Sept 14, 2021
The Mass Business Podcast
Season 1, Episode 12 – From Personal Passion To Successful Business, with Debbie Brosnan
In episode 12 we hear from Debbie Brosnan, all about how she turned her passion into her business and the struggles and challenges she’s made it through since the beginning. She tells us how her business, The Effortless Kitchen, has adapted and survived post-pandemic and tells us her exciting new idea to further expand her business for next year. Debbie shares her ways of dealing with time management and we also talk inspiration and business growth. Are you ready? Let’s go!!
Resources mentioned in this episode –
Contact Debbie –
If you or someone you know would like to be a guest on our show please visit us on Facebook or at our Website –
Wed, 8/11 9:28AM • 33:13
Matt Ward 00:02
Hey there, welcome to Episode 12 of the Mass Business Podcast. My name is Matt Ward and I am your host today I have an amazing guest for you. She’s super awesome did a one to one with her a couple weeks ago, and really, really connected with her I was able to connect her with some other people. And that’s what networking and referrals are all about. So I’d love to introduce you to Debbie Brosnan. She’s a personal chef turned virtual cooking class instructor. She started the Effortless Kitchen in 2019, making dinners in her clients homes and transition to virtual due to COVID. Debbie is a passionate self taught home cook who began her journey, cooking alongside her mother and grandmother as a young child, and so many people do. Her focus is on healthy food that tastes amazing using simple recipes so that those that take her cooking classes will continue to make those dishes and other similar ones in their own kitchens. The Effortless Kitchen offers weekly classes, custom parties and corporate events, as well as travel retreat programs. And they’re all interactive and fun. Debbie is thrilled with the shift in her business to cooking classes, she can reach more people and share her gift with everyone. I am so excited to bring you my new friend, Debbie Brosnan. Are you ready? Let’s go. Welcome to the Mass Business Podcast where small business owners, also known as risk takers share their stories about the growth of their business and themselves. Our interviews and our content is focused on growing a small business and understanding networking and referrals. I say it all the time. And I’ll say it again today. You never know for your next referral will come from. Hey, and we’re here Episode 12. so thankful to have you listening on your favorite podcast platform or watching us on YouTube. Welcome to the show, Debbie.
Debbie Brosnan 02:23
Thank you, Matt. I love that intro that was great.
Matt Ward 02:27
That is a custom song. The song The music is written by my good friend Cailte Kelley is an Edward Jones financial advisor, but Berkeley trained musician out of Boston. And he was lucky enough to open twice for Darious Rucker at Gillette Stadium. So he’s an amazing musician, and made me a fantastic song. I love it. I’m actually gonna use that song as my walk up music on stage from our professional speaking tour. Oh, that’s really exciting.
Debbie Brosnan 02:51
That’s fantastic, I love it. Yeah,
Matt Ward 02:53
And at all our in person networking events going forward we’re all going to be doing High Five around the world. It’s gonna be a lot of fun. Yeah. So welcome to the show. In a quick, you know, 30 seconds or so just briefly explain what it is you do to the audience.
Debbie Brosnan 03:07
All right, well, you so beautifully introduced me. So that is it in a nutshell. But I teach virtual cooking classes. My goal is to teach people how to cook in their own kitchens, inspire them to make new food that’s healthy and delicious. And in a simple way, so that they will repeat it again and again, and eat a little bit less takeout, and pick and choose their own ingredients for their recipes and know what’s in their food.
Matt Ward 03:37
And hopefully, like me, I don’t know, hopefully you know who your ideal client is. I’m not sure that that’s me, because I’m not patient enough to be a cook. What’s the secret to patience in the kitchen?
Debbie Brosnan 03:51
Keeping it simple is the first thing. So if you have a huge task to accomplish, and you’re not patient, you’re not going to have fun.
Matt Ward 04:03
So that’s just like business.
Debbie Brosnan 04:05
Matt Ward 04:06
Cuz I can relate to that part, like you have this big task, you want to keep it simple. Business is no different than the kitchen. Look at all the analogies there.
Debbie Brosnan 04:15
Look at that.
