This week’s Flourishing Entrepreneur is the fantastically talented recipe creator and food photographer Samantha Couzens from blog Spoonful of Happy.
Samantha is a coaching client of mine, and we’re working together as she sets up her business, using her skills as a food photographer to help brands and restaurants engage their audience through mouthwatering, happy images.
I thought it would be really inspiring to share Samantha’s story so far as she starts out on her entrepreneurial journey and moves from working for someone else to working for herself.
To add to this written interview, I’ll be chatting to Samantha live on my Instagram account soon. Make sure you’re following to join the conversation.
Who are you, what is your business and what job title do you have?
I’m Samantha and I’m a food photographer and food stylist based in London. My business, Spoonful of Happy, is centred around the concept of ‘happy food’: food that tastes great, makes you feel great and does great things for your body.
With this in mind, I work with both brands and restaurants to capture beautiful images that make the viewer feel happy and hungry, as well as share recipes, tips and inspiration on my blog for happy, healthy eating.
What were you told about work growing up?
I don’t really remember being ‘told’ anything. When I was little, I wanted to be one of the Grand Old Duke of York’s 10,000 men, which became a hairdresser when I got to primary school and then a mental health counsellor when I got to secondary school.
It was only through experimenting with food at uni and later taking photos of the recipes I was creating on my blog that lead me to food photography. Even a couple of years ago the job I have now would have seemed completely out of reach.
Growing up, I never felt a pressure to do or be anything in particular. I was always taught to enjoy learning for what it was and to do the things that inspired me and made me happy.
When I was around 10 years old, my dad made a big career leap, from financial advisor, wearing suits everyday and carrying a briefcase, to plumber. He went back to school, retrained entirely, spent a few months shadowing others and then set up his own business. Looking back on it I think this has been my inspiration for chasing what I love and reinforcing the belief that if you do what you love the money will come.
Meanwhile, my mum always inspired me to appreciate the power of education – she left school at 16 with no qualifications, so wanted myself and my brother to make the most of our schooling – but always championed the message of enjoying what you do first and foremost. She did a stint at Disney World when she was my age, so having fun at work has always been encouraged in my family.
How has your mindset changed around work since then?
I guess my mindset hasn’t really changed – happiness has always been important to me when it comes to life and career, so following my passion and allowing it to govern my choices has always been the foundation.
Prior to setting up my own business (which I currently do for 2 days a week) I worked in theatre advertising in the West End and then moved to a small agency within health and wellness called the Health Bloggers Community, where I’ve been for a year. This has been fundamental in the growth of my blog and business thanks to the people I’ve met and the contacts I’ve developed within the world of health and food.
Marketing both theatre shows and a health and wellness platform has taught me how to market myself and understand the importance of clarifying who I am, what I do and how I can help people. Otherwise, I think the skills that have been most important in establishing a foundation for my own business have been flexibility, adaptability, and patience, all of which I practise on a daily basis!
How do you prioritise your health as a busy entrepreneur?
I stop. Pretty often actually!
I can feel overwhelmed and anxious quite easily, so for me, prioritising my health means stopping when I need to. Which normally means closing my laptop a few hours early, rejigging the deadlines that I’ve set myself and taking a break from social media so I can chill on the sofa with a cuppa and a peanut butter cup. I have to watch my podcast and literature intake too, as these are so often tailored to building a business or making money that I end up doing more work when I’m trying to switch off.
My latest read was Everything I Know About Love by Dolly Alderton and I loved it!
How does food feature in your life and what does it mean to you?
I’m totally food obsessed. I think about it 24/7 and I love the freedom and creativity it brings. As a food blogger and food photographer, it features pretty heavily in my life and I genuinely work with it most days.
The one thing I’m keen to promote when it comes to food is happiness. I think happy eating is often more important than healthy eating and believe that by cultivating a positive relationship with food, centred around enjoyment and balance, as opposed to guilt and restriction, we can develop a healthier lifestyle.
It’s easier to make healthy choices if those choices come from a place of love, acceptance and a genuine joy for food. It’s this message that I want to promote both with those reading my recipes and blog, and the clients and customers that enjoy the food photos I create.
What is your favourite meal, something you would recommend others learn to cook or prepare?
It’s not necessarily a meal in itself, but I would recommend everyone learns how to prepare bone broth (or veggie broth if vegan/vegetarian). Bone broth in particular is a real ‘healing’ food and is fantastic for restoring the gut, as well as a great way to reduce food waste.
Simply pop the bones in a large lidded saucepan, with a carrot, a couple of celery sticks, and an onion, all roughly chopped into large chunks. Add a bay leaf, 5 or 6 whole peppercorns and water to just cover the bones. Bring to the boil, cover and reduce to a simmer for as long as you can, adding a little more water here and there if needed – I usually simmer mine for at least 3 to 4 hours, and often transfer it to my slow cooker overnight too. Strain when done and pop in the fridge or freezer. Use as stock in any recipe, or add noodles, chopped veggies, miso, ginger and garlic for a simple ramen.
The voice in your head - we’ve all got one! What negative thing does it say to you most often and how do you deal with it?
‘People will think [something negative and judgemental]’
When the voice in my head is not talking about food, it’s telling me that people will judge me. In all kinds of scenarios, I find myself worrying about what others will think and I allow it to manipulate (or at least delay) my decisions.
One of the best ways to deal with it, I find, is actually something I learnt in coaching with Vicky, and that is to name the ‘people’ themselves. More often than not, I can’t name a specific person and when I can, I reason with myself that a) I can’t control what they’re thinking and b) their thoughts and feelings are likely based on something other than me.
For example, if I was worried about a specific person thinking I’m naïve or irresponsible for chasing a dream, that’s based on what work means to them and their experiences or fears associated with their career, not mine.
Success – what does it mean to you?
Success to me is happiness, knowing my purpose, and having freedom of choice.
Self-care. What does it mean to you and what self-care practises do you have to look after yourself as a busy entrepreneur?
Self-care to me means putting myself first. Not always, obviously, but carving out time to do the things I love and the things that make me feel calm and content. Usually that’s spending time on my own, which is something I need regularly to stay happy and healthy.
What one book, video or podcast would you recommend to entrepreneurs?
Ooh this is a good question, I’m always looking for podcast and book recommendations to help me build my business. My podcast crush at the moment is Make It Happen with Jen Carrington, but Food Blogger Pro is pretty high on the list too.
What one tip, quote or resource would you share with other entrepreneurs to help them on their journey?
Sometimes happiness is more important than healthiness.
When it comes to health (and success or wellbeing in general) choosing the option that makes you happy is often the healthiest decision you can make for your mind, body and business.
Follow Samantha on Instagram @spoonfulofhappy_
Follow Samantha on Facebook @spoonfulofhappyblog