you know?
David: Talk about your book. Because this is not a digital product, is it?
Chris: No, it is the book. It is an actual physical book. After we did the digital book, for every sale that we got, we received 2 or 3 or maybe 4 emails saying: ‘Chris, I’m old school, I want something physical in my hand, I’m old school, I want this in my cupboard, in my collection’. So the digital product was supposed to be a testing ground to test the market, to test what people wanted and how they would respond to it. After selling 2,000 copies in a couple of months, we decided it’s time to work on the physical copy. So what we did was we revamped the digital copy. We added 40 more recipes, we added an entire section on getting to know the Caribean kitchen — why we would wash rice before we cook it; why when you see a Caribbean person using meats or fish we usually start off with limes or lemons and then we rinse it all off; how to shop for ingredients; what is that dark black-looking oddity of a banana, why does it look like that? Well, that’s not a banana, it looks like an overgrown banana, but it’s a plaintain, and the darker and more discoloured it gets, the sweeter it gets on the inside when you prepare it. I wanted people to understand these things when they go to the supermarket and they see these ingredients. Because the world has become very village-like now, where you can get anything from any part of the world. Especially, we’re lucky here in Canada, in Ontario we can get anything from anywhere in the world. I want people to be comfortable when they see this, they think ‘wait a minute, that’s from Chris’ cookbook; this is how you use it; this is how you prepare it…’. Don’t be afraid to pick it up and smell it and squeeze it and stuff like that. It may sound passionate, but you’ve really got to be passionate about this. I started working with an editor as well as a graphic design person, I have my project manager manage everything. And the hardest part was re-doing all the pictures, the images for the individual dishes. Because when you go from digital to physical, the quality you need in terms of image quality is totally different. So we had to re-shoot a ton of pictures and stuff like that. Then what we did was that we had to find a printer. Luckily we found a very affordable company out of Toronto here and we went with them, back and forth, we negotiated and it took from the time we agreed on pricing and got them the manuscript, it took another 9 weeks after paying the fees before we actually got the book in hand. And that 9 weeks, that was the longest 9 weeks of my life, to be honest with you. Just sitting there waiting. What is this going to look like? Are our customers going to be happy with it? What sort of dent is it going to make in the cookbook industry? You probably saw the video when the skid showed up. You should see the guy, I felt sorry for the poor guy, he couldn’t lift this thing. When I did that video, I wanted people (part of me giving back to the people and making them part of the journey), I did that video because I wanted people to see the excitement on my face the very first time I’m going to be laying eyes on this book. The book is sold out actually. It sold out on CaribbeanPot.com, however there are copies still available, but they’re only available to US and Canada at this point through Amazon.ca. We should have a new batch of books available within the next 7 to 10 days, that will be available at CaribbeanPot.com. Once it’s available on CaribbeanPot.com, we ship globally. It’s just that Amazon.ca, they only ship to the US and Canada. A lot of hate mail is coming in … ‘why don’t they ship..??’, well I don’t control the rules and regulations that Amazon has.
David: Congratulations man. Sold out!
Chris: Sold out the first batch we ran, sold out! And I’m close to signing a distribution deal with the largest bookstore in the Caribbean. In Trinidad alone they have 14 bookstores, so that is something I’m very excited about. So we’re going to have distribution there. Later today, after we’re done with this chat here, I’m heading over to the local Indigo Chapters, I have a meeting there with a manager to get my book in there. I’m not sure how long that is going to take, but I’m excited about that as well because I’m just as excited being from the Caribbean as being Canadian. I want to convey, and it’s always been a part of what I do, is that I am a West Indian person, a Caribbean person living in Canada. I’m very proud to be Canadian. So, I’ve always been giving back to the local community here. I have a show on Cable 14, which is the local cable TV here, that I do on a weekly basis with them. It is something that Canada can be proud of as well, not just people with Caribbean heritage, but Canada as a whole. A Canadian boy is doing something, he’s turned a hobby into a business, and he’s making a lot of noise in the world.
