This week’s conversation is a fun one. I’m chatting with Cynthia Samanian, founder of Culinary Creator Business School, about the importance of teaching online before you feel ready. And I would bet that this resonates with a lot of you listeners out there right now. 

Maybe you’re excited about the idea of creating an online course or a membership or a digital good or whatever, but you just haven’t taken that first step yet. Maybe you’re feeling a little bit of imposter syndrome or you’re lacking a little clarity on your niche. But whatever it is, you just haven’t quite taken action yet. 

Well, Cynthia kind of turns the idea of teaching on its head. Instead of making teaching online this big intimidating, formal thing, she reminds us that there are actually three stages to teaching online and you only need to focus on the one you’re currently at.

Give this episode a listen to hear all of Cynthia’s advice and tips for how to get started teaching online.

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More About Cynthia Samanian

Cynthia Samanian is the founder of Culinary Creator Business School. Through her courses and coaching programs, Cynthia helps solopreneurs build a life-first culinary business by teaching online. After having 2 daughters in 2 years during the pandemic, she quickly recognized the value of having freedom and flexibility in her work. Now, she helps her students achieve the same.

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Episode Transcript

This week’s conversation is a fun one. I’m chatting with Cynthia Samanian, founder of culinary crater business school. All about the importance of teaching online before you feel ready. And Hey, I would bet that this resonates with a lot of you listening right now. Maybe you’re excited about the idea of creating an online course or a membership or a digital good or whatever, but you just haven’t taken that first step yet. Maybe you’re feeling a little bit of imposter syndrome or you’re lacking a little clarity on your niche. 

But whatever it is, you just haven’t quite taken action yet. Well, Cynthia today kind of turns the idea of teaching on its head instead of making teaching online, this big intimidating, formal thing. She reminds us that there are actually three stages to teaching online and you only need to focus on the one you’re currently at. So she’s come up with this framework that I love. 

She says that there’s three stages teaching to learn, teaching to grow, and teaching to earn. And so many of us want. To just jump straight into teaching, to earn, which is the traditional model of selling something online. Right. But really before you do that, you’ve got to go through the other two stages. 

You need to teach, to learn about your ideal customer and teach to grow an engaged audience. Those two foundational steps will set you up to have an even more successful and impactful launch when you’re ready to sell something. 

We also chat about why so many people online, procrastinate on putting themselves out there. And Cynthia’s best tips for busting through that resistance and getting started. I’m really excited about everything Cynthia has to share. And I think you’ll love it too. So let’s get into it. 

Erica Julson: Hello Cynthia. Welcome to the podcast today. Thank you so much for giving us your time and being a guest today.

Cynthia Samanian: Absolutely. I am so excited to chat with you, Erica. 

Erica Julson: Yeah, I know. I wanted to thank you for reaching out and your consistency with reaching out, because as I was preparing, I like looked back at your email and I was like, oh shoot.

She totally emailed me in 2021 and I missed it. , so like, thank you for reaching back out again. 2021 was a crazy time. I, I broke my hand while I was pregnant. So I was working with my left hand only running my entire online business typing with like one finger while pregnant and then it was just a wild time.

So sorry about missing it then , but I’m glad we, we circled back around and you’re here today. 

Cynthia Samanian: Yeah. And oh my goodness, that totally makes sense. And I am all about persistence and I realized, I was like, I didn’t know you had a baby at the time or that you were pregnant and dealing with this hand issue.

But now that I know that, I mean, it all makes sense. And even if you didn’t have that. You’re busy, you’ve got things to do, so no worries. But for those listening, don’t give up. Be persistent, right? .

Erica Julson: Yeah. And I didn’t have any help either at that time. So now I have an assistant, so things have improved . But, yeah. So let’s introduce you to my listeners. I think this episode is a little unique because, you know, a lot of times, I don’t wanna say that I’m like lazy, but I, oftentimes will pull from, the people in my Facebook group, for guests, and they’re mostly dietitians. But I love that you reached out, from a different perspective.

You work with a lot of dietitians, but you’re not a dietitian. So what do you do? What’s your background and, and what do you help people? . 

Cynthia Samanian: Yeah, absolutely. Well, thanks again for having me on the show. And yes, I work with many registered dietitians and that’s actually how I heard about you and your Facebook group.

They were like, by the way, your names come up in the group. And I’m like, okay, I need to join and see what’s happening. And it’s such an amazing community. So I kind of lurked there and hang out, and have really learned a lot from the people in the group. So thanks for letting me in. So my name is Cynthia Samanian and I am the founder of Culinary Creator Business School.

I help solopreneurs build what I call a life first culinary business by teaching online. And I do that through my company in a variety of ways. So we have online programs, I have a podcast, and then I have some other paid and free resources. Essentially I want to help people, primarily women, teach online.

Most of them, you know, have. Expertise in, you know, the culinary world. Um, either like self-taught or they went to culinary school, or they’re registered dietitians, but a lot of them have this passion and they have this expertise and, you know, they’ve, you know, perhaps put it on hold to raise their children.

They’re empty nesters now they’re looking around saying, I wanna do that thing that I, you know, have been dreaming of. we also have people that I work with who, are doing this while working a full-time job or they have careers, for example, being a registered dietitian. They’re looking for ways to diversify their income streams.

So there’s a lot of reasons why people come to me, but ultimately what I wanna help them do is craft an online business that supports the life that they have and helps them build the life that they’re creating, really helping them achieve whatever goals they may be. Knowing that. , generally speaking, as women, we have a lot on our plate , and you and I can relate to that.

We talked a little bit before about children and how that can change everything. Yeah. So that’s, that’s a key part of the story for me too. 

