If you’re still working a nine to five and are feeling super burnt out and ready to throw in the towel, this episode will probably really speak to you.
Today, I’m chatting with Aaron Owens Mayhew, a former clinical dietitian who hit massive burnout, then quit her job to hike the PCT for several months.
She came out the other side with a brand new business idea: selling dietitian-created meal plans for long-distance backpackers.
Now flash forward a few years, Aaron is making more money through her online business than she ever did in clinical.
In this interview, Aaron shares:
- When she knew it was time to leave her clinical job
- How she launched her business
- What her first digital products looked like
- What her products and business have evolved into
- Lessons she’s learned along the way
She also talks about her experiences working and living on the road, and she shares some advice for anyone interested in that lifestyle as well. Have a listen!
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More About Aaron Owens Mayhew
Aaron is a registered dietitian and ultralight long-distance backpacker with 20 years of experience as a hiker and nutrition expert. In 2017, she quit her job and began preparing for her first thru-hike. Aaron realized how uniquely qualified she was to plan and prepare meals for outdoor adventures during this process. That same year, she founded Backcountry Foodie, an online ultralight recipes and meal planning platform for backpackers. Since then, Aaron has dedicated her career to helping thousands of hikers enjoy delicious food and improve their performance in the backcountry.
Connect with Aaron
- Website: backcountryfoodie.com
- Instagram: @backcountry_foodie
- YouTube: @backcountryfoodie
- Facebook: @backcountryfoodie
- Pinterest: @backcountryfoodie
Backcountry Foodie membership discount
Erica Julson: If you’re still working a nine to five and are feeling super burnt out and ready to throw in the towel, this episode will probably really speak to you. Today, I’m chatting with Aaron Owens Mayhew, a former clinical dietitian who hit massive burnout. Then quit her job to hike the PCT for several months. She came out the other side with a brand new business idea, selling dietitian created meal plans for long distance backpackers. That was back in 2017. Now flash forward a few years, and Aaron is making more money through her online business than she ever did in clinical. Her husband even decided to leave his job and joined the business so they could spend a few years traveling around the country in a sprinter van while working a hundred percent remote.
How cool is that? I’ve always been inspired from afar by Aaron’s business and story, but we had never had the chance to actually sit down and connect until this week. In this interview, Aaron shares how she knew it was finally time to leave her clinical job, how she launched her business. What her first digital products
looked like, and what it has evolved into since and all the lessons she has learned along the We also talk a bit about her experiences working in living on the road. And she shares some advice for anyone interested in that lifestyle as well, which was a fun little tangent. Hope you enjoy this episode. And as always, if you want to connect with me or some of the many guests from the show, I invite you to join us in my free Facebook group, the unconventional RD community on Facebook.
There are over 13,000 food, nutrition and wellness professionals in there who are interested in entrepreneurship and unconventional career paths. Just search for the unconventional R D community and request to join.
Erica Julson: Hi, Aaron. I know we’ve never officially met, but, uh, I know we both got started in the online business world, maybe around the same time, 2017 or so. And, uh, I think we connected maybe through my Facebook group, but, I’ve been watching your journey growing your online business and everything you’ve been doing.
And I’m very excited to chat with you today and learn more about your story of growing back country foodie. Yeah. Thanks for having me. So yeah. Thank you for being here. So I think, you were in a very traditional career path for a long time, right?
Aaron Owens Mayhew: 16 years. Yes. A long time.
Erica Julson: wow. Yeah. So I think a lot of people listening probably resonate with that and maybe they’re like, oh, I’ve been doing it for too long. There’s no way I could pivot now. so I’d like to start there, like, ah, having been in a traditional RD role for so long, where did you get the inspiration and the courage to switch gears and launch your own business?
Aaron Owens Mayhew: It was a midlife crisis. um, essentially I’d been working as a pediatric dietitian for six, well, 15 or 16 years.
By the time it happened, I was turning 40. I was working in a really big hospital that was growing and growing, growing, um, is getting more and more stressful as a lot of dietitians probably are having a similar situation where there’s fewer staff members and more work. So you’re just exhausted all the time having to take work at home, working on the weekends, that kind of thing.
And then I lived in Seattle at the time, and the commute was just getting that much. Because the city was growing, it went from a 30 minute commute when I first started to a two hour commute each way. So that in itself was just wearing down on me. So I wasn’t having time to, I was having to actually get up at like four 30 to get to work by eight.
So that meant I couldn’t work out before going to work. And then by the time I got home made dinner to care of the dog, you know, all those things, I was exhausted. Didn’t have time to exercise. Physically, I wasn’t taking care of myself mentally. I was exhausted. And I had everything else that you’re supposed to have when you’re turning 40.
I had a nice car, a nice house, you know, secure job. And, but I wasn’t happy. So it wasn’t until just one day I was like, you know what? I’m done. , something’s gotta change this. Isn’t healthy. Um, so I decided to just up and quit and I’ve been wanting, I’m a backpacker I’ve been backpacking for just as long as I’ve been a dietitian.
So I decided I went to through hike, the Pacific crest trail, which is a 2,650 mile. Hike from Mexico to Canada. So I thought, and it usually takes about five months or so to do that. So I figured that’s a plenty of time to figure out what am I gonna do next . So I was like, you know what, I’m just gonna take the leap, figure it out.
And I did, it was scary, super duper scary. Cuz I had no idea what I was gonna do with myself afterwards. But in preparing for that, I’d been a long distance trail runner at the time, too. So nutrition was already kind of a big part of my life, um, knowing how to fuel for the runs and that kind of thing.