David: You were on … was it Canada A.M. or CTV?
Chris: Yeah, Canada A.M., coast to coast Canada. I believe we were on there 3 times already. I also represented, well I didn’t really not so much Canada, but I was the only Canadian there, amongst a couple of Brits, some people from China, from the US and there were 5 different teams, but we won a competition. They flew us out to South Korea, Seoul, back in November of last year, myself and my daughter Thea, we competed against teams from all over the world in a cooking competition.
David: Wow, man, that’s all social proof from a marketing perspective. As Seen on TV in Korea. Wow, your monster is getting bigger.
Chris: LOL Certainly.
David: We’re running out of time, we could go all day, it’s the internet. But what words of wisdom … we have listeners now who are sitting and waiting or they’re frustrated or they’re dreaming or they’re afraid. What advice or wisdom can you impart to the new person who’s thinking about starting something of their own?
Chris: You know, you hear a lot of talk and people always say there’s truth about working hard and things will fall into place and stuff like that. But I think the key is actually starting. If you don’t start, you won’t have any momentum, you can’t do anything if you don’t start. Start and give it your best effort. Once you give it your best effort, and finally listen to what the public is saying. I talked about that file I have where people are asking me for certain things or where can I buy this, and stuff like that. And that, in itself, is a goldmine for me. I now can look at that list and create products to back up everything I’m doing and I will know that there’s already a market there for it. There’s so many cliche things people say when I’m asked this question, but I would leave them with that. Start, at least start. If you don’t start, you can’t get anywhere.
David: Wow, Chris, I am so proud of you. I am so excited for you. Because as big as you are right now, the freaky, scary thing is this literally just the beginning. You have 100,000 subscribers, there are kids with 1.2 million subs out there. What are you going to do when it’s 10 times bigger, 30 times bigger?
Chris: That is very scary to think about, to be honest with you. Because, I go from 6 or 7 am all the way to 11 pm sometimes because I’m fascinated by YouTube and the kid who has 1.8 million viewers and subscribers … I want to be that person, so I’m always on there looking at what they’re doing; looking at tricks and tips and stuff like that, but it is scary. Remember, this was never supposed to be a business, was never supposed to be as big as it is currently. I never thought I would be on the cover of a magazine. Liat Airlines, the Inter-Caribbean airline, did a cover on me the summer of last year. My face on the cover of a magazine. It’s like Wow. I’m blown away man.
David: That’s exciting stuff. New languages, new markets, new products … you’ll end up having a bit of assistance I’m sure, as you build your team out. Jamie Oliver has a couple of assistants and I’m sure Rachel Ray does too. You look at these old media, the magazines, the TV shows and what you’ve been able to do on your own with you family, it’s a remarkable story.
Chris: That’s the beauty of the internet though. And the game is just wide open, there’s enough space there for anyone and everyone to come on board and do their thing. You gotta love the internet.
David: Well, folks, if you want to check out Chris’ YouTube channel, his Facebook fan page, and most importantly, his blog … Chris, where should they go?
Chris: I would start off at CaribbeanPot.com and all the links, all the social links, everything is built into there. You can’t miss a thing. If you want to follow me on Twitter, you can go to @Obzokee — Obzokee is a word down in the Caribbean which means out of shape or out of form, not from a physical standpoint, but something that’s just not what you think it will be. So there’s meaning behind that. And I also encourage you to visit ChrisDeLaRosa.com and that’s where I go freestyle. I do a lot of different things on there. I play around with restaurant reviews; I play around with cookbook reviews; I do non-Caribbean recipes on there; in that space there I’m just trying to show people that I’m much more than just Caribbean food. I’m having the same fun there as I am having on CaribbeanPot.com. Those are the 2 places you can check me out, CaribbeanPot.com and ChrisDeLaRosa.com
David: Fantastic. He’s the Canadian King of Caribbean Cooking, Chris De La Rosa. Thanks for being with us Chris.
Chris: Always a pleasure David.