Erica Julson: Definitely relate. I know it sounds like we’ve both been at this like entrepreneurship game in different stages of life. Like, you know, when you’re in your twenties and you don’t have kids, it’s so different.

I, I heard you say that in one of your recent podcast episodes, and then the decisions you make, maybe as a mom of young children might look very different, and that’s okay. But I’m glad that you, you have that perspective, . 

Cynthia Samanian: Yeah, and it was really interesting too. I mean, I, I feel like the business I have now and the capacity in which I support my students only works because of who I am today.

If I were Cynthia, You know, six, seven years ago, back then I was running a culinary events business all in person. I don’t even think I was married yet. My husband and I were just living that, you know, kind of pre-wedding, blissful life in San Francisco. And I was like lugging carts around and working with brands like Bob’s Red Mill and doing these crazy events like on Venice Beach.

And it just, it looked glamorous from the outside, but it was exhausting and grueling. But if I look back to me as an entrepreneur back then, It was very different. And I could afford to work crazy hours, and my husband was cool at that, and that’s all I had to think about. But now it’s totally different.

And the people I support in my program, I think I can relate to now more than before, right? They have children or they have aging parents. They may have a partner who’s going through health issues or they may be dealing with health issues themselves. Like such a wide range of circumstances that people are dealing with.

And I just love that that’s not stopping them from doing what it is that they want to do, but we find a way to navigate through that and that’s, that’s what I get really excited about. 

Erica Julson: So yeah, walk us through that transition from running in-person culinary events to starting to move a little more online.

How did that. 

Cynthia Samanian: Yeah, I’d like to, I, I wish I could tell you that it was this very thoughtful planned out strategy. I am a type A person, so you better believe, like thinking back to January, 2020, I had a plan for going online. I had learned a lot from people like Amy Porterfield and I had learned about creating a digital course and it was in the back of my mind, but as I shared at the time, I was writing this culinary events business and I was just going from event to event to event.

I had an assistant, we were growing and 2020 was going to be our biggest year. Yet we had expanded into the c CPG space and did like this huge activation for native at Alt Summit in Palm Springs and . I still remember we had set up this like slide and this ball pit all around, like a launch of a deodorant.

I mean, it was super wacky, but I remember. Going to the hotel room that night and my mom had flown down from Seattle and we were watching the news and that’s when we saw this thing called Coronavirus. And we were at this massive conference, by the way, with thousands of people. And I ran to Target and got a bunch of hand sanitizer and was handing them out.

And I don’t, I don’t know what I was thinking at the time, but I certainly was a bit on edge thinking, Hmm, if this is the last event that happens, my business is going to completely plummet. I was planning to go to Expo West, which I’m sure a lot of your listeners are familiar with. And while I was at this current conference, expo said, we’re done, we’re, we’re not doing the conference.

And that’s when I knew, again, like things were going to change very significantly for my 100% in-person event-based business. I had an crazy lineup of events coming up. I was getting calls, my clients were canceling. $20,000 deposit checks, completely refunded, and I was six months pregnant with my first child.

Yeah. So Daria is my first child and she was due at the end of June, 2020. So my plan before Covid, my plan to get this Erica, was to create an online course while I was on maternity leave. . 

Erica Julson: I know that sounds like that’s definitely what I thought was gonna happen to, I’m like, I’ll just work with my baby on my stomach, like I’ll be breastfeeding and working like no

Cynthia Samanian: Up until that point, I had done like a two hour paid workshop. I had never created an online course and I. Well, yeah. What I’ll do is I’ll have the baby and then I’ll spend July through September, october creating this online course and I’ll start to pivot my business into the online space because I did know in the back of my mind, and that’s why I invested in courses and programs is I knew that I didn’t want to build a business that was solely dependent on me physically being in places.

Cause I knew I was having a family and I wanted something that would scale, but I didn’t realize it was gonna happen as quickly. So, of course, it was the end of March and I realized I had to make changes quickly or else I’d have to go back to corporate or tech or figure something out. And I decided that I was just going to create a course and pre-sell it while I was still pregnant.

I figured, okay, the next few months are, Quiet as it’ll be for me because the baby’s not here yet and there’s nothing happening. No, no one can hang out with me. There are no distractions. I’m basically locked in my home for a few months. So of course, we didn’t know how long things were going to last back then, but I figured, okay, between now and the baby arriving, I’m going to create something.

So I created a program. At the time it was called Online Experiences for Food Brands. And it was a course that I pre-sold and I had about a little more than a dozen people sign up. It was between five to $600 and it was a, gosh, I have to, I think it was like an eight week program. And the purpose was to help food brands that I had originally supported in, in-person events help them transition to the online space and do you know, cooking demos on Instagram and find ways to build that relationship with their customers virtually.

So I pitched it to all of my past clients. I talked about it on Instagram, my email list, not a single brand showed up . The only people who purchased the 12 to 15 people who purchased were all chefs. They were chefs, they were registered dietitians, they were cooking instructors. They were people who had already taught or wanted to teach.

And fortunately because I pre-sold it, I was able to adjust the content to meet their needs every week. Fast forward, that eventually became cooking class business school, and that morphed into culinary creator business school. So I never sought out to serve this community, but I think it speaks to the power of doing things before you’re ready and listening to your audience and saying, huh, like, do I want to serve this audience?

And I was so aligned with them. I in fact felt more fulfilled working with them. Than some of the bigger brands because I was truly having an impact on their livelihood and their own joy. So that is the origin story. And again, now, now it’s called Culinary Creator Business School and we have our beginner program, which is called the Online Jumpstart, which, um, is the place where people can, start working on their online business and all that good stuff.

Erica Julson: And who do you categorize as like a quote unquote culinary creator? 

