s4 ep9: Kim mccosker
Kim McCosker knows a thing or two about how to take a book and turn it into an international bestselling sensation. Not only that, but she also went on to create a business empire off her book brand.
Roxanne – Hello, everyone and welcome to another edition of “The Phoenix Phenomenon.” I’m your host and ghostwriter, Roxanne McCarty-O’Kane. We are sharing once again, another incredible journey of an author who has not only established an internationally recognized brand from her book, but she’s gone on to publish nine, and established quite a large business around that, which I’ll tell you more about in a moment. So today I’m joined by the one and only, Kim McCosker, so welcome Kim.
Kim – Hello Roxanne, thanks for having me.
Roxanne – You’re very welcome. So for those of you that don’t already recognize Kim, she’s the founder of ‘4 Ingredients,’ which is a formidable Australian publishing house, that owns the right to 37 cookbooks, tens of thousands of recipes, images and videos, manuscripts, and databases, as well as growing a reach of millions. So the ‘4 Ingredients’ published cookbooks, e-books, apps and is the developer of a range of kitchenware. And has grown to become one of the most trusted and recognized food brands in Australia, with a recorded one in seven homes owning a ‘4 Ingredients’ cookbook, which is absolutely amazing. So globally they’re reaching sales of nearly 9 million copies. Kim’s been at the forefront of two TV series for Foxtel, and another one that was recently produced on the Sunshine Coast, which is yet to be released. As well as obviously churning out more cookbooks because she’s just a legend at that at the moment. And Kim is also a national ambassador for IGA, Better Home Living and Coeliac Australia. So an all around super woman if I do say so myself. So thank very much for giving us your time today, Kim.
Kim – Oh, no worries, I need to hear it all summarized like that in a minute speech. So sure, I wonder if you’re a bit exhausted.
Roxanne – Yeah, that’s actually.
Kim – That’s what I’ve been doing for 10 years, right.
Roxanne – Absolutely, and so, for ten years, you’ve grown this amazing business from what essentially was just an idea at the very start. So I’d love to see if you can take us back to the very beginning. And whether, you were already a busy mother of three boys at the time, and where it was that the first seed of becoming an author landed for you.
Kim – So, I actually did, most people don’t realize I actually completed a degree in international finance, at university. So probably the least likely person, Rox, to ever write a cookbook, let alone a successful one. But I, it was on maternity leave with my second son that I went looking for a cookbook to simplify my life at the end of a busy day. And I just couldn’t find it. But, cast your memory back. This is about 2006, 2005, 2006, where Gordon and Jamie and Nigella, it was complex cooking at its best. If you weren’t making, asparagus custard, with 12 ingredients, what were you doing wrong? Like what I wanted was just a really simple manuscript or cookbook that showed me, what I could do with ingredients that I had in my freezer, fridge or pantry. And I couldn’t find it. So, essentially I just sat down, opened up my laptop and a word document and started writing down all the recipes that I had in my repertoire that resonated with me. And then I’d ask my mom for her favorites, my Nana, my aunt, and like, what was, the ones that really stood out, the ones that I really loved and went, oh my gosh, is that all you need in that? Were made with real four ingredients, just common everyday easy ingredients. It was, so that’s where the idea of ‘4 Ingredients’ really came from it. It stemmed, I guess, from a need that I had that I couldn’t fulfill. And then, as with most entrepreneurial moments or thought patterns or processes, that kind of went well, if I need this, probably there are others that need it too. And as I through that journey of writing, would take my kids to, kids club or swimming lessons, or my eldest son, tennis or soccer. I turned to the person next to me and said, oh, do you have anything in your repertoire that requires just a few ingredients? And you would gladly share with me, your apple slice, or your French lamb cutlets, or chili con carne, the whole family. And they were all made with just three or four ingredients. So, and everyone would say, oh my gosh, I need that book. I need that book, my brother needs that book. My father, my husband, my kids, my mother, my mother-in-law, someone always needed that book. And they, in confirmed, I guess the belief that if I’m just an ordinary person trying to do the best at the end of a busy day, and get good wholesome food on the table, first for my family, probably I’m reflective of 80% of the entire population. So that’s really where it started. That’s how it began. It just was a need that I had, I couldn’t fulfill.
Roxanne – That’s amazing. And so I guess, it sounds like a very organic process. But when was the moment that you went, okay, I’m all in, I’m committed. This book is happening and you started to really knuckle down on creating your first edition?