And I was struggling keeping weight on just for my runs on long weekends. so here I was gonna go like six hour run to now a 10 hour hike day after day after day. And I started panicking. I was like, how am I gonna keep my weight on? I gotta figure this food thing. At the time, I’d only hiked three to five days at a time.
So things off the shelf are like REI mountain house, you know, backpackers pantry that works for that kind of trip, but those are really expensive. So number one, I couldn’t afford that for five months long. Number two, I didn’t like the nutrition in them for that long, a time period. The sodium in those was just extraordinary.
It’s just out of this world. So then I started kind of tinkering around the kitchen, making my own recipe. And then realized all those cookbooks weren’t fitting. My nutrition needs either. Um, they weren’t high enough in protein. They didn’t have enough carbs. So just being a nerdy dietitian, it wasn’t doing what I needed to do.
So I ended up developing my own recipes for my trip and low and behold, it was like a thing that I didn’t even know existed. and I was a mentor for nutrition interns at the time. So they’re like you, like, this is a passion project you really ought to get on Instagram and let people know about. And I was like, I don’t even know what Instagram is, you know,
So initially it was my students that ran my Instagram account for me because they, like, I don’t know what this is. So they were posting. And then by the time I started, it was just, it turned into a real thing and people were following me. They were super excited about the whole idea. Um, So that’s how it started just as a passion project and fast forward, I wrote a cookbook another year and a half or so later, and then fast forward again, we started an online website and now I teach master classes and have a membership platform.
And it’s my full-time career. And I can’t imagine going back to the hospital, like that’s not even an option now.
Erica Julson: yeah. It’s, it’s so organic. And I feel like the best businesses come from like true needs that you just. Realize, and you’re like, wait, this can be a business. Like, okay.
Aaron Owens Mayhew: Right. No, it was very unintentional. It was just me taking care of myself. And lo and behold, there was actually a real need for it. Yeah. And it’s gone on to using my dietitian skills and I’m helping people that are on gluten-free diets. They’re on dairy free. They’re on all these different things. And actually the newest development for myself is I’ve been diagnosed with severe ref. so now I’m creating all new reflux, ING recipes. um, so it’s even branching out to more like dietary kind of restriction things than just food for backpackers.
Erica Julson: Nice. Well, that’s exciting. I mean, when you initially took that leap, How did you just, how did you have the courage to go for that? Like, I just wanna dig into that a little bit more. Like
Aaron Owens Mayhew: I was just that miserable yeah. it was just the point. It was a breaking point to where I’d actually asked for time off and I needed the amount of time to do the trip was longer than the hospital allowed for their. Their time off period. So it was either you quit or you keep doing what you’re doing.
And I was like, well, there’s always another job. That’s kind of what I told myself. There’s always another job maybe in my job that I’d had for so long, won’t be there, but I wasn’t happy there anyway. So, and at the point I was like, you know, if I have to move, I’ll move, I’ll figure it out. So that’s what I did.
I just. Took the leap. I luckily had saved enough money to get by. And I was in a relationship to where my husband, well now husband, boyfriend at the time was like, he knew how miserable I was. So he is like, I’m gonna sport. You we’ll figure this out. So I was really lucky in that way, that I had financial support too, to help make it happen. Um, yeah. So,
Erica Julson: yeah. Thanks for sharing. More details on that. I feel like that. Is helpful for people when they’re like, wait, this is me
Aaron Owens Mayhew: yeah, yeah. Just, just do it. yeah. And don’t wait until your kids are outta high school. That’s what I kept hearing. A lot of my coworkers were like, I’ve got kids in high school, I’ve got kids in college and that kind of thing. But from what I could tell from them is that that also takes an effect on their children too. So if you’re miserable all the time, so mm-hmm, that kind of thing is don’t wait until you’re old. to do it.
Erica Julson: yeah, that’s great. So let’s see you, you left and you’re on the trail and you’re when you were hiking, had you already sort of like conceptualized that this might be a business, or did you realize it while you were going or when you got back or how did that all go?
Aaron Owens Mayhew: It was kind of a testing FA the hike itself was kind of a testing phase kind of filling it out. So I would, I was actually interviewing other hikers along the way, like, Hey, like what kinds of food do you have in your bag? Or do you like your food? You know, are you feeling energized? Are you hitting the wall all the time?
So it was actually spent like a research gathering, I guess you could say, um, for the trip. So it wasn’t until I got back and people were like, you, we want your recipes. Like you need to get these out in some format that I made the cookbook. So I got that out, but then I quickly realized. That’s not gonna pay the bills.
you have to sell a lot of cookbooks to pay the bills. So that’s when it transitioned to the online platform, just because the margins on it are so much better than what a cookbook
Erica Julson: is. That’s such a great point. So I’m imagined was the cookbook just like a one off, you know, lowish fee. Yeah. Whereas what you took those recipes and probably more now and now it’s behind like a recurring membership pay.
Aaron Owens Mayhew: Right. Yeah. Well, two, what I was kind of worried about with the cookbook is I’d have to wait for an extended period of time to have enough recipes to make a second cookbook. Mm-hmm so this way I do branding recipes every single month. So as soon as I come up with something, I immediately upload it at the beginning of the month.
So I’m constantly like building the site. So it’s actually, I enjoy it more because I’m actually giving things all the time to people as I create them, rather than having to like, hold onto them and not tell anybody about them. Um, until I have enough to make a new book.
Erica Julson: Mm-hmm . Just to compare price wise is the monthly fee. What was it? Does that look like compared to like what the price of the cookbook was?
Aaron Owens Mayhew: Um, the original cookbook, I think, had, like, it was a PDF had, like, I started with very, very low because that’s all I had at the time. And just to kind of get a feel, I think the PDF was like 9 95. Then the paperback cookbook went up to 1495 and now I do an annual subscription for just recipes.
