Have you thought about expanding your business from traditional one-on-one work into online revenue streams, but you're feeling totally uncertain about where to start or what that journey might look like? Then this is the episode for you.
Today, I'm talking with pediatric dietitian Malina Malkani about how she became known as a children's nutrition expert in the online space.
Malina published a book, runs several online courses, sells digital goods, and also does a ton of media and brand work. And she’s rocking it on social media.
In this episode, Malina shares:
- How she started her business
- How she grew her audience through social media
- How she monetized her audience
- Which of her income streams is the most profitable
- Advice for those interested in starting an online business today
…and more. Tune in now to hear this entrepreneur’s inspirational story.
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More About Malina Malkani
Malina Malkani, MS, RDN, CDN, is a registered dietitian, best-selling author, speaker, and single mom of 3. A top nutrition influencer and trusted expert in local and national media outlets, Malina owns a nutrition consulting company and private practice which is dedicated to helping parents feed their babies and kids with confidence. She is the author of Simple and Safe Baby-Led Weaning: How to Integrate Foods, Manage Portion Sizes and Identify Allergies and the creator of two online courses for parents Safe & Simple Baby-Led Feeding and Solve Picky Eating. A Forbes Health Advisory Board Member and former national media spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Malina completed her undergraduate degrees at Northwestern University and master's degree in clinical nutrition at New York University.
Connect with Malina
- Website: malinamalkani.com
- Instagram: @healthy.mom.healthy.kids
- TikTok: @healthy.mom.healthy.kids
- Facebook: Malina Malkani Nutrition
- LinkedIn: Malina Linkas Malkani, MS, RD
- Twitter: @MLMalkani
- YouTube: Malina Malkani, LLC
Malina's Courses and Meal Plan
Get 10% off Malina's courses and starting solids meal plan using the coupon code ERICA
Have you thought about expanding your business from traditional one-on-one work into online revenue streams, but you're feeling totally uncertain about where to start or what that journey might look like. Then this is the episode for you. Today, I'm talking with pediatric dietitian Malina Malkani, about how she became known as a children's nutrition expert in the online space. Malina is absolutely rocking it on social media. She published one of the most popular baby led weaning books available today. She runs several online courses, sells a few digital goods and also does a ton of media and brand work one thing's for sure.
Her career is never boring. Malina walks us through the whole journey of how she started her business and how she grew it to where it is today.
Everything from how she initially grew her audience, how she started to monetize that audience, which income stream she enjoys the most and which one is the most profitable and her best advice for someone interested
In starting an online business today. As always, I think you'll walk away from this episode with at least one nugget of wisdom that you can apply to your own career or business. I hope you enjoy.
Erica Julson: Hello, hello, and thank you so much for being a guest on the podcast today. I came across your profile just like sometimes I'll just go in and look at people who recently joined the Unconventional RD community on Facebook. And you happen to join recently when I did that and I clicked on your profile and I was like, Oh my gosh.
She's doing so many cool things in the online space. Like I have to reach out and see if she'd be interested in being a guest on this podcast. So thank you so much for coming on to talk about your business ventures today.
Malina Malkani: Oh my gosh. Lucky me. I'm so, I'm so humbled to be here. I think I mentioned when we were emailing that, I was on a mastermind recently and one of the , the participants in the mastermind was like, Oh, hi Erica, Jules, her SEO and her website information, there's life changing. So, And the next week I heard from you it's really nice.
Erica Julson: I know that's so random, but pretty cool. . Yeah. Well, um, I like to start out usually these episodes just kind of getting people's origin story in dietetics, cuz I know there's a lot of people in this field who didn't necessarily start full on into dietetics.
So how did you get into dietetics and were you always kind of having entrepreneurship in mind or how did that happen?
Malina Malkani: You know, I loved seeing that question when you sent over, you know, some questions in advance because, I'm a career changer and when I talk to a lot of people in dietetics, I find that I'm not the only one.
There's a lot of career changers of people that come to nutrition as a second career, and in my prior career I was a performer, so my, degree from Northwestern University was in. Vocal performance and opera. Actually, I'm a singer, and so I spent the first year post college performing. I was based in Chicago and then in New York, so I performed in almost every state and done off Broadway, National Tours, Regional theater, Light Opera.
And it's funny because I didn't think of myself really as an entrepreneur per se, until I became a d a dietitian. But when I look back, actors, singers, we're all entrepreneurs because we're constantly reinventing ourselves. We're constantly auditioning. We're constantly looking for work, and really we, what we're doing is selling ourselves and our skills as performers.
And so as I look back and make that connection, thank you for, for prompting me to do that because yes, I think I, I think I did have an entrepreneurial streak during that, that decade as well.
Erica Julson: So what brought you from opera and acting and all that into dietetics?
Malina Malkani: Yeah, well, so I was performing constantly.
I was traveling maybe seven, eight months out of the year and performing in about eight shows a week when I was, uh, in a, in a contract. And I was finding pretty consistently that, you know, there was a lot of pressure within the industry to look a certain way and be a certain weight. And when I was, you know, starving myself to fit some sort of an ideal that was coming from the outside, I didn't have enough energy to get through eight shows a week and I really was suffering.
And so, Turned to nutrition as a way to, you know, find the energy to do what I needed to do to get through my work week and fell in love with it. Absolutely fell in love with it, fell in love with the science of it. Ended up going back to school, to NYU and getting my masters. And then, becoming an rd.
I did my dietetic internship at the Bronx VA Hospital. And loved that program and I really never looked back. I, I do still do some performing, I, like, I call it, I come out of retirement so often here and there. Um, and I do think there are a lot of crossovers between the two, at least in terms of making nutrition information interesting and sort of, um, selling it, if you will.
Making it something that's palatable and exciting and new when sometimes some of the information is staying the same, and then also making new information and new research really interesting and exciting for people.
Erica Julson: Such great insights. I love the connection between, there's always like a running thread between what someone was doing before and like how they got into the field. It's just so interesting. Um,
Malina Malkani: it is, it's, it's really, it's a strange, and you know, it's funny, I don't know if you went to FNCE this past year, but for the past few years, the only sort of obvious connection that, that brings both of my careers together is that at FNCE, for the past few years, I've sung the national anthem during opening session.
And so that's like, that's the, people ask me, where are the cross sections between your two careers? That's the only really obvious one. But I do see a lot of, you know, threads, like you said, in the skills that you bring from a prior career into your new career.
