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From Blog to Bestseller: The Muy Bueno Success Story

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Carolyn Young is a business writer who focuses on entrepreneurial concepts and the business formation. She has over 25 years of experience in business roles, and has authored several entrepreneurship textbooks.

From Blog to Bestseller: The Muy Bueno Success Story

In this insightful interview with Yvette Marquez-Sharpnack, the founder of the Muy Bueno food blog, we delve into the rich tapestry of Mexican and Latin-inspired cuisine, uncovering the heartfelt stories and traditions that fuel her culinary journey. From the blog’s inception in 2010 as a means to document her family cookbook project, Muy Bueno has blossomed into a vibrant platform celebrating Mexican culture and family traditions.

Yvette shares her journey from being a graphic designer to an Emmy-winning food blogger, cookbook author, and influencer, demonstrating her deep connection to her roots and her passion for preserving and sharing her family’s recipes. This interview offers valuable advice to aspiring food bloggers and insights into staying relevant in the dynamic world of food blogging and social media.

Yvette Marquez-Sharpnack

Inspiring Beginnings: The Genesis of Muy Bueno

SBS – What inspired you to start the Muy Bueno blog? Why did you decide to focus on Mexican comfort food?

Yvette – I started Muy Bueno to journal the journey of writing a cookbook. I wanted to write a family cookbook for my daughter, son, and future generations. I grew up in a Mexican household; my grandma was from Chihuahua, Mexico, and I grew up in El Paso. Once I left El Paso, I moved to Colorado, where my home is now. I just wanted our children to have those same foods I grew up with that made me who I am. I felt like it was my duty to continue to share my culture.

My daughter was the one who gave me the idea of writing a cookbook. It started as just a little home cookbook, but as I started the blog, that idea grew — because other people wanted the cookbook (and that’s how the blog grew with the cookbook).

I named it “Muy Bueno” because of my grandma. In Spanish, it means “very good.” My grandma would always invite visitors to her home by saying, “Siéntate a comer, está muy bueno,” which means “Sit down and eat; It’s very good.” That’s where the whole idea and my inspiration came from.

Crafting Culinary Creations: From Recipes to Platforms

SBS – Can you describe the process of making the recipes and how it slowly graduated to the YouTube channel and a blog? How did the first couple of months look like?

Yvette – I started this in 2010, and I didn’t even know there was a way to make money with a blog. I did this as a passion project and a place where I could share recipes online instead of emailing them to family and friends. That’s how it started.

Then, strangers began telling me that their mom or grandma had passed away, and they were so thankful for those recipes because those were the same recipes that they grew up with but never had written down. I started building a following and fans who just fell in love with the recipes. Even though you’re not Mexican, you still have grandma’s favorite recipes. We all have those comfort dishes that bring us back home.

The challenge was that our grandmas didn’t make dishes from a recipe. They would just do like their grandmothers or their mothers. That’s exactly how I cook now. I have a garden and cook seasonally, just like my grandma did. She would tell me, “Go get tomatoes and jalapenos, and go bring mint from the garden.”

When I started, I had no one to ask for advice, and I still had a full-time job. I was a graphic designer and in marketing. As a graphic designer, I always did portfolios and showed samples of my work. So, I decided to design a little media kit with a little rate sheet. When I talked to brands, I would email them magazines to see if they would be interested in me contributing recipes.

The first brand to reach out to me was Avocados from Mexico. They wanted me to do a YouTube cooking video and be on camera. I accepted, but it was so scary for me to be on camera. I also didn’t have any equipment or someone to film me. But they liked my story enough to invest in me, so I figured I would find a videographer.

Back then, in 2010, there weren’t people specializing in recording food bloggers because there was no such thing, so I found a wedding videographer whose style I liked. If he could do something romantic and cinematic with food, I thought it would be fun. That’s how it started. I always tell people, “Fake it till you make it.” Don’t fake that you’re making money, though. Other things you’ll learn on the job.

Transitioning to Full-Time Blogging

SBS – When did you quit your job (if you did) to do blogging full-time?

Yvette – I started my blog in 2010, and then, in that process, I was writing my first cookbook, Muy Bueno. It was getting ready to be published in the fall of 2012. I remember I was invited to all kinds of amazing projects with Avocados from Mexico that summer. I went to Cancun, Mexico, for the food and wine festival. I was also invited to meet Michelle Obama as a Latina mother to discuss important topics affecting Hispanic families. Those were things that I would never, ever, ever, ever have imagined, but that’s what happened.

I also remember asking my boss if I could have some time off to meet the First Lady. He said, “Who are you? Why would they even want you?” I hated my job after a while because I knew that there was something else out there for me.

I didn’t leave my full-time job by choice. I was laid off one day. It was so funny because I went to get my nails done that day during my lunch hour. I always worked through my lunch hour to get out early and do my blog at home. That day, my nail appointment took about two hours. I remember being so scared, thinking I would get in trouble getting back to work late. Sure enough, I had a little post-it on my computer that read, “Come see me.” I thought, “Oh my God, I never get to take a lunch hour, and I’m that big in trouble.”

