Self-confessed foodie is making it happen

Self-confessed foodie is making it happen
30 August 2012

SAMANTHA Wood has eight big passions: food, destinations, hotels, aeroplanes, pilates, shopping, salsa and swimming.

It is the first of these great loves that led the expat, a PR professional with 18 years’ experience in the UK and Middle East, to launch FooDiva, a website that offers impartial restaurant reviews, up-to-date news on the UAE food scene and recipes, in February last year.

Within nine months, the site was awarded second place in the annual ‘best blog in Dubai’ awards.

cashy wanted to find out how Cyprus-born Wood (she’s half Greek-Cypriot, half British and has lived in Dubai for the last 13 years) has been ‘making it happen’, so we sat down for a chat...

What’s FooDiva all about?

FooDiva is a Dubai-based blog dedicated to sharing impartial, intelligent restaurant reviews and food features. It helps make the decision on which restaurant to choose a little easier, as well as providing news bites on the latest foodie happenings. FooDiva pays her own way and does not accept freebies in return for reviews.

How did you get the idea?

In late summer 2010, I started a food blog as a hobby to document my travels in China and Japan, and when I returned to Dubai I realised there was a real gap in the market for a website dedicated to restaurant reviews that are ultimately impartial.

How did you finance it?

Initially, by drawing on my savings and investments. At the same time, I also have a number of other ‘hats’ – a communications consultant and trainer, a freelance journalist and editor-at-large for ITP’s Gourmet magazine which helped fund FooDiva in its start-up phase last year.

What sort of background are you from?

I am lucky to have had a very comfortable upbringing, but a highly disciplined one too!

My mother ran her own advertising agency business, but it’s thanks to my father’s work in the hospitality industry that I developed an appetite for good restaurants and food.

My last role before setting up my own business was director of corporate communications for Hilton Worldwide in the Middle East and Africa.

Has the nasty economic downturn affected your business?

I think I was very lucky as Dubai was beginning to see light when I launched FooDiva. At the same time, the dining out scene is booming here fuelled by a primarily expat population, and with the advent of social media more and more people are turning to blogs for impartial opinions.

Direct revenue is generated via advertising and sponsorship (all completely separate to the editorial), so whilst naturally this wasn’t an easy sell to begin with, FooDiva now has strong brand recognition and good traffic with a very targeted and engaged following so advertisers are taking note.

What about your personal purse-strings?

It has certainly made me monitor my expenditure more closely against my income. My parents instilled a good sense of financial responsibility in me, so I have a strong saving mentality which has allowed me the flexibility to set up my own business.

What’s been your biggest financial challenge?

Leaving the corporate world after 16 years and losing that regular monthly income was my biggest concern.

And achievement?

Making a profit within the first year – albeit a small one!

Hit us with your three top financial tips for consumers today...

Always monitor your expenditure against your income. Pay off your credit card every month. Avoid taking out loans – unless it’s to offset tax. And can I have a fourth one please? Don’t let financial planning get you down: life’s too short, so live it as best as you can!

How are you ‘making it happen’?

I’m incredibly driven and firmly abide by the mantra ‘where there’s a will, there’s a way’. Bundles of energy, enthusiasm, passion and love also help!

Pic credit: ITP

Are you inspired by Samantha's story? What's your burning business idea?

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Freelance editor and journalist
mediahill Ltd
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