Bare basic platform is $36 a. Um, and then we’ve developed like this whole meal planning platform too. So that goes on up to $60. And then I go on up to $120 a year for all my classes. So it’s substantially higher than where I started at 9 95 and
Erica Julson: still, honestly, that’s very affordable in the grand scheme of things in the grand scheme of things.
Right. Yeah. Awesome. And. Can we walk through sort of your journey? So you started with the, the PDF cookbook and that’s sort of, I see that as sort of like your validation almost mm-hmm like you put something out there and people bought it and then you’re like, okay, like maybe this is a thing. And then like you said, you’re like, okay, it’s a thing, but not enough to live on.
So can you walk us through in a little more detail, like your journey from tr noticing that there’s something there to growing it into something that could be a full-time.
Aaron Owens Mayhew: It’s really evolved based on customer needs. Uh, it was just based on what people were wanting, what they’re needing and that’s why it’s grown and grown and grown with time.
Because like I said, originally, it was just my recipes. It was just what I wanted. Um, so then what I learned more and I did every year, I do another hike. unfortunately, except for COVID years, because we are all shut down. But when I can, I always do a new hike and those are actually work. Because I’m asking people questions, I’m testing new things.
So each year I’ve learned more and more and more about my market. So then I have evolved the site based on that too. so especially like the meal planning platform, we that’s evolved significantly from where we started in 2019 to where we are today. And like I said, now I’m doing this whole new line of reflux recipes, just because that’s what I’m experiencing.
And I posted it on Facebook yesterday and that’s blowing up. They’re like, oh my gosh, like I’ve been dealing with this for years. I’m so excited about it. Oh, okay. I was just gonna do it because I needed it, but I’m glad it’s gonna help you too. Kind of thing. Yeah. Um, so it’s really totally market driven.
Erica Julson: Can you give us an example of something that maybe you didn’t expect that people wanted that, uh, you saw that they’re asking for and then you created it?
Aaron Owens Mayhew: Originally, uh, the other thing kind of going way, way back is when I was starting, my backpacking gear was really, really heavy. So I’ve since transitioned to what’s called ultra light backpacking, which is where you cut down as much of the weight as possible use very lightweight things.
You don’t take a lot of extra, um, luxury items. So. My meal planning is also called ultra light meal planning, cuz essentially like I’ve cut out all the waste and food. So if it’s not providing the nutrition that I want, then it just doesn’t get added in. So a lot of those recipes had kind of some obscure ingredients because they were as light as possible.
But they’re harder to get they’re more expensive and that kind of thing. So I’ve transitioned to grocery friendly recipes because that’s what people are wanting is they wanted us, like, you know, I’m at the grocery today. I wanna go backpacking this weekend. They pick up what they need from the grocery store, and then they can make it when they go home.
They’re not having to order from Amazon or all these crazy companies to order things. So that’s something I didn’t think of initially that I was only thinking light, light, light as light as possible. Now I’m thinking more convenience, still nutritious, but very convenient kind of thing.
Erica Julson: That’s a really great example. So many parallels too, when I was food blogging, the same thing. Yeah. When you, you start to realize, oh, you can, you, well, it’s not quite the same, but I was doing like keyword research and trying to figure out, oh, what are people actually searching for? Right. And then I worked backwards and create that instead of.
Just guessing, you know, essentially what people want. Like you can actually collect some data and work from that. So that’s a really good example.
Aaron Owens Mayhew: Well, and I ask our social media group all the time too. Like, what do you want? And, uh, for the very first couple years I was a Facebook Luer I guess you could say I was a, I didn’t really participate a lot in the groups, but I was seeing what all the questions were that were being asked.
So that’s where I gained a lot of like the information that I needed to provide the products that were needed at the time. So
Erica Julson: yeah, that was kind of gonna be. Question, like what platforms are you on? And like, how did you find your people? how did you get the NA your, the word out there about what you offer?
Aaron Owens Mayhew: Um, well, I’m on Instagram and Facebook primarily. Um, I tried Twitter and that’s just not my thing. So I kind of pushed that off. Uh, I tried TikTok. I don’t have time for video, so that’s kind of got pushed out too. I’m just so busy with other things that I know reals and all that’s really like the thing right now, but unfortunately I just don’t have the time to do.
So with time, I’ve just learned about using keywords. I’ve learned about like, what, what are people searching for? So I use hashtags specifically for what people are looking for, not necessarily what really goes along with the picture. Like if it’s like, I don’t know, like Mexican cheese dipped, you know, or something like that.
I don’t put that down as a hashtag because people aren’t my, my people, I guess you could say aren’t searching. Cheese dip, they’re searching for lightweight meals. They’re searching for backpacking, they’re searching for those kind of things. So I think once I learned that that really made a difference in helping grow.
And two, I do a lot of Google analytics, so I know what my age group is. I know what sexes. I know like all those kind of things. So you know, what words to use for those kind of people. But that wasn’t until within the last two years that I really started pinpointing that kind of thing.
Erica Julson: And then you have a Facebook group, it sounds.
Aaron Owens Mayhew: Just a Facebook page. Oh, okay. I would love to do a group where yeah. I would love to do a group where people can talk, but again, that’s one of those things I just can’t keep up with anymore. So we actually have a forum in our premium service where people interacted there, so
Erica Julson: nice. Okay. So you have ways to communicate, with your people and get that feedback. That’s great. And how long did, would you say that it took to grow and into something that could replace your, your full-time.