Erica Julson: So just for a frame of reference for everybody listening, how long have you been in RD now at this point?
Malina Malkani: Oh gosh. Um, so it's 2022 now. It was 2010 that I passed my exam.
Erica Julson: Nice. All right, great. So that's fierce, Wonderful frame of reference. Cause I, I love talking to people about their business journeys. A lot of times I interview people who are pretty far in, so I just wanna make sure that everyone knows where people are.
So, um, if you're like in. You know, year one of being a dietitian, you're not like, oh my gosh, I'm behind or something, you know, . Yeah. There's so much growth over years
Malina Malkani: and there's true, and there's so many different paths toward getting there. I love that you explore that because people come to this profession from all sorts of different backgrounds and there's so many different skills that can inform the work, um, that you can bring with you.
Erica Julson: Definitely. So what did you do? Like what was your intention when you became a dietitian versus what you're doing now? Like, is it's always what you wanted to do or what did that journey look like?
Malina Malkani: Well, no, my life really informed my career path as a dietitian, my personal life. I wish I could say that it was this really nice linear path and it was smooth and it wasn't at all.
It was, uh, quite a lot Rocky Road. So I. Finished my dietetic internship and then went to work at the Bronx VA right away. Um, or about six months later once I passed my exam as a weight management and bariatric surgery dietitian. So I worked clinically at the Bronx VA Hospital. And during that time I had my first baby.
Actually, I had my first baby a week after I finished my internship. Don't recommend that at all. . I was pregnant through my home, my, the majority of my internship, which was a challenge. But then, um, after she was born, I worked clinically for a while and then I had my next two babies really quickly.
They were all born within about three and a half years of each other, so I took some time off, time off to care for them or time away from the workforce to. Work incredibly hard as a mother of three, uh, babies and care for them for a while. And then when I was ready to go back to work, my youngest was about two years old, and I went back to work, at a digital health startup where I was creating content for them.
Um, I was writing and then performing in the content. They were doing a lot of video content and it was in chronic lifestyle, disease prevention, um, and it was a part-time job. It was fantastic. And I got kind of a crash course in marketing, digital marketing, content creation, social media, virtual health, education.
Um, a lot of the pieces that I use now in my own brand and my own business. I loved that job. I loved it, absolutely loved it. But I was, in my heart, I had fallen in love with nutrition for children, babies and children and pediatrics. And I had been through a lot with my girls. They're all, I have all girls.
And, you know, we, we went through the gamut. We had problems with breastfeeding and we had food allergies that were difficult to diagnose and reflux and problems breastfeeding and starting solids, and it, which we know the gamut. Picky eating, all of it, . Um, and I really emerged from that period feeling called to help other parents avoid what I had gone through as best I could.
So I continued to consult for the startup while also then launching a private practice, uh, in pediatrics and then launching my brand as a part of that as well.
Erica Julson: Nice. That seems like a perfect little dovetail. Um, I love when people have, maybe they're freelancing or something on the side while they're starting their business.
That's exactly what I did too. Lots of side jobs. Uh, that's a really good pairing, uh, for kind of finding the time, but still having a little bit of a security net, I think financially. Um,
Malina Malkani: yes, and building the confidence and the security, like you said, and the, uh, to, to be able to take that leap and then say, Okay, I'm gonna now really put a hundred percent of myself into this.
That's always a decision. I think that's really personal for everybody when the right time is to do that. But, um, it's a great and important part of that process too.
Erica Julson: So that original job where you were doing content creation, was that a job that you just found like on a job board and applied to, or how did you get into.
Malina Malkani: Oh, that was a real stroke of luck. I, it was a job that I found on LinkedIn and it was the first job that I applied for. I applied for a, a few, but it, that was the first one. And they didn't, respond, but I saw this job and I looked at the, what they were looking for, all the different aspects of a, of a person who's going to fulfill this role.
And I thought, That's me. That's me. This is, this is a really good fit for me. So I actually, I, I went into my email and I, I couldn't find the email for the ceo, but I, I made up what I thought it would be, which was his first name and then the rest of the company. And I emailed him and I said, You know, cuz they were using one of those, um, I don't know if it was Indeed or another platform that goes through, I, and I think goes through the resumes and decides who they're going to see an interview.
But I said, I'm not sure if you've come across my resume, but my name's Melina, blah, blah, blah. And, um, I exhibited my passion for this role. And then they did end up reaching out an interview. It was a lengthy interview process, um, but a really wonderful job. I, I consulted with them until recently actually continued to,
Erica Julson: And when you started your practice, was it, uh, in person or virtual?
Malina Malkani: I did a blend of both. At first. This was pre pandemic, um, and I would see clients in my living room , um, when my, when my kids were at school. Um, and that wasn't really sustainable, so I started shifting my practice over to virtual and then the pandemic hit.
And at that point it was very natural to go completely virtual, which it is now entirely virtual. Nice.
Erica Julson: Yeah, I feel like that's a large part of a lot of people's stories these days and the push to go virtual, uh, during the pandemic. Uh, so when you were doing that, did you have any sort of audience yet, or, you know, I, I like to give you the chicken or the egg thing.
Like what came first when you're starting your business. Like, did you watch a product? Did you in person networking, like referrals? I don't know, Like how did you start?
Malina Malkani: Yeah, such a good question. Um, because there are so many different paths toward, toward where you end up. It's true. So I actually, this was in 2017.
I was ready to launch my brand. I had an idea for my brand. I saw that there was a gap in the market in terms of pediatric focused, evidence based information that was accessible to parents, and that was reaching them where they were living and in the platforms where they were living. So I started posting, I just started posting on Instagram.
Instagram felt like the right fit for me. It was where I felt most comfortable. I did not have a following at all, and I hadn't been on social at all, up until that point. Really. Um, you know, Facebook a little bit to keep in touch with people. But really that was it. And at the same time, I, Applied for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics media spokesperson role, the National Media Spokespeople Program, and was accepted.
And that was a really exciting time. That's, that's everything coincided at that time. I applied and was accepted to the program. I launched my practice, I launched my brand, and then my marriage fell apart. And, um, so that was a really exciting and very difficult year. And so I was posting a little bit.
If, if you're not familiar, or for those listeners who are not familiar with the media spokesperson program with the Academy, it's a fantastic program. I really can't say enough good things about it. The people that I met through the program, the friends that I made, the connections that I made are lifelong dear amazing people working in this space.
