Michelle Goth is a Kansas City-based food blogger and influencer on Intellifluence. Michelle describes herself as a working Mom trying to keep dinner fresh and exciting for her family. Also known as the Blackberry Babe, which is also the name of her blog, Michelle’s recipes have been featured in Better Homes and Gardens, Men’s Fitness, Country Living, BuzzFeed, Delish and many more. Michelle’s audience reach has grown to nearly 70,000 across her social media accounts and you can check out Michelle’s popular blog at blackberrybabe.com where you’ll find delicious recipes the family will love. You can also follow Michelle on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter, to name a few.

In the About section of your blog, you mention you created Blackberry Babe after you learned to cook, using your grandmother’s recipes. Can you tell us a little bit more about your background and how you developed your personal brand known as Blackberry Babe?

Sure. So I’ve been blogging for about six years now, part-time at first and now full-time is my career now. The brand evolved over time, I think. A lot of people start with a really clear idea, and they know what niche they want to be in, and they know exactly what they want to do.

I just truly love to cook, and I love to share my recipes. And I was already kind of that person on Instagram posting what I was doing. So it was a natural transition to start doing it on the blog and actually publishing the recipes instead of sending my friends the recipes, or trying to type them out and send them in DMs when they’d ask.

The brand evolved over time. The thing that I really like is to make recipes that essentially look harder than they are. Something that is a little bit on the impressive side, something that’s memorable, but also when you look at the ingredient list, you’re like, “Oh, that’s it? Oh, okay.”

So my recipes, a lot of times will focus more on technique than anything. What is the absolute best technique you can use to get this steak perfect?

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I think a lot of that draws from my Grandma Clara, who, she lived on a farm, they were farmers. She and my grandpa raised almost all the food that they ate. Her food was incredible, but it was also very simple. It was just the quality of the ingredients and her technique was so, so good. She didn’t need a lot of bells and whistles.

So that was really my inspiration. Over time I realized like, “Yeah, this is really where I feel comfortable and where I want my content to go.”

At what point did you branch out into influencer marketing?

I would say it was almost to my second year when I started truly working with brands, and developing those relationships, and getting paid to do work. That was not something that I really understood was a thing at the time. You know, it’s six or seven years ago. It really wasn’t that much of a thing. I’m sure some people were doing it. But brands started to reach out to me and asked to partner, and I was like, “Wow, this is actually something.”

It has become something that… It’s a full fledged industry, as you know, now. And there are people like you that are helping make the connections. It’s really a dedicated part of a lot of brands’ budgets now. But when I started, it was really still very new.

What have been some of your favorite brand collaborations to-date?

I have worked with Honeysuckle White. They’re a subsidiary of Cargill. So I’ve worked with them for almost five years now, and I absolutely love working with them. I love working with turkey. And I think it’s something that not a lot of bloggers want to take on, especially working with a whole bird for Thanksgiving. A lot can go wrong. It’s hard to photograph. It’s been a challenge, the good kind of challenge.

I’ve loved working with them as they roll out new products, too. So they’ve gotten a little more inventive in what’s in the meat case. You’ll see pre-made turkey meatballs now, and different things like that that you wouldn’t have seen when I first started working with them. So it’s been fun to see how they evolve.

And the best part about working with a brand for a long amount of time is that I know what aesthetics they like. I know so much about their company. I’ve gotten to go visit a turkey farm and talk to farmers that are raising their birds for them. I’ve visited a processing facility and seen birds being processed. I truly know a lot about their company and so I can feel pretty confident recommending their product.

On the flip side, popular influencers get a lot of pitches and sometimes the brands have not done their due diligence when sending a pitch. What’s the most off-the-wall pitch you’ve received, if you can think of one?

I’ve gotten so many. I mean, really, I think this is the sort of thing that if you go to a blog conference or something, it’s like after a few drinks the stories come out. I mean, everything from like a lot of CBD pitches, which doesn’t fit with what I do. Not that I don’t support it, but it doesn’t fit with what I do at all. Bikinis and all sorts of stuff. And I’m like, “Did you even look at my feed?” My face is hardly on my feed, so it’s really truly just about the food.

