What comes to mind when you think of an entrepreneur? Maybe someone with a cool new product idea they’re looking to pitch on Shark Tank, or a mid-career professional leaving the corporate world to start a consulting business?
Jane Ko is a different kind of entrepreneur, and she shared a glimpse into her life and work as the featured speaker at the Young Women’s Alliance November 2019 Speaker Series.
Who is Jane Ko?
Jane, who is more widely known as Koko, started her blog, A Taste of Koko, back in 2010 while still a Nutrition student at the University of Texas at Austin.
Today, Jane is a prominent Austin food and travel blogger. A Taste of Koko is the official restaurant expert for Visit Austin, TX and has been named the best local blogger in Austin by the Austin Chronicle — two times running.
But her brand has grown well beyond the Austin city limits — and even beyond food, to include recipes as well as lifestyle and travel content. And, while staying true to her Austin roots, she’s taken to the national stage as well, developing relationships with top brands like Downy, Home Depot, Ikea, Target, PayPal, and too many more to name!
How Jane Ko Grew Her Brand
Jane started A Taste of Koko in 2010 — in many ways, a pre-influencer world. Let’s put that into context: her blog shares its launch year with that of Pinterest and Instagram — and Twitter was just celebrating its fourth birthday.
According to Google Trends search data, the term “influencer” didn’t see a jump in interest until 2015. But it’s been rising steadily ever since — and A Taste of Koko has been there through it all.
Today, A Taste of Koko can generate almost 200,000 impressions in four days on Instagram alone, offering brands a high level of visibility within a clearly defined target market — something influencers are better equipped to do than traditional marketing methods. That’s why brands are now expected to spend up to $15 million a year on influencer marketing by 2022, Jane told speaker series attendees.
Jane has truly built her brand from the ground up, finding ways to push forward and grow her business even in the face of a rapidly changing digital world. Here are a few takeaways about how she did it:
- Never stop learning. When A Taste of Koko launched in 2010, Jane was majoring in Nutrition at UT. She wasn’t a marketing or branding expert and had never taken any photography classes. But she took the initiative to learn new skills as she identified the need. She even does her own bookkeeping and accounting.
- Be authentic. Once Jane started showing more of her authentic self in her content (quite literally — when she started showing her face in photographs), adding another dimension to her online storytelling, she was able to build affinity and grow her community much faster.
- Stay true to yourself. Jane has built the Taste of Koko brand from the ground up, with her own two hands. She knows how important it is to protect that brand and stays true to her values by vetting each potential partnership that’s pitched her way.
- Grow and evolve with the times. Jane is acutely aware that the job of an “influencer” can’t last forever — and she’s always thinking about her next steps. That’s why, in 2019, she decided to write a book: “Koko’s Guide to Austin.” When publishers turned her down, she just self-published. This offered the added benefit of getting the book published and to market faster. You can find them in several local bookstores or on Amazon.
- Find quiet time for creativity. While Jane admits that the career she’s built doesn’t leave a lot of separation between personal and professional, she is working to scale her team — and besides, she enjoys the work. But she knows she has to take advantage of any quiet moments to nurture the creativity that will drive her next moves.
Learning from and connecting with a variety of professional women in Austin is a priority for YWA, and the group’s monthly speaker series is a great way to take advantage of that opportunity.
If you’re interested in being a part of the organization’s opportunities for learning, networking, and serving the community, attend an event or consider joining. Sign up to be reminded of the next open enrollment period, coming January 2020!