Matt Ward 04:16
That’s amazing. So what I love about interviewing you on this podcast is and this is for everybody who’s listening, you’re welcome to apply for the podcast, you go to the to our website, massbusinesspodcast.com. And you can apply to be on the podcast too. But we don’t just have business owners who have been around for 20 or 30 years. We have business owners that have been around for two years. Right. And that is what Debbie’s situation is. And so what I love about this is that we were all in this spot at one point in time. We were all in that infancy stage that six months that one year that 18 months, that two years and look how much she’s evolved already in two years in business, and she was thrown a huge curveball in 2020 With the COVID that really changed the game. What was it for you, Debbie, that sort of made you pivot? Obviously COVID made you pivot, but it wasn’t just COVID, you had to make the decision to pivot versus fold, right, I would imagine, right? What was that thought process like for you?
Debbie Brosnan 05:19
I found that I can no longer cook in my client’s homes, obviously, due to COVID. And I found that people were bored, uninspired, and just struggling with what to make for their own dinners, their family dinners, day after day after day, while we were stuck in lockdown, and I basically just started posting what I was making for dinner on Facebook. That’s how this all started. And it got a lot of traction. And people were really excited and wanted it. And so there was a need there. And I never intended to turn it into a business. But it kind of just happened from those videos to doing a small group test and then rolling it out. And people are excited. And they are asking for new recipes all the time. I love when my network gets involved. And they asked for things like this summertime, we’ve got, we did a barbecue sauce because someone requested we’re doing pesto this weekend because another client requested it. So I’m definitely open. I want everybody to be collaborative and make this a fun event.
Matt Ward 06:26
So that’s really cool. Because what I see from this is I see business evolving because you shared your passion and share your passion. Right? If you’re not, if you’re listening on the audio podcast, I’m pointing to the poster behind me. But share your passion is a big core tenant in business, right. And if you just share what you’re doing, you were sharing things on Facebook, you were just sharing what your stuff was your love for food for dinner. And funny enough to is that like, this is pre pandemic, you’re doing this right in which people are actually like, you know, turning, you’re turning this into a business, you’re cooking and stuff, but then you’re sharing during the pandemic, what you’re making for dinner, right? And here’s the funny part. Think about it. For those of you that were working in the corporate world, or working at the office, even in your own business, when the pandemic hit, and now your work from home. So now, you’re actually having family dinners. Whereas before you had an out, it was like, Oh, I’m like working late at the office. The office is your front kitchen, living room thing, whatever. Right. So to me, I actually see this as the perfect storm for you. It was kind of a good thing that happened, it forced you into this thing. But then there was all this demand on the other side. How did you how do you continue to adapt? In this early what I consider to be an early stage might not feel like an early stage for your business. But how do you continue to adapt in this early stage for your business?
Debbie Brosnan 08:00
I’m just following the lead of the need. So I am following what people want. Um, so I tapped into corporate events, because companies put in gather in person, and they wanted their employee connections. So that’s another piece of my business, and private parties where people wanted to see friends and family and couldn’t. So we did it all on zoom. And I’m continuing that. Because I feel like there’s companies who have employees all over so the ones that have local networks, they’re getting together in person, but there’s companies that are spread out across the country and the world, who can still benefit from my services to gather their employees together for a fun connection event.
Matt Ward 08:46
Absolutely genius. follow the lead of the need.
Debbie Brosnan 08:50
I’m going to trademark that. Can I do that?
Matt Ward 08:53
Yeah, it’s not mine is yours? Not me. Debbie Brosnan, not Pierce Brosnan for those paying attention. So here’s the thing like, um, and there’s and there’s a need and we don’t need 2000 customers. We need to know who our customers are. So when something something that you mentioned was healthy eating, right? So those people that know me know I’m a big fan of pizza, Dunkin Donuts coffee, mac and cheese, but more so bacon. It’s not exactly completely healthy. I get it. pesto sounds good. Now, I’m gonna just publicly state this right. Do you do a pizza cooking class, whatever. I mean, like, I mean, but it can’t broccoli on it. No broccoli. It can’t be foofy pizza. No foofy pizza. No good cheese, right? We gotta have pepperoni mushroom. I actually, some people know the story. There’s a pizza place near my house in Templeton Mass that has a Big Mac people.
Debbie Brosnan 10:01
That sounds delicious.
