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Ellie Bullen, from Elsas Wholesome Life, is a recent graduate dietitian from the Gold Coast, Australia. Ellie is a food, travel and lifestyle blogger; who has turned her passion into a job. Over Instagram, she showcases her amazing plant based recipes and inspires her followers to live a wholesome, adventurous and healthy lifestyle. Kate Agnew interviewed Ellie to find out her story and to discuss how we can build business opportunities from our passion projects.

Kate: Thanks so much for joining us today Ellie, it’s really cool to interview you. I wonder if we could start off by you telling us a little bit about your food philosophy.

Ellie: Basically my food philosophy, or I guess my motto is, eat more plants. I’m all about getting more plant foods into your diet, so that’s fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds, etc. It’s about eating whole foods and real food. It’s all about colourful, healthy, plant based food, and trying to make it look appetising.

Kate: You make it look really appetising. So when and how did you get into the blogosphere and social media?

Ellie: I started using social media about two and a half years ago; I just started an Instagram account because I wanted to take photos of food that I was making and share that online, and then I sort of transformed it into a blog, because people started to really want recipes, so I wanted a way to be able to share recipes. As well as talk about the recipes, and start talking about the nutritional components within the recipes, and yeah, sort of making it a bit more of a story.

Kate: Where do you find your inspiration for your breathtaking Instagram pics?

Ellie: I find my inspiration everywhere. I guess I’m an artistic person and creative, so sometimes it’s just literally sitting there with a pen and paper and writing down ideas, or I might be going for a run and just come up with an idea and go, ‘oh, when I get home I’m going to create that.’ Or I might be looking at Pinterest or having a browse through others’ pages, and go, ‘oh that looks so cool, I want to do that.’ It might be some time of the year, like Christmas time, and there’s cherries around so I’m inspired and want to create something with cherries.

Kate: And travelling… is that for inspiration?

Ellie: Yes when I’m traveling, I’m trying different foods, foods in different countries; I’m inspired by the way they cook or the ingredients that they use, and even looking at some of their lifestyle traits and trying to incorporate that back into what I do.

Kate: Can you tell me a little bit more about the business opportunities you’ve been presented with, and how they started?

Ellie: Before that it was just purely using it personally, and just growing my account of creating food and sharing it, and then about a year ago, I brought out my first E-Book, so I sort of developed a collection of about 64 recipes together and taught myself how to use a good camera, and taught myself how to use a proper design program, and created an electronic recipe book. It was the first product that I brought out as a profitable item, and then from there, I was flooded with emails of companies that wanted to work with me, so wanted me to promote their brand or their product, or create recipes for them for their blog. Basically from there I started to work with all sorts of different companies, doing different things. I’ve sort of developed it into a full time gig!

Kate: And that was when you were still at university?

Ellie: Yeah, when I was studying full-time through all of those tough chemistry subjects and placement.

Kate: And so the E-Book: was that self published?

Ellie: Yeah, so I just basically created a file and uploaded it onto my website and sold it that way.

Kate: And how’s it going?

Ellie: It’s going really well, it blows me away that people are still buying it a year on, and I look back on it and I’m like, ‘whoa, like I forgot I did all that,’ and even just to look at how my photography and styling has changed since then is really cool.

Kate: That’s amazing. So is it kind of a continuous journey as well?

Ellie: Yeah, I’m always learning and teaching myself, and sort of improving things.

Kate: So on that note, can you share your exciting news with us, and how it came to be?

Ellie: I’m going to be bringing out a published cookbook in September, and that came about ten months ago. It was just before the university semester started, and I was away, doing a job for tourism. I was with my sister, and I got this email from a book publisher who’d looked at my blog, and basically said ‘we want to publish you, we want to write a book with you.’ And I remember when I first created my blog, I think I wrote in my about me section that my dream was to one day be a published author and publish my own cookbook for everybody else’s kitchen, so it just blew me away that they had actually approached me, and they hadn’t even seen my E-Book at the time. So when I sent her the E-Book, she went “oh wow, there’s so much we can work with here!”

Kate: That’s awesome, so dreams do come true. So it’ll be an actual printed, hard copy?

Ellie: Yep, printed hard copy book, and I think it’ll have about 80-100 recipes, all plant based. I think people really like having something to hold and touch and look at, as opposed to electronic — as good and handy as electronic is, because you can have it on your mobile device anywhere, but having that hard copy is just… it just feels so much more real and I can’t wait to see it.

Kate: Do you think it’s important to have a blog linked with an Instagram, or can you do nutrition communications just as well on just Instagram?

Ellie: You can do it just as well on just Instagram but blogging may also be a good idea. For Instagram: you can put recipes in captions or you can write about nutrition, but the thing with Instagram is that it’s a predominately image based application, so people who are on Instagram are using it to look at images, and they’re not necessarily going to read much. But if you want to really talk about nutrition related stuff and you want to write about areas that you’re specialising in, then creating a blog is a good idea because that’s how you can get people to read and drive traffic to your blog.

Kate: So in terms of blogging and Instagram, has this had an impact on your lifestyle and your career?

Ellie: Completely. I’ve lined up enough work that I don’t need to look for jobs since graduating. The job market right now for new graduates is pretty tough and it’s pretty hard to find work, but I think you can create your own work. So it’s definitely helped me to create my own work now; I’m just excited to see what I can do now that I have all this extra time to really think about it and develop and grow my brand more.

Kate: It’s amazing what the possibilities are these days.

Ellie: Yeah, I’m actually moving over to Bali in a month or so, and it’s amazing because with technology and what I’ve developed now, I can sort of do that work from anywhere in the world.

Kate: On a beach, and working on your blog…?

Ellie: Yeah.

Kate: That’s amazing. Do you have any other big plans for 2017, or down the track for your career?

Ellie: 2017 is going to be pretty big with the book coming out, so there’ll be a bit of media work when that comes out. I’m also planning to do lots of travel next year, so we’re going to use Bali as like a hub to come back to and chill out, and I might do some blog writing, create some new recipes, but in between, we’re planning to do lots of little trips to places all around the world and I really want to experience different cuisines from everywhere, and learn a little bit about foods from all around the world to inspire my future work.

Kate: Isn’t that the life! I’m sure it’ll be hard work to a certain extent. Ah, that’s so cool!

Ellie: It’ll be hard, but it’ll be very enjoyable, and as for long term, I honestly haven’t stopped to think about it. I guess I want to be able to develop my brand into something that can be bigger and sort of sufficient for a long term career, and I want to think of a way that I can expand it so I can reach more people and really specialise in an area. Whether that’s doing nutrition consulting or whether it’s developing food products.

Kate: Okay, so maybe you’ll get more of a sense of exactly where you want to go as you go on in 2017. Do you have any advice for other Dietitians, in terms of creating business opportunities from Instagram or from working online?

Ellie: I’d definitely say: just start. it might take a while so be persistent with it, and try to find something that not everybody else is doing. Find an area that you like or you’re passionate about, and stick to it. That’s my biggest tip.

Kate: That’s awesome. So find your uniqueness and be persistent with it.

Ellie: Yeah, run with it and just don’t stop.

Kate: Thank you so much Elle, it’s been really great to chat to you. You’ve given us a taste of what it’s like to make your own opportunities from passion projects and the possibilities that are out there.

Ellie: No worries, thanks for having me.