Can you REALLY do what you love, and make more money in tough economic times?

Written on Thursday, October 15th, 2009 at 10:11 am by Liz
Filed under Financial Freedom.

Ric and I have been married for almost 17 years now, and we’ve run our businesses together for more than 10.

It doesn’t surprise me anymore when people come up to me with genuine amazement at how we keep at it.

With a mixture of wide-eyed wonder and shock, people ask:  “How can you stand being together for that long, working together, and spending your free days together too?!”

The answer is – we couldn’t imagine it any other way.  It wasn’t always easy – but that’s a topic for another day <g>.

The more important question is not HOW we do it – it’s WHY we do.

We’re passionate about our freedom, and want to help other people find that for themselves as well.

Since there really is no separation for us between business and personal life often concepts and ideas will come to us from the strangest places, and we use them to reinforce the basic lessons of business.

Which brings me to one of the many things Ric and I are just loved that ended up last August – the show called The Next Food Network Star!

Being a family of foodies, we are always on the lookout for whatever’s out there that’s interesting about food – recipes, restaurant reviews, shows – anything.  And if it’s a show, since we only watch about 4 hours of TV a week, it had BETTER be good <g>…

What caught our attention

The Next Food Network Star was a show that featured cooks of different nature, backgrounds and expertise and pitted them against one another to get a shot at their own show on the Food Network.

I can only imagine how many people are out there who are good enough cooks to have their own show, or come out with their own cook books or start their own catering business or restaurant, or whatever.

If food is your passions I say – GO FOR IT!!

But keep the rest of this post in mind (and this goes for anyone in ANY business…)

But I’m getting ahead of myself – so back to the show…

Part of the competition of the Next Food Network Star highlights strategies, cooking styles, types of dishes, and the ability to be creative, calm, and poised under EXTREME pressure. What got us hooked was that contestants ranged from actual chefs, to sales managers, to the Season 5 winner Melissa d’Arabian – who’s actually a stay-at-home mom.  (Sounds like your typical pool of new entrepreneurs doesn’t it…)


I saw a clear message with the variety of backgrounds – on the surface you might think pitting trained chefs and dietitians against sales managers and stay-at-home-moms makes the playing field unfair.  But what it REALLY shows is that the field is what you make of it – when you’re in a competition, or in your business – or even in your personal life, your passion , drive, dedication , and creativity count for a TON more than pieces of paper hanging on a wall, or the proper “credentials.”

We initially thought Jeffrey was going to win. He was a clear leader throughout the entire competition but when it came down to the last 6 contestants, I started to see Melissa coming out on top.

Here’s why…

Play smart to win big

The last two cooks left were Ric and my favorites from the start.

2nd runner up Jeffrey Saad was very personable, poised and confident. Amidst all the kitchen chaos and the heat of a competition, he remained calm and he DELIVERED. Cooking Without Borders as his show would be called, took flight from his style on the show – which was to take cooking out of the box by taking a spice from a particular region or country, and integrating it in simple and common dishes to give it a twist. Concept-wise, we thought it was a great idea. As a cook, he was really good and very professional. We trailed him from then on for those reasons.


Melissa d’Arabian was the black horse. Compared to the Culinary Academy graduate Jeffrey, Melissa’s training was from cooking with her mom as a child and then for 4 young girls and husband at home. We trailed her too because we like rooting for the underdog, and because she had a concept that will make people sit down, watch and listen.

Here’s how she won.

Play to the Market

Melissa saw a need and, plain and simple, she filled it. I knew she was going to win because she met a demand that is very high in today’s tough times.

During the show, her point of view for cooking was “Family Cooking at its Best.”

At the end, I figured, if you’re still in the running you’re a damned good cook.  So let’s call all things equal in that department.

What it came down to, to win the competition was, who will make Food Network the most money – remember at the core this show was all about finding another personality for Food Network to add to their stable of Stars and the network is a business.

So there’s a lesson to be taken from this as well.  You hear lots of talk in the media, the blogosphere, talk shows, etc. about living your passions and making a living with your passions.  Many people have it in their head that, that “looks” a certain way and don’t deviate at all often ending up with a failed business and crushed dreams.  They forget to innovate under extreme pressure.

Let’s analyze the contestants though:

Jeffrey and Melissa are both absolutely passionate about food, cooking, and its importance to families.

Did they HAVE to go start a restaurant or catering business?


Did they go the publishing route and write cookbooks or entertaining guides?


Did they go get all the training people say is necessary to make it in the “food world” attending culinary school, etc.?

Jeffrey – yes.

Melissa – No.

OK – so they have the same passion and could have gone in any number of other directions with that, but they both decided to go the route of a television personality.

So now – remember for the sake of argument we’re declaring culinary talent equal.  What’s left?

Appeal to the Market!

Food Network chose Melissa because she is the most marketable.

I chose her as the winner before the competition was ever over because I saw that her concept was more marketable – at least in today’s recession and hard financial times.

Jeffrey wanted to incorporate exotic ingredients to expand people’s culinary horizons.

Melissa wanted to help people “survive in the kitchen” and eat well in spite of being so busy they could barely see straight.

Which do YOU think would be the easier sell to Food Network and its viewers?

So what’s the Take Away?

In business, even if you have a really cool concept that you believe will fly, even if you’re passionate about it, you have to think of how the real world will take it – right here and right now.

In the middle of an economic recession, diamond studded dog collars and designer squirrel clothes are probably not the best way to break into the pet market.

But if you want to get into the gardening and landscape business it might make sense to look at creating information products related to designing and supporting organic kitchen gardens.

You see the difference?  A passion for food, animals, or gardening need not be hindered by economic times, but it must be molded by them.

Even in tough times where businesses are closing left and right – there are businesses that will open up and thrive. We just have to keep our eyes open, stay true to our passions, and listen to needs of the market.

Check out Melissa’s new show on Food Network called “$10 Dinners” where she shares ideas and recipes for delicious, fresh meals to feed  4 people for $10 or less at

How’s THAT for timely and market sensitive?

And let us know your thoughts and comments on making money living your passions – even in tough times.

6 Responses to “Can you REALLY do what you love, and make more money in tough economic times?”

  1. Just wanted to say you have a great site and thanks for posting!

  2. Hi there, I just finished reading some of your posts and found you to be quite informative. Thanks.

  3. I don’t usually post but I enjoyed your blog a lot, thanks alot for the great read.

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  5. Liz says:

    Hi Blanca,

    Thank you for the greeting! Ric and I are lucky to have found each other. I’m thankful for the partnership we share, in business and in our personal lives. It’s amazing when you get to work and share your success with someone you love. I hope that others get to experience great success too, whether on their own or with a loved one. The important thing is heeding the call of your passion and the happiness it brings you.

    Happy holidays!

  6. There are many measures of success.(and failures). I do believe that the real bond between a partnership in marriage with integrity, respect and love is what allows for passion and making money living in your passions.
    I’m not saying that one cannot do it alone. But I do believe the synergy of this kind of partnership makes things happen much more quickly.
    So congratulations on doing the virtually impossible. Working together for all those years and still married and sharing love.

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