Cynthia Samanian: Yeah, that great question. It’s really hard to talk about people in food because, right, like I feel like there are people who are food bloggers and they own that. And then there are people who call themselves influencers and then chef is a loaded word.

Some people don’t think they can call themselves a chef even though they can cook just as well as a chef. So culinary creator is a term that I use that essentially captures anyone who in is like in the food space and creates something. Ideally in like the virtual world, right? So that’s why we do include registered dietitians, chefs, bakers, chocolatier, mixologists.

Um, we’ve, we’ve had a variety of people come through, and what they all have in common is that they have some sort of expertise in their space, which is tied to food. and they have a passion to share it with others. And I think those two things are at the core of what makes someone a culinary creator.

But it doesn’t mean that they, like are dancing on TikTok or doing anything out of the ordinary. It’s just that they’re, they really fulfill those two requirements. 

Erica Julson: Nice. I think that will help clarify it for, for people listening to this podcast, probably most of the people listening are dietitians, but it’s not a dietitian exclusive scenario.

So I think other people listen and I just don’t get as much feedback from those people . So now that you’ve been in this space teaching online for some years now, what are some of the potential benefits of setting up, an income stream related to teaching online and why are you so passionate about helping other people create that income stream?

Cynthia Samanian: Yeah, yeah. Great question. So I think it’s just. The passion comes from me experiencing it. I need to give a shout out to Baby two Mila, who was born October, 2021. So I had basically two daughters in, around two years. We knew we wanted a family with girls close in age, but we didn’t realize it was going to happen so quickly.

But it did, and we’re grateful for that. And I think that’s when, like, I, for me, working with one child was hard working with two, it was just like, put my hands up in the air. Like, okay, like I, I don’t know how this is going to work. We have childcare, like that’s helpful and my husband pulls like more than his fair share, but I think that’s when I knew like the only way I was going to be able to enjoy my time with them and watch them grow up and participate and like scratch that entrepreneurial itch that I have, was to build an online business like that.

It always came back to that. So, As I mentioned earlier, it was really eye-opening to be able to connect with my community on that and see that okay, even if they don’t have small children, people in my community also need to have some of the same things that I crave, which are freedom, flexibility, and to like have work that really lights me up to feel fulfilled.

Um, so when I talk about freedom, it’s a pretty generic word that gets used a lot, but for me it specifically means working with who you want, right? And doing the work that you actually enjoy and want to do. I am not like super plugged into the RD space or the dietitian space, but I have worked with a few to know that a lot of people get into the profession expecting one thing and they experience something else, right?

And most people enter the space because they’re passionate about helping people and maybe it’s from their own, needs or their health concerns or whatnot. But a lot of people, like in the broader culinary world, , well, they’re in it because they love it, but then they find themselves doing work that they don’t love and they’re just like, well, wait a minute.

If I, if I’m pursuing my passion, like why does this like stink so badly? , right? Definitely. Yeah. So that’s, that’s the freedom piece. It’s like freedom to work with who you want and do the work that you want. And then flexibility is a big one. And whenever I talk to my students, this comes up over and over and over again.

People don’t wanna work at nine to five. They want to work when they want and they want to work how they want. I had a, an alum who packed her bags and moved to France because she was single and she was just like, screw it, I just wanna do it. And like within like a year, she got married to a B farmer and like teaches classes in the French countryside and she’s living her best life.

That’s kind of the extreme case of flexibility. Most people just want to be able to drop their kids off, pick them up, and in between, be able to. do what they love and make money doing it. Mm-hmm. . Um, so I think the, the flexibility piece is just consistent across, you know, whether it’s location or time.

Erica Julson: Yeah. I would say like the third piece for me to add onto that is like the ability, like you were saying, like you didn’t want to have to show up somewhere and essentially be like trading your time for money . Yeah. It’s like, it can be a little bit asynchronous. So, you know, the whatever you’re doing at the time you have available will make you money independent of whatever you’re doing.

Like, you could theoretically sell something in the middle of the night while you’re sleeping or you’re watching a movie with your family. I guess that’s technically counts as flexibility, but , it’s such a unique thing to the online world. I 

Cynthia Samanian: love it. Yeah, exactly. And I think you probably remember the first time.

Like woke up and there was someone who bought a program of yours. Like, it is such a cool feeling. And I think that also plays into this idea of impact, which, I, sometimes they say joy, but really the joy comes from making an impact. And in the online space, I mean, the idea that you can reach people all over the world, I think is just so exciting.

Um, especially, and I see this a lot with my students who are focused on a really specific niche, whether it’s like health focused or, for example, I, I had a student who, worked only with people who were recently diagnosed with celiac, so newly diagnosed and helping them navigate that. And when you open your audience up to be anyone in the world who experiences those things or has those in common, it’s really, really exciting because you now can reach more people and, and you wouldn’t be able to do that if you were just focused to like your, you know, zip code or 30 miles from where you live.

So that’s, Really, uh, really empowering for people. 

Erica Julson: Yeah. So today, I, I know we really wanted to focus the conversation around this idea of why it’s important to start teaching online before you’re quote unquote ready . And I think to lead into that conversation, it would be great to talk about what teaching online really means.

I think, where people’s minds probably first go would be like, oh, teaching an online course or a live class or workshop. But I love that you’ve sort of come up with these different layers of teaching and how they can kind of, run through lots of different aspects of your business. So can you elaborate on your, understanding of what it means to teach, and then we can dive into why it’s important to start quote unquote teaching before you’re ready.

Cynthia Samanian: Yeah, definitely. I’m so glad you asked about this because this is something that I’ve shared a bit about recently, but I haven’t talked about it a ton yet. And it’s this like aha moment that I experienced as someone working with, you know, hundreds of people at this point. Who want to build online businesses.

