March 8, 2019
Did you think you would be where you are now 5 years ago? Never.
Since the question i’ve received most over the years has been how I started my brand and how Sincerely Katerina came to be, I thought i’d share a little bit of background for International Women’s Day. Cheers to all of my babes foraging their paths and empowering others. You all inspire me so much.
Let’s start from the beginning.
As a kid/teen, I had a lot of digestive/stomach problems. I never knew why, I just knew that pretty much every time I ate, my stomach killed. For years I remember people would tell me “you’ll grow out of it”, or “it will go away”, etc, so I took that and ran with it. After almost a decade however, I realized that wasn’t going to hold true. As I was entering college and it seemed to be getting worse, I became really fed up and decided it was time to figure it out once and for all.
2012: What is wrong with me?? Time to *finally* figure it out.
In the effort of getting my shit together, I made an appointment with an integrated medicine doctor in Philly and was EAGER to learn why I always felt sick. At the time, I wanted it to be simple. I wanted her to tell me I had a bug, condition, etc, and that medicine would make me better. The exact opposite happened. After the doctor (who may I mention showed up in red leather pants – I liked her immediately) explained there was no way to know the cause of the issue without ruling things common things out, I left the office with her order to eliminate gluten and dairy from my diet for 6 months (more on that in this post). At the time, that seemed terrible. I grew up on a very Standard American Diet where cheese and bread were a STAPLE. I didn’t know what I was going to do.
Once I stopped being dramatic and having a pity party, I decided to do some research on dairy free/gluten free foods. I’d heard there were alternatives, but didn’t know anyone who was really into health food. That’s when it all started. I stumbled upon LOADS of food blogs, and became obsessed with reading every recipe and cooking every night. All I thought about was new recipes and food ideas, it was addicting. Since cooking was never something I was into as a kid, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it, and it quickly became a hobby that I couldn’t get out of my head.
After the 6 months of the elimination diet were up, I felt great. I didn’t want to admit it, but damn it made a difference. After slowly introducing both food groups back into my diet, I determined that it wasn’t gluten, but I was/am extremely lactose intolerant due to dairy. Determined to feel this good forever, I kept on cooking and creating new healthy recipes every day. Sometimes for fun, I would create a pretty food scene (cue white plates, syrup, and sprinkles) and post photos of my creations on my Instagram and socials for my friends to see.
To my surprise, a lot of people were interested. After a few weeks, I started to get comments from people asking “how are those dairy free?” “can you send me the recipe?” “hey i’m trying an elimination diet, can you help?”. At first, I thought it was just a few curious people, but over time, the responses came flooding in. As a place to put the answers to these questions without having to send every person the info individually, I started a blog, aka Katerinacooks.com.
This is where it all began.
2013-2015: What’s a blog and how do I even start one?
At the time, I knew nothing about blogging, coding, editing, etc. I had always had cameras growing up and took a lot of photos, but to this day I’ve also never taken a real photo course. Everything was new to me. Not thinking it was going to be anything but fun, I signed up for a free blog site, and started posting recipes whenever I got the chance. There were loads of healthy treats, and I really just had a great time cooking, shooting, editing, and eating my creations. I remember thinking at the time that food was my true passion. It was something I was so excited about, and so excited to share. After about a year or so of posting on katerinacooks.com, my social media started gaining some traction, as well as my blog.
I remember getting my first email from Halotop (hi guys!) when they just started, asking if I wanted to try out their “new protein ice cream”. At the time, I had no idea why they were emailing me. I remember thinking, “why me? they want promotion from ME?”. Once the product came in, I shared a little review on my blog, and started getting a lot of similar emails. While full time bloggers and influencers existed, the space was still really new, and most partnerships were just gifted product, sent out for fun. This was my passion project and I didn’t think of it as anything else – until the emails kept coming in.
That’s when I realized, hey this could be a business. What if I could do this all the time?
2016: The growth of my passion project, and the future.
Life went on as it does, and I was routinely updating my blog, working on some brand partnerships, and getting ready to graduate college.
I remember towards the end that when professors would ask what I wanted to do after I graduated, sometimes I would mention, “oh I have a blog and I do some work there for clients, Iâd love to do something with that” or “i’d love to have a business”. Almost every time, this garnered the same response. These included “oh that’s a great hobby honey! Let’s think realistically”, “have you thought about what company you want to apply to?”, “thats a great thing to do for fun, but what do you want to do for work?”.