Aaron Owens Mayhew: Well, the other part was my husband quit his job in 2019 and we moved into a sprinter van. yeah, I wanna talk about that. So yeah, so we got to, he got to the point where I was, where he just needed a change too.
So, and I was kind of stuck with foodie, um, that. I just, wasn’t getting growing as much as I wanted to primarily because I don’t have the business background. I have the zero business training, the marketing, the budgeting, you know, all those kind of project management things. And that’s what my husband does for a living.
He’s a project manager. So we’re like, this is a perfect time for you to leave. Let’s go travel because we were tired of the two hour commute. Let’s figure out where we wanna leave next live next. Then he took on all the web design and all those other pieces that I was struggling with. Um, so we spent all of 2019 essentially building what we have now.
Um, then in 2020, we are growing, growing, growing. So by the end of 2020, beginning of 2021, like we were full on not using our savings anymore. And then he left and went back to work so, because he missed his career. Um, so now it’s been my full-time career all by myself since. Let’s see, where are we? 20, 22.
I’ve gotta think of the years. Yeah. Um, September of 2021 is when he went back to work and then I’ve been full on myself. So our ultimate goal is to build foodie up, back up again, enough to where he can leave again and we can travel full time. Nice. Um, again, so.
Erica Julson: Yeah. Did COVID impact that plan?
Aaron Owens Mayhew: We did really well, believe it or not good because people were stuck at home, so they were watching videos and they were doing those kind of things.
So my master classes did really, really well. Nice. Um, and then once people were able to go outside, they still weren’t able to do a lot of other traveling. They couldn, you know, couldn’t go, go on airplanes and that kind of thing that I think they were spending a lot of time backpacking. So we did really well. So actually this year it’s slowed down because I think now people are doing other vacations so. Backpacking as much.
Erica Julson: That makes sense. And where do you get, where do you, like, based on your analytics and stuff, where do you think the majority of your new customers are coming from?
Aaron Owens Mayhew: Like location wise?
Erica Julson: Uh, no, like marketing channel wise. like,
Aaron Owens Mayhew: Believe it not 75% come to our website. Cold. Nice. So they’re coming and buying immediately, which I’ve been trying to decide if I want to, all this effort I put into email marketing, only 25% of them are converting. I’ve been trying to decide, like, do I wanna spend that kind of time on email marketing? Um, but I am because that’s able another way for me to teach and reach other market and that kind of thing.
It’s something I enjoy doing. But most of our folks are coming from social media or YouTube is where. They come from or friends is kind of our next one. That’s coming up in podcast. So I do a lot of podcast interviews.
Erica Julson: Mm-hmm that’s great. And then, so they come on, would you say that most of them are signing up for the subscription service? Is that your main offering, right?
Aaron Owens Mayhew: Yeah. That’s our main offering.
Erica Julson: Well, that’s exciting. I’m excited for you. I just remember when I heard . Yeah, I remember when I heard about your business, like I’m not a backpacker whatsoever, but I was just like, yes, that is a good idea.
Aaron Owens Mayhew: yeah. I’m the only person doing it.
Yeah. So, I mean, there’s other dietitians out there doing some nutrition coaching for like endurance sports and that kind of thing. But then they’re actually providing like the recipes and especially the meal planning platform that it there’s no other one like ours. Yeah. Um, and it’s fully automated.
It’s pretty awesome. I have to say . I used to do everything by hand. And now I do it all on the website because it just, it calculates all the nutrition for you. It tells how much water you need to pack. So you don’t have to think about that. So if you’re planning for like a desert hike and your meals start adding up to a lot of water, you’re like, oh, that’s a bad idea.
So you already know before you even get to the trail that you need to make an adjustments before you get there. Yeah. That’s and it makes a shopping list. So it tells you exactly like four cups of almonds and two tablespoons of this or three cups of that. Um, so you don’t have to do all that by hand either.
Erica Julson: And is that something that your husband built out for you or did you
Aaron Owens Mayhew: it’s a plugin yeah. Amazing. Better this recipe maker. It’s a plugin.
Erica Julson: Yeah. Great. I love WordPress recipe maker. Yeah. That’s a really, really. Great example of how to use that. Yeah. Wow. That’s exciting. yeah. Oh, I’d love to like dig into that more.
Yeah, cause I’ve only used it for just like regular recipe blog, but I do know, like at the higher level of the plans, they do more advanced things like the shopping list and stuff. So
Aaron Owens Mayhew: our whole, our entire meal plan, our whole side is built on recipe maker.
Erica Julson: That’s amazing. Yeah. So for anyone listening. Bet. There’s somebody listening who is like tuned into some obscure niche somewhere where like a similar concept could apply. So like, I really, I really just admire the creativity, and like ingenuity that you’ve had.
Aaron Owens Mayhew: Oh, it’s definitely take that for sure.
Erica Julson: Uh, let’s see. So I guess an a fun question that I sometimes like to ask people now that you’re in, you’ve been doing this for. What five years or so now? Yeah. Taking yourself back to the beginning. Is there anything that you would maybe do differently from the beginning knowing, you know, what you know now and all the experiences you’ve been through?
Aaron Owens Mayhew: I wish I had spent more time looking for more resource resources initially. Now I have these amazing coaches here, uh, business coaches that if anybody’s looking for a coach score, just SEO, R E I forget what the. Dance floor mm-hmm , um, provides free business coaching. Um, I think they’re across the, the country.
And they’re amazing. I have three coaches that will meet with me as often as I need to. They’re all retired business people. Um, so I’ve gotten a lot farther just from having those people, helping me out. So it took me five years to like, get that kind of resource. Um, initially I paid for a lot of things that I wish I hadn’t paid for just because I just, I was like, I need help, but mm-hmm at the same time I was hiring people that didn’t understand my niche.