Kim – Well, that happened really early on because the recipes that I was getting down on in the manuscript well, I didn’t, well, a manuscript, I guess my word document, the doc, as we used to call it, it grew into a manuscript. They were exciting. They were great. They were, I learned one day you could make a fluffy pudding which my nanny used to refer to as a flummery, with just a little packet of jelly crystals, a dollar, and a chilled tin of evaporated milk, a dollar. And it just makes this incredible big bowl of fluffiness that two ingredients, $2, that eight people could enjoy. Like that just, it excited me. And then, I just, and we would cook every time someone gave me a recipe, I cook it, it would be part of the dinner or lunch or breakfast repertoire of the family. And it was just, it was exciting. It kind of didn’t feel like a chew. And everyone, we women, we get sideline or baseline rule, chatting about what’s for dinner or what if, in the kids’ lunchboxes, what are they eating? what slices are you making? what are you cooking for the, store that, family fare day, whatever, whatever, school fare. So it kind of just, yeah, it was exciting creating it to be honest. And it just grew, it grew really rapidly. That first manuscript, I guess. From first word to last word, took probably about only 12 months. And in that 12 months we cooked over a thousand recipes. So we let down to the 300 that made it into print.
Roxanne – Wow!
Kim – Yeah, that’s right. So when you have this manuscript and you go to the great publishers of our land, and they tell you, no, you just don’t take no for an answer, because that is time, that is money, that is stress. And that is 3.2 kilos, I put on in that process, Roxanne, and I did not do that in vain. There’s gotta be a result. So publishing was, if you don’t at first get a publishing deal, which let me tell you, you will not, if you do not have fame or a following. And hence why you see the record numbers of people, self publishing, nowadays. So, I mean, self publishing when I first started, had long been very marginalized, but with, the accessibility of printing and digital publishing, it’s become a much bigger component of annual book sales. It’s good to see.
Roxanne – Absolutely, and so in those initial stages where you were approaching the publishing houses, was it just lack of fame and following, that was your only setbacks? Did they give you any other, I guess, ?
Kim – No, it was literally, I mean, some even said, what a great concept. Some, had even gone on to create their own ‘4 Ingredient’ title, God bless them. So, but without fame or following, you’ve got no immediate market, and it doesn’t really matter what the content or what the product or service, the most important thing when you pitch for a publishing deal is, yes, okay, you’ve got to have a great product and a great story. But that might represent 20% of the overall conversation. The other 80% is how you’re gonna connect that story, the benefit of that product, that book, to an audience. And where are you gonna find that audience? And how are you gonna build that audience? And that is really what they are most interested in, because remember you are just one of a number of authors in their stable and they only have finite resources, and have a so, such amount of dollars to market as well. So they’re really interested in your ability to market a product to a new market.
Roxanne – Absolutely, and clearly they didn’t know who Kim McCosker was at that stage.
Kim – You know, I did put on probably 3.2 kilos and didn’t do that in vain. So, isn’t it funny, weight and women, we have this love, hate relationship. So, , I was a driver. I just went no way I’m I putting all this and we’re not gonna get a result. So, and at the time I had a business partner, another local Sunshine Coast girl, and she was really market savvy. I sort of had the finance background, she had the market. So it was really, a really powerful little partnership because literally the second that manuscript we put the last full stop on it, we ceased being authors and we commenced being marketers. And really, probably even to this day, that is, one of the strengths of ‘4 Ingredients.’ We have evolved into a marketing machine.
Roxanne – Absolutely.
Kim – [Kim] The power of the good word, Rox.
Roxanne – Absolutely, yes, you definitely harnessed it well.
Kim – Yeah.
Roxanne – Yeah, and so, having those setbacks back then, it sounds to me like it was a bit of a red flag . Did you ever question that what you were doing or over your ability to take this product to the market?
Kim – No, because we had no idea. A good naivety probably served us really well, because we didn’t really realize that, in self-publishing land, you handle every aspect of producing the book yourself, absolutely everything. So, and we could do it all. But what we found very very difficult is, fulfilling orders, how do we, we couldn’t build a website, we had to outsource that, ’cause we needed a platform to be able to sell from and to distribute. Like it was really labor intensive for us to, ’cause really our focus needed to be on marketing. So it was really labor intensive for us to be, boxing the books and sending them to Dymocks in Kalgoorlie or the book warehouse in Darwin, or all across Big W stores. So we really needed a distribution partner. We couldn’t get a publisher, we needed a distribution partner. But guess what, every turned down author in the country is looking for a distribution partner. So therein was a whole another ball game that we had to get our heads around really quickly. And we were just very, very lucky that the company Gary Allen, which no longer exists. But 13 years ago the book buyer there, had recently separated, from his, out of his marriage. And he had two kids and the thought of ‘4 Ingredients,’ oh, okay, well, I could probably do this, and he took it a thousand copies. So that meant we shipped a thousand copies to their warehouse in Sydney. And then basically they sat there until we created the demand somewhere. So that a store or a department store or a book buyer would ring them and order 50 books or a hundred books, or whatever books. So, it was, yeah. It’s, we had no idea what we were doing. We were just doing it. We were just doing it cause we had to. Okay, well, if we can’t get a publishing deal, we gotta still publish. Okay, well, if we can’t self-publish, if we have to self-publish, what do we need to help us get the books on the store shelves across the…? So then you need a distributor. So we just kind of trundled along. We just, somehow some way, thank you to the good Lord above, got through all of that well.
