Malika Harricharan – Founder of the Association of Food Bloggers

[quote style=”boxed”]Outsource everything you can within your means. As entrepreneurs we often think we have to be the master of everything. That isn’t the best approach with everything there is to manage nowadays.[/quote] Malika Harricharan was born in Mumbai (formerly Bombay), India, but only lived there for a couple months before being adopted by two wonderful, loving people. Had they not adopted her, she would have surely perished from the terrible living conditions in the orphanage where she was.

While in the orphanage, Malika was malnourished and mistreated to the point that when her adoptive parents came to get her, those managing the orphanage told them, “this baby will mostly likely die; you should choose another.” Determination led them to take their chances with her, literally smuggling her on a plane back to the United States. It was an incredible journey and they beat incredible odds, but that’s another story….

With a background in Marketing, Malika has worked in Market Research and Product Development for varied industries including transit, manufacturing, and Consumer Packaged Goods. She is currently a consultant in Online Marketing and a Freelance writer, having just published her first book, Food Lovers’ Guide to Atlanta. She works for various clients, creating, writing and managing Blogs, Email Newsletters, Social Media profiles, as well as helping companies with Blogger Outreach, and other Internet Marketing efforts.

Malika loves trying new foods and is quite an adventurous eater. She consistently seeks out hidden gems, and writes about them on her blog, Atlanta Restaurant Blog. Recognizing the need to clearly define the standards for Food Bloggers, she founded the Association of Food Bloggers in 2009. The goal of the AoFB is to qualify reputable Food Bloggers and serve as a resource for tips and information on all things blogging related. She is also the DIY Diva for Floor and Decor Outlets of America, a national home improvement company.

What are you working on right now?

I’m developing an online course for Food Bloggers. The number one question I get asked by aspiring bloggers is how to get started. So, I’d like to put together a course they can follow. There are courses out there for blogging, but I’d like to create one specific for FOOD Bloggers. The AoFB has tips and resources for becoming better but I want to put together a course that maps out exactly how to get started.

I’d also like to help Public Relations companies with Blogger Outreach. After speaking to the Public Relations Society of America and fielding their questions, I realize what a disconnect there is between PR folks and bloggers. I’d like to help bridge that gap by being a consultant to these professionals.

Where did the idea for the Association of Food Bloggers come from?

I was really surprised to see just how many blogs are unethical. This includes everything from posting copyrighted material, to unfairly attacking restaurants, and more. There are so many sites, besides blogs, for PR companies to monitor – Yelp, forums, etc. So, I wanted to create to the AoFB as a directory listing for reputable bloggers. I also want the AoFB to serve as a resource for bloggers, alerting bloggers to new technology and trends that will help them as well as other opportunities available for them.

What does your typical day look like?

I check emails first thing and respond to those that are critical. I then check various social networks like Facebook and Twitter and respond to any questions I must answer. I manage Social Media accounts for various companies so I spend about an hour each day answering posting for those companies. Then I peruse industry websites to keep up-to-date on trends in Social Media. I write blogs professionally, so I spend several hours per day on that as well. I also like to find time everyday to squeeze in meditation and exercise. I find a good balance between mind and body helps keep me focused.

How do you bring ideas to life?

One of the best ways I’ve found is by talking with others in my community. I may have an idea for something, but bouncing around ideas with my peers helps tremendously to flesh out ideas and add some meat to them.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

Individuals branding themselves via Social Media. I see folks blogging and tweeting about a niche and branding themselves an expert in their field whether that is DIY, wine or sci-fi movies. They gain loyal readers and followers because of the unique spin they put on their niche. In several years I went from a Marketing / Accounting role to becoming a published author because of Social Media. Instead of working your way up in a company, this is taking charge and branding yourself as the expert and reaping the rewards that come from doing so.

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

Working as Accountant. Although I really like math and numbers, it just wasn’t for me. It wasn’t much of a challenge. However, because it was so boring, I started writing my blog and building up my Social Media business on the side as a creative outlet. If it wasn’t for that job that I hated, I may never have started blogging.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

Had I known that the blogosphere would have grown at the rate it has and just how popular blogs would have become, I would have laid out my blog a bit differently – an online magazine vs. a blog. I would have recruited several writers to build it up to be a huge traffic generator. If you think about it, some of the sites with the most traffic are simply blogs – factual sites with short articles that are updated regularly.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Never stop learning, especially when it comes to technology. The world is changing so much. If you don’t keep up, you will get left behind. I spend at least one hour per day reading articles online about Social Media and Marketing and what the latest trends are just to stay on top.