However, they had already announced earlier that week that they were going to do layoffs. We thought we were safe as the corporate office, but they let go of a few people. I just thought it was my nails, but it wasn’t. Anyways, I just remember being so scared that day because I had medical insurance through them. But I honestly believe a higher power closed one door to open the next door for me.

My husband kept asking me, “What are you going to do? Where are you going to find another job?” I said, “I have a feeling this blog thing is going to take off. I have to figure out how I can work with more brands.” 

At the time, I didn’t know about ad revenue, monetizing on YouTube, and affiliate income. There was none of that stuff when I started (or maybe there was, but I just wasn’t aware of it). I was working with clients and being invited to be on camera talent, a speaker. The book was coming out, so I knew that would help me grow and that something would come out of it — and it did. And that’s how I left my full-time job. 

Navigating Marketing and Community Engagement

SBS – How are your marketing strategies different now? Do you use some paid advertising? How do you engage with your fans or your community?

Yvette – When blogging started, I loved (and I now miss) conferences. There used to be BlogHer and all kinds of food blogging conferences. Now, there are so many more that are online. They’re not actual conferences. I used to go and either learn from other people or speak at those events. There would be brands like KitchenAid, and they wanted to work with bloggers. Those events were your opportunity to network, so that was helpful in the beginning.

The other thing that helped was going online and Googling what other Mexican food bloggers or Latina bloggers are there. I remember being a part of Facebook groups where we had our own little community to help each other out. I feel like that’s kind of lost as well. Everybody’s so much in their own lane that they’re not looking up and trying to figure out how to network or collaborate with somebody.

I would do YouTube videos with other Latinas. I co-wrote my second book (Latin Twist) with another Mexican food blogger, Vianney Rodriguez, so we reached both my audience and hers. I feel like many of those collaboration ideas don’t happen as often as they should. For instance, I will have a live Instagram video with another Latina influencer today. I haven’t done that in a long time, but I’m excited to get back to basics and have fun. Sometimes, we get so busy doing the not-so-fun things that we forget the real people behind the phones. 

Monetization and Growth: Building Success

SBS – How did you start monetizing your blog and YouTube channel?

Yvette – I started with just working with brands. That was my number one source of revenue. I developed recipes with them, or they would fly me out to be an on-camera talent, and I would be the person just reading the script, doing the key points on camera, or cooking a certain recipe that maybe wasn’t even mine.

Since I was already doing YouTube videos for other brands and already investing in a videographer to film, I figured we’d do one branded video, and maybe two more that were my recipes the same day. That way, he would charge me a daily rate, and I would utilize that time to make more videos to help build up my channel.

I get paid on YouTube. When I first started YouTube, I thought I was going to be a YouTube superstar. However, my idea shifted because that’s just not me. I mean, I love YouTube. It’s amazing, and you can find everything that you want. It’s sometimes easier to find a video than to read an article. However, I just didn’t find myself organized enough to have a schedule of when I will post and when I will go live. So, even though I have hundreds of videos on YouTube and monetize on that, it’s not a lot of money. To make a lot on YouTube, you have to have millions of subscribers. It’s lovely to get a few hundred dollars here and there every month, but it’s not my main source of income.

Cultural Representation and Responsibility

SBS – How important is it for you to represent Mexican heritage, culture, and food in the right way?

Yvette – I think it’s crazy important. We know that there are millions of Latinos living in the US, and everybody has their own version of any recipe. I could put any recipe out there, and they’ll tell me, “That’s not the way my grandma makes it.” Or, “In the Yucatan, we don’t do it like that,” so there are many differences. Mexico is vast. I grew up in El Paso, so there’s very Northern Mexico-style Mexican food. I’ve traveled throughout Mexico, and I like to bring inspiration from the Yucatan, Mexico City, Puebla, and Oaxaca and make the same recipes I learned. I have been learning so much on this journey.

El Paso is a pretty big city, but it’s a small town. It’s very unique. I’ve received so much love from my hometown, which is amazing because people who leave El Paso miss El Paso. It’s lovely to have connected with so many people who appreciate El Paso-style food. But as I said, Mexican cuisine is vast, and it’s important to keep sharing.

I follow Food Network on social media, and they recently had somebody sharing how to make tamales with banana leaves. If you read those comments, some say, “In Mexico, you don’t use banana leaves. You use corn husks only,” but in Oaxaca and the Yucatan, they use banana leaves. That shows that you could be Mexican and not know all of Mexico.

Early Struggles and Triumphs

SBS – What were some challenges when you started this, and how did you overcome them?

Yvette – I think it’s always challenging to start. My biggest hurdle (and I think it’s like that for many of us) was overcoming competition. It’s so easy for us to look at others and wonder, “How did she get 100,000 followers when she started one year ago? How is she working with that brand, and I’m not working with that brand? How is she going on that trip, and I wasn’t invited to that trip?” I think it’s hard not to compare ourselves, but it’s such a big world, and we’re only in our little online circle.