Matt Ward 10:03
It is you can’t eat it every day though you’d die. It’s a super good treat. So, um, this is important because knowing your market is a is is an important part of growing a small business. What made you dial in on the healthy side? What tied you into that? Where did that come from?
Debbie Brosnan 10:22
It’s just how I personally like to eat. Not that I don’t like to indulge. And not that I don’t have classes that have, we did a fettuccine bolognese class for my birthday class, like that’s indulgent. So we do, we have a balance of indulgent classes and not but in classes where we’re making something that is more indulgent, I always kind of scale it. So if you wanted to make yours a ground beef, you can, I’m making mine with ground turkey. That’s how I make it a little bit healthier. The beauty of it being virtual, you do what you want in your own kitchen. So Matt, if we were making pizza, and I put broccoli on mine, you can put pepperoni on yours, there’s no rule.
Matt Ward 11:01
But if you put broccoli on yours, I might just disconnect I don’t know. it’s true. That’s true. So I’m, for all those people listening and watching. I think the lesson here is that adaptation, right? So the beauty that Debbie brings up about this business model is that she’s showing people how to do things. So for example, if you’re a web designer or developer, right, you can be showing people on zoom, how to make changes to WordPress, but they don’t have to create the about page that you did, they can create the book page, they don’t have to create the staff page like you did, they can create the contact page, they don’t have to write a blog about what you wrote about, they can write a blog about what they want to write about. The point is you’re showing them how to do it. Right. And they can put broccoli on the website. And perhaps you can put pepperoni mushroom on yours. So it’s all right. It’s it’s adaptation. Now, as you’ve gotten into this business world, tell me one thing that you didn’t know, when you started that, you know, just pick one, I’m sure there’s 100, right? We all had 100.
Debbie Brosnan 11:07
You don’t have to eat it. I’m eating it. Well, speaking of websites, I am I like to say I’m not very computer literate I try. So I hired somebody to help me with my website, and it came out amazing and beautiful. I never could have done it on my own. But when it comes to blog posting, she’s not going to be posting my blog for me. So she taught me how to get on there and post my blog. I mean, I wasn’t even writing blogs before I had this business. So like every, I would say everything is new. I was part of a direct sales company prior to this. And I, I was running my own business, but being supported by the company. Now I’m running my own business for real, and I have to wear all the hats and do all the things. So the other thing I learned is, yes, my husband can do my books. We’re both CPAs I am a recovering CPA. Yeah, he is he has taken on that task. So I can also outsource.
Matt Ward 13:12
There you go. Yeah. So what one thing frustrates you about being in business?
Debbie Brosnan 13:23
Having to do all the things. I just want to cook. I want to talk to people about food, the whole travel thing is new for 2022. I can’t wait for that. But I just want to do all of the fun things and all things that I find creative and exciting. And I would say probably marketing is the most challenging.
Matt Ward 13:46
And is that because it doesn’t work?
Debbie Brosnan 13:49
Um, what works when, I think is the question.
Matt Ward 13:52
What works when right, most people I talk to struggle with the marketing stuff, because they struggle to understand exactly what you just said, What works when you know what, what’s converting what’s not converting where are the dollars going, what’s, you know, what’s most effective, and they get frustrated because they put dollars towards something, they don’t see immediate results. And sometimes these things take a long time. Yeah, if you were to buy a billboard, it would take months and months and months for you to get something from it. The same I tell people with referral stuff that the work you do now pays off in six months, but most people can’t or don’t want to wait six months and do the work. Right. And so we try to go for the pay per click or the Facebook ads or the other marketing related things. You know, it’s interesting that, have you ever used Every Door Direct Mail?