And it started because I was having a lot of conversations with my students on things that weren’t just related to, say, teaching a 90 minute Zoom class. Yes, that’s what they were learning in my program. But then we started talking about how to develop your signature talk, how to pitch podcasts, how to be effective with your blog posts, how to go live on Instagram and be compelling and engaging.

And what I realized is that, first of all, I really loved those conversations. I felt like it was getting at the heart of strategy for a business owner, right? Not just teaching one thing, like how to click share and go live on Zoom, but actually like how to build a cohesive business. And that’s also when it hit me.

This idea of teaching online could mean so much more than what we think it is. Like you said, a Zoom cooking class or even doing like a corporate wellness experience on Zoom or whatever platform. And so what I did is kind of distilled all that into what I call the strategy strata, which is, essentially like three layers, like astrada, a casserole,

I mentioned on another podcast that I had on my own show, I was like, you know what, I can use food analogies because my audience gets it. And that is the beauty of having a niche. I can call something Estrada. But I had explained to my husband, I’m like, it’s kind of like a lasagna, but not really.

He didn’t quite, quite get it. I’m like, that’s okay. You’re not my niche. Uh, but essentially like, think of three layers and like any sort of dish that’s layered, you start at the bottom and then you work your way up to the top. And the idea is that each layer represents a, a specific strategic, goal or thing that you’re trying to do.

So in the first layer, your focus is teach to learn. And what that means is that you are teaching a class to actually learn about your audience, your niche, your teaching style. The secret is you actually learn more about you than you would be than you would think. Um, you learn about your marketing funnel, how to create a sales page, how to collect payments, how to set up the tech.

When most people come to me, this is what they wanna learn. They’re like, Cynthia, I wanted to set up a live online cooking class on Zoom. Help me figure this stuff out. Like, great, we’ll do that. That to me is the simple part, right? But you also, in that phase of Teach to Learn, your goal is to build your foundation.

It’s to build your website, start building your email list, or get that set up. , your social media, like all of those pieces need to be in sync. And so that’s that bottom layer. And again, that’s kind of where I start working with a lot of people in my program. The online jumpstart is Teach to Learn, but then above that there are two layers.

And that’s where I again, kind of had this light, light bulb moment where I’m like, well, wait a minute. The teaching doesn’t stop there. You actually have to continue to do more of this like information sharing to grow your audience and to make money. So the next layer is Teach to Grow. The goal there is to actually use teaching to grow your audience.

And I specifically talk about getting your email subscribers to about a thousand. And it’s important because. The online game is a, is a numbers game, right? And so for you to be able to make meaningful revenue through courses, memberships, et cetera, you know this Erica, you need to have volume. And I am a big believer in the power of an email list.

I think if you have Instagram, if you have TikTok, whatever it is that you’re using, you should be using that as a way to bring people to your email list. And that’s not something I invented. I think it’s a pretty, uh, widespread view because it works and I think your email list is what converts people the most to being customers.

So I’m gonna just stop there and see if you have questions before I get to layer three. . 

Erica Julson: No, that makes a lot of sense. I espouse the same sort of ideas all the time, so I think people listening are like, yep, yep, yep, I agree. cool. They mostly understand the importance. I would. 

Cynthia Samanian: Yeah. Yeah. So that, that’s really the, the goal of level two and what you’re doing there too is you’re making sure that you have all of your assets in place.

So we talked about a website, but you also want to make sure you have a freebie or a lead magnet, right? You want to make sure that you then take those assets that you have and then find a way for people to actually find you and hear about you. So, I grow my audience through a variety of things. Well, being on this podcast is one, right?

guest podcasting, speaking at conferences and events. Not only is that a great place to grow your audience, but the quality of leads or potential clients that you attract is so much higher because you’re already aligned on so many things. So again, that’s where as I was working with students, they were like, okay, Cynthia, now that I have my class, what do I do next?

What do I do next? What do I do next? And I found myself answering these questions over and over again, and I’m think. . Well, why don’t I just have a framework so that they know what to follow based on where they are. And that’s again, where this came about. Now the next level is the top layer, and that’s teach to earn.

And that’s really what happens when you’re at a place where you have at least a thousand subscribers. You know your niche, you have all of your assets in place, and now you’re creating offers that really serve your ideal student or your ideal client. So that could be anything from offering memberships, courses, coaching, whether it’s one-on-one or group.

Gosh, paid to email newsletters. Like a lot of people are talking about substack these days, and those are all great ways to monetize, but most of them are dependent on having a large volume come through. Right? Like substack for example, it’s like $5 a month. So do the math, like how many people do you actually need to subscribe?

So those are the three layers I would say. That, for people who are looking to make money sooner rather than later and don’t have a big email list, it doesn’t mean you don’t have to do anything. Um, or you have no opportunities, I should say. Uh, one of the best ways to do that is to get in front of private groups and corporate, uh, teams and try and do, you know, wellness classes or team building activities.

Those are more, those are sourced more through relationships than having a large email list, right? So I’ve seen some students be able to, you know, while they grow their email list, bring in income through those types of events. So that’s been really helpful. And then also, I didn’t mention, but you can continue to teach live classes and workshops, although I do think that as you kind of go up the strata, those become helpful in generating leads and attracting people to your audience and less about kind of being your core money maker.

Erica Julson: Yeah. Yeah. Really good insights. So right now I only have my SEO course, but I used to have an SEO course. The idea was like, grow your audience. And then I had like a monetization course, like, okay, now that you have an audience, some ways to make money. And then the third one was email marketing.

And it was like kind of all tied together. But then the way I had it set up was like way too much for one person to manage. The tech changed like every month and it was like, the whole new interface is different. You gotta rerecord all the videos and it was like way too, too much. So at this moment in time, I pared it back.

