How Polly and Rachel Built a Successful Online Business with a Healthy Work-Life Balance

How Polly and Rachel Built a Successful Online Business with a Healthy Work-Life Balance

Many people want to build an online business for the freedom and flexibility of working on their own terms. Unfortunately, reaching success often requires significant sacrifice before experiencing those benefits.

Polly and Rachel run a six-figure food blog and enjoy the lifestyle of successful bloggers. But their story is unique because they didn’t sacrifice time with family or other important things in their lives to make it happen.

They grew their blog slowly over time, each working as little as 5-10 hours per week. It took a while to reach a full-time income, but these two mothers of three kids did it on their own terms. In this interview, Polly shares the details of their journey.


Business Name: Thriving Home
Website URL:
Founders: Polly Conner and Rachel Tiemeyer
Business Location: Online (US)
Year Started: 2012
Number of Employees/Contractors/Freelancers: 5

How much revenue does the business generate?

Thriving Home‘s average annual net income has hovered around $130,000 over the past three years, although there is some variation from year to year. It’s noteworthy that more than 10% of this income is dedicated to charitable contributions, benefiting organizations such as Compassion and local nonprofits aiding the homeless and foster families.

Our journey has been characterized by a gradual and consistent progression, marked by occasional challenges. Achieving a full-time income level while maintaining a desirable work-life balance of 20-30 hours per week for both of us, required approximately ten years of dedicated effort.

Tell us about yourself and your business.

Established in 2012 by friends and mothers of three children each, Rachel Tiemeyer and Polly Conner, Thriving Home has its roots in their individual journeys.

Rachel, originally from Jackson, MO, pursued English education at the University of Missouri. Following college, she entered children’s and student ministry, dedicating nearly two decades to the church. In 2008, fueled by a passion for writing and a desire to assist families, she began sharing recipes and parenting tips on her personal blog. Rachel, along with her husband and three children (ages 13, 15, and 17), resides in Columbia, MO.

Polly, hailing from Camdenton, MO, aimed to become a school counselor at the University of Missouri. Instead, she assumed Rachel’s church role in 2007 when Rachel transitioned to part-time parenting. Polly, now married to Austin with three children (ages 7, 10, and 12), initiated her first blog in 2008, focusing on home DIY projects and parenting stories.

After building separate online followings, the duo joined forces to create Thriving Home, originally envisioning it as an online business. Little did they anticipate that it would evolve into their eventual full-time professions!

While our content spanned recipes, home tips, and parenting articles, our freezer cooking posts gained the most traction in the first five years. As both of us participated in freezer clubs, cooking in bulk and sharing monthly, our readers embraced the concept, driving engagement and interest in learning more.

In 2016, several publishers reached out to us about writing a cookbook about freezer cooking. Through the advice of a blogger friend and cookbook author, we connected with a literary agent who coached us through writing a book proposal. The agent then pitched the book proposal to multiple publishers. That same year, four publishers got into a bidding war over it, and we landed a book deal we’d never have dreamed of! 

Our first cookbook, From Freezer to Table, released in 2017. Before that book released, our literary agent secured a deal for our second cookbook, From Freezer to Cooker, which released in January 2020. Nearly 40,000 cookbooks have sold since then and their releases led to us being featured on Hallmark Channel, in People magazine, and in many other news outlets.

Polly and Rachel holding their books

How does your business make money?

It’s been a slow and steady race for us, with some ups and down along the way. To get to a full-time income level (while working only 20-30 hours each, which is the way we want it) for both of us, has taken about ten years.

The income distribution is as follows:

  • Revenue from ads on our site constitutes 65%.
  • Sponsored content contributes 15%.
  • Products, including “1 Hour Freezer Prep” and autographed cookbooks, make up 12.5%.
  • Affiliates account for 7%.
  • Other sources, such as income from speaking engagements and credit card cashback, constitute 0.05%.

What was your inspiration for starting the business?

Our mission is to help busy families enjoy wholesome, delicious, low-stress meals together at home.

As women who were once stay-at-home moms and are now working moms, we understand the stress, time and budget constraints, and exhaustion as a parent at different stages.

We created Thriving Home to relieve mealtime stress and promote peace at home.

We hope readers breathe a sigh of relief as they stockpile pre-prepped meals in the freezer or simply crank out one of our easy recipes that the whole fam actually likes.

How and when did you launch the business?

After connecting during our initial job experience and bonding over shared entrepreneurial instincts and a passion for blogging, we discovered our mutual interest in creatively sharing insights with others. Inspired by successful bloggers who monetized their blogs through ads, sponsorships, and affiliates, we decided in the fall of 2011 to merge our blogging skills into a “mom blog” called Thriving Home. 

The name encompassed various home-related topics and reflected the positive outcomes we aimed for in our families and readers.

