How to Teach Yourself to Build an Online Empire

Host 0:04
Welcome to The Blogger Genius Podcast brought to you by MiloTree. Here’s your host, Jillian Leslie.

Jillian Leslie 0:11
Hello, everyone. Welcome back to the show. If you want to reach out to me with a suggestion, a comment, anything like that, you can connect with me on Instagram. My handle is @JillianTohberLeslie, or email me at I truly love hearing from you.

I like to know what you’re thinking about so that I can better serve you. So, please reach out.

Okay, for today’s episode, I am interviewing my friend, Laura Fuentes. I interviewed her about a year ago, and those were some of my most popular episodes. Laura is the genius behind MOMables, which are food plans for families. And she’s really building an empire, as you will hear.

She’s super honest, super down-to-earth, so willing to share. I really think you’re going to like this episode. So without further ado, here is my interview with Laura Fuentes.

How to Teach Yourself to Build an Online Empire with Laura Fuentes|

Laura, welcome back to the show. I am so excited to talk to you again.

Laura Fuentes 1:22
Gosh, this is such an opportunity to again talk to you because we don’t get to see each other often. But also, just ask me all the questions. Anything I can do to serve your audience, I’m here.

Jillian Leslie 1:34
Oh, I love that. And first of all, I have to say that we not only are internet friends, but we are really friends. There are certain people that you just connect with in real life and stuff, and I feel like you are that person.

Laura Fuentes 1:49
Thank you. I feel the same about you.

Jillian Leslie 1:51
I feel like we are very like-minded as entrepreneurs.

Laura Fuentes 1:54
Yes. Right?

Jillian Leslie 1:55
And we could talk about our daughters going through puberty,

Laura Fuentes 1:59
Oh, gosh, that’s why they’re not listening to this podcasts thing then.

I know.

Jillian Leslie 2:04
Okay, so I’m so impressed with the business that you have built. And we talked about it just kind of in a more general way last time on the podcast. But what I really want to talk about is how smart you have been building a business using YouTube.

Laura Fuentes 2:23
Thank you.

Jillian Leslie 2:24
And we talked about this one other thing, which is you are not a YouTuber, you are somebody who has a business using YouTube.

Laura Fuentes 2:34
Yes. So definitely when people say, “Oh, you’re a YouTuber,” and I’m like, no, I have a YouTube channel in which I create content or share content that helps me grow my business.

Jillian Leslie 2:43
And by the way, we were just talking you have 51,000 subscribers, which is not… I mean, that’s big in our world.

Laura Fuentes 2:50
Thank you. I’m creeping up there. It’s really hard to get my target audience to subscribe, so I feel pretty good about it. I’ve been doing this since fall of 2015 or ’14. I think Christmas of like, yeah, like fall of 2014 is when I started putting out videos, so it’s been a very slow growth. But like any platform, consistency is key.

Jillian Leslie 3:17
Okay, so let’s step back and talk about your business and how you make money, what you do, and then how you use YouTube to support this business and grow it.

Laura Fuentes 3:28
Yeah, so I started blogging back in 2010 and I launched in 2012 where at the very beginning, it was a lunch-centric recipe, you know, a site for recipes that were lunch-centric, and then we launched a meal plan on MOMables.

And as MOMables grew over time, I also was simultaneously running what is now which is my personal site. It’s more of the lifestyle of being a mom and making fresh meals for your family and prioritizing your health and wellness there.

So I run two sites simultaneously. One is very, what I call is the Cliffnotes on cooking fresh and real food for your family. And so in MOMables, we sell a meal plan. So we have a subscription service and we sell meal plans by subscription. We have digital products, and we also have courses.

Jillian Leslie 4:25
So let’s break that down. So meal plans, meaning once a week I get an email from you with what to buy, what to make, how to feed my family.

Laura Fuentes 4:35
Yeah. So five meals, a meal prep sheet and a organize-and-done-for-you shopping list. So that is your meal planning membership.

Jillian Leslie 4:46
Got it, okay. And if people are interested, they go to

Laura Fuentes 4:51

Jillian Leslie 4:51
And how much is it a month?

Laura Fuentes 4:53
So that is $10 a month. It starts at $10 a month basically.

