All good things must come to an end, and today is the last word on Feasting Fort Collins. After nearly 9 years of writing about our local dining community, sharing millions of food photos, and rocking the boat in the process, I’ve come to a fork in the road. That fork is leading me to a whole new adventure to be had.
I started Feasting Fort Collins with $0 and just about the same amount of expectation that it would turn into anything. Then after only six months of writing, it was something, with advertisers excited to participate and help the site grow. And boy, did it grow. There were columns in the Coloradoan and Style Magazine, judging food competitions at events, and a mix of outrage and excitement from readers that honest dining opinions were being published rather than the typical puff pieces everyone else was publishing (in hindsight, there were very valid reasons for that model they followed).
2 years after that, it morphed into an entire local media network with 12 different community lifestyle websites and writers at their helm. We had over 50,000 readers a month (FOR REAL!). And 2 years into that, I was approached by a corporate media network based out of New York to talk about buyouts. While those negotiations didn’t work out, it was still an opportunity I never thought I’d find myself in. I also started a local marketing company at the same time, specializing in local restaurant marketing, all thanks to the experience I gained from this site.
In those nearly 9 years, I’ve had more pizza than I care to ever eat again, countless moments sharing meals at pairing dinners that quite literally gave me goosebumps because they were so delicious, and long-lasting friendships. There was also more drama from ego-driven chefs, owners, and managers than I care to ever have to deal with again, either. And the extra 30 pounds as a result of what happens when you eat for a living.
But for a very long time, Feasting Fort Collins was fun. It was exciting. And it was my life.
After hitting massive burnout after that corporate negotiation fell through, I took some time to figure things out, and separate myself from Feasting Fort Collins. Being so entrenched in it wasn’t unusual, considering the amount of blood, sweat, and tears that goes into building something with grassroots, bootstrapped effort from scratch. A business does indeed become “your baby” when you put 100% of your self in it. While it took some time to sort through that, it allowed me to come up with new business ideas like Choose Your Own Fort Collins, dip my toes into podcasting with Experience Fort Collins, and pass the fork to someone else so I could focus on how to make it all work out.
Local publications need the financial support from readers in order to survive. While other businesses start with a product or service, and the community has no problem paying for those things, information and media is different. It’s the only service where people expect free access because just about everything on the internet is free. You don’t go into a restaurant and eat free food until you feel like they are good enough to pay for and support. But, that’s what happens with digital content, despite the fact that there are real people working hard to create it.
This is why we see puff pieces in publications instead of those honest opinions everyone was so excited about on Feasting Fort Collins. It’s the business community and their marketing dollars that end up supporting publications through advertising. And when that happens, you can’t bite the hand that feeds you.
This is why when I came back as the primary writer on here this year, Feasting Fort Collins 2.0 was all media tastings and sponsored content. All starred reviews were out and no longer going to be published so bridges weren’t burnt; I could grow marketing relationships and support our dining community with a larger positive impact on their business instead. After a handful of failed crowdfunding campaigns over the years, surveys, market research with the readership, and even subscription implementation and testing, there was the resounding declaration that subscriptions weren’t going to be supported. So, attention went all to marketing and working with local businesses.
In this year, my 5 year marketing business has been growing by leaps and bounds because of that decision. That’s what lead to the development of this fork in the road. My husband has been dealing with some health issues, and while he’s ultimately fine, it was the slap of mortality that was the catalyst for this decision. If anything were to happen to him, I wouldn’t be able to support my kids by myself unless I leveled up in my career. That meant we needed to hire people in Four Course Marketing and to start working with national accounts that had larger marketing budgets than the small businesses in Fort Collins we worked with.
Hiring people and growing our boutique agency into a larger firm is something that Ellen and I had absolutely no interest in ever doing with Four Course. It was always supposed to be our side hustle since we each had our own individual businesses too. We didn’t want to grow our own team in Four Course, plus – I simply didn’t have the time to wait for that to happen and grow. This meant that I needed to join an established team to quickly level up. Life presented a serendipitous opportunity to do that. So, that’s what I’m doing.
On Monday, I start my new marketing adventure with WildRock PR & Marketing as their social media specialist, with long-term goals to help grow their digital marketing services. They are a local firm that I’ve known for many years, and have worked with as a journalist on both Feasting Fort Collins and Fresh Air Fort Collins. I highly respect their ability to build relationships with media and businesses. If there’s any team I’m willing to level up with, it’s WildRock all the way.
All of this is possible because of that day almost 9 years ago thinking about Feasting Fort Collins, “I wonder if I can do this?” and actually following through with it. I have learned a tremendous amount from building this business, and now it’s time to continue growing those skills and knowledge in a larger capacity that better supports my kids and husband.
And so, at the end of Feasting Fort Collins, I don’t think of this closure as a failure. My hell, I lasted almost 9 years, which is much longer than a lot of local businesses in Fort Collins. Also, starting with $0 and ending without any debt after that long is pretty impressive, if I do say so myself. Not to mention the impact that this site has made. Not everyone gets 5 letters published in the local paper calling for your resignation (HA!). It’s simply the end of the road, and closing up allows myself to grow to new heights, with a full team to work with and achieve more together.
You can now find me on my own personal social media accounts instead of business ones:
With that – Ciao, Fort Collins. Thanks for the food and memories after all of these years.