Um, and it's a, it's a three year term. It's a three year volunteer term, and during that term, you cannot, you're prohibited from working with brands, from aligning yourself with brands. And so I decided that that three, that, that term, I didn't know how long it was gonna be, but I thought I'll take this time to grow my practice and my, my own brand and.
Footprint in the media, and then see what happens from there. And so that's what I did during those three years. And I also navigated the difficulties in my personal life and, you know, sorting out the divorce and, you know, that part was that, that was a really tumultuous three years , um, . But I just kind of put my head down and put out the best, highest quality content I could.
And. Really tried to establish myself as a nutrition expert in the media through all the opportunities that came my way through the academy and to promote the academy and the work that we do there. And then during that time I also wrote a book. So it was kind of a period of time of a lot of creation and groundwork and foundational work.
And it wasn't the most lucrative time in my life, for sure.
Erica Julson: Yeah. Uh, I wanna dive into all of the things you just mentioned, . I guess before we go too deep into, um, like courses and things that you're doing now, can we go a little bit more into your Instagram strategy? Like was were stories even a thing yet, or was this still the days of like, you know, static posts?
Or how did you come up with what type of content to create that that would resonate with people?
Malina Malkani: Yeah. Wow. This is, this is way back there. Then , this is reaching far back into my brain. I, you know, back then it was static posts. Video was really not so much a thing. I was not yet comfortable. I, as a, as a media dietitian and as a performer, I was used to having a script.
I was used to having lines. So this whole thing of like showing up on video and speaking off the cuff, like that was really scary for me. So I didn't, and I can't remember at that time if people were really doing that too much. It was mostly static posts, which I was comfortable with. So that's where I started creating static posts and experimenting with content that I hoped was solving a problem.
But I wasn't sure whether it was reaching people and, you know, I was just sort of, Experimenting with that and learning from that. And I didn't have a large audience, so there was a lot of room for experimentation and just seeing what, what would resonate and what wouldn't. And then as I progressed through those few years and started, you know, really nicheing down and focusing, I had been doing a lot of family nutrition, but I really started focusing particularly on pediatrics and feeding, baby feeding toddlers.
And that's when I wrote my book on baby led weaning. And so, so I started posting more and more about that. I had already been posting about it some, but you know, really started leaning into that. And that is when my account really started to grow because there was such a need for that information. And it sort of was a perfect storm at that point because my book came out.
And then the world shut down within months. I think my book came out in January and then everything shut down in March, uh, due to Covid. And at that point my account had grown quite a bit, but parents and new mothers in particular were so isolated. And so without that village, that for me as a mom, had been so instrumental in the raising of my babies and in feeding them, just taking your child in a bucket seat and going and sitting with a friend at coffee and seeing her hand, a piece of avocado over to her six month old, and the baby's munching on and you think, Oh, who knew?
I didn't know a baby could eat that. And then you, you know, then you're off to the races. That wasn't existing for these parents. And so they were, it, So my account started to grow as sort of a, a community for mothers. They would share their babies with me. I would post their babies eating, we would talk about the different foods they could eat, and I started feeling more comfortable showing up.
And just talking with them and connecting and, and I started to grow more from there.
Erica Julson: Nice. Such a perfect storm. I love how you're talking about growing community. I think that's totally true and a large part of why a lot of businesses grow. So that's, um, really good insight. Hopefully people listening can start thinking about like, okay, like what problem am I solving with my content and what type of community and conversation can I grow with my channels?
You know, it doesn't have to be Instagram necessarily, but , that's the root thing.
Malina Malkani: Totally. Yeah. Yes, I agree. It, it's really where, where your ideal client lives and where you're comfortable, where they spend their time. That's the great place to to, to create a community. Um, cause that's where people are gonna be and that's where you can meet them and where you can communicate with them and hear what their concerns are and then respond.
Erica Julson: So how many, how big is your following right now on Instagram?
Malina Malkani: On Instagram, . It's funny you should ask that. So it's a hundred, I think about around 128,000. Um, and then, I don't know if you noticed yesterday there was Waco on Instagram followers, accounts shut down, no stories. People were losing followers left and right, and then everything's back to normal today.
So it was a really good lesson in diversifying and making sure that you have a presence elsewhere, not just putting all your eggs in one basket and, uh, .
Erica Julson: Very true. Very true. Yeah. Yeah. I'm not super active on Instagram, so like I kind of saw what was happening, but it, like, it's not a big part of my strategy for this brand.
So I was just kinda like, whoa. Sorry, . I'm glad it all went back tomorrow. Tomorrow, Yeah. Yeah, totally. Um, yeah, so that's a good dovetail. So. I'm assuming you also like at least had like a barebones website maybe alongside your social platforms. Um, yeah. What, what was, what were you, what did you have on your site?
Malina Malkani: You mean back in 2017? When I started?
Erica Julson: Yeah, like, yeah, just in general, like where did having a website play? Like was it just like a place that you sent people to sign up to be a client or, you know, I don't know. Cause now I think you could buy stuff on your site, but maybe it wasn't always like that.
Malina Malkani: No, that's a relatively new development maybe in the last two, three years.
Um, really it started out as a place for me to grow an email list. I understood from the very beginning the importance of that. And it'd the importance of having a lead magnet and growing that audience Oh, in a, in a space that I own and that I have control over. So I've been doing that from the very beginning.
Um, I also wanted to have a place where I could showcase. The media placements that I was getting and showcased my expertise as a nutrition expert because speaking and being a speaker was a goal of mine then. And it has, it's been, it's a realized now part of my business. So I knew that I needed a place where people could find me
Um, so the website was meant for that. It's, it's always had multiple. Purposes, which has been a struggle of mine because I always want people to be able to find what they're looking for when they come to my website. And so strategically placing that information in places where they'll find it has been challenging.
um, because my private practice is also accessible through my website, you can find my book on my website. You can find my recipes. I have a pretty extensive catalog of recipes for babies, toddlers, and families, and then also a blog. So it's, it's been a, it's my baby . It's been a work in progress. Um, I'm, I'm happy to talk to you because SEO has been a struggle and a headache.
That is also a wonderful, you know, challenge and a, a nut that I have yet to crack completely. But I'm, I'm working on it every day. And, um, so my, my hope eventually is that, uh, the blog will grow even more.
