DUNEDIN — In July 2011, Isabel Laessig wrote her first blog post. In it, she told an emotional story about her daughter Alexandra being the first child to leave for college and how she would miss making her breakfast.
“It was a silly little story about pancakes,” Laessig said. “How exciting.”
Three years later, Laessig is now a blogging force at FamilyFoodie.com, having established her Sunday Supper weekly event for which food bloggers gather online around the table to share recipes and stories. Brands such as Gallo Family Vineyards, Dixie Crystals, the Idaho Potato Commission and American Family Insurance are clamoring to do business with her. As a side benefit, Alexandra, now 21, helps her mother produce the blog.
On Friday, Laessig will hold a three-day Food & Wine Conference at the Rosen Shingle Creek resort in Orlando to teach other food bloggers how to monetize their content by building relationships with one another and brands.
Last year’s inaugural conference was conceived as a “girlfriends getaway” at a bed-and-breakfast with about 30 of Laessig’s online pals. Instead, it attracted 125 participants to the Rosen resort. This year’s conference, which includes three days of parties, dinners, cooking demonstrations and how-to seminars, will have close to 200 attendees.
The goal is to show fellow bloggers, most of whom only recently started writing and photographing, how to work with brands to actually make money from their hobby.
“We’re aiming to inspire people to go from blog to business,” she said. “That’s what it’s all about: how to make a difference in the lives of our followers.”
Unlike other conferences where bloggers and brands rarely mix beyond exchanging promotional materials and business cards, Laessig’s conference puts everyone in the same room so they can network and build relationships.
“There are so many more opportunity for bloggers to work with brands,” she said. “We live in this online world, but there’s still nothing like meeting people in person and getting to know them and speaking to them. That makes a world of difference.”
Meeting fellow bloggers was key to persuading Shaina Wizov to drive three hours north from Boca Raton for the conference. In 2011, she began the South Florida restaurant and food blog Take a Bite Out of Boca, in addition to her full-time marketing job for a book publishing company.
Wizov wants to learn more about how to put a media kit together to attract the notice of food companies that might want to sponsor her site and her posts. She also wants to learn more about her publishing software and how to better leverage the power of Google+. Making more money from using the latest tools would help, she said.
In May, she attended BlogHer, a blogging conference aimed at women, in Miami and was able to meet Laessig. The networking experience convinced her that a trip to the Food & Wine Conference in July would be invaluable for networking with bloggers she met online through Laessig’s Sunday Supper events.
“It does take up a lot of my time, but I’m meeting a lot of people and I’m able to experience things that other people aren’t,” Wizov said. “I think its worth it. The experience I’m getting and the places I’m going are equivalent to a salary. Making money from it is a goal.”
Last year, Krayl Funch was one of the volunteers who offered to help Laessig plan the conference. This year, Funch is a presenter, teaching bloggers how to harness the power of video, whether it be TV segments, video blogging or YouTube channels.
Funch is a home and event stylist in Tampa who started her An Appealing Plan blog three years ago on a whim. Two years ago, she began getting serious about using the blog to promote her design business.
At this year’s conference, Funch will share details about her recent Kickstarter effort to raise money to publish a book. Her goal was to raise $5,000. Her social media connections helped push the total amount raised to more than $6,700. Lessons learned at last year’s conference helped hone her efforts.
“You need a compelling message,” Funch said.