What is one problem you encountered as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

Having enough time. I’ve still not mastered it but I make lists of the most important things I must accomplish each day. That helps to prioritize. Also, as entrepreneurs, we seem to have so many business ideas floating around in our heads, we can’t possibly pursue every idea. It is better to hone in on a couple things with laser sharp focus until they are complete vs. trying to do a hundred different things poorly.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Outsource everything you can within your means. As entrepreneurs we often think we have to be the master of everything. That isn’t the best approach with everything there is to manage nowadays. For example, while I’m somewhat technical, I will never be a web design wizard, so I outsource those things I can afford to and focus on what my skills are: writing, cultivating ideas.

If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?

I really dislike how companies have stopped caring about their employees. There’s no loyalty or respect in most companies anymore and benefits are shrinking. I’d like people to know how easy it is to start your own business, be it blogging or something else. Of course, it requires hard work and dedication, but it is so worth it to do something you love. Giving others the skills to begin blogging is one way I can help people break free from being slaves to jobs they despise.

Tell us a secret.

Good is good enough. I’m not saying don’t proofread or make sure things are grammatically correct, but if you focus all your time on making things 100 percent perfect, you’ll never do anything.

What are your three favorite online tools or resources and what do you love about them?

1. – When I can’t do something technical I know I can go here and usually find someone to do it for me for only 5 bucks.

2. YouTube – Being entrepreneurial means that you often times are responsible for figuring everything out yourself. When I need to know how to do something web related and I can’t figure it out I just go to Youtube, type in what I’m looking for and then type the world “Tutorial” after it. Within seconds a myriad of videos answering my questions pop up.

3. Twitter – Yes, it isn’t something exclusive. Everyone has heard of Twitter but I love to use it as a resource. I use it in different ways:

  • Industry news. I follow those that tweet useful information.
  • It allows me to connect with those people that may have been unreachable before. You’d be surprised how many industry players respond quickly and favorably on Twitter. They are very forthcoming with information and eager to help. So, it is a good way to network in your industry or help to find work.
  • I’ve made friends far and near because of Twitter. I heard a saying a while back. “Facebook is for friends who are now strangers. Twitter is for strangers who should be your friends.” It is so true. I’ve met and maintained so many friendships because of common interests on Twitter.

Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?

Yaro Starak – Terrific tips for starting your own business, especially blogging and internet marketing. He is frank and honest about his experiences and sharing with others the tools to be successful.

Josh Hinds – Very inspirational information for those starting / having their own business. Helps to get the creative juices flowing.

Jo Barnes – I love that this lady had the guts to quit her job and start teaching entrepreneurship and social media to others. Although new(ish) to this game, she shares as she learns. She doesn’t tweet often, but a good person to follow on Facebook as well.

When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?

I was watching the movie Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs the other day. I love movies like that that make us remember when we were kids and really think about we wanted to do with our lives and what we feel inspired to do. The main character, Flint, has an unwavering attitude about following his dream of being and inventor and doesn’t let anything get in his way. His clumsy nature and the way he was “flirting” with a girl he liked was too funny!

Who is your hero?

My dad. He has faced tremendous obstacles in his life and always keeps a positive attitude and is also the person who inspired me to become a writer.

What advice do you have for aspiring Bloggers?

1. Make sure to pick a topic you feel passionate about when it comes to writing. If you pick something you aren’t interested in, you will grow bored with it long before you reap any of the benefits.

2. Be open to the ideas and great things that can come from your blog. I’ve met many wonderful people, been to amazing events and have had terrific opportunities come my way because of my blog and because I was open to them.

3. If you plan to be in it for the long haul, you must be willing to embrace technology and social media. Blogging alone won’t work. You must use social media to help build your blog / brand.

What accomplishment are you most proud of?

Becoming a published author. I always loved writing and thought I did well as a blogger and freelance writer but never thought I’d write a book. It has opened so many doors for me and given me so much credibility. For entrepreneurs, it is a good idea to write a book, even if you have to self publish. It will give you a tremendous amount of credibility in your field. I can’t wait to see what’s next for me!


Facebook: Association of Food Bloggers
Atlant Restaurant Blog:
Association of Food Bloggers on Twitter: @FoodBloggersASC
Atlanta Restaurant Blog on Twitter: @ATLEatsNTweets
Malika Harricharan Facebook: M. Harricharan
Malika Harricharan on LinkedIn: Malika Harricharan