Erica Julson: Nice. Yeah. So just to summarize for everybody, um, I was just looking at your website before we got on our call and yeah, I saw you have like a section where people can work with you one on one, they can buy your baby led weaning book, which by the way, I was just like poking around on Amazon and just typing stuff in and if you just type baby led weaning, like your book is the number one thing that comes out, at least for me when I search.
So I was like, Wow, that's amazing , Aww, thank you. Thousand over 4,000 reviews. Like that's a really big deal. So congratulations on that and I would love to dive into that a little bit more, um, in a second. Uh, and then you also have two online courses that people can buy. Some digital goods, like meal plans and guides.
I saw some maybe Amazon affiliate links for resources that you like and you have a whole section on brand and media work. So, so many things we can talk about , get at least a little bit of detail on each, each thing. But, I guess my question is out of all those avenues like. What do you enjoy the most?
What are you, what are you finding the most fulfilling right now?
Malina Malkani: Gosh, you know, I love, um, I really love the brand and media work. I really, I love working with brands who understand and value our expertise and credentials as dietitians and whether it's a, when there's alignment between our brands and between our missions, that and the creativity gets sparking.
I love that. I really, that, that just lights me up. I also really enjoy the consulting. I love working with a brand and whether it's formulating new baby good products or positioning those products or figuring out trends in the market or gaps in the market, that, that are going to be helpful for parents and for anyone feeding babies and children.
That's really exciting to me as well.
Erica Julson: That does sound. Can we like talk? I've never asked anyone about consulting. So how does that work? Are you just like on retainer or like you meet them x number of times a year or it's just one off stuff? Like how does that even happen?
Malina Malkani: It really depends. It depends on the needs of the brand.
It depends on, you know, their sort of, what they're looking for. I prefer to work on retainer because then the relationship can grow and they, I, I can prioritize their work above, you know, other one-off come in and really get to know the brand and get to know the needs of the brand. And so usually I do work on retainer and it can be anywhere from a year to three months to, um, sometimes then the one off stuff will come in.
And I enjoyed that too. Cause I get, I get to meet new people and figure out, figure out what their, you know, their companies, what the challenges are with their products. But I really love that. I, I love working as a part of a team and as. Probably know , being an entrepreneur, so much of the work that we do is solitary and it can feel like you're in a bit of a silo.
So coming in and working with a team is really fun for me and really exciting for me.
Erica Julson: Nice. Yeah, that does sound really cool. Uh, is that, do you pitch yourself for those opportunities or you've just done so much media work and have so many connections that they kind of come to you? Or how, how does that all happen?
Malina Malkani: I thought I, I was just thinking now, I, I don't think I've ever pitched myself for any of those roles. It's interesting because there's so now having a following, having a social following. Brand work comes to me quite often through a variety of different sources and often the consulting work will be wrapped up in some sort of brand promotion through my channels.
And that's really exciting too because then I really, I deeply get to know the products and the people behind them, um, and can speak even more authentically to those products in when I'm, promoting them. So I really, so I love that when it's sort of one is born out of the other. Um, and that happens pretty frequently, but then some folks find me through my social channels when they're in need of, of just pure consulting.
So it really depends. Um, and it can look a million different ways. ,
Erica Julson: do you, how do you Um, Cuz I, I, I've never really done any of that type of work. I feel like I hear people talk about, you know, make sure you read the contract really well and like, that you're not committing to like, let someone use your name and likeness like in perpetuity without compensation or something like that.
Like, uh, do you have any advice, like, does the brand usually give you the contract or do you send a contract to the brand or like, do you work with a lawyer on that type of thing? How does that all work?
Malina Malkani: All of the above . Um, there's, uh, so again, so many different ways that that can go down. Um, when I started off, I was trying to work through contracts on my own.
And at that point I went on Upwork and hired a lawyer to help me, you know, work through one off contracts, figure out what language to, uh, request changes around, to put boundaries around the term and around the use of my name and likeness, if that was what I wanted to do. And just to even just understand what it meant in the way that they had worded it, where the pit potential pitfalls were.
And it's a really complicated, so eventually, I ended up meeting an incredible agent who is based in LA and she works solely with health and wellness experts with influence, which is my preferred term. I don't like the term influencer .
I really don't. I really prefer expert because I'm not on any of these channels in order to be an influencer, I'm on these channels to educate people with this information that we have as dietitians and as as credentialed experts in this space.
So she understands that and she also understands that there is so much more value in an expert with influence or there's a different kind of value that you don't get in an influencer who is not credentialed. That, that understanding really informs her negotiation on my behalf with different brands when, when the contracts come in.
And so we talk about it together. We talk about, you know, what we believe is fair. We're always, you know, she, she really also advocates for the brand as well in a way. Like she really, she comes from a, a media background and, and working with brands so she understands their goals too. So she's very fair and finds a happy medium where we're, where everybody's happy,
And so I really value that because it's very time consuming and understanding all the ins and outs of contracts is not the way I wanna spend my time. Um, so she, she really helps me.
Erica Julson: Yeah, that's a really good tip for anyone listening. , thanks for sharing how that went down. And I'm totally gonna steal the phrase experts with influence, cuz I love that too.
Malina Malkani: You know what, I can't, I I, I have to tell you, um, it, it's not my, um, it's not, you stole it from somewhere else. I can't coin the phrase, so, but Yeah, but feel free to steal it .
Erica Julson: Yeah, no, but I feel the, it really resonates kind of with how I frame stuff in my SEO course too. Cuz we do talk about, you know, showing off your expertise, your authority or trustworthiness, which is something that credentialed healthcare professionals uniquely have.
Um, so it's so true. We are, we have an advantage that I think a lot of us don't realize. We even have in the online media space that we can tap into. So thank you for all those tips.
Malina Malkani: Yes. Yeah. Thank, thank and thank you for talk, for talking about it because I think as registered dietitians in particular, and I'm not sure, maybe because.
The majority of us are women and women. You know, we we're not generally raised to talk about money and to talk about being compensated fairly. But, and, and maybe because as nutrition professionals, I'm not really sure why, but so often we are not offered our value, in terms of compensation when it comes to these different areas of work.
And we need to recognize our value and we need to advocate for it at collectively as a profession because then everyone gets elevated and everyone makes more money, and that's how it should be.