Roxanne – Absolutely.
Kim – Yeah.
Roxanne – Seeing you’ve gone to, you’ve obviously learned all of these new skills, you’ve connected into all of these new organizations that would have been alien to you before this journey. What was it like to see when the demand did start to skyrocket as it did?
Kim – Well, we celebrated all night, drinking to 2:00 AM in the morning, the day we got the distributors deal. And then the next day hangover. We’re having this conversation trying to sound really professional. And they’re saying, well, these books will now just sit in our warehouse until someone rings us. And we’re like, what? There’s no catalog that you send out to people? There’s nothing? So, that was a real wake up call. That was the day we went, okay, we’ll have to market a new product. And, step one, you must write a press release, step two, it’s gonna be engaging, step three, we’re gonna send it out to every national print, publication magazine, every radio station, local, state, national, every TV channel, every TV show that has an interest, potential interest in cooking. And then, step four, you’ve got to follow up. So, I was in finance, I had a sales background. I know that you cannot just, when you are pitching something or pitching the business of any kind, you can’t just pitch and let it sit, you’ve got a follow up. You’ve got to be a dog with a bone and you’ve got to be in front of them. And that is what we did. We worked those phones like no man’s business. We would send, if you were working at my weekly preview and you were the editor, we would have sent it to you or the chief of staff or the journal, whoever it was. And then we would follow up. And we would assume you hadn’t read it, because probably you hadn’t because there’s 30 emails every hour from people like me, with products far smarter than mine. So, hi, it’s Kim and I sent you a press release, you probably haven’t had time, because I realize you’re so busy. It’s about this book that’s gonna just change the lives of so many in Australia at the end of a really busy day. And sometimes you’d get interest, and send me more if you got a cover, blah, blah, blah. And that’s how we did it. And sometimes you get no interest whatsoever, but we just chipped away at it. We rang every bookstore in the country. We rang them as ghost shoppers, and then we rang them as the actual authors. Thanking them in advance for any help they can give a local fledgling title. It was just, it was relentless, Rox. And it wasn’t just for a month, it was years that we did that. We worked those phones, like no one, like mad women, like no one you’ve ever seen before. It was, and it wasn’t just me, it was my mom, she was on the phone. It was my best friends, they’re on the phone ringing. And this is Robinson in Cairns, asking if they could order four titles. It’s just, it was a machine. So that is, for those people out there that think that writing the book is the challenge, sure it is, absolutely. You leave a little bit of your heart and soul on every single page, but the real challenge, is how you then connect that book to a mass audience, to generate sales. Otherwise, why are you doing it? Why are you going to all the effort? If there’s nothing, if there’s no return at the end of the day. Even if you’re just doing it for a hobby and you’re writing something to pass on to your family and whatnot. But if you’re writing a book that you want to sell, take to market, you are going to need to know how to connect the story and the benefit of your product to a mass audience.
Roxanne – Absolutely, and so it sounds like you had that vision from the get go, that wasn’t something that developed. It was like, this is going global, like come hell or high water.
Kim – Well, we wasn’t knowing no one back then, did we think, like we were just so focused on selling, ’cause to sell, to print self-published 2000 titles. Remember this is back in 2016, so there was no iPads. There was no digital components. I mean, my gosh, I only knew two people who had Facebook back then. Like it was all traditional means and methods and whatnot. So to print those first 2000 books in Australia, I think, I had to withdraw and to create a website ’cause we couldn’t do that. I had to withdraw $26,000 from my family’s mortgage. That is the cost. And that was a big barrier to entry, that weeded out the will do’s and the won’t do’s because, people just didn’t have 26 and that’s net dollars. I had to gross $34,000, pay tax to put it in my mortgage, to then pull it out. So, I was, that drove me. The fact that my family said, yeah, you take what you want. You go do this, you put in too much time. That just, I was on a trajectory, that I was just repay. My focus was to repay that money. That was my focus kind of thing. And I mean, we’re tenacious, we’re determined. And we are open to ideas and suggestions and we just really led, we were led by Google. We would Google how to promote a book, a broad thing. And then we would refine, we would refine. But that is, I didn’t know when I started I needed to write a press release, and then I needed, I didn’t know when I started, I would need to spend hours of an evening trying to gather current emails of people that could influence, that could get us on a radio show or get us into print or put, I didn’t know any of that. That just all came with time. Well, that just came, that was just part of the journey. But that is still to this day very much part of the journey. I mean, we are still today, relentless marketers, every day, what’s going up on Twitter? What’s going up on Pinterest? What’s going up on Instagram? What’s trending on Facebook? What are we posting at this time? What are we doing today? Every day, it’s relentless, it’s just a continual cycle. We’re so ingrained in it, Rox. It just happens naturally. That you know, like I have a young intern that works for me and she’s like, “oh my God, this is just nonstop, this is relentless.” And I said, it is.
