BY :Toni OkamotoPUBLISHED : October 22nd, 2018UPDATED: October 6th, 2021
I was led to blogging by a greater good: I was an activist with information to share. I wanted to spread the plant-based message and make the lifestyle feel more accessible by offering tons of free recipes created by me and my friends, to show that people from different walks of life have been successful with this diet. For the first five years, everything on my site was free, there were no ads, and I lost money every year.
It wasn’t until I was in the unfortunate and uncomfortable position of being jobless that I began to consider Plant-Based on a Budget as a possible career. My dear friend and one of my biggest cheerleaders, Michelle Cehn, had become a full-time blogger just one-year prior and gave me the idea and encouragement to do this work full-time.
The other compatible piece that contributed to this pivotal moment in my life was that it was around the same time I decided to go back to school. In my early 20s, I had written college off as “not for me,” but after attending a life-changing University of San Francisco graduation in my late 20s, I decided to go back and finish. At the graduation, the faculty discussed education as an empowerment tool to help others. That’s all it took. I wanted to help others, and I could possibly be more effective at it if I had a higher education. And, boy, were they right! I was in the USF School of Management program within a year, and I spent the next two years learning how business can be a force for good in the world. You see, for me, living in service meant working for non-profits. I thought that was the only way to help people, but this program taught me the power of social entrepreneurs.
The photo above is of me and Michelle on the first day I decided to do Plant-Based on a Budget full-time. I had been interviewing with animal advocacy non-profits for months and was totally discouraged by the process. Then, I went on a trip with Michelle to write an e-book and everything fell into place. She told me that it’d be tough but that she believed I could turn my blog into a job. And, miraculously, my friends, Brian Ottens and Eric Day, made small (but extremely valuable to me) contributions to the “donate” button I had on my site, and it was the push forward I needed. No one ever used that button, but on the day Michelle and nearly talked me into it, my friends showed their financial support for my dream, and I’ve been running with it ever since.
The first thing I did was create a Patreon profile. If you’re unfamiliar with Patreon, I’ll definitely be talking about it more in my future blog posts, but in brief, it’s a crowd-funding platform that allows people to sponsor individuals/ bloggers/ musicians/ artists/ etc. on a monthly-basis. I set mine up and asked friends to help me help people. A swing dance friend named Paul Schwartz sponsored me at $12 a month and told me that if I ever wanted business advice, he’d be happy to help. I definitely took him up on his generous offer, and his knowledge gained from being a CEO of a successful company, a CPA, an investor, and more, helped greatly. He helped me put together a SWOT analysis, a 1/3/5-year plan, and helped me figure out that I needed to make $1200 per month to pay my rent and bills. If you’re just starting out, I highly recommend starting with those tasks!
I lived on a small amount of savings during that time and cut back on all expenses. I cancelled subscriptions, stopped eating out, I emailed the wonderful swing dance organizers in my community to explain my situation and ask if I could attend dances for free for a bit … all of this was very difficult for me. I hated asking for help, and I’m so grateful for everyone who helped along the way.
I’ve now been doing this blog full-time for two years and have learned soooooo much along the way. I’ve had some successes and some failures, and I’m excited to share them with you on this For Bloggers series. 🙂
About Toni Okamoto
"They say you are what you eat, so I strive to be healthy.
My goal in life is not to be rich or wealthy,
'Cause true wealth comes from good health and wise ways...
we got to start taking better care of ourselves " - Dead Prez