And then we also have have digital products meaning like think… so in, in simple terms, sort of ebooks of the sort, and those are more like programs. So health and wellness programs.

So we have something very similar to I wouldn’t call it a Whole30 but it’s similar to Whole30 but for families, and I feel like I’m somebody who benefited a lot from Whole30. I’ve eaten that way for a long time. It’s just very difficult to execute when you have a family and your kids want other food. And so then you start making meals for yourself.

And so I thought, what if I just put together what I’m already doing for my family. Again, this is very similar to the thought process of our meal plans, right? I started selling what I was creating for my family already.

So I feel the need to create a 30-day program that’s, you know, Whole Foods-centric for families, right, with foods and meals that kids recognize. And again, it’s all broken down step-by-step, very similar to what people love most about the meal planning, which is the meal prepping guide.

And so I help you. Really, success is always in the execution. So I help you execute that when you’re busy and you have a family. So that is one of our digital products.

And then we also have courses that are more in depth into helping you feed your family. So we have a course that’s focused on picky eaters. So really, helping parents make mealtimes better through the techniques and things that I learned over going to therapy with my son for seven years.

And so we just sort of created a course that parents can take at their own pace and really learn all the strategies to achieve to, you know, really get mealtime success.

Jillian Leslie 6:51
Got it. Okay, and then now break down

Laura Fuentes 6:55
So is the lifestyle behind… It’s how I live my life as an entrepreneur, health and wellness. And that is much similar to what everybody here listening is probably thinking about, which is a “blog”. So it’s very content focused.

And then I do a lot or I do some sponsored content on my personal site. And that is sort of well mixed in with my non-sponsored organic content on my sites.

Jillian Leslie 7:26
Got it. Okay, now where does YouTube fit in?

Laura Fuentes 7:29
So YouTube fits in back in 2014, well, really 2013. I auditioned for Food Network and I was scared shitless, because oh, I’m sorry…

Jillian Leslie 7:41
It’s okay.

Laura Fuentes 7:42
Beep. So I had never been in front of the camera in my life. So I really thought, you know, when the opportunity comes, you just sort of have to jump on it. So I went on Food Network, I auditioned. And then I got into the show, I competed. And I won. And I was like, how can a mom… like I really, honestly, I had taught myself how to cook. My background is in global economics. I have no food background, except for 10 years, I watched Food Network and taught myself.

And watch like, you know, you know, Ina Garten, Gia de Laurentis, Rachael Ray. I watched Alton Brown. I watch people how to do things. And I was like, gosh, it’s so important to… that’s how I learned because it’s before Pinterest and all the stuff that we have now.

So I said, you know, that people keep asking, like, “Gosh your recipes are great. Do you have any videos? I wish I could see how they’re made.”

But quite frankly, I was just always afraid to get in front of the camera. So after the Food Network experience, I said to my husband, you know, I now know that I can do it. And it’s not about winning. It’s about the fact like what I took most away from that experience is I learned that I could, so I did.

So in 2014, I told my husband, I think I’m going to invest in creating video content. And so I am a perfectionist. And so I knew that it wasn’t going to be me with a camera on a tripod in front of me, or, you know, an assistant. I didn’t even have an assistant at the time.

So I told him, I said I’m going to give it a year and I’m going to commit to finding somebody that I can hire, and that I can hire, and he or she could come once a month and we’ll create videos and then we’ll edit, so I have content to release.

So the reason I started doing YouTube is to provide people that were already coming to my site with a visual of how a recipe… at the time I was very recipe focused. And I still am, I guess. So how the recipe was made. Right?

And I would say, like, the first two years was really like, just the learning, you know. So, you know, how to produce something. We spend a lot of time on doing pre-production like it’s really now, I wouldn’t say a big production, but it is another part of the business.

So all the video content really falls under Fuentes Media, which is like the media company that now holds all my other entities, and we do a lot of video production for big clients, smaller clients. Sometimes they’re on my YouTube channel, sometimes I just assist on their projects, sort of from a production and direction standpoint or creative standpoint.

So I’ve really taken a dive into the video arena, and I really love it.

Jillian Leslie 10:42
Okay, so let’s unpack that a little bit. One, you are not making “hands and pans”-type videos.