So they weren’t as good a help as they could have been. So I kind of wish I would’ve thought that through a little bit more, but at the same time I was developing my niche, so I wasn’t as dialed in then anyway. so that’s kind of where I think about like how much money I spent initially that I kind of wish I hadn’t, but it is what it is. It was part of the learning curve.
Erica Julson: yeah, for sure. Everyone has those stories and experiences. Yeah, I guess I, my question is like, What about, so I like how you mentioned, maybe you were looking and hiring, um, looking into and hiring people that maybe didn’t fully know your niche. So how did you, you know, figure out what, like, how did you even figure out, okay. I can use WordPress recipe maker to make this like meal planning membership site. Like you just, is it all self-driven or.
Aaron Owens Mayhew: That was all self. Luckily that was my husband. He completely built the website. I’m not even sure how I came across it, to be honest cause I had zero website design ability. Um, I think back to what my original website looked like, and it was horrible compared to where I am today.
I mean, there was no SEO, there were no color schemes. There was no font, you know, all of that is now. Fine tune to, developed that based on what our customers are. so yeah, we’ve come a long, long, long, long way. I almost wish I’d taken some screenshots. It was so bad to be able to go back and look at it.
Erica Julson: Yeah. Well, there is a website called way back machine, uh, where that’s really, it takes screen well, like screen grabs of websites at earlier points in time. So you could use that to go back.
Aaron Owens Mayhew: Oh, wow. Yeah, it was pretty bad. so no, it was all, all of this has been self taught. Nice.
Erica Julson: Well, kudos to you. Cause I mean, yeah, same here. Like, it might take a little longer if you do it yourself, but you can do it yourself if you’re short on cash. And if that’s like, I think it depends about a little bit about knowing your personality. Like some people are great at just like, you know, I’m just gonna figure it out and do it. And then maybe other people do better with guidance.
So I know yourself, but if you are a self-driven person, like it’s definitely impossible just to like carve your own path. I guess. Mm-hmm I feel like the lesson is, You know, don’t be afraid to do something different, I think, or like be unique. I feel like that’s, that’s you and your brand, uh, and everything from yeah. Everything from being on the road.
Aaron Owens Mayhew: I think it’s key. Yeah. Right. I think it’s key to be unique because you’re not. Having to compete with all the other people that are doing the same thing as you. So I think that’s why I’m doing as well as I am, because I am the only one that’s doing this. Versus if I were competing with all those other outdoor dietitians that are helping people fuel for their trips and that kind of thing, then that’s a lot more, competition there versus me actually just doing the one thing that I do really well.
Erica Julson: Yeah. It’s so like mind boggling to me, like, no, Before you had even like, thought of that idea, cuz it’s such a good idea.
Aaron Owens Mayhew: no, it’s just kinda like, it just happened, but it takes a lot of work being in the kitchen all the time. So it’s not, it’s not an easy job. It’s a lot of bad taste testing.
Erica Julson: yeah. I think I’ve seen some of your posts where you’re like dehy stuff and seems very, um, very. Not technical, but more technical than the type of cooking I usually do.
Aaron Owens Mayhew: right. No, I’m very type a, so it’s all down. All of our recipes are BA are computerized. So before I even go to the kitchen, I put it into word process or food processor. Mm-hmm so I make sure like all the numbers and nutrition does what I wanted to do.
And then I go to the kitchen. And then I kind of fine tune there and I still have my computer right there. So I’m like, oh, I need to fine tune this. Does that make the nutrition work? How I want? No. Okay. I can’t do that. So let me do this and then I fine tune it all there. So it’s very methodical when I do it.
Erica Julson: Nice. Uh, so I guess I’d like to dive a little bit more into running a business on the road, because I think that is something that a lot of people in my group, have. Talked about before, like they’re just interested in like a virtual business on the road. So what was that like? Like what were the best parts and what were the hardest parts of living and working out of a.
Aaron Owens Mayhew: The best part is the freedom. I just, I loved, we saw so much of the country and we, we liked being outside. That’s what we do. Um, so we saw so much of the country that we never would’ve been able to seen had we both stayed with our old jobs because we are tied to the jobs and you have three weeks vacation, you know, a lot of that goes to family vacation, and then we never, would’ve been able to drive two weeks to a spot just to see it for a day kind of thing.
So we drove 70,000 miles in two. And then we would stay somewhere for two days. If we liked it we’d stay a week. If we didn’t like it we’d move on to the next place. So that was probably the best part is just always waking up in this beautiful scenery, the freedom to, if I have what I call breathing breaks, um, I mean able to just walk out the band door and go for a hike and just have some downtime and just to decompress and that kind of thing.
And then I can come back and then I go back to work again. The difficult part was the internet , um, Because of where we chose to live. We always wanted to be on the land and the forest and that kind of thing that I think the technology’s getting a lot better now, um, with satellite internet and that kind of thing.
But for us, I’ll never forget the times where I really started teaching master classes and we would inch the van, literally inches. To find the perfect cell signal. And then we would get right before the class started, like stop and then we’d hustle and get the table out and like set up everything. then I’m like outta breath and I’m getting ready to teach.
I’m like, sorry. And they all knew that I’d lived in the van, so they’re like, it’s okay. And I’m like, take five minutes where you start. So that was the hardest part is for us, is working. A hundred percent virtually because we didn’t like to spend time in town. Um, and it got to the point where we went through three different hotspot, like all these different phone plans and that kind of thing that we would spend kind of creepers would be in, in the McDonald’s parking lot for 10 to 12 hours and a white van and then McDonald’s has the best wifi that’s so funny if anybody’s trying pro tip.