Debbie Brosnan 14:45
Matt Ward 14:46
So Every Door Direct Mail, for those of you who don’t know it’s an acronym is eddm. It’s run by the postal service, and you print a large size postcard, like very large and it’s the thing that everybody He uses to advertise to you at your home, right. And so what you then do is you go on the Postal Service website, and you can pick the zip code and the specific route that you want it mailed to. And it will go in every mailbox on that route. And so you pay 16 and a half cents a postcard, to do this Every Door Direct Mail. And what you could do is, if you’re in a business, like Debbie, where you’re serving consumers versus businesses, you could hit a route, the same route, you could hit the same route four times in a month, right one a week for four weeks, right with a different, the same, you know, you print up a bunch of these postcards, like a big print house. And so you print like 1000, or whatever the route, the website will tell you how many you actually need, and you deliver them to the post office, on the day that they need to go out, or the day before, whatever it is, and then they put them out in the mail the next day. And then the next week, you go to the post office with your second card, in your series, the next week, the third card and you hit the same route, it the same route with consistency. The other thing that the route website will tell you on the Postal Service is it will actually tell you like the average income on that route. So you can pick the different incomes that you want to portray. So for instance, because you are in fact, virtual, you could do every door direct mount to the higher end routes in the entire state, like Weston, you know, Wellesley, those types of the W towns, they call them, right? And it would go out, and it’s fairly inexpensive marketing. Now, the key is the call to action, right trying to drive them. And what you want to do is something like that is like, put a unique code on there so that when they register, you know, they get 10% off or something. And you know, it came from that specific mailing and that specific postcard, so when you print the postcards, you might give them code 1000 1001 1002 1003. And you know, it was that specific postcard, you know? So there’s little things like that, that, that that are a little bit more direct response, quicker return on certain things that some people could consider if you’re in business to consumer, like if you’re a dry cleaning business, if you’re an at home services business, like alarm company, cleaning company, things like that, can work really, really well. As you got into business, how much networking did you do? Or did you know about doing when you first got in and started the effortless kitchen?
Debbie Brosnan 17:38
I was already part of a couple of women’s networking groups at the time. Yeah. And having that network is actually really important for helping me launch this business, and continue to spread the word. And I find that having been part of those groups for a while, before I started, this business really helped because of like, you know trust factor, you know, I wasn’t just walking in and pitching myself and pitching myself it was I really got to know the people and having one to one connections.
Matt Ward 18:10
Well, and I think too that those relationships aren’t just about them buying your new service, right? It’s also about the supportive aspect, they’re supporting you, you know, verbally, mentally, they’re showing up to events you might do, right, they’re supporting you behind the scenes, and giving you some rah rah effect, which we all need, as business owners, you know, sometimes we all need that positive affirmation to push us through a tough day. And it’s one thing why I believe in surrounding yourself with great like minded people. And that’s all about you guys. I wrote in my new book, it’s all about the high five effect, doing business with people that bring you joy, if they can make you smile. That’s what this is all about. It can’t. It can’t always be about the money. Look what you you’re like, if I could do anything, I would do sales. No, that was not your answer. If I could do anything, it would be I would just cook, I would show people how to cook because that’s what brings you joy. And I love that about it. Talk to me about learning, learning new business stuff, and the scaling of the business not just learning new recipes, or other things or technology around that. But talk to me about learning how to run a business.
Debbie Brosnan 19:20
So I find that going to the networking groups, there’s always a speaker. And a lot of times a speaker is really helpful for a new business in terms of how to market, who’s your ideal client? How do you figure ideal client, how to write your copy, what to post and when to post? There’s like so much education in that. And I have notebooks full of notes. And I find the biggest challenge is the implementation.
Matt Ward 19:49
Yeah. So how do you, So time is an issue.
Debbie Brosnan 19:52
Time is always an issue and the time suck of social media is an issue. Yeah, so I have to set a timer for For myself and time block and that sort of thing,
Matt Ward 20:03
What is time blocking? Tell the audience what time blocking is.
Debbie Brosnan 20:07
Time blocking is taking a I have a planner that has the day broken down in 30 minute increments, actually, and just marking down what I’m doing in each hour to half hour time block. So that I know in at 1:30, today I was getting on this podcast. And on other days, it could be I’m going to sit down, I’m going to check and respond to emails for 30 minutes at noon. And that sort of thing,
Matt Ward 20:38
What do you think, you know, as as we’re all small businesses, I define a small business, not like the government, the government says if your $250 million or less you’re a small business, I’m like, whatever. That was like when the whole P P P thing came out, and all these quote unquote, small businesses got all these loans, and they were not small businesses. So as a micro business, solopreneur business or somebody with less than five employees, what do you think, you know, your biggest challenge in business is and moving to the next level?