Laura Fuentes 10:50
No, we’re not making Tasty-style overhead videos at all. I do front, in front of the camera video work where people can see me be very excited about the recipe, get to know me a little, learn the -isms, you know.

Jillian Leslie 11:05
Got it.

Laura Fuentes 11:06
And give people a little bit my personality in the video.

Jillian Leslie 11:09
Now, how long is a video?

Laura Fuentes 11:11
So most of my videos average 3 minutes and 20 something seconds. When I first started, they were shorter. They were under two minutes. But then I’ve really gotten into like the YouTube algorithm and understanding how it works. And so, I really up my time. And so I found that anywhere between in the 3:30- to 4-minute range is what my audience really likes.

Jillian Leslie 11:37
Okay, that’s interesting. And how many videos? This is the fascinating part. How many videos are you releasing a week?

Laura Fuentes 11:45
Okay, when I first started between 2014 and 2017, almost ’18, one video a week. It’s also only all I could afford. And because I’m not a “YouTuber”, like YouTube is not what I do full-time and I don’t edit myself, I only had budget to hire out, you know, four videos a month. And now we’re doing two videos a week since last fall.

Jillian Leslie 12:15
Okay, and you are then monetizing this by working with brands, let’s say. So how many of these, let’s say, you’re making eight videos a month. How many of these are sponsored?

Laura Fuentes 12:31
Maybe one to two per month. Maybe. So a month. There isn’t any sponsored content.

Jillian Leslie 12:37
Okay. But you are though this is worth it because it is bringing in revenue.

Laura Fuentes 12:44
Right. So what I do is, I leverage what I get paid by a brand to create a sponsored video, to pay for my non-sponsored video content. So I feel very strongly that for all purposes of growing my online business and presence, video is very important.

So it’s sort of how I redistribute the the earnings to pay for an area of my business that’s going to help me with SEO, with the get-to-know like and trust factor, and really just upped the ante on my content.

Jillian Leslie 13:21
I love that. Okay, so you are saying, you know what, I am investing in me, and then ultimately, do you think this leads to, for example, MOMable sales?

Laura Fuentes 13:33
Yeah, for sure. So some of the videos, you know, it leads to traffic to the site, so people get to know what MOMables is all about, and that leads to people opting into my email list. And of course, we recorded an entire podcast on email list and the importance of that, so I’m sure you’ll link that.

But an email list is huge because that helps me share my content, share the products that we create, and ultimately build a community of like-minded people. So YouTube is just another place for people to find me and also bring a three-dimensional view to the content that I’m creating on my sites.

Jillian Leslie 14:12
Right. And you are the real deal.

Laura Fuentes 14:15
Aww, thanks.

Jillian Leslie 14:16
But I mean, like, it’s a little bit like, “huh,” what are these meal plans, but then it’s like, “oh, go to my YouTube channel.” And you will see that, like, I walk the talk.

Laura Fuentes 14:26
Right. So a lot of the recipes in the meal… not a lot of the recipes in the meal plans are on YouTube, but we make sure that one recipe a week is, inside of our meal plans, is a recipe that we have a video for.

You have to understand people come to our meal plans to subscribe from all walks of life. Some are very comfortable cooking, some are just starting to cook with their family. Some are starting to make changes.

So I feel like it’s important for them to click on that video that’s in the recipe once a week and go like, “oh, wow, she’s going to show me how to do it.” And then it just eases them into implementing the recipe.

Jillian Leslie 15:02
And chances are, okay, so you are selling a subscription like we do with MiloTree. And when you are in a subscription business, you really need to manage churn.

Laura Fuentes 15:14

Jillian Leslie 15:15
Which means people canceling because it’s much easier to keep somebody in your subscription or it’s much more profitable to keep somebody in your subscription than to have to go find a new subscriber.

Laura Fuentes 15:26
For sure. It costs more to acquire a new member than it does to keep them happy and keep them there.

Jillian Leslie 15:32
So the fact that you send your meal plan and go, “hey, go check out my video,” I think, probably creates more trust, more commitment, and, I bet you, reduces your churn.

Laura Fuentes 15:44
Well, it’s just a simple button that we put in the recipe and the PDF that’s, you know, it’s an active PDF. So we allow people to click off the PDF and go, like, watch how it’s made. And there’s like a little YouTube button. So they just click on it and it opens up the video for them, you know.