Erica Julson: Do you feel that doing media work helps in that arena to elevate dietitians as, um, experts or what, what are your thoughts on like, what could someone do
Malina Malkani: Uh, well it depends on the media, right? totally depends on the media. But yes. Yes. Being, being quoted as a nutrition expert and, and building that foundation and that footprint as an expert in the media, definitely adds to that trust. You know, depending on, on, on what is on, on how you're positioned in the piece.
But certainly it can add to, the trustworthiness of the collective, uh, content that you're putting out.
Erica Julson: Yeah, and sometimes I feel like I'm in a bit of a bubble cuz uh, for this podcast I talk to people all the time who are doing like media work and, you know, online stuff, and it starts to feel like normal.
But then I have to remember that we don't learn about this in school, like at all . So it is a really new world for so many. So I'm, I'm glad that we continually are like, please like, use this opportunity. Like get your name out there, like, People wanna hear from you as an expert. They really do, and you have value to provide.
Malina Malkani: I'm so glad you said that. I'm actually this year, but, um, I took some dietetic interns for rotations, from BAE University, I think it was two years ago, but this, this year through the Bronx va with the Bronx VA dietetic internship, I am taking seven interns for two week rotations each to, to learn about pediatric nutrition, but also to learn about some of these entrepreneurial skills, which I think I never learned too much about them in school.
And I really kind of bumbed along and I self taught and took courses and found mentors and, and, um, I really hope to impart some of this information to these interns so that when they're starting off, they're starting off from a foundation of having some knowledge and they can, you know, maybe not make some of the mistakes that I've made along the way.
Erica Julson: Yeah, it's so valuable. They're, I'm sure all those interns are very lucky. probably really excited intern with you. Uh, so, okay. We talked about out of your different revenue streams and things you're doing in your business, uh, you're really enjoying the media brand partnership type of stuff. Um, from like a financial perspective, like which arm of your business would you say is the most successful right now?
Malina Malkani: The brand partnerships and consulting, kind of the, the merging of those two. Um, it's kinda hard to separate them cause a lot of the contracts, there's, there's both wrapped up into one. But, um, that is the, the, the steadiest source of income. I also have some passive sources, like you mentioned, my courses, um, which are wonderful.
My, my private practice, I, I do limit the hours in my private practice because I find that the one on one, I love it, absolutely love it, but it does burn me out if I do too much of it. Um, so I do limit that. And then some of the other digital, I love creating the digital products. I really love that process.
Um, I really love having control over that process a lot. There's so many things in our lives over which we have so little control. And when you're creating a digital piece of education, it's, it's entirely yours and you have control over how it's branded, how it is portrayed, how it is marketed, how it is put out into the world.
And I love that process.
Erica Julson: That's a good point. Yeah. And it does sell so nicely with the email list that you. Somewhat in control of, much more so than the other platforms. So, yeah. Yes. That's my favorite combo too. , something to sell and an email list. . , you can run like a whole business. That's, that's basically like the crux of my business. I just have like my Facebook group and I guess this podcast, but yeah. .
Malina Malkani: Wow. That so streamlined. I need to, I need to pick your brain. .
Erica Julson: Yeah, I know. I mean, yeah, it's like lean into what's working. That's been a really big lesson cuz I recently had a baby about a year ago, so that was a lesson in like, what do I, what's really working and where's, what's like the bare minimum I can do to keep this going , like at this phase of life, basically. Yeah. I can't believe having three and that's short of a time span. Hat's off to you. .
Malina Malkani: Thank you. I love it. But it is mayhem.
Erica Julson: So, I guess, just can we dabble a little bit in talking about your online courses? Like what got you interested in that space? Um, and maybe a little on the tech side too, like how are you running them, marketing them?
Malina Malkani: Yeah, absolutely. I, well, so I created my picky eating course during my three year volunteer term as a national media spokesperson.
And that was something that I felt really passionately about. I saw a real need. It's such a pain point for parents. Picky eating is really stressful, um, especially during those toddler and early, early childhood years. So I created that course, and put it out. And I had it on Teachable at first, which I.
Didn't, I didn't like teachable. For me, it just wasn't a good fit for me. I tried Thinkific, um, . I had tried, I tried, tried 'em all. I had, I was using MailChip at one point for my email. I was using Convert Kit and then eventually all roads led to Kajabi, which is where I house everything now. My email list, my landing pages, my courses, and even my digital products.
Um, I deliver through Kajabi. Nice. And I really like it. Yeah. It's, it's streamlined and it works for me really. .
Erica Julson: Great. Yeah, I get, I get a lot of questions about that, like what platform is this? And like, like everything, there's like 1,000,001 ways you could do it, , but I know there are a lot of good Joby fans out there.
Malina Malkani: Yeah, it's, It's so hard because there, it's really hard to compare them all when you don't exactly know what your issues will be with each one before you start using it , and then you get all embedded in one and then it's really hard to switch. So, Yeah, I, I mean, Kajabi, if you have, I think if people have goals for membership communities, sort of a lot of different aspects of a digital business, Kajabi has a solution for a lot of them.
And so you could house everything in one place, which was very attractive to me.
Erica Julson: Yeah. Otherwise you can end up piecing a lot of pieces together, which yeah. Can work. Cuz a lot of times they integrate together. But it is, there's something to be said for the user experience too, you know, if someone's logging into 50 million places to access each of your things , you know, versus all in one spot.
Yeah. So, um, how did you know, like when you thought about creating this course, how did you know there was a market for it?
Malina Malkani: Well, interestingly, so with the picky eating course, I had a sense from my Instagram because I had received so much feedback on my posts that were, that were providing solutions around picky eating and around feeding toddlers and preschoolers.
But when it came to, so I have another course, um, it's that baby led feeding course.com and this is a, uh, a baby led weaning, but really a starting solids course from a responsive feeding and baby led perspective. That's based on my book and when my book came out. It was, it was received, so it was a really beautiful reception and people were reaching out more and more through my social channels with questions, saying things like, you know, we love the book.
It's helped so much, and now we have questions about X, Y, Z. Because it's a short, it's a quick read. You can read it in one night. It's really a guide to getting started. It's not, there's so much noise out there around infant feeding and sometimes it can just be such a slog, to get through it. And so I wanted the book to be something that kept things really simple and just made it fun and enjoyable, and something that you could read quickly and then get started.