Yeah. Yeah. I’ve gotten a lot of weird things.

Can you tell us a little bit about the planning process that goes into your recipes in content creation for the blog?

So typically, I’m actually pretty scientific in what I choose to do. I have some tools that I use to do keyword planning. I do the same approach for my own content that is not sponsored, and sponsored content. I use the exact same methodology. I’m typically looking for things that are needed. There are a million pancake recipes on the internet. The world doesn’t need another pancake recipe. So we’re truly looking for things that people are looking for. They’re Googling this search term, these words, and nothing really quality is coming up, or very few results are coming up. So I use that.

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There are plenty of times I want to really make something, but I can’t find a way to make it meaningful. And I’m not going to necessarily put something out there that just goes to page 26 on Google and is never seen. It’s a waste of time.

So I use that same process with brands, and try to figure out what it is that they’re looking for. And then I’ll typically come back with some recommendations, like, “Hey, it looks like we can do this, this or this. What’s your preference there?” And then we’ll move from there.

Keyword research for recipe creation. That’s awesome. I love that. That’s very innovative.

You know, it takes me… Recipe posts are pretty time intensive. From shopping to actually doing the cooking, photography, writing, editing, social, it’s like a six to nine hour chunk of time for one post. Not considering that it gets pushed out over and over again on Pinterest and other platforms over time.

So I don’t want to do anything that will just kind of fly on by and fizzle and not be seen. And so my goal is for it to be something that actually serves that need of that person. I’m looking exactly for this, and here it is.

Once I figured that out, the blog really took off. And so that’s been important for me. I can do the things I love, and things I want to make, but I need to find a way to have Google like it too.

Do you handle all aspects of Blackberry Babe? Or do you have any team members that help?

I handle everything now that I’m full-time. When I was part-time, I did outsource a good deal of kind of the more administrative work, social media and things like that. But now that I’m full-time and I’m pretty newly full-time, it’s not even been a full year, and with COVID and everything, I kind of took everything back in. And I run really lean. So hopefully in the future that won’t be the case, but that’s just I think the best thing to do right now.

What would you say if there’s one recipe that people need to go check out right now on the blog?

So right now… And this is actually relevant for summer, so I feel good recommending it. The most popular recipe right now, it’s absolutely going nuts on Pinterest so they’ve seen a lot of traffic to it, is my steak kabobs.

And so I think it’s a really good way to take maybe an inexpensive cut of meat, has a great marinade, great seasoning, and it just gets rave reviews. So people absolutely love it. And that’s by far the number one this summer. So I would recommend that.

For prospective, full-time food bloggers and influencers looking to just get started (since you’ve gone off on your own this year, it’s fresh), what advice can you offer?

Brace yourself for the peaks and valleys. It’s very seasonal, traffic is seasonal. I think if you’re blogging already you know that there are seasons to your traffic, but also revenue is tied to that. You almost have to do some proactive planning of, “Okay, what do I think revenue can be in this season? And then what does my cash look like?” Because a lot of us are on a net 45, net 90 receivables. So you might do a ton of work in December and not get paid till March or April.

That wasn’t a surprise to me necessarily. I knew that that would be the case. But managing it, and putting the systems in place to manage it, I was not ready for that. And so I would say, put some really hard thought into, “Okay, what’s the best time for me to go full-time and maximize my earnings?” Because there’s certain times of the year where you got your slump and it’s not really a great time to go full-time.

For me, I left my job last summer and that allowed me to really ramp up for Q4, which is the big earning season for me. I think almost a little over half of my revenue comes in in Q4. So that let me hit that ground running and get really good start. And then also sock away some cash for the slow times, which is the dead of winter and then early spring.

Note: Influencer Spotlight interviews are edited for time and clarity.