So, again, it’s just helping people achieve their mealtime goals, right? So if you’re subscribed to the meal plan, your goal is to create healthy and fresh recipes and meals for your family each week. So if I can inject me and myself and my personality in this PDF they’re receiving, then they’re going to get to know me a little bit more. It’s almost like I’m cooking with them one meal a week, right?

Jillian Leslie 16:26

Laura Fuentes 16:26
So strategically, that’s also how our YouTube videos fit into that product.

Jillian Leslie 16:34

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Okay, now we were talking before we pressed record about making money from YouTube. And you were sharing, you know, share what you think about that.

Laura Fuentes 18:55
So I actually pulled it up for you. A lot of people think like, “Oh, I’m going to be a YouTuber,” especially like, you know, younger generations are like, “Oh, you’re a YouTuber. You must make some…” I had revenue, whatever. Like because I think I support my family with YouTube ads. And I’m like, Okay, I’m not that funny. And I don’t game. And I don’t blog.

Jillian Leslie 19:15

Laura Fuentes 19:17
And I don’t put on makeup.

I’m like, I don’t know, I just kind of cook my recipes. So last month I earned, I’m sorry, this isn’t the last 28 days. So I guess this month so far, what are we… May 24. So it says $227. So I don’t even know that I’ll pay my electricity bill this summer this month. It is something.

Jillian Leslie 19:41
Right. Exactly, yes. But you’re not getting rich on YouTube.

Laura Fuentes 19:45
Oh, no, no, no. I’m not getting rich in YouTube. Can you get rich with YouTube? Like any other platform, if you work it, you work hard, and you put out great content consistently that people keep coming back, you could probably add a couple of zeros to that. But again, that is not why I create video content.

Jillian Leslie 20:04
Have you ever thought to yourself, “I really want to be a YouTuber”?

Laura Fuentes 20:09
No. What I think to myself is I really want to create video content and at the end of a 14-hour video day, when I drive off the studios driveway and I head home, I’m like, “I am so happy I did this today. I cannot wait to get up tomorrow and do it again.”

Jillian Leslie 20:27

Laura Fuentes 20:28
I really love it.

Jillian Leslie 20:30
Okay, that’s interesting. Okay, so then kind of one of the last questions I want to ask you is, tell me if you ever feel burnout.

Laura Fuentes 20:40
You know, when I feel burnout, of course I do. But it’s not because of YouTube and video. I feel burnout in the pressure to create and churn more content, and where I suffer the burnout is on social media.

Jillian Leslie 20:54
Interesting. Tell me.

Laura Fuentes 20:56
So I have a love-hate relationship with Instagram. I’m like, I can’t keep up with it anymore. Like, you know, my Instagram channel only has like 14,000 followers or whatever, my Instagram account. And I’m like, I can’t grow that for the life of me. But then I get the, well, brands only want Instagram sponsorships, and I’m like, “well, then I’m not your person.”

Really, I don’t have any problems saying no. So I’m like, I’m just not your person for that. But they really want you and, I’m like, “well, then you need to fork up and make something on YouTube.” Or create a blog post for my blog where I’ll get 20 to 30,000 people to read it. But I am not your person for Instagram.

Jillian Leslie 21:42
That’s so interesting. Yeah.

Laura Fuentes 21:44
That’s where I suffer the burnout, is in the churn-out of I got to put out more things, and they only last 24 hours, like I’m sick of it, honestly.

If I could choose a platform and eliminate everything else, I would choose YouTube only.

Jillian Leslie 22:02
Interesting. And then here’s the thing. Are you active in your YouTube community? Are you responding to comments, that kind of thing?

Laura Fuentes 22:10
Yeah. So I respond to every comment, you know, when a YouTube video goes live within, you know, hours, I get the notifications on my phone I have. And that is always me, and I’m answering questions.

So yes, I am actively responding, and people really do appreciate that. Because oftentimes, they’re not subscribers that watch your video. They’re people that are searching for something and then they don’t know you, so they’ll ask and then you answer and they’re like, “Wow, she answered.”

YouTube is really a huge place. And they’re like, there is a person there, you know? So, yes, I am active. Do I do YouTube lives and all that stuff? I do not.