And so that's what it was, and that was wonderful. But then people were, you know, reaching out with dms and specific questions and and concerns, and then wanting recipes and meal plans and. So I thought, Wow, this, okay, the universe is telling me that there is a real need for this, so I'm gonna create this.
And actually there was one DM in particular, I've, I've told this story a few times. She was so sweet. She reached out and she said, I loved your book so much. And I, and she sent me some pictures and videos of her baby. And she said, But I really, what I really wish is that you could just come sit in my kitchen and hold my hand every time I feed my baby
And I thought, I really wish that too. I really, I, you know, that the course ended up being sort of my answer to that and the, the closest I could get to joining in your kitchen and sitting down having a cup of coffee and feeding your baby together.
Erica Julson: So the book came out, I know you said like right before the pandemic , and then when did the course come out? Like what was the timeline there?
Malina Malkani: Yeah, so the book came out, let me think. So the course came out a year ago. Exactly. And so that was in 2021. The book came out in 2020, so it was about a year.
Erica Julson: Okay. Yeah. So you like saw the reception from the book and what questions people were asking. How long did it take you to put all the core stuff together
Malina Malkani: that was, Well, during that period I was homeschooling three girls Cause of the pandemic.
It was a, it was a funky time I think had there not been so many challenges in the world at the time, it wouldn't have taken me so long. But it was a good six months. Yeah, it was a good six months of work on the course.
Erica Julson: That's pretty good. I mean, of course creating a course is a lot of work, . And did you, was it all, you know, self-taught or did you have any instruction with that or?
Malina Malkani: Yes, I took, well this is interesting. So I took Amy Porterfield's course on, oh, I forget the name of it now. The Big one Academy. Yes, Yes, yes. Thank you. Yes. Um, and I loved it. And I took, I really learned so much from that and, and. Modeled a lot of the course creation after that, you know, from using what I learned from that.
But with her model, doing the live launches periodically doesn't work when you think about starting solids, because when the baby's ready to start solids, the baby's ready to start solids like that week . So people can't necessarily wait the months until my next live launch in order to start my course.
So, and I didn't, you know, brilliantly, I didn't think of that when I signed up for Amy's course. So I came up again.
Erica Julson: That's such good insight. I bet that applies to a lot of health practitioners listening, so Yeah, that, that's really good insight. Yeah. So what did you do to solve that problem?
Malina Malkani: Uh, I don't know that I've necessarily solved it. I wish I could tell you that I had the course is evergreen. I, I, in all of my. Posts, whether it's a TikTok, YouTube shorts, Instagram, my blog posts, I offer that as a call to action. Or as you know, if you need more information on xyz, here's a course I can provide the information that you need. And so I, and I do send it out in newsletters and so it's, it's a evergreen, you know, possibility for people.
Um, and then of course, during holidays and different things, I run specials on it. And, but you know, it's, these live launches where you hear about all this money being made, like that wasn't my experience. Um, because, because of the information that's, that's, it's very time sensitive and specific to the family.
Erica Julson: Mm-hmm. . Yeah. That makes a lot of. Yeah. But I love how it dovetails so well with your, with your book and then the course . So I guess maybe this would be, I mean, do you have anything else to add on courses? Cuz I would also love to talk about the book process too.
Malina Malkani: Sure, Yeah. No, I was just gonna say, I think, um, I think courses are wonderful because there's so many different learning styles.
There are people that learn really well in little snippets on social media. There are people that learn really well through a blog post or through a book, and they wanna hold it and read it. And then there are people that prefer to learn via video and be a course. And I think one of the, one of the things that sets my course apart is that every, every lesson is.
In, um, you can take each lesson in its entirety and learn something from it. You can only pull from the lessons that you want. You don't have to do the whole thing in order, in order to really benefit from it. And that's been really helpful for people, especially if they're coming to it, having started, they may be on solids and realizing, Oh, you know what?
There's, I'm, I'm having an issue with this and I, so I can find a lesson for that in the course. And so it's, it's been really helpful that way. But I do think it's important to address those different learning styles if there's something specific that you teach. Recognizing that people are gonna learn in different ways.
Erica Julson: Mm-hmm. . Yeah, I think that's the value of, you know, expanding your platforms and your audience and your reach, because yeah, you're right. The people who hang. And are watching reels on Instagram or TikTok or something like, are probably not necessarily the same people who are, you know, Googling things incessantly and like going into Reddit, rabbit holes.
Like, you know what I mean? It's like one person's more of a reader, maybe one person's more of a video person, and you can, if you are able to handle eventually creating content in multiple ways, ideally, I'm assuming like you probably repurpose the content, I would guess, you know, so you're not like doing like fully different things on each, platform, but Yeah.
And then, and then with your offerings too, you know, have different avenues for people. Yeah, Yeah. Uh, so with the book, uh, I really don't know how that works. Like, did you self-publish it or did you have an through a publishing company or how did that.
Malina Malkani: Yeah, no, I, um, so the publisher approached me and actually pitched me the idea.
I was posting a lot about infant feeding, and so they came to me with the idea and, um, and I loved it. And so, it was a really hectic process though, because once we reached an agreement, I had only six weeks to write the book. So it's really quick . Um, and I, I didn't, I don't wanna, I didn't, I wouldn't wanna do that again. was really stressful.
Erica Julson: Yeah. That is short. Very short. Yeah. But I, I mean, what would you say the benefits are of having a book if, for people who are thinking about maybe adding that to their repertoire?
Malina Malkani: Yeah. Well, in, I think in the same way that having a digital footprint in the media and being recognized.
As a nutrition expert publicly, in the same way that that informs and elevates you and your brand. A book potentially does that even more. Um, and especially if it's a book that's well received and really filling a, a gap in the market and solving a problem for people, um, and touching them in some sort of way that, you know, leaves them feeling something.
So yeah, I do think it's a really, if, if, and, you know, if someone described a book to me, the writing of a book recently to me really beautifully, she said, um, you know, if you, you have to really wanna write a book because it's hard, , it's really, really hard to do, to sit down every day and, you know, organize it and let it flow out of you.
And if, you know, if you, you. Can do anything else, do something else, because you really have to wanna pull it out of you in order to make that happen. But if you do, then write it.
Erica Julson: Yeah. Yeah. I've always heard like, you know, writing a book is most likely like, not gonna make you rich , but it's, it can be a very, a very good like passion project and authority builder.