How much money did you invest to start the business?

Our biggest investment in the beginning was our time. Building a website and quality content takes a ton of work. 

Financially, we began by pooling $90 each from our tight budgets as stay-at-home moms. 

We embarked on setting up a WordPress site, migrating content, and establishing a 50/50 partnership with an LLC. Promoting Thriving Home to our existing audiences garnered immediate readership. Within 1 ½ years, we celebrated our first Google AdSense payment. 

In about three years, our site consistently earned 1-2K per month from ads and Amazon affiliates, steadily growing over time.

We are regularly reinvesting profits back into the business in an effort to grow it. Some investments have paid off tremendously and some have been… a learning experience. 🙂

How did you find your first few clients or customers?

In the early stages, our growth was primarily driven by word of mouth. Additionally, we engaged in guest posting and giveaways to expand our follower base. Recognizing the increasing traffic, especially to our freezer meal recipes, we honed in on this niche to address the specific needs of our audience.

To build our email list, we provide various opt-ins on our website and social media platforms. We tailor these offerings to match the content the reader is consuming or align them with the current season, making them both attractive and useful.

Our goal is to connect with readers in diverse ways. While prioritizing email sign-ups, we also encourage them to join our Private Facebook Group and follow us on their preferred social media channels. This multi-faceted approach aims to establish a comprehensive and lasting connection with our audience.

Polly and Rachel through the years

What was your first year in business like?

A huge learning curve!

In 2012, there was very little information about how to build a successful online business. There was a lot of trial and error, wearing many different hats and learning how to work together in a way that played to our strengths. 

We also had small children at home so we were working during naptimes and in the evenings. We only put in 5-10 hours a week as we both prioritized being home and present with our small children.

What strategies did you use to grow the business?

SEO is absolutely integral to our business strategy and requires constant learning and vigilance to stay on top of the best practices. 

Another large focus of ours is maintaining a healthy email list. We work hard to provide helpful content and keep our list engaged. 

Tell us about your team.

Rachel and I each dedicate roughly 20-30 hours per week to our work.

Our team includes Carla, our invaluable team member, who initially started as a VA and has since specialized in SEO optimization and quality control.

Over the years, we’ve maintained a close working relationship with a photographer who has skillfully captured images and created videos for many of our recipes.

In addition to our core team, we hired a social media agency for online presence, rely on an accountant for financial support, and have recently welcomed a pastry chef who is crafting dessert recipes for Thriving Home.

What are your future plans for the business?

Looking ahead, we have a series of ideas in the pipeline. In the next year, we have a goal to go back through over 500 old posts and make sure each one is fully SEO optimized.  Search traffic makes up about 60% of our traffic, so this is vital to our business.

We’ve talked about creating additional ebooks or digital resources that would help busy parents. 

We also are prepared to adjust our content creation strategies to navigate the challenges of competing with AI. We want to continue creating genuine, meaningful, authentic, helpful information.

How do you market your business? 

  1. While we have experimented with Facebook/Instagram ads and Google ads over the years, our email list has always been our #1 marketing strategy. Our emails build trust and a relationship with readers, send traffic to our site, and include either sponsored content or sales pitches. 
  1. Our second most successful marketing strategy has been our cookbooks and word-of-mouth. While writing cookbooks took years of our time and did pull our attention away from growing our website content for a while, they also established our authority in the freezer cooking space, generated quite a bit of free press at the time of their release, and now continue to drive word-of-mouth recommendations. 

What is your social media strategy? 

Social media can often feel like a necessary evil. 

It plays a crucial role as it often serves as someone’s initial impression of Thriving Home, and quick judgments are made on whether they’ll stay engaged. Additionally, it helps keep our recipes top of mind with our followers. 

Despite its significance, with the exception of Pinterest, social media hasn’t consistently driven significant traffic to our website, making it difficult to assess the return on investment. Over the past two years, we’ve enlisted the services of a social media agency to handle our Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest accounts.

However, in 2024, we’re implementing changes to prioritize quality over quantity. We recognize the importance of putting ourselves in front of the camera, especially in a world increasingly saturated with AI-generated content. Our goal is to foster deeper connections with our audience, building trust and familiarity beyond the confines of traditional social media engagement.

Do you use email marketing? 

Yes, we have about 45,000 subscribers and prioritize growing this list. 

To build our email list, we offer email opt-ins through our website and on social media such as printable freebies like our 7 Chicken Marinades cheat sheet or a helpful email series like Top 5 Crock Pot Recipes. We try to match the opt-in to the content the reader is on or to the season we are currently in (i.e. back to school), making it as attractive and helpful as possible. 

We clean up our email list about 3x/year, making sure to remove inactive users so we don’t pay for them and to improve the deliverability of our emails. 

Polly photographing Rachel

Do you target organic search traffic? 

