By Gloria Feldt/December 17, 2014
I was fortunate to meet entrepreneur Cheryl Najafi on of all places a boat in the Galapagos last summer. She is a creative dynamo who is passionate about her lifestyle media company CherylStyle and making dependable recipes and crafts for the entire family.
“If there is one thing I can say to encourage anyone who has an entrepreneurial drive, or wants to start something new, it’s tenacity. Just put your head down and muscle through it.” Cheryl Najafi
Cheryl is also the best-selling author of You’re So Invited: Panic Less, Play More and Get Your Party On! Her newest project is a cookbook she’s created with her motherâˆ’Mother Daughter Dishes–Reinventing Loved Classics.
We can all use Cheryl’s recipes this time of year as well as her expertise on what it takes to start a business. Here’s an excerpt of my interview with her on The Women’s Eye Radio Show…enjoy!
GLORIA: What’s one of your top treats for the holiday season?
CHERYL: One of my favorite combinations is peanut butter and chocolate. I call them peanut butter bites. It is a super simple dessert that doesn’t take a lot of time. I’m all about getting in and out of the kitchen.
In fact, I have a video series that says Just Get In the Kitchen. The food is healthier, less expensive and you’ll get a lot more bang for your time.
GLORIA: Your recipes are great. I totally vouch for them. So, what is the story behind CherylStyle.com?
CHERYL: I wanted to write a book on entertaining and the publisher said, “Well, who are you? You are a nobody.” I was a mom with three kids. They said I should go out and build a following and come back to them when I was ready to publish this book.
I thought that meant “no.” So I went back to being a mother, but my husband urged me to do it. He said, “I think this is your time.” When I do something, I do it 150%. I knew I needed to build a following so I started CherylStyle.com. We are super close to getting one million unique visits a month and we have 3-5 million page views. So, in three years we have come a long way.
“The site is about the needs of everyday families. You are not going to find out how to roast a rack of lamb on CherylStyle.com.”
GLORIA: How do people find you? And, how do you attract the people who are coming to CherylStyle.com?
CHERYL: I did a lot of branding in the beginning, trying to define my voice. I did a lot of listening to my fan base. I took a poll. If they liked it, I kept doing it. If they didn’t, then I stopped. So the brand has really evolved around my market, which is women who really need dependable everyday recipes.
GLORIA: Fantastic! You mentioned defining your voice. That’s where I want to begin, with your particular voice. Would you just talk about that? Many people don’t think they have talent.
CHERYL: Never say “never.” If someone had said to me five years ago that my life would center around cooking, I would have said, “Have you met me?” When you say “voice,” I think it’s more about what you are passionate about.
Mother Daughter Dishes Video
When you tap into a passion, then the “you” comes out. I don’t take myself too seriously. I think the word “should” is overrated. Things are the way they are. Never say never because it is going to evolve into something that you never realized would happen. My voice really spawned out of vulnerability.
GLORIA: What do you mean by vulnerability?
CHERYL: When I started to embrace just who I was and what I was passionate about and stripped away the shields and accepted that vulnerability, that’s when I really connected. I am specifically talking about the concept that I’m not a chef. I asked myself how can I be in the food space if I am not classically trained?
Pottery Barn Book Tour
What I really found out is that I am not a chef and I embraced that vulnerability. I am a really smart and creative mom who knows how to work out all the kinks and wears the mom hat so that you don’t dirty up too many dishes. You don’t buy ingredients you won’t use again.
And, you can get great meals on the table. That is the voice that I found in CherylStyle.com. I realized I wasn’t a chef and that was actually a good thing.
CHERYL: I grew up in a town of 7,000 people in Webb City, Missouri, right smack dab in the middle of the country. Gosh, I come from such a small little place and this is such a great big world. How can I be an expert in anything? Then I realized that I do know a lot.
GLORIA: And here you are with a million unique visits to your website. I imagine there are a lot of women out there who are aspiring entrepreneurs who have had self-limiting kinds of thoughts. What would be your best advice to them?
CHERYL: Embrace who you are and don’t make excuses as you write in your book, No Excuses. I think we as women do shroud ourselves in that insecurity blanket and make excuses for not succeeding. That’s why I had such a connection with you because of the title of your book.