I’m really laser focused on seo. But I also found, I don’t know if you’ve seen this, when I had it marketed in that way, I don’t think it was the right way at the time. Like in retrospect to market it, you could sign up for like any course. And so many times people were jumping to the one about making money when they had no audience.

And it, I had to like redirect people constantly . So, I find it interesting that that’s like where people wanna go without maybe doing that bottom layer first. So I love how you kind of layered it, where reframing it to think like, just even growing your audience. You are teaching and you’re learning so that when you’re ready to monetize, you’re doing it the right way, , and like, you’re really reduced to the, to the chances of a flop if you understand your people and you have people, to begin with. Yeah. 

Cynthia Samanian: Yeah. And as you know, a recorded course is no joke. Like, and that’s it. Most people come to me and they’re like, Cynthia, I want to create a recorded course. And I’m like, great. Who’s your audience? Mm. People who want to cook healthy. And it’s like, red flag, red flag. Like, that’s great, but that’s actually not a niche and it’s going to be incredibly hard to sell your course if that’s what you’re leading with.

So I, I think a lot of it is just like our job to educate people on the importance of having those fundamentals in place and at times. This resistance, uh, is like, oh, like she’s slowing me down or no, I, I, I just wanna create the course. Let me just create the course. It’s like, no, but trust me, you don’t want to go down that path until you have those pieces in place.

Because as you know, it’s a ton of work with the recording, the editing, and then of course marketing and selling the thing. I mean, it’s not passive. I don’t, I don’t know what your thoughts are on the term passive income, but I laugh at it every time. I’m like, I have yet to find real passive income in the online space.

Erica Julson: Yeah. I still use the term passive, but it’s really more like leveraged, you know, I try to define it as like, where it’s not directly trading your time for money . Yeah. It still takes work, but it’s not a one-to-one trade anymore, which is great.

yeah. So I know when we were talking about, you know, what to talk about on this episode, uh, you mentioned that you seem to see this like recurring theme of dietitians or people you work with. Seeming to put teaching on, on the bottom of their to-do list, like they’re just like a little hesitant to jump in there.

Uh, What do you think might be holding them back? Or can you elaborate on what you meant or what you’ve been seeing 

Cynthia Samanian: with people? Yeah, for sure. And you’re totally right. When I came to you, I was like, Erica, let’s talk about this idea of people teaching before they’re ready. Because a lot of my students, many who are rds, they come to me and they’re like, I’m not ready because I need this, because I need that, because I need, and they’re not excuses.

I don’t think that, you know, they’re not lazy or anything like that, but there’s just this assumption that I need these things in place before I am quote ready to teach. And what I’ve found is that, well, that’s not the case. Like you actually don’t need a website to teach your first class. You don’t need fancy equipment.

You don’t need a beautiful logo. will you need those over time? Absolutely. As I talked about in the strata, like you need to have those foundations in place, but I think that you can learn so much by teaching sooner rather than later. Even just teaching a live class, putting it out there and seeing what the response is like, you may not even actually get to teach the class because you’ll put it out there and realize no one wants to learn that concept.

I think it’s so valuable, especially if you have a recorded course in the back of your mind. You can actually beta test the lessons, the recipes, the concepts, live and save yourself again, a ton of headache and pain later. So I think it comes down to understanding what your goal is in teaching. Right?

Going back to the strata, if your goal is actually to teach, to learn, to learn about your teaching style, to learn about what your audience wants, then. You don’t need to be ready. You are ready. You’re as ready as you’re going to be. But again, a lot of people jump to, in their head, thinking of like the fully produced shiny recorded course that they purchased and want to just jump to that level.

But I guarantee the person who created that course started from the bottom as well. And so the sooner you can do that, the sooner you can kind of rip off that bandaid and make those mistakes that you are always going to make in the beginning, um, then the sooner you can get more polished. It’s just like going live on Instagram or doing video, right?

If any of your listeners have done video, it’s terrifying at first. Or even doing a podcasting interview. Like it’s never easy in the beginning. But if you can rip off that bandaid again, then you’ll, I think just be better, faster, sooner. And you’ll just start kind of climbing up that. 

Erica Julson: Yeah, so much, perfectionism in our profession.

it runs rampant. I don’t know, it attracts a lot of type A people. there’s a lot of this idea of like, oh, everything has to be perfect when. It’s never gonna be perfect . So if you’re waiting for that magical moment, it may never come. So, but I love, I heard you say that when you, were initially getting started, you pre-sold, some of your stuff and I did the same thing cuz I I did the opposite In my very, very, very first offer.

I, I made the mistake of like, thinking I knew what people wanted and I had almost no audience. I had like a hundred people in my sphere of influence. And that’s it. I had no clear niche and I was like, I’m gonna make this generic course it was so not helping anyone and , I think one person in my sphere bought it and it was like my aunt. So , yeah. Three months worth of work cuz we made it before we sold it and did zero validation, zero audience building, zero messaging, honing.

So been there. Um, but do I regret it? I mean, yes. I mean, I wish I didn’t spend three months and make negative dollars on it, but I learned a lot and I never made that mistake again. So , you know, 

Cynthia Samanian: at least you did something. Exactly, yeah. And I think that’s where people get hung up. They’re scared of messing up so they don’t do anything.

Right. And like I’ve had people in my audience for three years who finally enroll and they’re like, I wish I signed up last year. I’m like, yeah, me too. Right. And it’s going back to perfection. I mean, it, you’re right. The dietitians have it and Bakers , they’re like the worst. 

Erica Julson: I understand that. 

Cynthia Samanian: Yeah. The bakers are, they’re the worst and, uh, the worst, but the best.