Jillian Leslie 22:49
Now, what about on Instagram? Are you responding to all your comments?

Laura Fuentes 22:54
Yes, and all my stories and all that stuff. I just feel like it’s an exhausting race that I have no interest in winning.

Jillian Leslie 23:03
Interesting. I just started my own Instagram, finally. I have Catch My Party with so many followers. I have MiloTree with, you know, some followers. And finally, I started Jillian Tohber-Leslie. So please, people, follow me. But I agree with you. Like I’m just trying to find my way. I have a hard time kind of sharing my personal life because I think people aren’t that interested. But hopefully, it’s interesting.

Laura Fuentes 23:34
You know what it is, Jillian? I like to live my life without having to record it for other people.

Jillian Leslie 23:40
That’s how I feel. I feel the same way. Or like I do something and I go, “Oh, shoot. I should have put this on Instagram.”

Laura Fuentes 23:46
Oh my gosh, yes. I think everybody listening can totally relate to this.

Jillian Leslie 23:50
But then I weirdly find that when I go somewhere with the intention of “oh”, and then I’m going to put this on Instagram. Somehow it makes the experience feel less authentic to me.

Laura Fuentes 24:03
Yeah. More orchestrated, for sure. So I just refuse to live it out for the ‘gram.

Jillian Leslie 24:08
I like that. I like that. Yes.

Laura Fuentes 24:11
Yeah. You know, Jillian, I’m 40 years old. I have no interest in, like, pretending to be skinnier, younger, prettier. I’m just going to live out my life. And then I’m going to share things when I can, and I get to it. And if you like it, awesome. If you don’t, I’m not that person for you. So I don’t really care how many people tap on the lake and don’t and, you know, I mean, I care to the extent when I am doing a partnership for a client.

Jillian Leslie 24:39

Laura Fuentes 24:40
But, you know, nowadays, you have to put paid media behind it. So, you know, there’s that strategy right there. But what I love about YouTube is that, like, I just cook and I create videos, and I’m going to introduce some more lifestyle things onto… or my YouTube channel.

But, like, basically like there’s so many things that are part of… I only eat three meals a day, right? I do a lot of things that are food-related and health- and wellness-related that are not being recorded. Like when I go to the grocery store, how do I actually shop? How do I take my meal plans and shop for stuff? Or maybe what are 10 things I that I keep in my fridge.

Because I’ve injected my personality and me as a person in my business, people want to know all those other things. And to date, we’ve only really created videos that are cooking-centric in our studio.

Jillian Leslie 25:32
Right. And in fact, I said to you in the past, I think you should share your workouts. And we’ve talked about you and me about like intermittent fasting, where we have those periods of time where we’re not eating, and I’m like people like that would love to hear what you’re doing.

Laura Fuentes 25:46
I wrote a blog post, I just didn’t get video for it, you know. So I do have the posts for all those things.

Jillian Leslie 25:52
Okay. So go check them out because they’re really interesting. And then I have one last thing. I don’t know if this is a question. But I will tell you that one thing I admire about you so much, I don’t know if I’ve even told you this, I’m so impressed that you genuinely don’t care what people think about you.

Laura Fuentes 26:13
Jillian, I really don’t. Most importantly, I care what I think about myself because that really determines the attitude I take on the world with, and how I tackle my day and how I go about my business.

Now, was I always like this? No. Okay, like, I used to try to, you know, get affirmation from my mom, like, you know, being accepted by somebody, you know, like, we’ve all I think struggled or some people still struggle to do that in their life.

I’m on a point where now that I look at my kids and go, gosh, I have to model that behavior for them to see that, like, there’s, you know, having a tween daughter almost, you know, you’re like, you can tell her she’s beautiful and she’s perfectly made. And she’s got a great personality until you’re, you know… it doesn’t matter, okay? Because it’s what she thinks that people think about her.

Jillian Leslie 27:15
Right. Yeah, absolutely.

Laura Fuentes 27:16
So I’m like, if I do things with that in mind, even though it’s unspoken, my kids are going to pick it up. And quite frankly, it’s really exhausting to put on makeup every day and go out and turn on your camera or only do it if you have makeup. At this point, it’s like, you get what you get. Right?