Yeah. Oh, pro tip McDonald’s so that was the tough part. I mean then there’s the, obviously the part. Taking showers and all that kind of thing. But business related wise is really primarily. And then we got to where two, we needed more computer space because I just, we were really building the online platform.
So we were needing bigger monitors and that kind of thing. And that was just getting to where I was having to like, sit with a laptop on one and laptop over here. And it just wasn’t. Space for us. So that kind of got challenging as we grew to.
Erica Julson: Did you upgrade? I feel like at one point, did you upgrade from a sprinter van?
Aaron Owens Mayhew: we ordered, we custom because we got to the point we needed more space. So we custom ordered a fifth wheel. And the norm, a fifth wheel with, um, Now I’ve forgotten what the end of it’s called a toy hauler. It’s the kind that has like a complete garage in the back. So we were gonna turn that into an entire office space.
But this was during COVID times when they were outta stock, you just couldn’t get them. Um, so it was on back order for months and months and months. And this was at the time too, my husband was transitioning into his new job. We were still gonna, he was gonna work for a few months and we were gonna travel a few months, work for a few months travel.
But. because we couldn’t get the fifth wheel on time for his new job. We had to decide right then and there, like we can’t live in the van with you, you not taking a shower and needing to go work. So we just decided to let the fifth wheel idea go. And now we’re in a house. Nice. With four solitary walls.
Erica Julson: Did you go back to the same area you started or are you somewhere in different now?
Aaron Owens Mayhew: No, we’re, we’re in orchid, California. I’d never, we’d never been here. So I don’t even know where that is. I didn’t know where it was either. So it just so happened that my husband’s new job is in the entire central coast and this ended up being a nice little spot for us.
I was ready for a small town living after living in Seattle. So we’re small town. We’re. 10 miles from the beach. We’re not even an hour from the mountains. So it’s kind of working out really well, doing what we’re doing for now.
Erica Julson: So do you have any tips for somebody who has aspired to be a digital nomad , uh, anything to make their life easier? Maybe if they’re thinking about making that transition,
Aaron Owens Mayhew: It’s a lot of work. If you’re gonna build a van, it’s a lot of work. , that’s one thing I don’t think I’m ever gonna do again. Um, so if you can afford to have somebody build one, then that’s actually probably the better way to go, because it was a lot of work and a lot more expensive than we thought it was gonna be a.
But at the same time we built the van specifically for foodie. So it was specifically designed to have the kitchen that I wanted, um, and that kind of thing. And to have the space for my food, took up three quarters of our garage for that kind of thing. So just kind of thinking long and hard of what your goals are for using the van.
Whether or not you feel like you need a shower in there, or if you’re okay, like using a gravity shower and that kind of thing. So the build itself really makes a difference in how you feel during the day. So,
Erica Julson: so interesting. Yeah. Do you think there’s. Time limit on how long you can like be in a van before you go crazy. Or like,
Aaron Owens Mayhew: I loved, I would, if I could go in it tomorrow, I would move tomorrow. nice. I absolutely loved it. My husband, on the other hand, I’m a backpacker that can sleep on the ground. Yeah. Nonstop. So I’m fine living very, very little, but he got to where it was just getting too confined. It’s 60 square feet.
It’s pretty tight. But because of where we always parked for me, like. Backyard was endless because I would sit outside in a chair and a table. And it just, you had all the space in the world. But he missed the showers. And like I said, like computers were starting, we were getting on top of each other and that kind of thing.
So, um, I think we would’ve done fine in the fifth wheel having some more space, but it was getting kind of tight. .
Erica Julson: Yeah. And how, like, so now you’re at a house and you’re you just like double down, hard on growing the business
Aaron Owens Mayhew: pretty much. Yeah. Um, yeah. And it’s kind of funny, like our house is completely empty because we sold all of our furniture so the only furniture we own are our desks we finally bought a bed and we finally bought a couch.
that’s so funny after six months, but yeah, so pretty much like I’ve, this is what I do all day long. We. Really are working hard on it. Um, and it’s been a significant learning curve since Chris went back to work, because now I’ve had to learn how to do the website. I’ve had to learn how to use QuickBooks.
So when he first went back to work, I panicked. I’ll be completely honest. I panicked because I didn’t know how to use any of these things, but I’ve, since now I understand it. Like now it’s a lot easier. And I found a developer that’s doing all my day to day things when they break mm-hmm . So that’s taking a lot of stress off me.
It took me three developers to find that person, but he’s been amazing, actually, he and she it’s a whole group of people. Nice. Um, so that’s been really helpful. So I can go back to being a dietitian a little bit more than the. Computer person.
Erica Julson: Yeah. How did you find reliable help? Cause that’s a question that comes up often.
Aaron Owens Mayhew: your Facebook group? oh, great. one of my dietitian friends posted about like web development or something. And I was like, well, I don’t know really web development. I need somebody that could help on the back end. So I just kind of Googled him and kind of interviewed her and sure enough, like she’s an awesome fit.
They have a whole team that does graphic. They do web development. They do day to day like plugin breaks, marketing. Great. So. And they just have a really good system worked out to where you, they use base camp. It’s kind of a communication platform for tasks. Mm-hmm um, so it’s just been really well. I leave that open up all day.
So something breaks. I’m like uhoh Joey, click, click. This is broken. Can you like, see what’s wrong? Yeah, that kind of thing.
Erica Julson: For sure. I know that life .
Aaron Owens Mayhew: Oh, and plugins. I, we have probably close to 30 plugins now. Yeah. So it never fails that they update and it breaks something else. Mm-hmm so I was spending so much time just managing that.
