Nicolas Norena is the owner and creator of The Succulent Bite, a Miami-based food blog. Additionally, Nicolas is an Intellifluence food and drink influencer who loves photography and video production, choosing to emphasize his skills to apply them to food, desserts, drinks and general consumable goods. Nicolas has a background in marketing and sales and loves working with restaurants, media agencies and companies that offer food and beverage related material. You can learn more at Succulentbite.com or you can follow Nicolas on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, to name a few.
I made the mistake of doing the interview prep before lunch… The food pictures are amazing – can you tell us a little bit about how you developed your photography skills and provide some advice for influencers looking to elevate their photography?
I actually started photography – I got my first camera when I was maybe about four years old. And I got my first digital camera when I was seven. I remember because it was a very special occasion. I got my first camera and started taking pictures. So I’ve been exposed to photography for all of these years. However, during high school I did take four years of classes. That helped a lot with composition, learning the techniques behind manual photography.
However, if there’s anyone that’s kicking it off and getting started, I think the basic, essential thing that I would definitely say is [important]… [Step] A, a good course here and there could (and will) work, one hundred percent… However, if I can give you a personal tip, definitely it’s all about the lighting and the angles. So make sure to have natural, indirect lighting – it’s super important. I cannot emphasize that enough. So you can have whatever you are photographing, if it’s a portrait of a person or if it’s of food – whatever it is… You have the soft lighting reflecting on it without having direct sunlight on it [resulting in] harsh shadows or something or anything like that.
When did you start The Succulent Bite and what were some of the first steps you took to grow your readership?
I first started it about four years ago. May thirteenth, four years ago I began The Succulent Bite. The motivation behind it was to showcase what I was eating – here’s the thing… I grew up traveling, I’ve lived in multiple cities and I’ve had the luck of in my relatively short amount of time [being] alive, I’ve manage to visit all continents across the globe so that’s been wonderful. Because of that, I’ve been exposed to different cultures and culinary backgrounds.
One day I decided I was going to put it all together and I’m going to start photographing my food and using the skills that I have already acquired and open up an Instagram page. I mean, I’ve seen other people doing it and it could be fun… Little did I know, it started kicking off. It started growing and I incorporated it as a company and then it’s become what it is today.
The Succulent Bite recently won a ZEST award from Johnson & Wales University, can you tell us a little about that?
That was a reader’s choice [award]. So basically, it was by popular vote of followers and whoever could and wanted to vote. There was a list of different influencers for food… It truly was an honor to win that because that means that by popular vote of the community, they chose me as their favorite influencer for food. That for me, was an honor because it wasn’t by critics or [anyone else] – no. It was straight from the audience and you have no idea – I appreciated that so so much. It meant everything to me.
What have been some of your favorite partnerships to-date with food brands and restaurants?
I think part of what’s most exciting about it is (precisely what you’re saying) being able to work with global brands to promote their products and their food in The Succulent Bite platform. So that’s the business portion. It’s very exciting to see that come to life. We’ve had all sorts of fun experiences – they’ve flown us to restaurant chain headquarters in other cities to film behind the scenes within their global headquarters kitchen or they’ve sent product in massive boxes for us to create content with.
That’s just a lot of fun – it’s a super cool experience because it’s not the usual, it’s not what the day-to-day would be (if you’re not in the industry doing that, precisely). Those are some of the cool things… Cool trips, crazy shipments to your home (full of different ice creams and creations, for example) and fun stuff for you to play around with and really create that vital content for the brand.
Do you ever get tired of the rich, delicious food you try? In other words, do you go home after work and drink a kale smoothie for a change?
Are you kidding me? Every single day! That’s actually something I’m very clear about. If you see my page, you will see that there is a lot of deserts, there’s a lot of not-necessarily healthy food. So a lot of my followers ask me, “hey man, so what do you do to stay skinny? This is super unhealthy…” and I’m like, “a hundred percent”… What I tell them (I’m very transparent with it): it’s all about balance and indulging to a certain point. Something I’m very open about is that I try everything and I also share everything. I share everything with my friends, with whoever is around me, if I have a shoot and a table full of food – I’m not going to stuff myself. Obviously I try everything because I have to try what I’m posting to make sure that it’s actually good. But I do share a lot of it with the people around me… My friends, my family. Also, I exercise a lot. And, to your question, yes, I love kale salads, smoothies, everything. I do eat a lot of ceviche during the week, a lot of salads during the week.
We see the polished, finish product as your audience but we know full well that there is a lot of work that goes into being an influencer of any kind. Can you describe some of the challenges you’ve encountered while growing your personal brand?
One of the challenges, especially in the beginning, is growing that audience. It’s building that community (in my case) of hungry, succulent biters that are just ready to go in it and support [the blog] all the way. It takes time – I think one of the most frustrating things in the beginning is having the patience to grow and to kick it off and be consistent. I mean, come on, in today’s day and age, we like to see results immediately.
I’ve seen many people open up pages and start doing their business and then all of a sudden they are like, “No no no, this is not giving me results…” I’m like, “Dude, you’ve been at it for a month.” I mean, it took four years for [The Succulent Bite] to grow to what it is today. Be patient – that’s definitely one of the things that was frustrating at the beginning (getting it started, learning what people wanted to see, learning the best ways to edit it so it’s the most pleasing for the audience to enjoy).
I like to cater to [the audience]. They are all there to see the things I create for them so I want to make sure that it’s the most impeccable and delicious content possible.
What are some of your goals for the next few years as it pertains to influencer marketing?
I definitely want to keep growing the audience. The bigger our community is, the more we can do together. That’s really what it’s all about for me. I definitely want to keep partnering with global brands and promoting different products and services, whatever campaigns we work on. That is, for me, one of the things I’m most passionate about – when I start a campaign with a brand and they send a creative brief and now we’ve just got to put this all together and make this beautiful marketing campaign that we’re going to portray though The Succulent Bite. That for me, is awesome. So, definitely more of that and more surprises here and there… You’ll see. It’s coming – lots and lots of cool stuff coming your way.
Note: Influencer Spotlights are edited for time and clarity.