I love them. But it’s this feeling. . The, the other thing that we talk about in the program and the mindset shift that I have with my students is this idea around perfection and that you think you need to be polished and perfect in front of your audience. And it’s actually not the case. Like people want to relate to another person.

Like if you mess up something in the recipe, own it, acknowledge it, move on. Right? So sometimes, uh, we, we think about like being the instructor as this like super formal, like buttoned up role. And yes, you’re the expert and you have that expertise to share and that’s important, but people are there to learn from you and.

Get a sense of your personality. Like otherwise, they’ll just go on YouTube, right? They’ll google a recipe, but they’re, they’re signing up to learn from you because of you. So that’s where I encourage my students to lean into who they are. Like, you know, I have some students who, you know, English is their second language and they’re super nervous about saying things incorrectly, and I’m like, listen, I was born and raised here and I make grammar mistakes all the time.

Right? Like, people aren’t judging you for it. They’ll feel closer to you. So I think that’s where a lot of it can come into play as well when it comes to like actually being on camera and teaching live. And there’s no better way to do it than to actually just do it. So that’s something in our program we have like this thing called Demo Week where students teach for others and again, really rip off that bandaid and, um, that, that helps with the imperfect or that helps with the perfection by helping them do things that, uh, you know, help them practice being imperfect.

Erica Julson: Yeah. Yeah. Yep. It’s so important. And with every failure, there’s always something you learn like. . Sure. We spent all this time creating this course and did not turn a profit. But now we knew how to set up a course, so then the next time it was way easier, . And that next time I made sure I pre-sold

I wasn’t going through the whole work of making it until I knew that I was gonna be profitable, so. I don’t know if you feel comfortable sharing any examples, but do you have just maybe some generic examples of dietitians or other people who do similar types of work who have created online culinary programs, um, and how, like, how that changed their businesses and their professional lives?

Cynthia Samanian: Yeah, absolutely. So one person who comes to mind, she’s actually a member of your community, so I was excited to feature her. Um, her name’s Fallon of the Sprouting Kitchen. She is fantastic. So she’s a registered dietitian based in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and we started working together during Covid. She had been teaching these incredible in-person.

Cooking classes at farms through Al Albuquerque and they’re just beautiful. If you go to her site, I think it’s the sprouting, you can see some of the photos just absolutely incredible. And she taps into local farmers and weaves that into her business. And so we had worked together on helping her balance.

that seasonal business in the off season, right? So those dinners happen in, I think the spring, summer, and maybe early fall. Well, what is she doing in the winter, right? And in the spring when it’s too cold to gather and there’s nothing quite ready to harvest. And so we had worked together on building at her online classes.

On top of that, we worked together on creating these amazing custom corporate experiences. So she partnered with local farmers and food producers to create these amazing ingredient kits that she ships to companies and does these virtual classes. And then, . Most recently she launched her first recorded course, which, uh, she ran as kind of a live course with members and she had a great number of signups and it was her beta launch and I’ve just been cheering her on.

I’ve been so excited. But she’s a great example of someone who has been able to approach the online space in a diversified way. And she’s still doing a lot of what she loves, which is that in-person teaching. Like the goal was never to get rid of that, but it was how can we balance that so that she again, has more flexibility and has more freedom?

So I recommend checking her out. She’s up to some really cool stuff. 

Erica Julson: Yeah, so maybe people listening can pull from that. Like if you are someone who does in-person events, they’re highly translatable. into an online format as well to give you a little more flexibility. Or probably also people who are.

doing anything related to teaching classes, but maybe they’re stuck in this cycle of, one-on-one consults and they’re looking to maybe lighten the load a little bit and create a different type of income stream to help people still, online. I think there’s lots of opportunity in that respect too. 

Cynthia Samanian: yeah, and what’s interesting about Fallon story that I wanna mention is that she had been teaching, gosh, she’s probably taught hundreds of live classes at this point, and then she created her recorded course. Not to say you need to teach that many before, but her recorded course is super dialed in because she knows who her audience is, what their hiccups are.

She also knows what her values are and what she wants to teach. And so it was, I don’t wanna say easy for her to create it, but she, I think had a much, clear idea of what it is she wanted to make and for who. Mm-hmm. . And so I think that kind of goes back to, again, speaking to this idea of. Practicing getting your feet wet in a life setting and using that to then eventually do something, which now is kind of her teach to earn, which is her recorded course.

And over time she’s had an email list. She’s been very consistent with it. She has a website, she has a freebie, she has all of those elements in place. And so she’s really kind of gone through that strata, just as we talked about. 

Erica Julson: Yeah, yeah. Same, same. Like even with the Unconventional RD community, like I never intended it to be a business.

When I started, it was just a free Facebook group where I was like sharing income reports from my attempt at food blogging . And then it grew into what it is, but I had been like connecting with dietitians interested in creating online income or doing like unconventional career paths. I think like two years before I launched anything for sale.

So it’s just like you mentioned, like I, I was in there like teaching in the form of blog posts, teaching in the form of, of I guess just answering people’s questions in the Facebook group, just engagement and like, that’s really how you understand people. I think that’s something that keeps coming back in this conversation is like, don’t assume

Yeah. You know, like get out there and actually interact with your ideal people and, that’s how you set yourself up to be ready to create something that’s actually gonna work. Mm-hmm. for sure. Okay. So let’s say someone is listening and they, let’s just say they’re a dietitian, and they’re like, wow, okay.

I think that, you know, adding maybe an a culinary class online of some kind would really fit into my business and my business model. Like where, what do you do first? Like , where are we going? Is there like a framework or something? Or like a general process? 

Cynthia Samanian: Yeah, yeah, for sure. So it’s the framework that I teach in my entry level program called the Online Jumpstart.

