Spotlight Feature: Aysegul Sanford of Foolproof Living
Here at Ahalogy, it’s no secret that our content creators are at the core of everything we do. From their gorgeous imagery to their unique creative vision, we would be lost without our Ahalogy Partners—a network of over 5,500 content creators across the Food & Drink, Health & Beauty, Lifestyle, and Parenting categories. Just as no two blogs look the same, each of our partners have a different story to share.
Aysegul Sanford is a Turkish-born blogger working out of Manchester, Vermont. She originally began her career in hotel management and together with her husband, their travels have taken them everywhere from the British Virgin Islands to Atlanta, Georgia to Vancouver, Canada. It was in 2013, while she was living on the island of Virgin Gorda, that Aysegul started her blog—Foolproof Living—after the unexpected death of her mother. In the nearly five years since then, Aysegul has managed to build an incredible website and dedicated reader base, partnering with a variety of brands and learning plenty of lessons along the way. This is her story.
What inspired you to start your blog, Foolproof Living?
After my husband and I were married, the opportunity in the British Virgin Islands came about and we decided to take it. The plan was that I was going to go there with him, thinking that it would be easy to get a job. Living on an island means living with limited resources and the number one limited resource is jobs. Right after we moved there, we realized that the only option for me was just to be a housewife. Imagine—I was a hotel manager and all of a sudden I became this housewife, which was scary for me.
The first six months were wonderful; I was on the beach all day long and reading all the books that I wasn’t able to read over the years. However, one day I realized that I was about to go crazy. So, I decided to go find a job on the mainland. Right around that time, I got a call from a company that I used to work with basically telling me that they have a job for me in Miami, Florida and they would love for me to start right away.
That same day my mom—who is my best friend in life—and I were talking and I told her that I was planning to accept this job. It was a webcam conversation and she looked into the camera and said, ‘You’re not going anywhere. You’re going to be with your husband. You’re a married woman now and you need to stay with him or that marriage will not work.’ The next morning, we woke up to a phone call from my father telling me that my mother had a heart attack. My mother died that afternoon and the last conversation that I had with her was that I should stay with my husband.
Obviously, it was a really tough time for me after that. After the initial shock, I decided that I needed to find something to do. A really good friend of mine said, ‘Why don’t you start a blog?’ At the time, I didn’t really know anything about blogging. I thought about collecting my mom’s recipes in one place because, you know, when someone dies like that, you think, I’ll never share Christmas or birthdays with her again. But then I realized, I will never have my mom’s food again. My mom was an exceptional cook—I know all moms are—but she was truly exceptional. I was getting phone calls and messages from people asking for certain recipes that she used to make for them.
So, I started the blog as a place where I would talk about my challenges living on an island, how I was struggling with loss, and I would share my mom’s recipes along the way. The challenge of starting a website, of learning photography, of writing, of trying to build a community around what I was doing really helped me get out of my misery. It got me out of my sadness. In those next three years after I started my site, I literally studied everything I could get my hands on about blogging, WordPress, and photography. And that’s how Foolproof Living started.
Where do you find the inspiration for your posts? What drives you to write new content and create new recipes?
After we moved to the US, I started looking at it as more of a business. By improving my writing and photography skills and getting into groups with other bloggers, I started having a community around my work with regular readers and people that I like to communicate with.
What also happened was I started honing my content based on what my readers liked. April will mark my fifth year of blogging and what I realized is: one, what I like is cooking healthy seasonal recipes without refined sugars and two, people started responding to that.
This past October, I did a reader survey where I asked my readers what is was that they wanted me to blog about. The most-requested subject was weeknight dinners so now I’m mostly focusing on that in 2018. And, believe it or not, Turkish recipes work very well for this. That’s what they are wanting and what I am wanting to make; I’m trying to find that intersection all the time and go from there.
What’s the best advice that you have ever been given and what’s the biggest piece of advice that you would give to someone else?
So, the best advice that I was given was that being consistent is very important. Not only just for publishing—as in sticking to a calendar—but making sure that people know you exist and that you exist on a regular schedule. For the last five years, I’ve been publishing two recipes every week. Even when we were in the worst part of moving houses, I still published something—even if it was just to say that, hey, we’re moving and I can’t publish right now but I didn’t forget about you. So, consistency is really important. I was given that tip and I’m so glad that I’ve done it.
The other tip that I would give is to truly be aware of what your readers like. One thing that I do is, every month, I look at who opens my weekly newsletter first and who opens it the most. Then, I send them an email asking if they have 10 minutes to talk to me. Not just because I want to be friends with them, but I also want them to understand that there’s a person behind this email that’s coming to you.
At the end of the day, this is a very lonely job. You’re at home photographing food and washing dishes most of the time. Sometime’s recipes don’t work. You really need to understand who your reader is and get in contact with them, and I struggle with this. How do I know what they want? Even if it means just picking up the phone, it’s a 10- or 15-minute phone conversation that really makes them feel good. That creates the word of mouth that I need for people to go out and say, ‘Hey, you need to go check out this blog.’ You just start small and go from there.
What kind of things do you consider when you’re choosing brands to partner with?
The first thing I look for is whether or not it’s in my niche. Is it healthy, is it seasonal, is it without refined sugars? It was very tempting to create dessert posts during the holiday season. It would be quick money for me. It would have been nice to do that, but it wouldn’t fit my niche. I’m not that person and I don’t create those recipes at home.
The second thing is, would I really use this at home? If the answer is yes, then I’ll work with that company or that brand. I think Ahalogy does such a good job in that you give us the thought-starters or you ask us for recipe ideas. I love the fact that I am telling you what I’m capable of doing or what I’m willing to do prior to going into an agreement with a brand, and they get to choose.
There you have it! Being a content creator is a full-time job in and of itself, and it’s one that requires a lot of effort on behalf of our partners. While Aysegul’s story is as unique as the beautiful content that she creates, the quality of her work resonates throughout our entire Partner Network. Be sure to check out her site and follow her on social media to stay up-to-date on her latest healthy recipe creations.
Check back next month to learn more about our next featured content creator, Amy Loochtan of Coffee Beans and Bobby Pins.