In fact, funny story, I don't know if you, um, have stumbled across this, but recently I saw that Google has added like this little new interesting kind of table at the top, top of the search results, um, when you search certain phrases like top blah, blah, blah or blah blah blah, authors or whatever. So I just typed in dietitian authors to see what would come up.
And you were in the table, . Oh, you're kidding. Yeah. Oh my goodness. . So, and they pulled info from Google Books, I believe was, um, where they're like looking through. So being published, I'm assuming is part of. One of the big reasons why you're in that table. Um, and then they also pull like some snippets from your website.
So if you mentioned that you're an author on your website, like it, it pulls little snippets, um, about you across the internet. So thank you for telling me that. And there's only like eight people in the table, so go You . Wow. You're so wonderful. that makes you feel so good. . Yeah. Thank you. Feel, I can imagine that's a perk too because I mean, I don't know who might be searching for that, but maybe somebody is trying to get in touch with dietitian authors for some reason out there.
Maybe even for media stuff. Maybe they type in dietitian authors and like probably the people who come up at the top are the people who are gonna get reached out to first. So, yeah.
Malina Malkani: Yeah. Great. Well, I think also one of the benefits of having a book is that, You know, once you write the book, then you, you can be considered if it's a good book and if it's, if it's resonating with the audience, you can be considered an expert in that space.
And then if there are speaking events, you're a really great candidate to be able to speak with authority in front of a group on that topic. And that's, that's been my experience with this book. interestingly, I have a, another book in the pipeline now, and this, and it's been a very, very different experience for the second book.
I went through an agent and worked really hard on a proposal for an idea that I had, and then she shopped it to the publishers. That's a much more traditional model as I understand it. And so that's another route, um, that you can go, particularly if you have. A footprint and if you've spoken or written widely on a specific topic, then that's an avenue also that people can take.
Erica Julson: Yeah. You have a little bit more leverage to like get a good deal. Yeah. Yeah. Um, yeah. What do, can you share what that topic of the book is gonna be? Or not yet?
Malina Malkani: I can't. I can't, Cause I'm really excited. This one, I'm like, I mean I was really excited about the other one, but this one is like, it's one of those that's, it's gonna pour out, It's gonna pour my out so
Erica Julson: Well, I'm excited to see what its in the future. Thank you. What's the timeline for this one? Not six weeks.
Malina Malkani: It's gonna be a while. No, I have a year. Oh, great. A year. Yeah.
Erica Julson: Well, that's much better. Oh, excited. I guess . So yeah, this dovetails very well into the last kind of question I wanted to ask you. Just like, How the heck are you doing all like managing all of these things on top of being a mom?
Like maybe can you share even just like what a typical week looks like for you, people can wrap their heads around what this type of career is like.
Malina Malkani: Oh, Erica, I wish I had a . I wish I had a typical week.
Erica Julson: Well, that's a good answer too, because you know, sometimes people are like, Oh, this is what I do Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and like some careers are not like that.
And that's exciting for some people too. Like they don't want monotony and they want variety. So, You know, just like any example, like what are some things you might do in a week? It doesn't have to be like every week, but .
Malina Malkani: Yeah, . Well, it's particular, it's, it's even more wacko because my girls are, I share custody with their, with my ex-husband.
So they're on a 2, 2, 3 schedule, which means they're with me Monday, Tuesday, and then him Wednesday, Thursday, and then the Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and then it flips. So the next week I'll have him Wednesday, Thursday, and I'm like, you know, they know this, they know where they're supposed to be better than we do.
I mean, it's, it's, it's pretty wacko. But the beauty of this kind of work is that it gives me the flexibility for the most part to be there for them when they need me. Um, so that's really nice. The problem is I could work 24 7 and it still would never be enough . And so I really, I struggle so much to put boundaries around my workday and to end work.
I really, really struggle with that. It, you know, a typical week, I guess, I spend a good portion of every day working on content creation for social media captions. I'll shoot maybe twice a week depending on what I have going on editing. I do my own editing and that takes a really long time cuz I'm super, you know, type A about my editing , best days.
And I, I find what I find works best is when I can have one to two days of uninterrupted content creation time where I'm not doing anything else. And that really only happens on a weekend when I don't have my kids. So if I don't have my kids, I'm working like 24 7 through that whole weekend on content.
So I, it's , there's really no regular weekend. I do a lot of writing, but usually my writing ends up happening on weekends too because the girls need me for various things when they're here and they're in and out and I work from home and, It's wacko.
Erica Julson: Yeah. But that's kind of awesome. Like that's very similar to my life right now as well.
like my mom is my son in the living room right now while I'm recording this. And um, yeah, so flexibility is very valuable I think, for a lot of people. So gotta get it in where you can fit it in depending on where you are in your life, you know, right now. But being able to choose to prioritize your family is something that so many people don't have. So I think that's super.
Malina Malkani: You're so right. You're so right, especially this day and age and with the challenges people are facing in terms of time off for, you know, le maternity leave and daycare, ugh. It's, that's, you're right. That's, it's, it's a blessing in so many ways.
Erica Julson: Do you outsource at all or do you have a team of people, or is it mostly just you?
Malina Malkani: It's mostly me, but I did learn the hard way early on that I can't do it all . Um, and I, I have a few, I use some platforms which are great. I use bench for my virtual accounting, which is really affordable and you know, really helped when you have multiple income streams that can get really complicated and so Bench has been super helpful for me with that.
I have an amazing marketing assistant and I originally started off mentoring her and then I ended up hiring her to help with some of the smaller tasks, social media, bloggings, seo, website maintenance, that kind of thing. I actually, a couple, a few years ago, I had a dietetic intern who. Approached me about some volunteer hours and then so she, she fulfilled those hours and, but she was, she became so amazing and so integral to my work that I hired her and she worked for me for a couple years, or maybe just under two years.
And then she went off to do, you know, to do her dietetic internship and I miss her terribly. Um, so if you have any listeners who are looking for who, who have pediatric nutrition expertise, but also entrepreneurial skills and social media prowess and wanna reach out via email, please send them my way. Um, I, the other thing that I think is incredibly helpful and has been a lifeline for me as a solo entrepreneur, our mastermind groups, um, I have a few.
and I meet with them periodically, sometimes every other week, sometimes every week, depending on, you know, what, what the, what, how we're organizing it. And those have been priceless in terms of figuring out how to negotiate contracts and work with brands and navigate difficult situations on social media and connect, connecting each other with potential, you know, jobs or, or networking fee setting. It's, it's, it's really important.
