SBCo August Newsletter – Two Women Entrepreneurs: Talent Matters in Food & Film
This month we decided to highlight the creativity, impact and courage of two women entrepreneurs who are successfully using their strengths and passion to share their love of food and film. Natasha Feldman and Julianna Strickland started their own company, Cinema & Spice, over five years ago and have been Best Friends, Producers, Directors, Writers, Hosts, and Goofballs ever since.
Cinema & Spice Productions makes web-based cooking shows. Natasha and Julianna have worked with a variety of companies including
Their Webby Nominated Cooking Show, Cinema & Spice (C&S), has been featured in The LA Times, Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, The Union Tribune, and on The Steve Harvey Show. Each episode of C&S is inspired by a movie or television show and features original recipes, useful kitchen tips, and ideas for entertaining.
Sherry Benjamins (SB): It’s so great to chat with you Julianna and Natasha! Tell us how you started such an imaginative company?
Natasha Feldman (NF): I had just graduated from LMU and decided that I wanted to go to culinary school. Julianna had just graduated from USC with a film degree and we were both working in the same restaurant. At the time that I met Julianna I needed a roommate and she was looking to move out of her apartment, so we became roommates, co-workers, and friends.
We experimented in the kitchen and filmed these mini-episodes of us cooking. The first episode was horrible but we kept playing with it in the editing bay to see if we could create some structure and purpose. At first we thought just our friends and family would watch, but soon we were gaining a following.
Long story short, we started getting sponsors for our episodes and we eventually connected with Yahoo! and grew our business from there.
SB: What role do each of you play in the organization? Do you have a team to help you run this company?
Julianna Strickland (JS): Someday we may be lucky enough to have a full support staff, but for now it’s just the two of us and our freelance team. Natasha is the one who develops recipes, does the food styling and writes. I am all the things under the surface that allow our business to run.
For instance, I do all of the back-end production, accounting, hire the film crew and edit all copy. And we like to do the creative brainstorming for each episode together. We are strategic about getting the best talent available to help us in areas where additional expertise is needed.
SB: Cinema & Spice does their own videos as well as videos for brands. Do brands approach you and just ask for a video?
NF: Yes, brands reach out to a platform, such as Yahoo!, AOL or a YouTube company, looking for content and we get the requests through the larger companies, usually. Sometimes the request is for general concepts to see if they feel it fits in with their current landscape and needs, and other times it’s for full-blown productions. We have been fortunate to work with brands like Kraft, Le Creuset, Keds and KitchenAid.
SB: It is great to hear that you are able to inject some of your creativity into these very large organizations. How can corporations use a similar level of creativity (besides hiring you!)?
NF: Large companies can’t be afraid of the new; it’s no mystery that the world as we know it is changing. That doesn’t mean that companies should make rash decisions to completely alter their brand. Organizations are quick to “blow up” a process or initiative, but sometimes you just need to approach it in a new way.
We find companies often spend egregious amounts of money to work with big production houses and end up with a product that looks like everyone else and doesn’t break the mold. If you don’t hire someone that’s a little risky and don’t make a product that is a little risky, you won’t get the impactful result you were looking for.
SB: There is a lot of change happening right now as the millennial generation enters the workforce. You are both Millennials… any advice for organizations on how to “handle” your generation?
NF: It is really important to embrace the strengths of others and use their talent and perspectives to compliment or break out into something new. We see and honor the power of collaboration. It is pretty easy for Millennials to create a website and launch a company, but there is so much power in the wisdom and expertise of older generations. Technology changes, but the core needs and wants of people don’t change much. Millennials are a valuable asset to fill in the gap between the new technology and the established business.
JS: We are constantly at the crossroad between old and new. The tech space is all about the newest thing, but in the food world, established and authentic brands actually have respect from the consumer. There’s a similar crossroads within organizations between the newest thing (Millennials) and the established/respected business.
SB: You launched your own business in an industry that has a lot of big players. What drove you to take this step?
NF: I will say we were a little naïve to an extent because we had a dream and we decided to go for it. It certainly hasn’t been without consequence, but if you were to ask if we would do it over again, I think we would both certainly say yes.
SB: I am hearing more often these days from corporate professionals who say, “I am ready for a change because my work isn’t exciting or fun anymore. I need to find my purpose again.”
JS: If you choose something you love to do, you will always find the joy and purpose in it. We are lucky to be able to enjoy our work through creating our own episodes, making branded content for others, and volunteering to teach the next generation how to cook, both through our shows and at local food banks and low income housing around LA.
SB: What does 2016 look like for Cinema & Spice?
NF: In 2016 we want to continue to branch out with our production company. We meet so many brilliant people inside organizations as well as independent talent (comedians, actors, bloggers, etc.) that we want to partner with to produce their content. Watch for new episodes and productions that we hope inspire you to incorporate healthy eating into your lifestyle.
Seek out talent the way Julianna and Natasha do for their business. Imagine having the creativity, passion and trust in your workers so that they bring their best to your culture every day. They get to work on something that did not exist yesterday. This dynamic duo is crafting a new on-line and social presence in a changing world.
They think creatively about how work gets done. This supports predictions that new models of work, worker and workplace have arrived. Natasha and Julianna are just one example of young leaders who demonstrate that we have left behind “business as usual.” Tap into your employee’s imagination and you may be thoroughly surprised what can be accomplished!