In 2013, I started making spice blends in my dehydrator after learning of raw garlic’s healing powers. I started selling Zara Delphine (dulse garlic), Lula Rose (beet garlic), Eva Marie (jalapeño garlic), and India Jane (turmeric garlic), under the brand name NutraCouture so others could experience the benefits. To market the spice blends I posted pictures of dishes I made using them on social media. Along with a description of how the dish beautified from within adding the hashtag #SexyStartsintheKitchen.
Many social media dish posts later, I thought of a unique concept for a cookbook, inspiring me to start designing one in 2015, which would be titled Sexy Starts in the Kitchen (SSITK). As I was close to finishing the last recipes for it I started a meal service, Lyndsay’s Box, (you’ll understand the marketing power in this name in the Strength book!) out of a local fitness club. I shared my book creation journey on social media and the dishes were gaining interest in a community that wasn’t used to my cooking style. Although the book had all its recipes, it still needed a lot of editing, and thanks to a computer meltdown and the workload of the meal service, had to be put on pause.
Two years into the meal service an old injury got the best of me and after doing my best to fight through the pain, I finally had to give in to surgery. An already long recovery from an acl/meniscus surgery was intensified by pushing my knee’s limits, so I had to close what was now called Pump Cafe (not sure Lyndsay’s Box would fly with the Myrtle Beach business licensing dept), and move back to Maryland.
Months after my surgery I stumbled on photos from SSITK. I forgot how beautiful the pictures turned out and thought of revisiting the book. After my girl, Jessica, agreed with an enthusiastic “yes!”, it was go time for Sexy Starts in the Kitchen take two.
I shared my journey once again on social media, sharing photos of the dishes and me in action. I love documentaries and thought it would be neat to share some behind the scenes type footage of my journey. I also used social media for connection, as I was basically a hermit at this time, flying solo in my kitchen every weekend, and more so than anything, for accountability. While I had faith, trust in myself was faltering.
After one year of immersing myself into the book’s development, I recognized a positive shift in my mental and emotional state. Post surgery my spirit was dismal. Having to close a business I worked so hard on, accumulating debt, aesthetic change in my body from surgery, and with persistent knee pain that wouldn’t allow me to move my body like I used to nor work any jobs I had experience in, left me feeling inadequate with no way out in sight. Non intentionally, creating the book became my healer. I started journaling about my change in spirit. Feeling my experience could inspire others, I turned the journals into essays to include in the book. This would set the blueprint/framework for Sexy books. This X factor sets the books apart from other cookbooks, and makes them more purposeful, and dare I say…sexy!
Once all the recipes, photos, writing and what I thought was all the editing was complete, it was time to combine my work into a PDF file. I stayed up all night fueled by midnight coffee and my personal birthday deadline uploading the pages I created on Canva to a massive PDF. What should have only taken a couple nights turned into five seasons of Schitt’s Creek, thanks to the dreaded pinwheel stalling every import. Upon the last recipe import I was bursting with relief. I was almost done! All I had to do now was upload this PDF on Amazon and I had an ebook! Not so much.
After weeks of trying to figure out how to margin the PDF for Kindle with no success, I decided it was time to outsource some help. I put a post on Upwork.
On March 16, 2020 I hired Shalee who would become more than just a Kindle formatter.
Shalee believed in the book and me so much, and asked to edit it for near nothing in return. Talk about first day faith! We had no idea what was in store.
Right from the start we faced adversity. The PDF like I said was massive and couldn’t be exported to Shalee without me having to shrink it which distorted all the images. It couldn’t be edited, so it would have to be completely redone and because I created all pages in Canva and not in Word, all the 400 plus individual pages would have to be redone. Each picture had to be transferred to Shalee and edited. Recipes had to be retested and new photos had to be taken. Not to mention, and I’m not exaggerating, hundreds and HUNDREDS of hours of recipe editing. It took Shalee and me two years to complete the book, as both having full time jobs, we could only work on it part time. Then once complete, it was time to find a printing house, and with COVID we experienced many delays and setbacks, causing the printing to take over a year! It was trying at times, many anxiety filled sleepless nights, but we believed in the book and were determined.
In Jan 2021, I was diagnosed with COVID. Having time away from work, I revisited another book I started post knee surgery based on dishes from the meal service. As I was writing its intro, I realized this was part of the journey of SSITK Self Love, and thought instead of giving the book a completely different identity, it should have SSITK included in its title.
I earnestly called Shalee about the series idea. I knew I wanted strength in the title of this new book, but wasn’t sure how to include it in the title with SSITK. Without missing a beat, Shalee’s brilliance thought how the titles and future titles of the series could flow. This is when SSITK turned into a brand.
SSITK’s story is one of perseverance, faith, integrity, hard work, dedication, creativity, heart, and connection. Shalee and my expertise and personalities couldn’t be more complimentary. When we create together it’s pure magic. Designing a book is somewhat of a solo journey, and it was comforting to have each other. During our 4 hour meetings turned sometimes into therapy sessions, via phone and zoom, her in Texas, me in Maryland, we became close friends. We had faith in each other’s abilities, and this time for connection helped us build the trust we needed to form a business partnership.
Shalee’s partnership turned what was a good book into a great book. We now have a vision of a seven book series, its look created from an actual dream Shalee had of a rainbow collection. We have thoughtfully designed shirts and a stylish magazine, SexyNotes. And given our minds, I’m sure there is more to come!
From when we first connected to the time when SSITK the brand will be officially introduced three years later, we have helped each other become the women we need to be to lead the brand and serve the way we were designed to.