Erica Julson: And how do you find those groups? That's like the biggest question I think people have. Cause it's hard. You have to find the right people. Cuz if you're like too far ahead of everyone else, then you feel like you're just like giving advice and not getting anything. And then vice versa.
It's like everyone's at a different spot than you are then, you know, you gotta find the balance. I feel like there's gotta be a nice little. Uh, thin spread maybe is like, where people are
Malina Malkani: so hard, you're so right and it changes over time. Um, so I think there's a couple things. One, knowing, knowing when the life of a mastermind has perhaps, you know, run out for you and being able with grace to step, step aside and make room for someone else.
For me, I, I'm in one mastermind with two of my closest friends who are also solo entrepreneur dietitians, We live in completely different areas of the country and we work really hard to balance our time spent catching up socially with also setting goals and holding each other accountable to our goals and supporting each other.
And. That there's a lot of trust between us and a lot of, um, we've worked hard to maintain that balance. But then I have another mastermind that I pay for that's run by a mentor who is a few years out ahead of me and has done, you know, incredible things in the world of pediatrics. And it's, uh, Jill Castle.
Um, and that is, uh, yeah, I really like Jill . She's amazing. She's amazing. Um, and that, that's a, so that's a different experience because that's, you know, she's, she's very much imparting her wisdom. And so, um, it's different. It, they can, they can fill different needs at different times, I think, in your career, in your path.
Erica Julson: Well, thank you for sharing. So I think the takeaway that I got from that is like, well, you could like make your own mastermind , you know, with your peers that you've connected with or you can join a paid one. Uh, and maybe they serve different purposes, but they can both be valuable. Yeah. Yeah. Okay. Well, I know I don't wanna take too much of your time to wrap this up.
Is there maybe like, You know, three pieces of advice. I know that's a really loaded question, , If you had to like, share with people listening if they're interested in growing an unconventional kind of online audience and business, like, what are your three biggest pieces of advice for those people?
Malina Malkani: I think the first would be to set boundaries around your time and be really mindful of work life balance.
And I say this because this is not my area of expertise, and I have a real need for it in my life. And I hope that others who are in a similar position, um, can find it. So that's one. I also think it's really important if, if having a, an online business with a following is something that is a goal.
I think it's important to remember that having an online audience, what that means for those who are close to you. The personally, the people in your life, because not everybody wants to be on social media and not everybody wants to be a part of, you know, to be, to be publicly a part of that, platform.
And, you know, my, in my own, in my own family, my brother and my father, like they're, every time I take up my phone, they're like, get that. They want no part of it. And I get that. And I, and I think it's important for people to understand that that might be something that you come up against. Something that I, that I'm really proud of and glad that I did early on was to not use my children's names on social and to really check in with them as they have grown and make sure they're comfortable each time and if they are included in a poster, in a story.
Because I've always wanted to give them the chance to create and have control over their own digital footprint. Of course, with guidance, you know, from myself and their dad. But separate from us. And that's something I think, um, it can get lost these days because social media is so pervasive in our, in our culture and in our community, in our communities.
Yeah. Um, so it's just something to be cognizant of. It's not, there's no one right answer and there's no one Right, right. Way to approach it for every family, but to bring some mindfulness to, that's really important. Yeah. And then the last thing, I think, you know, if growing an online business, if the business and the, the pain point is solving for your ideal client is like the lifeblood that pulses through your veins and makes your heartbeat and gets you up in the morning, like, do it.
But if it's something that feels like fun and you know, maybe something that will enable you to work less and stress less, I have not found that to be the case. , it's hard. It's really. A lot of work. It's a different kind of work. It's exhilarating, it's amazing, it's fun. It's all those things, but it's a lot of work. Yeah. So just know that going into it.
Erica Julson: Thank you for sharing that. Definitely. There's like, I have not found that there's like a free lunch ride anywhere, in, in business, so there's always some work in some way. D but I love your point, like, you know, there's, it's always gonna be work, so it can help if you enjoy the work and you, and you find fulfillment from it because then you can stick with it.
And, and I think I talk about this somewhat often, like coming back to the why that you're doing it. It can also help motivate you, keep you going. Oh yeah, for sure. Yeah. And at least in my space with blogging, I mean, I know other channels are different, but it's, it's a long game usually with blogging.
So also the patience and the consistency. Um, Yeah, it's a lot because usually people, it takes people like at least a year of solid content creation to start getting like tens of thousands of people to their site from Google. And, um, having that patience and not giving up like six months in is, is tough. So Yeah.
Malina Malkani: That's so helpful to hear. And I think in, in a lot of ways. I mean, of course there's exceptions, but social media's not all that different. That, you know, it takes time, it takes time and trust and attention and showing up and being authentic and all those things. Yeah.
Erica Julson: Well, uh, I know you had a very generous offer for people listening, if we wanna talk about that real quick.
You have offered 10% off of your courses or your meal plan with the code, Erica, e r i c a for anyone interested. Uh, so where can people go if they wanna check.
Malina Malkani: Yeah, absolutely. So for my baby led feeding course, if you go to baby lead feeding course.com, you can find it there. I also have, um, there's a 12 week baby led feeding meal plan, which is a complete roadmap to the first three months of infant feeding.
It has a complete plan for a top allergen introduction and lots of recipes that's sold as a part of the course, but also separately for people if you just want the meal plan. And that's at start baby lead feeding.com. And then you can find my picky eating course at solvepickyeating.com. And I love connecting with other rds with other folks in this space.
So feel free to find me at, uh, my website, al.com or any of my platforms. Instagram Healthy Mom, Healthy Kids, with periods in between. And that's my handle also on TikTok and at YouTube Short.
Erica Julson: Nice. Great. Well, thank you again for your time today. Uh, it was very exciting and fun to talk with you and hear about all the fun things that you're doing.
So many unique avenues. Um, it's not often that I get to talk with people who have done so many different things in the like unconventional space. So thank you, um, for giving us a little peek behind the curtain. .
Malina Malkani: Cool. Thank you so much for having me. It's such a pleasure to chat with you and to hear some of your tips.
You, you are a plethora, you have plethora of to share, so I'm just, I'm sponge for them.
Erica Julson: Well, thank you. I'm glad we got to meet. Thank you so much.