Roxanne – Yeah.
Kim – Yeah, it is relentless to keep your brand relevant in the marketplace. To make sure that when someone is diagnosed with diabetes, ‘4 Ingredients’ diabetes is the book that they think to go buy. When someone that you know is diagnosed with coeliac disease, or decides I don’t want to eat gluten anymore. That it’s the ‘4 Ingredients’, coeliac Australia endorsed book that they go to find. So, it’s just, and you’re marketing all the time because we have such a big catalog now. You’re marketing all the time, because this statistics, something like 60% of all consumers prefer to buy, new products from familiar brands. So if they’ve already bought one of mine, and they think, oh, I’m on a budget. Maybe it’s ‘4 Ingredients’. I’m gonna increase my, maybe ‘4 Ingredients’ to put it. That requires effort to keep it forefront of mind.
Roxanne – Absolutely, now that’s great. And I’m proud of the thing that has kept you at that at the forefront of people’s minds, is that you are, you’re continually innovating and releasing new titles, and just to find out when it was that you decided that, a second ‘4 Ingredients’ book was the way to go. And then obviously the ball kept rolling from there.
Kim – Well, so in that first year, Rox. We, Roxanne, we did about, so we launched on the 28th of April. The books arrived in my living room on the 17th of March, and officially we went live across the nation on the 28th of April. And from the 28th of April to Christmas day, I would has it a guess, we did over 300 book signings that year. Where we physically rang the bookstore and said, look, we’ll just come for now, while we’ll bring a plate of traits, we’ll bring up a really great vibe. We’ll do all the marketing. It was massive. And at all those events, we would have just, literally, we would, hundreds of people would pass us by hundreds of people. And they would stop and they would share a recipe with us. And I’m writing recipes on the back of book receipts and napkins and whatever I could find. And that’s basically, I went, my gosh, we’ve got booked too here. Within two years we had book one and book two, a little red and a little, a green and a red title. And then we started again. So, on the release of ‘4 Ingredients’ two, we started touring again. And then what we found is that, there was a really large calling for, well, what of all of this, ’cause we would, and still today, every single event I’ve ever gone to, every radio interview, every, if I’ve sat down face-to-face, as with a journalist or a at a bookstore, I have cooked. I have cooked, because the proof literally is in the pudding. And if I can get you to taste a little bit of my mango fruit cake, guarantee you’re not probably only buy one, but you’ll buy two or three copies of my book. That’s how powerful the part, sampling is. So in doing that, we found a rhetorical question was, oh, what if all of these is gluten free? And I’m going, what the hell is gluten? Then you start to do your research. You turn to Google, and you start to, what is gluten? How does it manifest itself in our bodies? How many people does it affect? Oh, there’s coeliac. And so, when you learn that, one in 10 people are diagnosed as coeliac, but that the actual experts say, it’s probably closer to one in four, but most go undiagnosed. You go, wow, that’s a number. So that’s how then the third little yellow book, ‘4 Ingredients gluten free,’ came about. But what we did cleverly then, is we went, well, we can’t just write it. We didn’t even know what gluten was 12 months ago. So, we picked up the phone, I picked up the phone to celiac Australia, and I just knocked on their door until they said, “yeah, yeah, we will.” And we flew down there, we met with them, we cooked a whole, little, two little red riding hoods. We went in with these big baskets of all the stuff. And I think what they loved is, because we didn’t know as much as everybody else, we just simplified it all. And then starts to reason, we can cook successfully with just three or four ingredients, chances are they’re gonna be gluten free, because you don’t need that much. So, I’m a natural baker anyway. So, once you understand that, the complexities of gluten-free flour, it’s pretty easy, to start cooking successfully with it. So they decided they’d endorse. And that was a really good lesson for us, Roxanne, because they brought with them, at the time, so that was 2008, a database of about 1.5 million people. So that was 1.5 million people, they could take a really simple easy cookbook to and market. So we would still do all our marketing anyway, we would still do what we have become accustomed to. Write the press release, but we could say it was endorsed by celiac Australia. So, in going forward, every book that we wrote was, okay, well, who can we have? Because they then help you market. They help you amplify your message, amplify your brand. They bring to you new people. And at this point, this was then now 2008. So Facebook had sort of, we started our Facebook page in 2000 and, or would it be 2007, but really, what we were doing then was building a database. Subscribe to our website, subscribe to our website. Then in 2008, we’d sort of gone, okay, you know what, we really like Facebook. This is a really cool platform to be able to share images and recipes and then have them on share, on share, on share. So yeah, we really started to focus on building our platforms, which has been an integral part of the success of ‘4 Ingredients,’ because we were able to in the early days, before Facebook invented all these crazy algorithms and whatever. You were just, you didn’t need to pay to play. People would just be like eating everything up and ours was food. And it was just like, we were just growing at such a rapid rate. So we were very lucky that we hit on that early on.
