Abena Anim-Somuah is the co-founder of Food Supply, a two-month old food tech upstart that includes a newsletter, Le Digestif, a digital cookbook of curated recipes, and coming soon, a community for culinary creators.
Here, Anim-Somuah shares her strategies for building a brand from scratch, developing digital communities in tandem with newsletters, and writing creatively. Her answers have been lightly edited and condensed.
What is Food Supply?
Our goal is to offer digital food creators on the Internet a set of tools to legitimize their online presence. So we’re doing that first by creating a platform where they can easily share recipes, second with a community of like minded creators, and third through our content, like the newsletter.
We like to think of Le Digestif as the literary version of your well informed foodie friend. It was something from our own lives; I constantly have my friends reaching out to me asking where they should go to dinner, what they should cook. When we thought of our primary person we wanted to write for, it was someone that was just hoping to learn about food across different perspectives. We’re thinking of the different ways we can bring a more genuine perspective to food without having to be formal, official, “food people.”
You’re two months in. How is it going?
Everything we’re building at Food Supply is very experimental. We’re putting things out in the wild and seeing how they work. We told ourselves we would do a couple issues of the newsletter and if it didn’t work, we would try something new. If I were to give advice to anyone starting a newsletter, I would say consider everything as experimentation, but don’t put something out unless you’re happy with it.
We could have easily pandered to an audience. We could have put out another “thoughtful” food newsletter with long form content where we “have thoughts” about things. Instead, we just channeled our personalities into the newsletter. It’s great when we get feedback from readers who say, “I can really hear your voice in this.”
What strategies are you planning to use to grow your subscriber list?
“Strategies” is such a big girl word. For us, partnerships are a big part of it. We’re partnering with other food Substacks to cross collaborate and work together. We’re looking at a partnership with a friend to make wine recommendations.
You can use your newsletter as a vessel for other folks to test their ideas. We’re always asking if there are other facets of the food world we can partner on. Like, is there a plant-based person (since neither I nor my co-founder Kenny are plant-based) who could write a monthly column, is there someone in the physical goods space who can write something?
What’s been the biggest learning you’ve had about launching a newsletter?
The biggest learning is not to get bogged down by the numbers. Something I learned early in life is the four quarters over 100 pennies approach. When you first start a newsletter, you’ve worked so hard on it, so you’re expecting thousands of people to read it and love it.
You have to recognize it's a very crowded space. There’s a very high chance someone is writing something exactly like you. You can’t get lost in the competition and the statistics. Your first newsletter is not going to be your best, and that’s a good thing. It’s probably going to be your 10th or 15th or 20th when you really start building your voice. Just be humble and consistent and keep working hard.
How have you developed a process of writing in your own voice?
Too often, especially in tech, people feel the need to write performatively. It gives them performance anxiety, almost. When you’re writing really technically, it's hard to evoke yourself.
I write for the newsletter exactly how I speak. Anyone who knows me personally and can say, “Yup, that’s got Abena all over it.” I also don’t take myself too seriously, and that really helps. Writing is about being genuine. Growing up, anytime we would go on a family trip, my mom would have us write essays about our trip. Looking back, those are the moments when I started building my writing voice. Anyone is a writer. Even if you just commit to writing about your weekends every week, that’s something.
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