I think we need to go back to when we first started blogging. We weren’t doing things for free; we had to get paid if brands wanted us to promote them. Now, so many TikTok stars are just sharing all the brands they use for free, and the brands are loving it. Just look at the TikTok star who got so popular skating during the pandemic with the Ocean Spray cranberry juice. He didn’t get paid, but he was rewarded after the fact. Ocean Spray paid him and gave him a truck.

So, being natural, authentic, and sharing what you use could have amazing benefits. I’ve learned that now. We use certain brands all the time (the same laundry detergent, butter, tissue box, or whatever), and they’re brands that are tried and true. If you’re using them on your day-to-day, tag them on your social media, and they might reach out to you.

Yvette Marquez-Sharpnack

Balancing Act: Work, Life, and Passion

SBS – How do you handle work-life balance?

Yvette – I think that’s constantly evolving. Of course, I have always wished that I could be this amazing, organized superstar, but I’m not. I used to call it “life balance,” but now it’s just juggling. You can’t do it all; either you go to the grocery store, do laundry, work on this blog post, or edit a video. It’s hard to figure out how to do it all.

I’m still learning to give up things that don’t bring me joy. I hate grocery shopping, so I have it delivered. I would rather spend my time writing and editing a video than going to the grocery store. I batch my recipes when I’m doing a photo shoot. I have a photographer (whom I’ve worked with for seven years now, gosh!) come and we film.

The other thing is finding a team because it’s impossible to do everything yourself. In the beginning, of course, I did it all myself. My first hire was my videographer. Then I had photographers. I have virtual assistants who are helping me with my online channels. It’s a job in itself just to do Pinterest, Facebook, YouTube, TikTok. I don’t find joy in trying to figure out Pinterest strategies and things like that, and I don’t want to waste my time doing it.

I get yearly audits to teach me SEO and how to improve my SEO presence. So, there are so many ways to continue to improve. However, there are times when you just want to pass it over to somebody else who’s an expert in it (rather than trying to learn it all).

Advocacy and Social Causes

SBS – Can you tell us a little bit more about your involvement in the social causes?

Yvette – I started with No Kid Hungry a few years ago. As a mother, it’s so hard to believe that here we live in the land of the free, and there are still children out there starving. I believe the statistics say one in six children is going to bed hungry (and this is just in America).

My mom was a single parent, working two to three jobs to support me, my brother, and my sister. The one thing that she always said was, “There’ll always be food on the table.” That was her thing. Sometimes, she wouldn’t pay a bill, just make sure we had food on the table. I can’t imagine not having enough money to feed your children.

I’ve gotten involved with No Kid Hungry hosting, having friends and family donate, and using my platform to share it with others so they can donate to the cause, too. My mom is very involved with the migrant situation in El Paso. She volunteers every Monday, and she cooks for these families that are coming to El Paso.

As busy as we get, we still need to take the time to figure out how we can help others. That’s how that passion project started. I would love for that to grow, and I would love to figure out how I can continue to promote it, share it, and talk about it because it is an issue that needs to be resolved.

Evolution of Muy Bueno: From Past to Future

SBS – How much has Muy Bueno evolved since its inception, and where do you see it going in the future?

Yvette – Well, Muy Bueno has certainly evolved. It’s grown onto so many different platforms. I have three cookbooks. I just finished writing my latest one, which is called Muy Bueno Fiestas. It’s all about eating seasonally and celebrating all the holidays. It’s a year of special occasions, American and Mexican holidays, and the typical foods that we eat during that time of year. So it’s a beautiful book. I don’t know, and I don’t like to say where this is going because I think we never know what life is gonna throw at us.

Creating Visuals: Graphics, Photos, and Collaborations

SBS – Did you get special graphics or photos inside the cookbook? Did you use some of the people that you already worked with?

Yvette – I was very involved with all the details. I completely designed my first book. For the third one, I worked very closely with my photographer. All the photos were taken here at my home. We styled everything. I was very involved with a graphic designer the publisher hired regarding fonts, colors, and design.

Insights and Advice for Food Bloggers

SBS – What advice would you give to fellow food bloggers?

Yvette – JUST DO IT! Just get started and don’t get stuck trying to learn it all or to be perfect. Your style/brand will continue to evolve, but it takes starting. Also, don’t compare yourself to others. 

Staying Ahead

SBS – How do you stay current and continue to innovate in the ever-changing landscape of food blogging and social media?
Yvette – It’s easy to get overwhelmed, but focus on the tasks that you love to do, invest in your business, and outsource that rest. It’s important to stay relevant on all social media channels, but be sure to have team members who might know the platforms better who can assist. Also, stay consistent — have a blogging schedule/editorial calendar and a plan.


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From Blog to Bestseller: The Muy Bueno Success Story