Roxanne – Absolutely, that’s amazing. Excellent, and so yeah, and I guess, you’ve mentioned the word collaboration there too, and that’s obviously been key to expanding ‘4 Ingredients’ out beyond far beyond cook books. And to take in all the other awesome things that you’ve taken on over the years. So, your TV where, all the acts you’ve been involved in, can you share a little bit about the importance of collaboration and what sort of doors it’s opened for yourself and the business?
Kim – Well, when you are a small business, you will always be competing with, larger organizations with devoted customers, with unlimited budgets. So you’ve got to think really smartly about how you can compete. How do you differentiate your product? Even though they’ve got all of that clout, and all that following and all that money, how do you differentiate your product from theirs? And then how can you, band with others to help magnify, to help you? Because you don’t have the mark… We didn’t have, we had $0 for marketing. That’s why we had to upscale very quickly ourselves, very rapidly. So, you just, and I realized, would it be like, two thousands, 2009 maybe, I’d started writing, I bought my partner out by that stage, and started writing color books and one day, Roxanne, on the sideline at a soccer game, in Mumbai. So it was the under eights, my middle son. Oh, it wouldn’t be, must’ve been my eldest son, it was the under eights, and ‘4 Ingredients,’ a little local business had sponsored their team. So our logo was all over their little beautiful under eight, bodies running around. And the local IGA had sponsored the other. And that was a bit of a light bulb moment where I went, you know what, the locally owned, independent, mum and dad businesses that are grassroots are building stronger communities. At that level, it is those businesses doing everything they can to get these kids in teams, get the single mom with her little boy to the who’s got some basketball talent, whatever it is, they are the company. So in that moment, I wanna work with IGA. That is who, they’ve got the ingredients, I’ve got the recipes, were both independent retailers. There was so many synergies that that probably took, oh my gosh, Roxanne, three years to, like I was knocking down doors, in different States. People, I didn’t even know what their job titles were. I was just talking to everyone. I just lobbied and lobbied and lobbied until one day, we were at a political fundraiser here, and my brand manager, Melinda, just fortuitously happened to be sat next to, Roz White of White’s IGA. She is an absolute, oh my gosh, local dynamo. She’s not just local, she is legendary in the, IGA national scene, international scene. And she’s like, oh my Gosh. So, we met then, we met at that local member’s office, and we just hit it off. I come from a very small country town called Mandurah. And she comes from a very small country town called Coalstoun Lakes, and I remember saying to her, Roz, no one love comes from Coalstoun Lakes. There’s like a school and one house. And she goes like, , like so, you know, immediate, it’s always wonderful to do business with people that you’re very, very familiar with, similar values, similar work ethics, but it was really through that contact that we then got, Metcash at a national level to listen to our pitch. So, you just, you’ve got to be relentless and you just can’t take no for an answer. And even, you just got to keep pushing, finding ways, trying to, and if you don’t give up, a result will occur, 100%.
Roxanne – That’s incredible. And I was just reading through your bio before and you’ve had some amazing opportunities come up, out of ‘4 Ingredients.’ As you have grown and evolved and expanded around the world. And one of the things in 2017, you were the winner, or ‘4 Ingredients’ was the winner, of the prestigious best-selling category, at the World Gourmand Cookbook Awards, in China. And the result of that, was you being able to cook, at the Eiffel tower. How amazing is that?
