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How She Got There: Danielle Hausberg, Creator of CollegeCookin

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Name: Danielle Hausberg
Age: 21
Job Title and Description: Creator of CollegeCookin
College/Major: University of Western Ontario (Canada)/Sociology
Website: www.college-cookin.com
Instagram Handle:@collegecookin

 
What does your current job entail? Is there such a thing as a typical day?

Danielle Hausberg: This question is funny to me because the answer is simple: I cook for myself and photograph the meals I create.  For the most part, a typical day for me includes cooking breakfast, lunch and dinner, taking pictures of those meals, and posting them to Instagram. While doing this, I am also answering emails and working with clients if I have a product campaign taking place during that time.

I am also in charge of maintaining and keeping up my website, using my other social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest) and also doing the occasional blog post on my website. When I was writing and making recipes for my eBook, that took up the majority of my time. I am full-time student, so this is all taking place around my class schedule.

What is the best part of your job?

DH: The best part about my job is that it allows me to be creative. I am always thinking of new recipes to make or a new project to explore. Creating my eBook was an amazing project that allowed me to learn so much about writing, graphic design and business. Thinking of new ideas and new directions for CollegeCookin to go in only expands the Instagram and attracts new people to the site.

What was your first entry-level job in your field and how did you get it?

DH: Because I started the Instagram on my own, my job title has stayed the same from the beginning to the present. I started the account after being convinced by my friend to start uploading pictures of my meals to an Instagram account.

The idea of CollegeCookin unfolded, with the hope of inspiring students to cook and eat healthy on their college budgets. I had no idea that it would ever take off and gain any following. I remember when I had 100 followers I was in shock, now I have over 350,000!

What is one thing you wish you knew about your industry when you first started out that you know now?

DH: I never realized how loyal I would become to my followers. When I first started my page, I was sort of posting for myself. If there were something I liked, it would automatically be up on my site. Now, while I still only post things that I approve of, I am really posting for my followers. I might like a dish a lot, but if I know my followers wouldn’t like it, it won’t go up on my page. I am always taking them into consideration, because the Instagram is for them.

So, what I wish I knew was how much my Instagram account was going to evolve. While it started as a hobby of mine to post food pictures, it has transformed into a business and now I sort of feel like my followers are my clients and I am working for them in a positive and fun way.

Who is one person who changed your professional life for the better?

DH: My parents—I can’t pick just one. My parents are not only fans, but have really guided me in the business direction. I was naïve and never really realized that I could someday make money and start a business from what was just a silly hobby when it first began. They called me when I was away at school, constantly giving me advice and telling me new ideas and things to consider. I always ask them their opinion on new business ventures I take because they are the ones that really told me I could do them in the first place.  

What words of wisdom do you find most valuable?

DH: My dad once told me that my Instagram account was “the Wild West” and I didn’t really know what that meant. What he explained to me was that there wasn’t necessarily a wrong or right direction this Instagram page could go, so there isn’t a laid out path directing me from step to step.

I found this extremely valuable because it taught me that every decision I make and direction I decide to take is going to lead somewhere new and I will only learn from each experience I have, whether it is a positive or negative one. This advice has allowed me to continue to be creative and explore new ideas because it made me realize that I shouldn’t and don’t have any barriers from stopping me from doing what I want to do.

What is one mistake you made along the way and what did you learn from it?

DH: When my Instagram hit over 200,000 followers, I started to get a lot of emails from different brands asking me to promote their product. This concept was so new to me so I would really say yes to pretty much all of their requests.

Because I was so excited to finally start making money, at times I lost site of what my account was about. I realized that instead of wanting to make money, I had to be true and honest with my followers and only promote products that I thought would actually benefit them and would remain in line with my message of cooking healthy foods on a budget.

What has been the most surreal moment of your career thus far?

DH: Finishing my book. It was amazing to watch something I worked so hard on come to life. When I completed it and saw it finished with all of the graphics, I was so happy with the way that it turned out that I didn’t even care if it was purchased or not. I was just happy that I finished something I wanted to finish, which was an accomplishment in itself. I couldn’t believe that somehow I became an author of a book!

What do you look for when considering hiring someone?

DH: When hiring someone I look for someone that is creative and is not afraid to share his or her ideas. CollegeCookin is a project that will change along the way, so I try to find people that will come up with new ideas and aren’t afraid to voice them. More importantly though, I always will hire someone whom I find is reliable, responsible and holds himself or herself accountable. 

What advice would you give to a 20-something with similar aspirations?

DH: If you have an idea, go for it! I never would have thought that what appeared to be a silly idea and fun hobby would turn into a successful Instagram, let alone a business. Instead of thinking about all the reasons not to do something, think about all the incentives to do something. You really never know what could come out of an idea until you implement it. 

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