Debbie Brosnan 21:16
How to scale? right how to, how am I growing the business, am I existing as I am now, or what’s the next step, and part of the travel piece is adding on a new element. It’s gonna capture my current network of people, but it’s also going to bring in new people. And so that can bring in new people for the travel, but then those might transfers transition to the classes as well.
Matt Ward 21:42
Yeah, so folks, I alluded to that in the intro that the travel that Debbie is referring to is this retreat cooking experience that is going to Napa in 2022, and also to Italy. And so these are experiential travel-related events where you get experiential hands-on learning on how to cook in these amazing places. So definitely, if you if you want to experience what that travel, you know, cooking experience is all going to be about, make sure you look Debbie up, we’ll have all her contact information in the show notes for sure. Scaling is an interesting angle, because I put it, put it on my poster as well as scale slowly, right? It’s really scale slowly and thoughtfully, right? How do we do that? Because in your business, right now, you’re the face, you’re the chef, you’re the cook, you’re the person doing the training, you’re also I’m imagining the behind the scenes like I was there almost, you’re the tech person, you’re also the marketing person, you’re the person that manage the bookings, and the credit cards and the payments, and maybe you have your husband do the CPA book work, but that’s sort of way down the road. So you have to decide as a small business, what you really want, is it going to be you with a team of other chefs? Is it going to be you with just some tech people and marketing people, right? Because also too, for those people listening, this matters greatly if you ever want to sell your business, right, because if you are the face of the business, it’s much harder to sell. Much, much harder. So if you’re not the face of the business, then anybody can come in and run the business and continue to grow the business and it makes it a sellable business. And so you have to think about that if selling a business is something that is on your horizon in future years, 5, 10, 15, 20 years down the road, if actually selling your business, you need to think about when you scale, who is the integral part of the business. When I sold my agency, I was the face of the business when it came to networking and sales. But I made sure I branded the business in a way that was not me and I was not the brand of the business and that made it sellable. So these are all challenges. You got to think Have you thought through any of this stuff, Debbie?
Debbie Brosnan 24:09
No. I mean, I’m in a two years in and I am the face of the business people join my classes because they want to cook with me. People are going to travel with me in 2022 because of me not necessarily you know there’s a million culinary experiences out there. Why choose Why choose mine? It’s because they want to travel with me and experience what I’m experiencing. And those are also don’t scare off the audience, they’re not cooked necessarily cooking related. We will do one cooking class but it’s really about eating. Oh, it’s about eating and drinking. Yeah, yeah. That’s why it’s like I have my network. But I think I’m going to be bringing in people from you know, outside of my network for the travel piece because I like to experience a culture based on their food and their food culture. So when I travel I like to eat and I don’t like to eat it like at the known places, I want to go to the mom and pop back back wall like, yeah, little places that….
Matt Ward 25:13
no, that’s exactly what I do when I go to Vegas. And when I’m in Vegas, if I go for a week, I eat at one strip restaurant that’s on the Las Vegas Strip, because it’s generally overpriced, but it’s usually a celebrity chef. And every other time we go to off strip locations, because we want to, you know, eat at the local cuisine. And usually those are some of the better places that we find. That’s great stuff to think about. No. So I mean, to your point, like, people are doing business with, with, as I’ve always said, who they know, like, trust, and care about. And right now. That’s Debbie. And so if you’re going to scale, maybe you scale on the tech team, maybe you scale on the marketing side, maybe you scale on the operation side, right, and you’re doing some of those things by I mean, outsource people, like your web designer, you know, and people like that. It sounds like you’re on the right track. And you have pivoted amazingly,
Debbie Brosnan 26:06
Matt Ward 26:07
COVID. wise and post COVID. And you’re just crushing it. I love all the stuff you’re doing. I was talking to somebody the other day, and he was like, Oh, yeah, I know, Debbie.
Debbie Brosnan 26:18
That’s awesome. That’s what I want right?
