How Wendi’s Food Blog, Loaves and Dishes, Became a Full-Time Career

How Wendi Spraker's Food Blog Became a Full-Time Career

You don’t have to be a serial entrepreneur to succeed with online business. Wendi Spraker’s background is in nursing and biology, but her recipe blog allows her to work on something she loves for her full-time income.

In this interview, Wendi shares how she started and grew the blog to the point that she was able to leave her job as a nurse. Today, Wendi works with her daughter to run Loaves and Dishes.


Business Name: Loaves and Dishes
Website URL:
Founders: Wendi Spraker
Business Location: Online (US)
Year Started: 2013
Team Members: Wendi and Sarah Blackwell (YouTube and social media)

Tell us about yourself and your business.

I’m Wendi Spraker and I write the recipe website, Loaves and Dishes.Loaves and Dishes features Unapologetic Southern Comfort Food as well as a multitude of recipes for people who are just learning to cook.

The website started as a passionate hobby in 2014 and turned into so much more.

I’ve been mastering Southern comfort food recipes and cooking techniques for over 35 years. Now, through the website, I’m sharing what I’ve learned. I want my readers to feel like kitchen rockstars!

People often ask about my education and think I must be a classically trained chef, I am not.

  • I hold a Master’s Degree from Walden University in Nursing Leadership.
  • I hold a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology from Maryville College.
  • I also have an associate’s degree in nursing from Tennessee State University, an HBCU and fine institution.

So, while I am a nurse by training and certification, I’ve been cooking for family and friends my whole life and enjoy teaching others what I have learned. 

My oldest daughter, Sarah Blackwell,  works with me and handles all of the social media accounts and the YouTube channel. Sarah has a degree in music education and performance from Western Carolina University and from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. She is a classically trained flautist who studied under the late and great Dr. Eldred Spell. I’m proud to have such talent on my team.  

Loaves and Dishes

How does your business make money?

My website makes money from the ads that are run on the site. When someone views the site and sees an ad, an intermediate company tracks and collects for that and then pays me.

What was your inspiration for starting the business?

I have always loved cooking and sharing recipes. Years ago, I was an avid follower of several recipe websites and at some point, I thought I could do this. All I need to learn is how to run a website and food photography, I have a good handle on the rest. I was naive. 

How and when did you launch the business?

The website launched September 15, 2014, and has been going strong ever since. 

How much money did you invest to start the business?

Back in 2014, there were many options for starting a “free” website. I joined Food Blogger Pro for about $20/month (back then) and learned how to set up a free website. I used an old camera I had at home and my cell phone to take photos and I used the computer I already owned to document my favorite recipes. 

So, initially, I invested about $40 or less to get started. Gradually, as the site grew, I invested in a better camera, computer, cookware, etc. But it was less than $100 to get started in 2014. 

What was your first year in business like?

I believe I spent about 20 hours per week on my business when I started. I worked a full-time nursing job and didn’t actually make any money at all until 2016, when I signed on with my first ad company. 

I spent my time writing about my recipes and developing new better recipes. 

What strategies did you use to grow the business?

I learned Search Engine Optimization so that my recipes would be recognized by Google when someone searches for a specific recipe or ingredient. I worked on becoming known in my local community as well. I write a bi-weekly newspaper article, have written a chapter in a book that is available on Amazon, and have done several other ventures to help establish my credentials. 

Tell us about your team.

I have one contract employee, my daughter, Sarah Blackwell. She works part-time, handling social media and YouTube channels. She also produced the podcast when we did that. 

What are your future plans for the business?

With changes that are coming on the internet with the end of 3rd party cookies, Google’s constant flexing, and other changes, the future feels uncertain. We will need to develop some new strategies to face the future and keep growing. 

How do you market your business? 

Because of the nature of my business, I have two main marketing strategies:

  1. I work tirelessly to understand Google, how it works, and how to stay on top of that. Showing up at the top of Google search is the most important way traffic comes to my website. 
  2. Once people are on my site, I work to get them signed up for my newsletter, and then I stay in touch, giving them helpful cooking tips and teasing the new recipes on the website or helpful recipes for the time of year. 

What is your social media strategy? 

We mostly use Facebook and YouTube to promote our recipes and use the algorithms those platforms use to gain new followers. We ask our followers to share recipes. 

Wendi Spraker

Do you use email marketing? 

Yes, I have a newsletter that I send weekly with cooking tips, recipes, and information that folks need to make perfect recipes. My website has an exit intent pop up and there are reminders on the sidebar to sign up for the newsletter. I ask the readers to please share the newsletter with their friends. 

What’s your approach with search traffic?

I target organic traffic using SEO techniques and several tools for keyword research. My favorite tools right now are Keywords Everywhere and RankIQ

I survive algorithm updates by praying for serenity and continuing to work hard. Some updates have been positive for me, and some have been negative. Mostly negative. 

I have to remember the song Row, Row, Row Your Boat. You go GENTLY up the stream (it’s a steady work to paddle gently up a stream, I’m an avid kayaker, and this is something I’ve learned about life and about kayaking). Merrily, merrily, merrily. Just be happy and keep rowing. 

That’s how I deal with algorithm updates, by understanding that some days are my days and some are not. Either way, I just have to keep working.

How did you make the transition from side hustle to full-time?

I worked full-time when starting my website and treated it like a part-time job. As the site grew, I moved into working part-time (I had to find another job to work part-time at) and worked more on my website until the income was there to quit entirely. 

What was the turning point when you knew your business was successful?

When I was making more money on my website than I had ever made in my chosen profession.

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned growing the business?

There are no easy answers. There’s no “10 easy steps to becoming a millionaire” or any of the other ridiculous ideas that get peddled out there. When you hear something like that, it’s the person selling it that is trying to get rich quick. The quick way is to work hard, keep learning about your business, and then get up tomorrow and do it again.

What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome?

The biggest challenge I had to overcome was learning who I could trust. There are many people out there trying to make a quick buck and they have terrible advice or half-fixes for things that will ultimately get you into trouble. I was lucky to find Food Blogger Pro, who are good people doing honest work and giving appropriate advice.

What are some of your favorite books, blogs, podcasts, or YouTube channels?

I’m an avid podcast listener because I can do that while I’m doing things like cleaning the kitchen. I do the same thing with YouTube. My favorite podcasts include: This American Life, Hidden Brain, Ear Hustle, and especially This is Love, and, of course, our own podcast, Dorks with Sporks.

YouTube channels that I enjoy are usually based on psychology (I love understanding what makes people tick). I also enjoy the story telling done by MrBallen and Bailey Sarian. Jonthepotter and Dara Green for pottery (another hobby of mine). I know, eclectic tastes, right? Loaves and Dishes has a GREAT YouTube channel, by the way! (wink)

What tools do you use and recommend?

I use several tools that I would recommend. 

  • WordPress for the framework of my website. 
  • Mediavine products and tools for fast themes and ad networks. 
  • Food Blogger Pro for learning to set up a food website. 
  • Facebook Groups (food blogging groups) to learn what’s happening in my area. 
  • Keywords Everywhere for SEO research.
  • RankIQ for keyword research. 
  • WPopt to house my server. 
  • It’s not a tool, but it is a tool, I attend as many conferences as I can each year, this is where you learn cutting edge things. 

What are the best and worst parts of being an entrepreneur/founder?

Best: Being able to rely on myself to keep things going.

Worst: Having only myself to rely on to keep things going.

What is your favorite quote?

Those who are easily shocked should be shocked more often.

Mae West

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