Kim – Like, oh my gosh, I was so nervous. Like a wonderful award. It was absolutely most incredible, one of the highlights of the ‘4 Ingredients’ journey. I was just, I’m just as so bad luck. We just did not even think we would stand a chance. We just did not even, we were up against Jamie Oliver, some Russian school cookbook that had sold 30 million copies. Like we were just the little underdog but what we were, we were the only self-published title in that. And to be even in that category, you must have collectively sales, your brand sales of more than a million copies. So to even be in that category, all eyes are on that award, because that’s where everyone aspires to be. Everyone wants to sell a million copies of their book. So, it was just incredible. I think, Melinda and I, we danced in the aisle for five minutes before we even got, I got up on stage. It was just amazing, but yeah, from that, I was asked to be in the following year, go to Paris and cook underneath the Eiffel tower. And I’m like, oh my gosh, the people on before me, were like from the Le Cordon Bleu School, cooking school in Paris. They had these metal swinging from there. It was like, oh my gosh, it was so ornate and intricate. And it was just like watching art be performed on a plate. And then I get up there with my satay chicken, raisin loaf and stuffed dates, like whoa! But, you know, Roxanne, it was, we have a very sunny disposition wherever we go. We don’t forget for an instant where we’re from. We are so grateful for the opportunities ‘4 ingredients.’ And it just then comes naturally, like I’m standing up there like, I just can’t believe, I mean, it’s just absolutely amazing. And then I think, the second people started to hear my accent, they’re going, “oh, is she Australian? “Is she Australian?” And then we just, they were like bees to a honeypot. We just had, and all these officials were like, “what is going on here?” It is just, it was incredible. We just had, it was the most amazing demonstration, it was, it was really good. And then from that, we had, they had scouts there from Ireland, who put together a QA of Ireland’s biggest food festival, which is called Savour Kilkenny. And they said, they approached us afterwards and said, “come on, let’s go have some champagne.” And for , And by the end of that, we were headlining Savour Kilkenny, 2019 which, like it’s just, yeah, it’s really, it’s been an incredible, and I think too, that’s, we’re just so grateful. We’re still so humble and so happy. And people see that that comes naturally, we’re very passionate people. We’re passionate, we become passionate about helping people. We love, I was talking about IGA, why they’re important to us is they bring a marketing opportunity for us, we cannot afford. We cannot afford to be in their catalogs, their 4 million catalogs, they print every week. But yet they’re happy to put us there because they know that their readers are gonna love to see how to roast a chicken. So, there’s gotta be a, they gotta win and we’ve gotta win, but ultimately the customer, how is the customer winning? ‘Cause if the customer wins, we will both win. You know what I mean? And that’s when I stand on the stage, I just think, okay, what am I share? I always think, what am I gonna share in this situation, with these people? ‘Cause different stages, different audiences, that will be useful. And that’s how I will build my presentation and whatever it is I’m doing. And I always try and leave, I never say to anybody, wait to the end, don’t interrupt me. I’m like, stick your hand up, it’s a conversation. I feel like I’m in a room with, 300 of my aunties and uncles or best friends, and I just try to make it really interactive and really open so that people, we’re really approachable. People know that, they feel it, they sense it, we’re always a really good, addition to any run sheets. So that’s just how we’ve always been at. That’s how we always will be. Yeah, we’re very authentic in our own skin, our own message. It’s been the same since day one, repetition is your reputation. ‘4 Ingredients’ will save you time and money in the kitchen, guaranteed hand on heart, it will. So, when you believe in it, it’s an easier sell.
Roxanne – Absolutely, that’s beautiful. And yeah, I’m a big stickler for authenticity, and I know that’s something that you live and breathe. So I wanted to ask you as well, given that you’ve been in the game now for as long as you have, what is it that’s kept you staying ?
Kim – Parenthood, good dose a daily reality, Roxanne. So, I don’t know, life, and I think too, when you own your own business, you have the freedom to work at your own pace, at your own time. So in my business for all my employees, family comes first. We absolutely close our doors for three weeks over Christmas and new year because, the kids are off, that is when they need us. That is when we need them. So I don’t know, I think, family grounds you, we’ve never taken the success we’ve had, it’s never like, we just always been so humbled by it. We’ve just been so thankful for it. So, I mean, who, not in a million gazillion years did anyone ever anticipate this. We’ve had some of the most esteemed, bosses about best publishing houses go to understand what you’ve done. And I don’t probably think we do to be honest, but it’s just, well, thank you for telling us that, or thank you for saying that, or, that I just, I think as well we have a genuine want to help people. And we connect to, every single week we are live streaming from my kitchen or the office, and we are live streaming what we’re cooking for dinner, or cook and for lunch and through that, we have built this really lovely voice to a very very large global audience. And it’s just, it doesn’t always work out. Like one time I cooked a slice, and in my haste to get it in the oven, while I’m still doing it live, I turned the dial to fan grill, not fan bake. So when I got it out, it was the color of my phone. And to some people that might be burnt, but in the ‘4 Ingredients’ kitchen, that is caramelized. So we made light of it and we, but that’s, I dunno, that keeps you grounded. Everyone makes mistakes. I find people tend to resonate more with your imperfections than your perfection. So share them, I’ve just done this 30 days shred, and I hopped on the scales, I’m 50 Roxanne. Scales are my mortal sworn enemy, they lied to me. They don’t tell me the truth when I get on. I hopped on these scales live, and I just thought, you know what, if I can help one to, after COVID, because we all become a little more sedentary. And we cooked more, we derived comfort from cooking through COVID. I wrote a pie book, which was one of the best books I’ve ever written. My family loved it. It was so delicious, but I had the COVID curves, and I just thought there is not a good time to start this. I’ve just got to start. So, I went live to, my three quarters of a million Facebook fans. And I went here we are, we are in the gym and we are hopping on the scales, and it was soul destroying, Roxanne. It was soul destroying at what the reading on those scales were in that moment. But it was, I just went right, well, we’re doing it now. And I think I had, I felt a real sense of accountability to my personal trainer, ’cause he’s just the loveliest human being, Leon, you’ll ever meet. So I wanted it to be successful for him, but I just wanted to show everyone, okay, well this is the journey. And some weeks I’d only lose 200 grams. Well, that’s not even a banana, that was just depressing. One time I did this workout and I just like literally just fell on the ground. And I was just lying there and Leon snapped a photo of me. It was like this big batch jell-o on the ground. It was disgusting. And I posted that and I said, this is my journey. And then in the last week, so, just only on Monday on my last live, four weeks later, the results were phenomenal, but they weren’t always phenomenal along the way. Some weeks we had really crappy results but that sort of stuff, yay! It’s, people like to see your realness so never lose that. Never, ever lose that.