It’s been quite a relief, finding somebody else to do that for me.
Erica Julson: Good. Yeah. And it looks like I was poking around on your site and I like how you have, you know, all the people on your team now, uh, it looks like you also have some blog contributors at this point. So can you fill us in on. Who those people are.
Are they like paid? Are they volunteers? Like, how did you find them? When did you start bringing people on like all that, all the details there.
Aaron Owens Mayhew: I hate to write that’s like my least favorite thing to do. I love being very analytical in the kitchen, but I hate to write anything. Um, so this was back in COVID time when people are outta work.
And I was like, you know, content is key. When you have a website, you need a blog, you need content constantly being published. So I was like, you know, and I’ve got some extra money right now. So I hired a ton of dietitians. I think I had like six or seven at the time that had different specialties. And that was part of it too, is I was getting asked a lot of questions that I didn’t know a lot about.
So I’d hired a dietitian that had GI experience. I had an I, the one. Diabetes experience another one that had this kind of experience. So actually I had a backlog of, I think a hundred posts from, wow, just COVID where they just turned out all this co um, content for me. And now I’ve since hired a dietitian to help me get that all in line because I just don’t have the time to do that.
So I’ve taught her and she’s learned on her side too. Like all the SEO things, you know, all that kind of stuff. So she’s uploading those posts and kind of optimizing them all. Um, nice. So we’re slowly getting all that backlog of stuff online.
Erica Julson: Smart smart again. So yes, they are paid . Yeah. You’re like listening to your audience again, creating content to meet their needs.
And I love that you don’t try to do it all. You’re like
Aaron Owens Mayhew: I can’t yeah. Yeah. I tried. And it doesn’t work
Erica Julson: yeah, it’s a really good role role model. I don’t know. That’s a word, but a really good example. Great. Um, Of yeah. Knowing what you’re good at and what you like to do and what you don’t like as much outsourcing that stuff
Aaron Owens Mayhew: outsourcing what has to be done that you don’t like to do.
Erica Julson: mm-hmm, nice. So are those people still working for you or you, it was like a batched thing and then it was like project based or
Aaron Owens Mayhew: so that was batched because I couldn’t afford to pay them full time. So when COVID was over and they’re like, I need a real job with benefits there and. Can’t help you. So they’ve moved on to full-time jobs again.
So those, I, I had them on there because they wrote all the content I’m not gonna take, I’m not gonna take, um, ownership of all that because I didn’t write it. So I do have somebody else that’s pretty much on part-time for me, that really manages all that kind of stuff for me. So she’s a stay stay-at-home mom, dietitian that just needs something to kind of keep her brain live, you know, that kind of thing.
So she’s doing all that for me. And then I tried having an, virtual, a. Um, for a while, which was helpful when we went through the transition of me learning how to manage all this stuff myself. But I’ve, since now that I’ve got all that under control that I don’t need her anymore, because there’s just not as much work, as there was before.
So, but it was really helpful when I needed her.
Erica Julson: Mm-hmm and where do you see the business going? Like. In the next year, maybe like five years, 10 years. Love to hear like your big vision. ,
Aaron Owens Mayhew: I’m getting close to having the website, the platform pretty well dialed in because we’ve been really manipulating it and building it and that kind of thing to meet all of our needs.
So I think we’re pretty close to having it done. Um, we’re currently working on a hiking calorie calculator, which has been a dream project of mine for a long time. So that’s kind of the next big project. And then I wanna shift to the. Portion. I wanna start doing more nutrition. One-on-one coaching on the side kind of thing, because people now that they’re learning about me, they’re reaching out to me and asking for help.
And that’s what I enjoy doing. I enjoy people helping them the most versus like I said, all this website stuff it’s it’s necessary evil, I guess you could say it has to be done, but I truly help like doing the actual coaching part and the teaching. Nice. So envisioning like that’s my next pivot is to do more of that and letting the website kind of run itself.
Erica Julson: Great. And then having also multiple arms of income. That’s great. And could even grow a team of coaches who knows. Right. I’m just curious, cuz I have like no frame of reference. How big is like the backpacking community.
Aaron Owens Mayhew: It’s big. Yeah. I wish foodie were bigger because the backpacking community is big. But what I’m I actually just recently started doing surveys for our newsletter subscribers to kind of get a better feel for who people are. and that’s, I think where I’m so niche down to I’m more like the long distance people that are out for weeks at a time, um, that most backpackers go out on the weekend for maybe an overnight kind of thing.
They may only go out for one or two weekends for the year or maybe one week at a year kind of thing. So that’s actually kind of another pivot that I’m gonna try and do is help those people that don’t need the entire service that I offer, because most of mine is really designed for people that are out there for long periods of time. So that’s where we are with that too.
Erica Julson: I imagine since you have such a tight niche and like clear person that you help, do you get a lot of like word of mouth, referrals too.
Aaron Owens Mayhew: Yeah, I’m getting, that’s what we rely on to you a lot, because. We have such an inexpensive product that advertising is just not as cost prohibitive.
So the amount of dollars per click just does in the conversion rate and that kind of thing, it just doesn’t make sense for us because the margins just aren’t good enough. Um, so I rely heavily on word of mouth and I actually just built a new foodie fans, um, Facebook page or Instagram page because I keep getting outta these awesome testimonials that are just sitting in.
Inbox it’s like, why are they sitting here? Like, I should be sharing like all this that people are saying, like how excited they are and how great they feel. So we just start an Instagram account of just posting people’s experiences with our food.
Erica Julson: Nice. And you just said you are getting into YouTube too, is that
Aaron Owens Mayhew: we, this was, I wish I could do more YouTube.