So the framework that I teach is the acronym zest, like lemon zest or lime zest. And you could tell it like the food, food, allergies, why not? And it stands for zero in engage, sell, and Teach, right? So it’s a four set framework that you follow in order, and the idea is to help you. not feel so overwhelmed and not feel so inundated and lost.

Because if you follow the framework, then you’re only focused on the stuff that you’re in. So the first piece zero in is basically everything we’ve talked about, Erica. It’s zeroing in on your purpose, your niche, your ideal student, and also you’re zeroing in on that first offer. So, in my program, what I teach my students to do is to pick a class like you are going to teach a class, you’re setting a date and you’re doing it.

Whether or not you’re in my program, you can still apply this framework. I want you to challenge yourself with a date and say, you know what? April 10th, I’m going to teach a class and I’m going to, you know, decide what it is and talk to people and interview them and understand my niche and all of those things.

And just pick a class. So that’s zeroing in, and that can surprisingly take a lot of time because it’s a lot of introspection. It’s customer research and then it’s making some decisions based off of that data. The next step is to engage. This is about you engaging with your ideal student. This is where your marketing platform comes into play.

Marketing platform, marketing funnel, I should say. This involves your website, making sure that your website has a place for people to, you know, sign up to get on the wait list for your class. That the language on your website reflects this audience that you’re speaking to. It could just be a separate tab for online classes.

By the way, you don’t have to create a new website. Um, and also I’m gonna say that your class that you teach doesn’t have to. meet the needs of everyone you serve, right? This is a subset. So I have a lot of people who are like, but wait, do I have to change my entire business to fit this new online niche?

No, but your class does need to have a niche focus for it to really stand out. So engage is about your website, your, um, social media, making sure that your bio says that you’re now teaching, and also your email list. So if you don’t have an email list, this is when you want to get signed up with an email service provider and start getting your email list foundation in place.

We also then talk about how to grow your email list, kind of as a side note, which involves freebies and lead magnets and all of that. Then after that, after you’ve kind of updated your platforms, you want to then move into sell, which is pretty self-explanatory. You have to sell your class. This involves actually setting up your sales page, which is where you’ll advertise your class.

You’ll tell people a little bit about it, a little bit about yourself. , you’ll actually put the price, collect payment and then send them the confirmation emails and all that, all that good stuff. And then, uh, it also includes promotion strategy. There’s a lot, , there are a lot of details here. And then the final step is teach, right?

So once you have that set up, then you move into teach, which is not just the act of teaching your class, but preparing. So, you know, I recommend my students like put together a checklist of, you know, like you did with this podcast episode, make sure your laptop’s plugged in. Make sure you’re in a quiet space, right?

All the things that you will most likely forget to do when you’re in the moment and filling the adrenaline you want to have written down. You’ll teach your class. Most of our instructors use Zoom. Zoom is totally fine. And then after the class, you want to always reach out to your students, get their feedback, ask for testimonials, and that’s it.

So that’s kind of the life cycle of. both building your online platform and also teaching that class. And in my program, we try and get students to do that in 90 days or even less. Because to me, speed is important. Sometimes the more time you give yourself, the longer you take. So it’s not about perfection in that cycle.

It’s about doing it, learning and then doing it again and again. 

Erica Julson: Mm-hmm. . Yeah. And just a reminder, cuz I know this comes up again for people, in my audience, nothing’s permanent. So say you zero in and then you’re like, shoot, this did not go over well, I don’t like, it didn’t resonate with my people.

Then you just zero in again and you, you repeat, you know, uh, you’re not locked in ever to, to 1, 1, 1 idea that you had. Just cuz you had the idea and you tried it, you can pivot. It’s totally fine. 

Cynthia Samanian: And sometimes we think that people like, like they care or that they’re watching. Yeah. And most people will never really notice your shifts.

Like I have a few people in my audience who have been students and alums, and they’re like, my, my diehards. They notice no one else notices. So , take some of that pressure off of yourself. Like no one really is like refreshing your website, seeing what has changed and if they are, that’s a whole nother thing.

Erica Julson: Yeah, for sure. Being like you are carrying way more than anyone in your audience. Definitely. And then for this type of framework, I know you’ve been talking about kind of like doing it live maybe the first few times to really nail it in. Is there a point where you could make it evergreen or do you kind of focus on the live component mostly?

What are your thoughts there? 

Cynthia Samanian: Yeah, so in the beginning, live I think is the best format because you can learn real time. , I think it’s also more beneficial for the student. Of course, it depends on what you’re teaching, but one of the appeals of learning in a live setting is getting that real-time feedback from your instructor.

I think there are some topics that lend themselves better towards like an evergreen course. And so some of my students, for example, have done the live classes. I have a student in my program who focuses on Pakistani cuisine and she can do a 90 minute class on, you know, how to make a, a chicken tika.

But what happens though is that when she wants to do something more advanced, like a bi. That takes hours. And so we’re working together on a recorded course for her because that makes more sense, 

Erica Julson: right? Like you’re not gonna sit around live for an hour while it’s baking or something. . Yeah. 

Cynthia Samanian: Yeah. Like to make it the right way and to do it how she wants to show you, which talks about the history and like it’s a deeper dive and it’s for a different type of, person.

It’s not that fast, quick, weeknight cook. It’s someone who wants to dive into it as like more of this cultural experience. So she’s creating a recorded course, but she’s also taught live a few times. And it’s funny cuz she’s actually told me that the live classes have helped improve her blog. So we haven’t talked about this too much, but there are these synergies that happen across your whole ecosystem.

