Every week as SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wednesday on Twitter from 8-9pm ET. This is excerpted from my recent interview with Warren Bobrow, @warrenbobrow1. Warren is the Food and Drink Editor of the 501c3 non-profit Wild Table on Wild River Review located in Princeton, New Jersey. Warren has published over three hundred articles on everything from cocktail mixology to restaurant reviews in NJ Monthly, food articles and news in Edible Jersey, Chutzpah Magazine, and a weekly column in the NJ Daily Record Newspaper. For more information check out cocktailwhisperer.com.
SmallBizLady: How important is it to have a niche when you are building a brand online?
Warren Bobrow: I think it’s essential to find something about yourself that makes your brand irresistible. There are so many graphic artists, marketing wizards, photographers, and writers. I think it’s important to find something that is a catch. For me, I’ve found that my personality and vision is the niche. I write about subjects that make you thirsty and hungry!
SmallBizLady: How did you decide to focus on food and wine as your niche?
Warren Bobrow: I’ve always had a passion for food and wine. It came from being influenced by architecture and European travel. My parents’ home was influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright and built by the Taliesin Fellowship architect named Morton Delson. He was Frank Lloyd Wright’s east coast representative for building homes. Morton designed the second wing at the Guggenheim in NYC. One of the things that Mr. Wright suggested to his clients (like my parents) was Asian art and Burgundy wine. I grew up surrounded by many interesting things. Although my mother couldn’t cook, I was brought to many authentic restaurants both in the United States and abroad. Eating food from specific places couldn’t help but influence me! I’ve always had a natural passion for architecture – both on the plate and off.
SmallBizLady: How did you make the transition to food blogger from corporate America?
Warren Bobrow: I really didn’t have a choice. I was working as an executive assistant for about 20 years. It was really a dead end life that unfortunately paid a pretty good wage. The benefits made it impossible to leave; yet I was off shored and I was forced to change. This really happened overnight. I had never written much of anything. Maybe a restaurant review here, a bulletin board there. But everyplace I wrote something I would get the most belligerent replies. People couldn’t understand why I described food the way I do. They still harass me; it drives me to be better! Leaving Corporate America was not my choice- but it was one that I had to make! I could have gone back to being an executive assistant, but the truth is, I wasn’t very good at my job.
SmallBizLady: What kinds of content do you typically share on your blog? Reviews, recipes, etc?
Warren Bobrow: As of late I love reviewing liquor. Brown spirits like rum, bourbon, Cognac and Scotch (less Scotch) are filing my timeline. I just got some Templeton Rye yesterday; it’s lush, soft on the tongue and cinnamon tinged. I love it. I’m also a fan of Botanical gin. The more citrus the better! I always include recipes and photography shot with my Leica M8. It’s funny to say now, with my apparent success as a writer, I really consider myself a better photographer! I love to share information with my readers.
SmallBizLady: How often do you develop new content and post to your blog?
Warren Bobrow: Cocktailwhisperer.com is a combination of work from all my media outlets. I use it to make things easy for my readers. If I hand them a business card, cocktailwhisperer.com is the go/to. I don’t want to confuse people. Attention spans are short. I have to grab their attention quickly. I put something up when it comes to me. Not every day, but at least a few times per month.
SmallBizLady: How did you develop writing skills about liquor and spirits?
Warren Bobrow: Oh my. It just came to me in a dream. Really! When I read my early work, I mean only about two years ago early (!) they always strike me as being fresh and really- a new voice. The James Beard Award winning food writer, Alan Richman said of my work, “one to be watched” and this made me think, what am I doing right? When I think about writing skills I always think of my college professor, the author Jack Gantos. He taught me to just write. Put myself in the reader’s vision and make them thirsty or hungry as it is. I used to like to write about wine, but that world is so subjective. There really is no creativity to wine writing. You either capture the nuances of the grape or you don’t. There are only so many words to use, otherwise you are considered not serious. I’m not serious at all when I write! That’s the beauty of it. I think to develop your writing skills you must un-think the process. Do what you love. If it becomes forced, quit now, because that unease will show through. I’ve written almost 400 articles around the world. Not all of them are great. But all show passion. That is how you must write. It’s not work for me when I’m comfortable speaking about what I know and am passionate about. I just start writing and the words flow!
SmallBizLady: What did you do to start building your social media footprint?
Warren Bobrow: I first started social media in the 1990’s; it’s still fun for me to use Twitter and Facebook. LinkedIn is more problematic. I think LinkedIn requires more engagement. I’m not working it like I work Twitter or Facebook. I started using Social Media as a way to introduce my work to the world, in Real Time. But mostly I was just listening, re/tweeting. Not writing or engaging much. Sure I sent a thank you note to nearly everyone who followed me, but not like I do today. I look at the 140 characters and think elevator pitch.
SmallBizLady: You took a lot of heat from other food critics when you got started, how did you handle that?