This when Chris wasn’t working, he was he’s the video guy. He does all the editing. So we were actually making quite a few videos back when he wasn’t, when he was with foodie. But now that he’s full time, he just doesn’t have the time to do the editing. And I have no interest in the editing. to be honest, it’s just one more thing.
So I would like to go back to more video. So again, kind of, if I’m able to get less time spent on the platform and more time doing that, then we’d probably do more YouTube videos again. Yeah. Nice, great. But they’re still getting like hundreds of thousands of views three, four years later, so
Erica Julson: yeah. Yeah. That was kinda gonna be my question. Like how big is your audience? I don’t think we’ve touched on that at all, but, I wanted to talk about how big your audience is, and then like, you don’t have to share exact numbers if you don’t feel comfortable, but like, is this something where you, you are now out earning what you were earning in your full-time job as a dietitian? Like, is that possible? Yes. Yeah. Amazing.
Aaron Owens Mayhew: so, yeah, YouTube. I think last time I checked were like 11,000 subscribers. And I haven’t put any video out since probably this last summer kind of thing. Um, so I’m now putting like all these podcast interviews that I’m doing on video, so I’m kind of putting those out.
So people are seeing the things that I’m doing behind the scenes. So yeah, in our Instagram, I think we’re just shy of 17,000. Um, followers and then Facebook’s grown a lot slower. I think we’re like 6,000 followers there.
Erica Julson: I mean, that’s pretty good for Facebook, honestly. Like, oh really? Yeah. I feel like it’s like, uh, pages are a little harder to get traction on unless you’re like super strategic.
It seems like, but, sounds like you’re getting good engagement on it anyway, so, yep. That’s good. Yeah. Well, that’s exciting. And hopefully for people listening, this is like a story. Wow. You know, this person was really feeling in a rut and totally turned that around to. Surpassing what they were making in the job that didn’t even like and now you’re doing something you like, I love more.
Yeah. Sorry. Like is not the strong enough word. love
Aaron Owens Mayhew: I work a lot harder too. So it’s not easy. I’m sure you’ll agree. Having your own business is not easy. It requires a lot of work. And actually I have still have quite a few interns, nutrition interns across the country that rotate through me virtually and they want, they come to me like, oh, I’m starting a business.
As soon as I graduate. And as soon as they finish their rotation, they’re like, maybe I’ll think twice cause they think it’s so glamorous. I’m like, it’s not glamorous. I mean, there’s a lot of work that goes into it that, yeah, maybe eventually it could be kind of glamorous, but just to have a real expectation of what you’re getting yourself into
Erica Julson: for sure. And it depends. I mean, I’ve just always found if I like the work then I, I mean, I, I just like doing work that I enjoy. So. It is a lot of work, but it’s fun. And then sometimes I compare that to, sometimes like what my husband’s going through, where he’s also working very hard, but he maybe doesn’t love it. right. And I would a thousand times over take what I’m going through versus the other option.
Aaron Owens Mayhew: Well, my husband wish I didn’t work as much. I’m like, but I love it. Like, I’ve got like my brain’s just like, go, go, go. Like all these things that I wanna get done. He was like, it’ll be there tomorrow. Aaron, get out, get outta your office.
Erica Julson: for sure. Yeah. It’s always a balance. Yeah, but it is, it’s fun when it, when it starts to work, it’s like, oh my gosh, like I did it, you know? Yeah. Yeah. Well, I guess to wrap things up, what would be, if you had to give like one piece of advice for people listening, who might be contemplating the leap into leaving a job and.
Going into an online business of some kind, like what would be your best advice for those people?
Aaron Owens Mayhew: Just do it. like, just be confident in yourself. Believe in yourself, know it’s gonna be hard. It’s not gonna be, and there’s gonna be a lot of bumps in the road. I mean, it’s not gonna be easy. There’s gonna be good times.
There’s gonna be bad times. But for me personally, just the. The benefits now far outweigh where I was before. So I’m so glad that I just was like, you know what, I’m just gonna make it happen. And like I said earlier on, there’s always another job. You know, if you, if you sell your car, there’s always another car.
There’s always another apartment or house. There’s always you, you can do all those things again. If you have to get rid of those things to make it work financially, you can always go back and do those things again. So.
Erica Julson: Right. Well, where can people go if they wanna follow along? Like what’s the best platform, for them to follow you?
Aaron Owens Mayhew: So our website where all the recipes in the middle planning and the master classes are, is back country foodie.com. And then you can find us on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube, like I said, um, is back country foodie. And there I’m there and I accept emails all the time. Like I love talking to people. So if you have questions, even if it’s just about starting up a business, feel free to reach out to me. Because I’m happy to share, like I said, all the bumps in the roads and I’ve gone through, I’m happy to kinda talk through that.
Erica Julson: Yeah. That’s really generous of you. And I know occasionally I. Mention you in my Facebook group when people are asking about like living on the road or like unconventional businesses, I’m like, I know I’m really great at good example.
Aaron Owens Mayhew: Yeah. she’s been there.
Erica Julson: yeah. Awesome. Well, um, it was great to catch up with you and, um, chat a little bit more about your life and your business. Is there anything I didn’t ask about that you wanted to touch on?
Aaron Owens Mayhew: I don’t think so. I think that pretty well covered everything.
Erica Julson: Great. All right. Well, thank you so much for your time and Hey, thanks.
Okay. All right. That’s it for today’s episode. I hope you enjoyed this conversation and I will catch you next week with more great online business and seo tips
Erica Julson is a registered dietitian turned digital marketing pro. She has over 12 years of experience blogging and building online businesses and has taught over 900 wellness professionals inside her signature program, SEO Made Simple.