Matt Ward 26:19
Yeah, right. Yeah, that’s exactly. That’s exactly. Even if they’re not your customer, even if they’ve never purchased, that they’re seeing what you’re doing. They’re paying attention. You’re doing the one to ones and networking with people. And that’s getting the word out. And like I talked about all the time, it’s about showing up. The more often you show up, the more often you do these one on ones, we’re on this podcast recording because we did a one to one together like to learn about each other’s businesses. And I think that I remember on that call, I was like, Oh, I totally have to get you on the podcast it’s gonna be awesome. Because how many people out there and we’re not teaching people how to build a business that teaches other people how to cook, right? But what I love about this and all the key takeaways on this is we have a small micro business one person business that pivoted well during COVID. Modified well, continues to add service offerings that are ideal for the client knows your ideal market knows her limitations on what she wants to do versus, you know, outsourcing. Knows to outsource or bookkeeping to her husband. I unfortunately don’t have a CPA in my life. So I have to pay for that service. But it’s all well and good. Yeah, it’s fantastic. And I think that there’s so many small micro takeaways out of this. Before we end the podcast, I always like to ask people, Debbie, guests on the podcast, what one piece of software has been invaluable to you in your business as you’ve been growing? And you’d be like, oh, that sucks. If I took it away from you, what software would that be that you could recommend other people to check out?
Debbie Brosnan 28:03
I found Constant Contact to be really helpful. But it wasn’t robust enough for me. So I moved to a kind of a startup business. It’s called Cultivating Sales. And it’s a more robust CRM tool. And I’m able to do landing pages on there and take payments on there. And so automating my systems was a game changer. Yeah, from like last summer of sending out all the emails and taking all the payments myself to now having it set up and run for me. That’s a huge time saver so that I can focus on what I really want to do. And that’s called sales cultivating sales so……
Matt Ward 28:50
yeah, yeah, we’ll put it in the in the show notes and make sure that that’s in there, when we released a podcast that’s exciting my one of my favorite go twos is bom bom video email marketing. And so if anybody’s interested in checking that out, you can do so it’s getvideoemailnow.comm. It allows you to do video emails, videos inside of emails. Yeah, pretty cool. Getvideoemailnow.comm. cool tool. Nice little touchpoint I talked about touchpoints, building relationships with people that ultimately move those towards sales, or referrals. And video email is one of those things, messenger on Facebook, LinkedIn, messenger, text, message, email, all these different ways we connect with other people. You know, if we vary it up and switch it up, keep people on their toes. They’re gonna see us in all these different places. It’s super cool, like the podcast. So if you’re seeing Debbie on the podcast, make sure you like and share it send her a message to say hey, Debbie, great podcast. I saw you on YouTube because I subscribe to the Mass Business Podcast.
Debbie Brosnan 29:56
Everybody should subscribe to the Mass Business Podcast.
Matt Ward 29:59
That’s right. All right, we’re gonna have to edit that piece out on Facebook. Yeah. Thanks for joining us. There’s so many tidbits in here that I hope some of you listening will understand and see that anybody can grow a business. It’s about intentionality, it’s about flexibility is about pivoting is about paying attention to what you’re good at and who your ideal market is. There’s so much to learn from this podcast. If you didn’t catch it all, make sure you rewind with the rewind button. Don’t forget to subscribe on all your great podcast app platforms and our YouTube channel. And Debbie, if somebody wants to reach out to you because they want to go to Italy or they want to go to Napa or they just want to watch a cooking class online. How do they find you and get in touch?
Debbie Brosnan 30:45
So my website is theeffortlesskitchen.com. And I’m also on Instagram, which is where I post a lot of food photos. So if you love that, follow me on theEffortlessKitchenByDebbie. And then if you just want to email me the old way, Debbie@theeffortlesskitchen.com works.
Matt Ward 31:06
And it’s DEBBI. folks on the audio side of the podcast.
Debbie Brosnan 31:10
Matt Ward 31:16
I-E, not the Y. So there it is. We’ll have all the information in the show notes and thanks for joining us again. Look people you can get a lot of information from these podcasts on a daily basis. We are a daily podcast Monday through Friday, every business day of the week. We hope that you’ll check us out next time. That’s it for Episode 12. Until next time, don’t forget to live happy, smile a lot and high five everyone around you.
Outro -Thank you for listening to the mass business podcast where we focus on growing a small business and understanding networking and referrals. Don’t forget to like on your favorite platform and share out this podcast. This show has been produced by Heather Grant. music by Cailte Kelley. All rights reserved. I’m your host, professional speaker, author, and word of mouth referral consultant, Matt Ward. Don’t forget to live happy smile a lot. And high five everyone around you.