Roxanne – Absolutely, that’s great. And you mentioned just before, how you have been getting a lot of great feedback from the traditional publishing houses. And many of them, we were talking off air before we went live. Many of them have since approached to see if they could get you on board with the . How did that feel and how did you, I guess, navigate that? And balance that with your desire to stay independent?
Kim – Well, when, so when we, I think we, by the end of the first year, we’d sold 800,000 units, of that personal book ‘4 Ingredients.’ Unheard of, massive, huge, even outsold JK Rowling’s that year, huge! So, of course then, the whole industry took note. Eight months earlier, what was never gonna sell was what everybody wanted, the new popular. So we started getting all sorts of offers. We ended up flying. So what we did, we basically said, we’re gonna tender our business. Because there’s another title. So they didn’t just get the back lease, they were gonna get another title. At that stage, we didn’t know how far we could take this, but we knew they loved us, they loved our work ethic, they loved the idea, they loved the marketability of it. We were in talks with Foxtel, at that stage, a TV show comes along. That is automatic sales. So we flew to Sydney and basically we had a day of, two days of meetings and they basically, they bought in their head of marketing, head of publishing, their CEOs, all the big stakeholders. We sat in these boardrooms and we listened to their pitches. But at that, by that time, right, as someone who’s all over finance, you know the pie chart, you know how much it costs to create, to print, to ship, to warehouse, to distribute. And then you’re gonna give me that, and you’re gonna keep all of that, for doing what? So that kind of, but, at that point we also knew there was a demand for our product internationally. And we cannot self-publish internationally, you just can’t. We’re successful here because we live here. We know the landscape here. We know the media here, we’ve got great contacts here. But we can’t, and there’s no time difference. Or there is in Perth, two hours, but that’s it. It’s not like you’re trying to deal with New York, with 10 hours. So we need, we know we needed, we knew we needed to align with a publisher in Australia, if we wanted to get a publishing deal in the UK, and in the USA. And researching all the publishing houses that have both presences in those territories and Australia, there was really only four at the time, four big ones at the time. And we discovered, just through the process of chipping away in research, that one of the publishing houses in America, which is obviously your toughest market, was being run by an Australian publisher. And we thought, okay, that is probably our best chance there. And we ultimately aligned with Simon and Schuster, because yeah, it was Simon and Schuster in the States. So, but they fortuitously had put together the best tender by far. It wasn’t just a traditional publishing deal. They went, now these girls, aren’t gonna accept that, they’re beyond that now, they’re smarter than that now. So they came to us with a joint venture deal, and we are still in that joint venture deal today. So, and sometimes to get the breadth and depth of penetration, you need to create a best seller. You need help and help comes at a price. And you’ve gotta be willing to, but it’s still a lot, you still earn a lot more doing, selling books that way, than a traditional publishing deal.
Roxanne – Mm mm, absolutely. Now that’s great. And I’m very much about, the transformation that goes on for people when they do amazing incredible journey. So, I’d like to ask you, and that’s the final of the podcast too, is this “The Phoenix Phenomenon”, the transformation. But how do you feel that you’ve evolved from that moment, back when you had the first inkling of an idea of creating a book to where you are now?