Now, Iâm not trying to trash anybody that said this and sound offended. Itâs been proven time and time again that if you want to take a slightly different path, it throws people off. People arenât sure whether to support you, or to try to shift your focus to something that theyâve seen be successful, like getting a job at a company, under an employer. After getting this reaction a few times, I honestly just stopped telling people. Iâve never been embarrassed of my work or what I put out online, but I just didn’t want to hear anyones negative opinions. My blog was something I loved and had fun with, I didn’t want anyone to jade my view of an outlet I really enjoyed spending time on.
When I graduated, I dedicated to re-brand my blog to the site you’re on now, Sincerelykaterina.com. While food is still a huge passion of mine, I wanted the opportunity to share a little more of everything i’m passionate about like fashion, lifestyle, and travel. The more I shared other topics, the more I partnered with brands in those capacities. On the job front however, I was clueless. I had a few interviews, but didn’t really have any companies in mind I was dying to apply to. My advisor who knew I loved social media ended up referring me to a local brand, and I worked for them managing their social media for about a year.
In retrospect, this was an interesting gig as my degree was in marketing and I never took a social media class in school. In the interview, they told me they hired me based off of my socials and blog, which made me happy since it was something I poured time in to. The job was fun and it was good experience, but I quickly realized I had a hard time buying into someone else’s vision. Every day when I was done at work, i’d come home, and put in time on my blog. After a year of working that job and working on my side hustle, I decided to try it full time. At first I picked up a lot of photography work (a job I had in college), and blog work where I could. Slowly (emphasis on the SLOWLY) but surely, it picked up. The more time I put in, the faster things grew. I loved waking up in charge of my own destiny. It’s something that makes me smile every day.
2019: Working full time as a blogger – who knew that was possible?
& Here we are in 2019. At this point, i’ve been blogging my heart out for almost 6 years. I’ve been extremely blessed to work with brands i’ve loved for years (DSW, Chanel, BHLDN, Forever 21, Ford, etc.), and partner with companies I whole heartedly support to spread their message. And through it all, i’m still learning and figuring things out, day by day. As a kid, I wanted to be a teacher, and in college, I changed my major 3 times. I didn’t have a concrete path then, and I still don’t now. I think when we read articles about successful people, we think “wow they always knew they were going to do that”, or “they have it all together”. I’ve come to learn that most of the time, that’s really not the case. You figure things out as you go, and take the journey for what it is.
If there’s anything i’ve realized in the past 5 years, it’s that success takes time. Hell, i’m not even there yet and who knows if i’ll ever be. Iâve never related to anything more than the graph that shows what people think success looks like (aka a straight line up), and what success actually looks like (a line that goes forward, then backward, then to the side, then backward, etc). You get the point. Itâs one of those things that somedays you feel on top of the world, and other days you feel like a screw up who questions if they are making the right decisions. Don’t get me wrong, while I wouldn’t change anything, I’d be lying if I said there weren’t times where I’m not sure about what i’m doing, or afraid it will all fall apart at any second. I think about my future, and if i’m messing it up by taking the road less traveled.
The thing with life too – you never know where I will take you. Will I be doing this in 2 years, 5 years, 10 years? I donât know. I sure hope so because I love what I do, but I also hope my path will grow and evolve like itâs been doing over the past couple of years. While there is doubt and fear in any path, never be afraid to embrace the things you love. Whether that be cooking, yoga, coding, gaming, teaching, sports, music, helping others, etc. – there is a way to take your passion project, and make it work. Stepping out on a different path can be scary, but all it takes is the first step. You don’t have to have it all together or know exactly what you want, you just have to make the first move, and figure things out as you go. I truly believe people can do anything we put our minds to, and that you create the life you want. Life takes you where youâre meant to be, you just have to tap into what you love doing and youâll always be led on the right path.
So to all of you babes who read this lengthy novel, thank you. Thank you for supporting me on here over the years, and allowing me to share my life and passions with you every day. It’s been an absolute pleasure, and I can wait to continue for years to come.
XO, Sincerely, Katerina