Currently, because we have over 500 blog posts on our site, SEO expert Casey Markee advised us to go through every piece of content to make sure it’s fully optimized, each recipe is the “best of the best,” and the photos and writing are top-notch. It’s a bit like going through your entire “house” and purging, organizing, repainting, and updating the entire place! 

After we finish this big project, we will return to creating new content. Our SEO process for that includes brainstorming recipe/article ideas that we’re excited about and that will help our readers, using a tool called SEMrush to research keywords that have a high search volume and low competition, and then developing a recipe and/or writing an article focused around the best keyword(s). 

While writing with SEO in mind, we want to always consider our readers first…so user experience is #1. We want our content to be incredibly helpful, appealing to the eye, and user-friendly.

What is something unique about your business?

One of the things that we think is really unique about our business is that we’ve remained 50/50 partners for 12 years now. We’ve seen many co-owned blogs and small businesses come and go during this time and realized early on that we have a unique business partnership. Thankfully, we’ve successfully navigated the challenges of sharing a business together, which requires making financial and business decisions together while also working out personal differences. 

We’ve come to really appreciate one another’s strengths and lean into those while making up for each other’s weaknesses. We share a similar work ethic and entrepreneurial spirit but have different gifts when it comes to how we work. We joke that “Polly gets crap done while Rachel cleans it up.” The key to this relationship has been open communication, believing the best in one another, not taking things too personally, and caring for one another more than the business.

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

While the increasing site traffic was a source of excitement and motivation for us, the pivotal moment in our business came when we received offers for a cookbook deal.

How much traffic does your website receive, and what are your primary sources?

Search engines are by far our biggest traffic source. While it varies month to month, we had close to 4 million sessions in the past year from search traffic alone.

The next source of traffic (around 1.2 million/year) comes from direct sources. While this is hard to track, it is likely from email subscribers and internal linking. 

Our third source of traffic (about 900k/year) comes from Pinterest. 

What is your best-selling product?

Our cookbooks have sold over 40,000 copies, but it might come as a surprise that we see no direct income from these sales. We were paid with an advance when we wrote the books and only earn royalties if we earn out that advance which is highly unlikely. 

We developed a digital product, 1 Hour Freezer Prep, as a solution for time-pressed parents who want to stock the freezer, and this product has consistently sold well. 

1 Hour Freezer Prep is a bundle of 16 different prep sessions that give you everything you need to make 6 meals in 1 hour. Our readers have appreciated that we provide shopping lists, step-by-step instructions, custom freezer meal labels, and even video tutorials. 

At this point, 1 Hour Freezer Prep has earned more than what we got paid for our first cookbook!

Polly and Rachel in the kitchen

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

Gosh, we have learned so much over the years. Here is what is standing out right now.

  1. Keeping our purpose and vision at the forefront ensures that every decision aligns with our core values. It serves as a motivational anchor during challenges and setbacks and helps inspire both ourselves and our team toward our greater mission. Regularly referring to our purpose also helps us to not focus too much on numbers but rather on impact. 
  2. Having a Marathon Mentality. Recognizing building an online business in content creation as a marathon not a sprint emphasizes the importance of a sustainable pace and discourages burnout. The marathon mindset also encourages celebrating consistent progress, no matter how gradual.
  3. Continuous learning has been vital. It ensures adaptability in a dynamic environment. Learning fuels innovation, fostering a culture of creativity and problem-solving. Continuous learning contributes to our personal and professional growth which impacts our business as a whole. 

What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome?

Navigating the online content space is a dynamic challenge that can feel disheartening and overwhelming. As bloggers, we must stay abreast of ever-changing algorithms and technological shifts or enlist the help of those who can. Persistence is crucial, especially when facing fluctuations in traffic and ad revenue, which ebb and flow across different seasons and years.

Having been present since 2012, our ongoing task involves strategizing how to manage underperforming or outdated content. Though we’ve recently given greater emphasis to SEO, there remains residual “baggage” hindering our high ranking for certain search terms.

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

We’ve learned a lot from the following resources:

What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs?

Ensure that whatever content or product you create stands out as the “best of the best.” Regularly ask yourself and others, “Does this provide significant value to my readers or customers? Does it address a problem for them? Is it user-friendly? Is it visually appealing?” Crafting content or products with these considerations in mind not only fulfills a genuine purpose but also builds trust and encourages customers or readers to recommend you to others.

Consistently dedicate time to advancing your business daily. Adopt a long-term perspective rather than seeking quick, short-term gains. The journey of building Thriving Home has been more of a marathon than a sprint.

What tools do you use and recommend?

  1. Semrush – For SEO research.
  2. Clariti – This tool helps us to organize projects related to our site’s content and track how it’s doing after we make improvements.
  3. Trello – This is what we use to organize our editorial calendar and projects for our team.

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