Kim – I probably, definitely, not probably, I have definitely become more strategic with my titles. So, okay, if we’re going to write this title, where’s the market? What’s the depth of the market? Who do we think we can reach with the market? What’s the marketing plan? And who can we align with to help us magnify, the story of this product? So we definitely become, we don’t, back in when we first started, it was just us, Google and the world. And it was whoa! It was day to day. Whereas now there’s a lot more, of course you grow and you evolve and you strive to improve and get better. And in our journey, the first little gluten-free book that we wrote, this little yellow one, quinoa, we’d never even heard of it, chia seeds, what were they? Protein, you know, like there was just, the market itself for ingredients has evolved significantly. So, we’ve yeah, we try to partner with people for every title we write, because then you’re not an Island, you’re not marketing this on your own. You’ve got other people in your corner, other people you can talk to and consult through the creation process as well, because we’ve got some cracker ideas, brilliant ideas because we are our market. We know what we want, we read something and go, “who knew that?” And it’s a simple fact about Brussels sprouts. I don’t know, it excites us. And we go, well, , probably it will excite our market too. So, we’ve become a lot more, every word that goes into a new book, veggie and vegan, it’s, you don’t have to be, the biggest buyers of this book will be non-vegetarians and non vegans. They’re just gonna want to increase their plant-based consumption. But on every single page, there is a little tidbit of information that you will go, wow, who knew that? And that’s what we try to do on every little page. You openly, randomly open this and the book department of Big W, and I’m going, there’s five others. There’s five others or six others just like this. How am I gonna get you to buy mine? So, whatever page you’re opening at. So, that was never something we did back in the oldest. We didn’t even wanna spell check on the first one. The first book, you got a cocky chop, not cookie chop on one page, it’s terrible. So, we have become a lot smarter in terms of we don’t just assume because you bought one of our books, you’re gonna go and buy another. We know we’ve got to continually earn that investment from you. So we are always looking and we include as well, we’re a lot, we’re very inclusive with our broader, like, when I was designing ‘4 ingredients veggie and vegan,’ I had two front cover options that, kind of similar, a little bit different. And I put a poll up, I put a poll up across every platform. So, and we had, oh my gosh, over 10 thousands comments, or yeah, replies on it. And that is how we decided on, a beautiful fuchsia colored cover, with bright green peas for veggie and vegan. Who doesn’t love peas? Everyone’s Nana grew peas. They’re just that comfort thing. So, we’re very inclusive as well. And I think that’s just a smart long-term marketing tool. If you can go to your market and say, hey, I’m working on a new diabetes cookbook, anyone out they’ve got some cracker recipes, or using ingredients that we might not have heard of? And you will get some real gold nuggets amongst that. So if we do, we then credit you to it. We tell the story about how we found it. It was a friend of ours from Facebook or is on the stage at a P&O cruise, or wherever it was. And that becomes your page. And then guess what, Roxanne, that’s just smart mapping, ’cause you’re not just gonna go and buy one of those books, you’re gonna buy 10 of them. ‘Cause you’re gonna give to your mom, and your Nana, and your this, and your that, your that. So, we’ve become a lot smarter I guess, but we have done so inclusively not exclusively with our market.
Roxanne – Yeah, yeah, excellent. And I usually do ask my interviewees, what top tips you have for aspiring authors. And I know you’ve already sprinkled so many amazing pearls of wisdom throughout this whole interview, but if there was one thing that immediately pops to mind, what would you say to people, who have always dreamed of becoming an author but haven’t quite taken the first step yet?
Kim – Oh God, there’s so many things, I attribute my financial background as a key strength of, a pillar of strength. But if there’s one thing, regardless of what you were doing, what you are writing, what non-fiction, fiction, whatever your topic is at the moment, start to build your platforms, start today. Get your, know your brand, get your logo, keep that consistent across every single platform and start to communicate. At first it’s one or two people but you know you’ll meet someone in the checkout, “Oh, yeah, here’s my Facebook page.” Market it all the time, but start to build your platforms today because you will need a place to connect, to your readers and to sell books from. You can’t just rely on a publisher. You have to, that will be your biggest challenge. Know now, that that will be your biggest challenge, so start now to negate that at a later date. You still gotta keep your creativity and you still gonna write, and you’re still gotta have a really good, good product, but yes, start to build your, that is one piece of advice I can give any author, fledgling author, striving author today, it is yes, start to build your platforms. Get your little logo, keep it consistent across age and start to tell your story, start to tell your story.
Roxanne – Wonderful, thank you so much, Kim. And just before I let you go, I’d love for you to share with our viewers and listeners how they can get hold, connect with yourself, and from your catalog.
Kim – Oh gosh, we are like a rash, we are everywhere. So you won’t have to look too hard, but we’d love to, come join us on our Facebook page. It is our voice to the world. We’re on Pinterest, we’re on Instagram, Twitter. We have subscribed to our weekly, or it’s not really a weekly newsletter. We used to send weekly newsletters, but I don’t know. I don’t open them myself sometimes. So how do I expect my, we send newsletters when we have something of interest to tell you. So, it might be once a month, it might be three times a month. Just depends on the month. So, and then our books are available online at 4ingredients.com.au. We have the entire catalog there. We do lots of fab sales all the time, across E-bay, Amazon, et cetera. But then in bookstores as well. So, you’ll find us wherever you go. And if the title you want isn’t at your local bookstore, you ask, you just ask for them. Because they can get it in within 48, 72 hours. So, and to your listeners, any of them who already has a copy of a ‘4 Ingredients’ cookbook at home, thank you so very much. Your support of the brand is more appreciated than you will ever ever know.
Roxanne – Wonderful, thank you. And thank you so much for your time to share so much knowledge and experience with all of us today. I really appreciate you.
Kim – No worries, good luck. Good luck everyone. Thanks, Rox. Bye.