Warren Bobrow: First of all you must grow a thick skin and secondly, if they are not talking about you, then they must not be interested in the food writing. I have had ups and downs as a food critic. The up part is being able to be critical without an agenda to destroy. The down part is being critical and then being criticized for being honest in a review. I don’t sugar coat my reviews. If I see a problem, I’ll say so.
As a trained chef (from dishwasher up) I can speak the chef’s language. I’m working in a restaurant now (The Ryland Inn, Four Stars-NJ Monthly) as a bartender and waiter. It’s grueling work. It’s much harder to work in a restaurant than to write about them, certainly the hours are rough on home life. Most of my peers have never cooked food on the line or tackled a sink full of dirty pots and dishes when the dishwasher was out sick. I don’t blame them for never working in restaurants, yet I believe to be a good writer about food you need to really KNOW the business from the inside out. This cannot be taught in a book. So as far as taking heat from other food critics, I can take it. Can they? I doubt it very much. Their knees would give out and, as far as hauling out the trash? Hmmm.
SmallBizLady: How did you go from writing for your blog to writing for a living and how long did it take to start earning money?
Warren Bobrow: Joy Stocke of the Wild River Review (501c3 non-profit literary magazine in Princeton, NJ) saw my passion and talent. She gave me my start in the writing world. Soon thereafter I came in second place in the IFWTWA (International Food, Wine and Travel Writers) food-writing contest with my piece on Maine Oysters. It was a revelation. My wife encouraged me to do what I love since I have talent. Then I submitted a piece of writing to Saveur Magazine. I was chosen for the Saveur 100 for my article on a Tuna Melt. I was awarded to #30 (out of 100), I’m currently writing a book on Apothecary Cocktails. It’s hard work!
SmallBizLady: When did you start using social media, how did you get started there?
Warren Bobrow: I discovered Twitter around 2008. To be able to express oneself in 140 characters or fewer, in real time was a revelation. To connect with people around the globe and have conversations with them was something that I’d never experienced prior. I met Jeff Pulver (#140 Conf) and Jeffrey Hayzlett (former CMO Kodak) around this time and saw them as bellwethers of the future of communications, Twitter, Facebook, the not yet discovered….
They became my friends and have encouraged me to continue at my craft. According to my friend and author, Kara Newman – I treat Twitter like an Olympic event. If I clog your feeds, I’m sorry!
SmallBizLady: What is your favorite social networking site and why?
Warren Bobrow: My favorite site is Facebook. I can share my photography, writing and freeform thoughts. Google+ is in use too, but it’s just not as user friendly.
SmallBizLady: You have also been well known for using video to share information. How has video helped to build your brand?
Warren Bobrow: I need to engage You Tube more. I’ve done several Cocktail Whisperer mixology pieces. More to come on this.
SmallBizLady: What would you say is the #1 thing that has led to your success as a niche brand?
Warren Bobrow: Perhaps it’s my personality? Or maybe my smile? I know it’s my passion. I revel in my dream to become me. It’s hard to explain, but easy to see that I am doing what I love. This past ‘tales of the cocktail’ I was standing outside the Old Absinthe House in the French quarter in New Orleans. Dozens of people walk by this establishment on a given day. I was approached by at least fifty people who asked me if I was Warren Bobrow, and said that they love my work. That hasn’t happened here in New Jersey and that is sad for me, but I will say that I’m better known in New Orleans than my hometown!
SmallBizLady: I can’t close this interview without asking what is your favorite thing to cook and drink?
Warren Bobrow: I love to grill over natural charcoal. Sausages from our local butcher, Steve and Marty Hoeffner are most satisfying for me. Their bacon or smoked pork chops are other-worldly when grilled. They dry age their PRIME meat for 28 days- no one else crafts their meats and poultry like the Hoeffners. A Crown Roast of Pork with a sausage stuffing is perhaps the most awe-inspiring experience of my life. To drink, it’s Burgundy. And Beer. And Rhum Agricole. And really great Rye from places like Tuthilltown and Templeton Rye. And of course Root, Snap, Spodee and Rhubarb. There are so many!
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Melinda F. Emerson, known to many as SmallBizLady is America’s #1 small business expert. As CEO of Quintessence Multimedia, Melinda educates entrepreneurs and Fortune 500 companies on subjects including small business start-up, business development and social media marketing to fulfill her mission to end small business failure. She writes a weekly column on social media for The New York Times. Forbes Magazine named her #1 woman for entrepreneurs to follow on Twitter. She hosts #SmallBizChat Wednesdays on Twitter 8-9pm ET for emerging entrepreneurs. She also publishes a resource blog http://www.succeedasyourownboss.com Melinda is also the bestselling author of Become Your Own Boss in 12 months; A Month-by-Month Guide to a Business That Works and the ebook: How To Become A Social Media Ninja; 101 Ways to Dominate Your Competition Online.