As a child, Madiha Hamid used to host her own cooking shows — at home. “I would place all the ingredients in front of me in small bowls just like it’s done in TV shows. I would then talk to myself and to an imaginary audience,” she recalls.

Madiha Hamid, founder of the blog Chefling Tales (Courtesy photo)

No wonder that when the adult Hamid wanted to do something to ease the stress of daily life, she turned to food. “I started a personal food blog where I started documenting all the flavors I knew of Pakistan,” she explains. “Initially, I wanted the blog to become an online version of the secret recipe diaries our moms … kept in drawers.”

Chefling Tales started out as a hobby alongside Hamid’s blossoming career in digital marketing. It wasn’t until she spent time in Thailand that Hamid saw an opportunity for something bigger — something that could eventually make money.

“I realized that the taste and flavor of Pakistani food available outside Pakistan is not true to its origin,” she says. She wanted to present to the world her country’s home-cooked cuisine “in its true form, as it’s eaten by a Pakistani.”

That’s when she decided to turn her blog into a business venture. “We didn’t have a website in Pakistan that was promoting [our cuisine],” she says. “I knew I needed to take a bigger step than running a family-based food blog.” And with advertising “going from traditional to digital in Pakistan, I saw a great opportunity to work with food-related brands and entrepreneurs.”

Ingredients for success

The first step in expanding Chefling Tales was to engage “an excellent development and design team. We worked eight months to deliver the product,” focusing on making the user experience simple.

But just building a good website wasn’t enough, Hamid learned. “For a product, the initial phase of promotions is extremely important,” she explains.

Fortunately, she had help from the WECREATE | Pakistan center for women’s entrepreneurship, in partnership with the U.S.-Pakistan Women’s Council: “WECREATE gave me a chance to work with some great mentors and also learn from other startups. They helped in spreading the word.”

Chefling Tales documents traditional and experimental recipes from Pakistan while helping women in remote areas of the country earn a living. (Courtesy image)

One of the biggest challenges has been attracting the right audience, which is crucial for monetizing content. As Hamid explains, “I have great content, but to ensure reach, you have to be patient as well as invest in marketing.”

To do that, she is “establishing digital content partners who can share our content.” She also has reached out to other bloggers and influencers and run a digital public relations campaign.

A new twist on old recipes

Hamid and her team won’t be the only ones to profit as Chefling Tales’ success grows. Thanks to an initiative she calls “Cheflings on the Fringe,” hundreds of Pakistani women in remote areas will be able to earn money through their cooking skills.

“Instead of waiting on donations or having to learn another skill, these women can share their favorite recipes with us, and we share it with the world,” Hamid explains. “We pay them per blog [entry], and the recipes bring unique content to our website.”

Hamid hopes to recruit more than 500 women across Pakistan over the next five years. But she knows that doing so has to make business sense. “We plan to share revenue with these women on the basis of impressions generated. This is the sustainable way of keeping this project,” she says.

Ready to get cooking?

Thinking about turning your blog into a business? Hamid shares these tips for success:

  • Think about your audience and what they would like to read and share.
  • Have a clear focus and feel passionately about what you are writing.
  • Develop a clear business model for how you plan to make money. Traditional ads and “native content,” or sponsored posts, can help.
  • Make contacts within the industry with whom you can establish partnerships.