I talk about. Teaching is at the center of your online business. And the different spokes could include your blog and Instagram and other things. And like you use teaching as a place to learn. It’s this, again, vehicle for accelerating your business. So I would say Evergreen makes sense for recorded course.

Some people do sell the recordings of their live classes. That can work. I think usually though, I, I tend to, um, I tend to like discourage students from doing that from the onset because how you would teach a class to a live group of students is different than how you would do it to people who are watching a recorded version.

So sometimes it’s kind of awkward, I think, to sell the recording as a standalone, but you generally offer the record. As a replay option for people who couldn’t attend live. So, that’s kind of like a different thing, but I would say you can take this evergreen, especially if you get into the course piece.

And when I say course, it doesn’t have to be a huge course. Like it could be again, like a three hour mini course, but it’s something that is created with the intention of it being consumed in like a evergreen way. 

Erica Julson: Mm-hmm. . And do you have, any specific tech stack that you find that works the best for this?

Or it doesn’t matter. , 

Cynthia Samanian: can I mention platforms that I love? Like, actually, of course. Yeah. Okay, cool. Yeah. So let’s see. When I, so when it comes to websites, so I really like Squarespace. That’s what I use. I think it. More intuitive than other sites. But that being said, like if you are a blogger and WordPresses your jam, stick to it.

I’m sure with s e o being your expertise. Erica, you have thoughts on this? I know like, just from a usability standpoint, my students really, really like Squarespace. Um, show it as well could be good. But again, this is just like if you need a website that has just the basics, like a homepage about services, classes, et cetera, you can still blog on those.

Of course, for email, I really, really like Flow Desk. And I, I love that they like, have templates that make things really easy for people. Um, they specifically have a product that’s now released called Checkout, which allows you to create sales pages, collect payment, and have that integrated with your email all in one, which I think is super valuable because one of the biggest challenges for people selling online, is that connection from, uh, the actual purchase to email.

And it’s even more complicated with classes because every class is unique in that you have a unique day and time, sometimes a unique recipe. So it’s not this like one and done thing where you create one product and you tie it to these email automations and that’s it. It’s actually much more involved.

So having esk that has, you know, checkout and email all in one is really awesome. It takes a lot of the stress out of like making those integrations work. So I recommend that. And then when it actually comes to the class, I mean, zoom is still kind of the, the gold standard. It’s not perfect by any means, but it’s what people know.

And when you’re teaching a live class and you’re inviting people to join, you really don’t want the tech to get in the way. , and again, zoom’s not perfect. Bugs happen, but it’s better to use something that most people are familiar with than to kind of choose a rogue platform. Especially if you’re doing a class where it’s like, it’s a meeting and people are cooking with you and, you want to see their dishes and how things are going.

Erica Julson: Yeah. So what I am pulling from this is you’re a big proponent of don’t make it more complicated than it needs to be . Like, yeah, you can always choose more advanced technical platforms as you grow and figure out your needs perhaps. But, again, as we circle back, the doing is the most important.

So, you know, you just need to start with a platform that you can execute on essentially. Yeah. You’re not spending months like on step zero. 

Cynthia Samanian: Right. I’m sure you’ve seen this too, Erica. , the people you’ve followed or just connected with in the online business space, generally speaking, platforms didn’t make or break their business, right?

They’re tools that helped them. And I, I think starting simple is the best way to go. I mean, I house my courses on Kajabi, but I wouldn’t recommend that to someone who’s never done any form of online teaching because it’s a real investment. Like Kajabi does not make sense for most people when you’re paying, you know, a couple hundred dollars a month to house a course.

So you don’t have to start where other people are at. And that’s why like a lot of what I recommend to my students, I don’t use anymore because I’ve grown out of that. It would be, again, kind of weird for me to say, go sign up for a Kajabi and pay $200 a month when they’re like, well, I don’t know what my niche is and what I wanna do.

So Exactly. I’m all about starting simple, starting with only what you need and growing from there. And then, and even with the tech. , use your laptop, use things that you have. Don’t go buy a fancy camera. People always wanna start at teach. They always wanna start at the end, but it’s like, nope, we’ve got to go through the steps.

And eventually they see why. And they’re grateful that I saved them $500 on a camera. 

Erica Julson: for sure. Well, honestly, this has been a really refreshing, helpful episode. I love hearing your perspective it’s like a tangential perspective, I guess. You’re really dialed into the food niche and obviously there’s a lot of overlap, with dietitians and food

So yeah, I love hearing how you were able to carve out this niche, with helping people teach, cooking online and do it in a way that helps them, have better, more flexible lives. And, I know it’s gonna resonate with a lot of people in my audience too. So where can people go if they liked what you were talking about and they want to connect with you further?

Cynthia Samanian: Yeah, absolutely. So you can always find me on Instagram at culinary. Cynthia, send me a message. It’s me. I’m a real person. I don’t have a bot or a VA. On the other side, I, I do my own dms. I love connecting with people. Honestly, just say Hi, tell me you came from the podcast. Um, and if you want to explore my programs and what I have to offer, you can go to culinary creator b or just go right to the online

So the online jumpstart, again, it’s my beginner done with You program. I’m like very adamant about saying it is not a course because it is not a course. There’s a lot of personalized support and one-on-one support. So if you kind of just need help getting started and you know that now is the time to do this, definitely check it out.

So it’s the online There is a free training. It’s under an hour and you can watch it whenever you want. You don’t even have to like pick a time and you’ll learn more about me, the program and how we can work together. . 

Erica Julson: Great. Well, thank you so much again for your time today. I hope you can keep in touch.

I know that we’re somewhat local, so maybe we’ll even be able to meet in person someday, , that’d be, that’d be awesome. 

Cynthia Samanian: Yeah, I’d love that. Thanks again for having me. Yeah, thank you.

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.