By Katie Cattell
Here at Ahalogy, it’s no secret that our influencers are at the core of everything we do. From their gorgeous imagery to unique creative vision, we would be lost without our Ahalogy Partners—a network of over 5,500+ content creators across the Food & Drink, Health & Beauty, Lifestyle, and Parenting categories. Just as no two blogs look the same, each of our influencers have a different story to share. Check out the following Partner Spotlight interview to learn more about what it takes to become an Ahalogy Partner.
Aysegul Sanford is a Turkish-born blogger working out of Manchester, Vermont. She originally began her career in hotel management and together with her husband, their travels have taken them everywhere from the British Virgin Islands to Atlanta, Georgia to Vancouver, Canada. It was in 2013, while she was living on the island of Virgin Gorda, that Aysegul started her blog—Foolproof Living—after the unexpected death of her mother. In the nearly five years since, Aysegul has managed to build an incredible website and dedicated reader base, partnering with a variety of brands and learning plenty of lessons along the way. This is her story.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO START YOUR BLOG, FOOLPROOF LIVING?
After my husband and I were married, the opportunity in the British Virgin Islands came about and we decided to take it. The plan was that I was going to go there with him, thinking that it would be easy to get a job. Living on an island means living with limited resources and the number one limited resource is jobs. Right after we moved there, we realized that the only option for me was just to be a housewife. Imagine—I was a hotel manager and all of a sudden I became this housewife, which was scary for me.
The first six months were wonderful; I was on the beach all day long and reading all the books that I wasn’t able to read over the years. However, one day I realized that I was about to go crazy. So, I decided to go find a job on the mainland. Right around that time, I got a call from a company that I used to work with basically telling me that they have a job for me in Miami, Florida and they would love for me to start right away.
That same day my mom—who is my best friend in life—and I were talking and I told her that I was planning to accept this job. It was a webcam conversation and she looked into the camera and said, ‘You’re not going anywhere. You’re going to be with your husband. You’re a married woman now and you need to stay with him or that marriage will not work.’ The next morning, we woke up to a phone call from my father telling me that my mother had a heart attack. My mother died that afternoon and the last conversation that I had with her was that I should stay with my husband.
Obviously, it was a really tough time for me after that. After the initial shock, I decided that I needed to find something to do. A really good friend of mine said, ‘Why don’t you start a blog?’ At the time, I didn’t really know anything about blogging. I thought about collecting my mom’s recipes in one place because I realized, I will never have my mom’s food again. My mom was an exceptional cook—I know all moms are—but she was truly exceptional. I was getting phone calls and messages from people asking for certain recipes that she used to make for them.
So, I started the blog as a place where I would talk about my challenges living on an island, how I was struggling with loss, and I would share my mom’s recipes along the way. The challenge of starting a website, of learning photography, of writing, of trying to build a community around what I was doing really helped me get out of my misery. It got me out of my sadness. In those next three years after I started my site, I literally studied everything I could get my hands on about blogging, WordPress, and photography. And that’s how Foolproof Living started.
Beef Stew by Foolproof Living
Where do you find the inspiration for your posts? What drives you to write new content and create new recipes?
After we moved to the U.S., I started looking at it as more of a business. By improving my writing and photography skills and getting into groups with other bloggers, I started having a community around my work with regular readers and people that I like to communicate with.
What also happened was I started honing my content based on what my readers liked. April will mark my fifth year of blogging and what I realized is: one, what I like is cooking healthy seasonal recipes without refined sugars and two, people started responding to that.
In 2018, I plan to focus mostly on weeknight recipes because my readers are looking for dishes that they can make on a Tuesday night. When it comes to creating a recipe or deciding which brands I’m going to work with, I always consider ‘Is this for my reader? Is this something that my reader will like? Or is this something that I would use in my own kitchen?’ So, that’s my focus: healthy, seasonal, and without the use of refined sugars.
Roasted Carrot Hummus by Foolproof Living
What’s the best advice that you have ever been given and what’s the biggest piece of advice that you would give to someone else?
The biggest tip that I would give is to truly be aware of what your readers like. You could do a reader survey or you could just pick up the phone and call someone if you have an email lead. Even if it means just picking up the phone, it’s a 10- or 15-minute phone conversation that really makes them feel good. That creates the word of mouth that I need for people to go out and say, ‘Hey, you need to go check out this blog.’ You just start small and go from there.
What kind of things do you consider when you’re choosing brands to partner with and share with your readers?
One thing I look for is, would I really use this at home? If the answer is yes, then I’ll work with that company or that brand. Truth be told, I don’t want my blog to be just a sponsored content blog. Yes, this is my source of income too—but I want to be true to my readers and make sure that I am understanding what they want.
I did a roasted carrot hummus recipe recently with a specific brand of olive oil and I had a reader tell me that she went out and bought that same brand because she saw me use it. That made me happy because I still personally use that olive oil.
So, I’m very intentional about what goes onto that blog and which companies that I work with. I put so much work into those sponsored posts, about what I write and what I photograph, because it’s so important—I’m partnering with these people! It’s important for me to make sure that I’m a good ambassador, that I can truly promote that brand. I think that was a good post in that—not only was it a good recipe—but it really resonated with a lot of people.
We live in a world of SEO where I very intentionally choose certain keywords because I know that they’re going to do well on my blog. I look at my SEO keyword search and if that keyword will do well, I’m going to work with this brand. If they’re going to pay me, I need to make sure that they’re going to get their return on investment. I want to be able to deliver a product to these people that will make them feel like they’re getting something in return.
Brands want to do social media because they’re interested in getting that initial quick interest, but once you put something into someone’s blog, you’re making me commit to you for much longer. As long as I shall live, that blog will exist. And if there’s a recipe on my blog, I’m committed to promoting it. Understand that there are people behind these blogs that work really hard putting together a blog, maintaining it, and keeping up with the demand in a very competitive environment. But when brands invest in us, they’re really investing in the person and their readers.
I may not have a billion page views, but I have a very dedicated following that sees everything I do. In the long term, it’s only going to grow.
There you have it! Being an influencer is a full-time job in and of itself, and it’s one that requires a lot of effort on behalf of our partners. While Aysegul’s story is as unique as the beautiful content that she creates, the quality of her work resonates throughout our entire Partner Network. Be sure to check out her site and follow her on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, & Pinterest to stay up-to-date on her latest healthy recipe creations.
Check back next month to learn more about our next featured influencer, Amy Loochtan of Coffee Beans and Bobby Pins.