The End of Phase One

We recently hit two important milestones with Hilah Cooking.

#1. We released Learn to Cook – our first digital book.

#2. We released our 100th episode. We’ve produced a new episode pretty much every Tuesday (except during our summer vacation).

With these two milestones, we’ve completed Phase one of our initial plan.

The Halloween episode in post-production.

Yes, there has actually been a plan all along.

When we decided to start this project, I felt like we needed at least 100 episodes to decide whether or not the project had serious potential. I knew it would start out as something that was just fun to do on weekends – but would eventually start to feel like a lot of hard work. So I was committed to produce and release 100 episodes no matter what – and after that we would step back, evaluate whether it was working or not and either stop doing it or figure out how to proceed.

The Basics

While most of the feedback we’ve received about Hilah Cooking has been staggeringly positive, the few complaints we’ve received have been along the lines of:

“Why are you doing a video about cooking scrambled eggs? It’s so easy! Nobody needs to watch a video about this stuff.”

or

“Don’t you know how to cook anything more advanced? A 12 year old could make all this stuff!”

Well, that was the point.

Growing up, I never learned to cook and I wasn’t exposed to much cooking at home. I definitely wasn’t exposed to the type of cooking that we feature on the show. And I know I’m not alone in this. Through trial and error I eventually figured out how to cook for myself (on a very rudimentary level), but I felt like there were some fundamental building blocks that I was missing.

The truth is: Some people were never taught how to make scrambled eggs.

Those are the people that we set out to reach.

Phase One was always intended to be about learning to cook basic food using the best ingredients possible. We’ve now covered everything from seasoning a cast iron skillet to how to cook a steak. And we’ve received some of our most positive comments and highest views on the most basic videos.

The Book

We released Learn To Cook in June 2011. We worked incredibly hard on the book. Hilah wrote it. I designed it. Laurel styled it. Nadia shot the photos. James styled the hair. We called in just about every favor we could.

It clocks in at 230 pages (not counting the free bonuses) and features almost 150 recipes and 10 bonus videos. And since it’s a digital book, we were able to hyperlink to our videos where appropriate. It was designed to tie everything from the Phase One together and I think we pulled it off.

We  launched it fairly quietly with a video and an email to our mailing list. I will always remember launch day as one of my favorite days ever. Because it totally worked. The hard work was done and we were able to sit back and watch the sales come in.

To be honest, I was amazed.

And we continue to sell copies of the book even though we haven’t promoted it to anywhere near it’s full potential.

The Next Step 

During our first two years, we’ve turned down every offer from companies interested in direct advertising or sponsorships. There are a lot of reasons for this that I will go into in a future post. But the primary reason is that we have a long-term vision for this project. We wanted to build an audience and establish an actual relationship with our viewers and then figure out ways to create even more high quality content for that audience.

Our audience has continued to grow and has really exploded over the past few months – some of this is due to YouTube Next Chef but I think most of it is due to the fact that we have produced and released a TON of quality content on a consistent schedule.

We’re now producing two recipe videos a week along with a Q&A vlog. The amount of time we spend on this thing is getting kind of insane.

The good news is that it’s never stopped being fun. In fact, it’s more fun than ever.

But we’re also at the point where we have to take it more seriously and turn it into an actual business – without destroying what we’ve already built.

And that’s what Phase 2 will be all about.

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