And I’ve just been more accepting of how I am today. Does that mean that I’m careless? No, there’s a big difference. So it’s not that I don’t care, is that I actually care what I think about myself and how I talk to myself more than what other people are going to say about me or talk about me.

Jillian Leslie 28:00

Laura Fuentes 28:01
Because really, how you think about yourself, it’s going to determine your behavior, and therefore, you know, I’m in it to win it. And with negative talk or, you know, talking myself down, that I’m not going to win it that way in life, you know.

Do I still think that I could use a little bit less love handles? Do I wake up bloated from time to time? Yes.

Okay, like, but that doesn’t mean that that’s how I feel or believe that I am, right? Like, if my video goes wrong, if a client says no to working with me, that doesn’t mean that they don’t like me or that they don’t like my work. It just means that I’m not the right person or the right fit for that. So really, I’m very emotion-less when it comes to what I put out online.

It’s really about serving others. So that’s where I put the emotion.

Jillian Leslie 28:56
Laura, I love that. I really love that. I love that you think about self- talk, I think about that a lot. Just whenever I talk to you, I find this to be something that I always pick up on in you. And I find it really inspiring.

Laura Fuentes 29:14
Thank you so much. You know what it is? We should all get up in the morning and look at ourselves in the mirror and go, you know what, I’m not Taylor Swift. So I am who I am. And this is the person that I am going to put out to the world. Right? So I don’t have a very curated Instagram feed.

Because I just don’t want to put that much effort into it. You know, like, you just got to like the person that I am for who I am. All the things that we teach our kids and yet we don’t live out. So I’m not really tired of not living out what I wanted my kids to learn, you know. So it was all a mind shift.

And then when you change your mindset about that, I honestly feel like my business exploded. A lot of the things in my life exploded, you know, and from a good way, you know. It’s not about money. It’s about like, believing that what you want to do is possible, you know. Like I am, I shot a pilot with Discovery last fall, you know, and I’m going to shoot a different pilot this fall for somebody else.

And like, I just believe that I can and so I go do it.

Jillian Leslie 30:22
I love that. I love that. The one thing that I want to always talk to my daughter about is learning to sit in your own skin. And I feel like Laura, you know how to sit in your own skin.

Laura Fuentes 30:37
Thank you so much. Well, it took 40 years, you know.

Jillian Leslie 30:40
Hey, it’s like we’re all work-in-progresses.

Laura Fuentes 30:43
Right? I know. And so in many other ways.

This is one thing, girl, I got down. I’ve got it. My jiggle and all, I’m good.

Jillian Leslie 30:53
I love it. Well, Laura, thank you. So okay, first of all, how can people reach out to you and learn more about what you do? Well, you can reach out to me on the one place I said I don’t really care for as much is on Instagram. Because I’m on there and I manage my own Instagram.

Laura Fuentes 31:11
So @Laurasfuentes. Or even at MOMables, I manage that as well. I am definitely never on Facebook. So don’t friend me on Facebook not because I don’t want to be your friend. I just really only have it because I have to have it.

So on Instagram is you can really reach me, you can watch my videos at YouTube/momables. And then on any of my sites. I’m very responsive. So I love to hear from people.

Jillian Leslie 31:37
Well, Laura, thank you so much for coming on the show. And I know that if you’ll come back, I would love to have you back.

Laura Fuentes 31:46
Oh, thank you. And I just want everybody that’s listening to know that if you’re thinking about doing video as a way to make money, it’s not it. Like video should be a way for you to share your gifts and talents and basically what you do best with the world and use that in your blog to grow it, so people get to know you a little bit better. That’s really ultimately what I focused on using YouTube for to really make my businesses grow.

Jillian Leslie 32:20
I love that. I love it. I think that is great, great advice.

Laura Fuentes 32:24
Thank you, Jillian.

Jillian Leslie 32:26
I think Laura does such a great job using YouTube to grow her businesses. If you’re looking for a shortcut to grow your social media followers, your email list, your business, head over to Sign up, add your pop-ups to your site. You get your first 30 days free.

And email me. Tell me what the process was like. Tell me what you liked about it. Tell me what you would improve. We are always excited to hear feedback from you. And I will see you here again next week.

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