With an online business, you think you can wake up any time of the day, grab some coffee, post a few pictures on Instagram, and sit back while money rolls into your bank account? It’s not like that. In fact, it’s the opposite!
People usually underestimate the skills, time, and energy it requires. So to get a clearer perspective on what it takes to be successful, we spoke to Ili Sulaiman, food and TV host, the current ambassador of the Asian food network, and the owner of Dish by Ili, an online community platform to share recipes Ili has created on TV to inspire people to get into their kitchens to cook.
Obviously, when running a business, you’ll need to have an idea of what you want to achieve – is it freedom and flexibility, to learn new skills, or to build on a passion?
In Ili’s case, her mission was to be “to preserve Malaysian heritage. I continue to hold that value as I go into other opportunities for Dish by Ili or for Ili Sulaiman,” says Ili. “Our value has always been to preserve Malaysian heritage through food, and that still is something we adhere to in our day-to-day activities.”
Inspiration is crucial to any business – online or traditional. Ili explains that her inspiration comes from friends and collaborations with other individuals. In fact, Ili says that the inspiration for Dish by Ili “came from a friend, who, at the time, was diagnosed with cancer. He got me to cook for him every day. It seemed like it was meant to be when he turned around to me and said ‘you should be doing this as a career.’ I went forth from that inspiration and started Dish by Ili food delivery service.”
Engagement with your Audience
The way Dish by Ili engages with their audience is an important aspect to consider. “I think what makes us really approachable is that we don’t really hard-sell anything,” says Ili. All they need is everyday content to share with their audience. “That has always been our ethos, to work with brands, but on our terms, so it doesn’t feel like we’re force-feeding information to the customer and the audience,” says Ili. She adds to say that their measure of success is based on their overall engagement with their audience and how positive they respond to the food blog and what is done daily.
Adaptability & Progression
We asked Ili what challenges she has faced with Dish by Ili. “A lot of the challenges come from a change in the market, a change in the industry, a change in resources, and economic changes. With that, there came a time when the business no longer needed a bigger team. As a way to adapt, we hire based on freelancers to manage our resources as well,” says Ili. And being able to adapt leads to progress. Dish by Ili has developed towards selling products, particularly their chilli oil, instead of just sharing recipes. “Over the years, we’ve always considered selling some sort of merchandise, and the chilli oil boom has been in the woodworks for the last two years. Essentially, during the MCO, it gave us the time to sit back, relax, and reflect on a next step for Dish by Ili.”