When Ryan Waliany and his wife Serena Wu were working on the launch of their new recipe app, Kitchenbowl, they knew taking a visual approach would be the key to their success.
Kitchenbowl, which allows users to upload and discover recipes, features beautiful photos that show how to cook each dish step by step.
“With any high-quality community, especially with food, the biggest thing is photography,” Waliany said.
“There are a lot of great cooks out there, but if it doesn’t look great, it doesn’t have that same emotional appeal.”
Prior to the app’s launch in November, Waliany turned to Google to find photographers with an eye for food.
His search brought him to Business Insider’s article about food-focused Instagrammers, many of whom have tens of thousands of followers and take pictures of food for a living. He decided to reach out to a few photographers on the list, including Southern California-based lifestyle photographer Michelle Yam.
She jumped at the opportunity to work for a young startup.
“I talked to Michelle and she pitched me a bunch of ideas,” Waliany said. “I said, ‘Wow, you’re absolutely right’ and brought her on the next day.”
Yam says she got about 50 emails after Business Insider’s article, but the opportunity to help a new company launch was especially attractive to her.
Her social media prowess gives her a unique perspective on building an audience.
“For me, being active on social media, I understand what it takes to get people interested in your brand,” Yam said. “If you’re trying to promote your brand on such a visual platform, you need to understand what makes a picture look good.”
Yam has about 45,000 followers on Instagram, where she shares photos of meals she’s enjoyed at top restaurants in addition to amazing food art she creates herself.
Yam will continue to work on her own brand and with other companies while she consults remotely with Kitchenbowl, who has three employees in its Seattle office. Yam runs Kitchenbowl’s Instagram page, helped determine their brand strategy, and got food bloggers started on the platform.
“I’m working with them to launch their own brand, then I’ll bow out, help them transition from startup to doing it on their own,” she said.
She’s already made a difference in the new company’s effort to attract a following, growing their Instagram follower count to more than 4,100 in just three months.
Kitchenbowl was even featured on the App Store’s home page shortly after launch.
“We’re getting emails from high school kids who want to open a food truck, from a guy from Nepal who was so excited to join the community … we’re able to share recipes with the world and get those creators from around the world,” Waliany said, adding that they have also posted recipes from amateur chefs in Canada, Malaysia, and all over the U.S. “Michelle was able to get all of these people interested. We wouldn’t have had that reach otherwise.”
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