GLORIA: What is your long-term vision for CherylStyle.com?
CHERYL: I only see the audience growing because there isn’t an actual celebrity that owns the everyday space. I think there is a reason for that. Most people feel like they need to be professionals to write anything. Everyday doesn’t sound very professional.
I feel that more and more people are attracted to this everyday sensibility of getting food on the table and doing everyday things because we are everyday; you are everyday; I am everyday. We may be doing great things but we are still doing everyday things all the time.
The audience doesn’t have to be moms. I see the brand extending. I have 12 people working for us, a dynamite group that wears the same hat I do with a sensible approach to everyday living. I see us expanding the brand into products.
Then, I hope to take our online video series, Just Get in the Kitchen, to television and radio. In five years I would like to see this grow exponentially. I want to co-opt the word “style,” and I want you to say at the end of the day, “I’m doing this GloriaStyle tonight. We’re going to make this the way I make it.”
GLORIA: That’s fantastic! Now I heard a rumor that you want to be the next Martha Stewart.
CHERYL: Actually, it couldn’t be more opposite. Nothing against Martha. I think she’s a brilliant entrepreneur that has taken this genre to the pinnacle. I think she has been amazing in building a brand in this business. But hers is built on perfection.
Mine is anything but. Mine is, “Don’t take yourself too seriously. You don’t have to sew your own linens, cook for three days, or refinish your front porch before you feel like you’re ready.” So, I would like to be the anti-Martha Stewart. It’s all about getting it done and done well.
GLORIA: Would you talk about the book you have just published with your mother? And what was the idea behind it?
CHERYL: Mother Daughter Dishes came out of my wanting to recreate my mother’s recipes that I grew up eating. But she’d never tell me how to do the same recipe twice, the same way.
I realized that most mothers hand down recipes from their heads. And most daughters can’t really replicate them. So, I wrote the book to inspire other mothers and daughters to actually wrangle the recipes and get them down on paper and then have it be a legacy book that they can pass down from generation to generation.
But, what I didn’t realize would come out of this was the stories around the recipes that I hadn’t heard in years. I want to inspire women to not only capture the recipes but recapture those stories.
Cheryl’s Video on Making Peanut Butter Cookie Bites
GLORIA: Did you and your mother always have this special type of relationship or did you develop it further as you wrote this book together?
CHERYL: If you watch any of the videos of me with my mom it is quite hilarious. We are on polar opposites of the spectrum on how to do things. She’s still trying to boss me around and I have evolved from the way I grew up eating.
I want to do it a little differently and so we spar in the kitchen all the time. We have always had that kind of fun, playful energy.
GLORIA: What has been the biggest challenge you have had producing all of the content? You call it ‘ideating.’ Does your brain ever stop?
CHERYL: No, never. I have a really great team supporting these efforts. We get to cook, craft and be creative. How many jobs are there where you can go to work and work with a glue gun or your favorite spices?!
When we ideate, we actually use Pinterest and create boards. I say creativity is contagious. If you use visual imagery on Pinterest or my site or Instagram, it gives you ideas or a springboard for where to go. The most uncreative person is creative…I guarantee it.
GLORIA: Was there ever a moment when you felt that you just couldn’t do this, that being an entrepreneur was just too overwhelming?
CHERYL: I can remember saying, “Why did I do this to myself?” You know all those feelings you have when you are in it so deep you think, “How on earth am I ever going to survive?”
If there is one thing I can say to encourage anyone who has an entrepreneurial drive, or wants to start something new, it’s tenacity. Just put your head down and muscle through it. The payoffs are amazing once you get over those hurdles.
GLORIA: I must ask you what your favorite mother daughter dish is?
CHERYL: That would be macaroni and cheese. Always was and always will be. There are four mac and cheese recipes on my site. My second favorite is roasted beef brisket and you can find three great recipes there.
GLORIA: I just want to thank you so much, Cheryl, for sharing your story and creative ideas. If you want dependable, easy “just get in the kitchen” recipes and all kinds of amazing crafty ideas, visit CherylStyle.com!