First-generation Jamaican-American Helena Faustin, 35, found success by utilizing the passion for cooking she developed at a young age by watching her mother prepare meals. Now she writes a popular food blog entitled, “That Nurse Can Cook,” and is making over $100,000 per year cooking Jamaican food in her home kitchen.
In an appearance on CNBC’s MakeIt, Faustin discussed how she turned a side hustle into a source of income that nearly doubled the $105,000 she made annually working in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at a Freeport, New York, hospital. In 2021, she transformed her passion for cooking into material for a popular food blog in which she provides detailed recipes and features cooking videos.
Hoping to inspire others to follow their passions and make money doing it, Faustin told CNBC that it costs about $700 to run her side hustle. This includes the cost of groceries, ring lights, and other production materials. She obtained a staggering return on investment in 2021, however, when she made $117,000 from e-cookbook sales, partnerships with brands, and revenue from YouTube. She even realized $25,000 in June of that year from her side project, which she operates without outside help. Faustin cautions, however, that while her success may seem to have occurred overnight, it actually took some 20 years dedicated to hard work for her to realize her current level of revenue.
On her blog, Faustin shares her love of Caribbean cooking through recipes that are special to her as they reflect traditions important to her family. She realized her passion for cooking when she was 15 and would share recipes with her friends. Even then people told her she should create a platform where she could share her love of cooking. The audience tuning into her blog continues to grow every day as her fans love the recipes that include traditional herbs and spices reflecting the flavor of the Caribbean.
“I got rejected from grad school. I graduated from Long Island University in Brooklyn with my Bachelor of Science and a calm 3.5 GPA. The person on the phone in the office of admissions at the grad school I applied to told me that I wouldn’t be accepted because they required a 3.55 GPA and my 3.5 wasn’t going to cut it. I let the idea of grad school go. I was a wife, mom of a 3 yr old and a 1 yr old and the truth is, I think everyone just always assumes the next path to take after becoming an RN is to become a Nurse Practitioner. The truth is I never wanted to be a Nurse Practitioner. Ever. I think it just felt like the next step because everyone said it was, and I didn’t think to ask myself at the time, “Are you doing this for yourself, or are you doing this because it’s what everyone expects you to do?” People would ask me, “What’s next? Going for your NP?” I’d feel bad about saying no. It wasn’t a rejection. It was a redirection. I always knew I could cook. I always had a passion for cooking, but I never gave myself a chance at taking myself seriously. Boy am I glad I did” – Helena on her Instagram page.
Faustin teaches her audience how to cook foods that their grandparents and parents made. She targets those who have never had the chance to learn to cook or who never had the chance to learn from their family how to prepare Caribbean foods. She presents the recipes in a way that people feel comfortable about approaching them.
Faustin advises budding entrepreneurs to recognize their unique talent, learn as much as they can from their talent, use it, and then “monetize that thing.” She also advises being patient and valuing their own particular journey to success. Helena appeared on Out Chef’d on Food Network.
Photos – Helena Faustin/Contributed