A Fork in the Road

Photo by Alan Roth

 


From Panther Coffee’s Wynwood location it took me 16 minutes to ride my bicycle home. I peddled fast.  My brain was working overtime during those 16 minutes so I could write this article.  I just left an hour sit down conversation with a 24-year-old, super smart, down to earth, sweet young lady named Samantha.  For short she goes by Sami, but she did hesitate whether to divulge the nickname or not.  I could tell in the back of her mind “pop-up” reminders were happening: “be careful what information you offer, Sami.”  She was eager to share that she didn’t love a past interview. “I didn’t even share the interview or tell anyone about it.” Sami says.  (I hope I did not disappoint)

Do you have Instagram?  If you do, you may have seen or heard of The Naughty Fork.  A food blog based out of Miami, which is owned and run by Sami, the 24-year-old I referred to in paragraph 1.  Her real name is Samantha Schnur and she grew up in Miami—  a proud and true South Beach / Miami Beach local. With a big smile, she’s happy to make a few mid-2000 references, like when Lincoln Road had more than one or two decent restaurants.  “I remember when Roasters & Toasters on 41st Street was called Arnie & Richie’s.”  For good or bad, if you grew up in Miami Beach, we have witnessed the guard change of so many restaurants over the years.  As the names and brands have changed through time, so has the way we hear and learn about these restaurants.   One of the leaders in the social media space to share and teach us all about new food spots is the The Naughty Fork, which has almost 700K followers on instagram.  Yes, 700K.  Exactly 698,000K more than yours truly.

Over the last couple of years people have been able to create successful businesses by building super viable accounts on Instagram.  Typically the more followers you have, the better the chances exist to charge more money for sponsored posts. She is working with major corporations like Cape Cod Potato Chips, Olive Garden or sitting with the king of the food & wine festival world, Lee Brian Schrager, to discuss collaborations on next year’s Food Network South Beach Wine and Food Festival.  Oh, and she probably hasn’t paid for a meal anywhere in Miami over the last three years. To put it bluntly,  Sami is restaurant royalty. 

Many people are making a fantastic living all due to their success with Instagram.  People are traveling the world posting about the experiences, fashion designers are selling out lines from their exposure on Instagram, and models no longer need an agency to become famous and keep busy.  I could go on and on, but there is the one question I ask Sami and many others, “What happens if Instagram goes silent and no one cares about it anymore?”  Sami is super aware that all revenues and basically her entire business is based around an application she can not control.  She is working hard to try and figure out other revenue streams.  Even while I ask this question you can tell her brain is racing with thoughts on this topic.  

30 Days Later

Almost a month has passed since Sami and I met at Panther Coffee.  I was hoping this next meeting she would come just as she was on our last visit, which she did.  Gentle but confident and excited about her new found success but not cocky.  I did ask her to wear sneakers so we could walk the streets of Wynwood since our meeting spot was going to be Panther again. I was shocked to learn there were a number of places she had never even stepped foot in, such as the famous Zak the Baker. [Go try the Coconut Macaroons, so good!].  Sami is super comfortable in front of the camera.  We roamed the streets of Wynwood while I would occasionally stop and ask her to strike a pose in front of graffiti art.  On cue she can light up the camera with her natural, glistening pearly whites.  

I’m still trying to figure out if she’s a foodie, techie or an artist.  Can she be all?  When I asked what she tells people she does for a living, she says, “Influencer, I guess that’s what my job title is. But I also tell people I do marketing and advertising for F&B clients.”  One of my biggest problems with the title “Influencer” when it comes to instagram is who decides who is an ‘influencer’ and who isn’t?  Years back, you would be deemed an “Influencer” by other people, not by yourself. Truth is, Sami is much more than an influencer.  She is on to something big here and if she stays the course, I believe she is just at the starting line.  If not, I guess she can always fall back on her Biology degree from University of Miami.  Can you imagine her successful doctor father’s reaction, “Dad, I’m done with college and I’m going to be an Instagram Influencer”?!

We talked about social media and Instagram specifically and what Sami disliked about all of it.  “I don’t like that my experiences, whether they were amazing or not, are judged based on the amount of “likes” it gets.  While I love sharing what I do, it does get to your head whether you want it to or not.”  When her post receives 4000-6000 likes, this is considered a semi-failure.  She is super keen on trying to drive the numbers higher and build her brand.  What do people react to?  What works and at what time is best to share?  She admits there is not an exact science she follows and that the algorithms are always changing.  To advertise with The Naughty Fork local businesses get charged anywhere from $700-$1500 depending on what they are expecting and the large national brands pay roughly between $5000-$10,000.  “Pricing depends on content type/packages these companies are looking for.”  

The conversation turns to the future and how she sees herself progressing and what is next.  “I had a goal with brands that I want to work with, and did this year.  While I have worked with the biggest companies in the food industry, I think the next step is to work with companies outside of F&B.  I’d love to work with dog brands for my puppy, travel companies, and clothing brands.”  I believe all these categories are a natural fit for what she has developed and created for The Naughty Fork.  The real question, what does the future hold for Instagram, and can she parlay this into something even greater than what she has to date?  When the subject comes up about the future and her plans she quickly chimes in, “I don’t know where I see myself tomorrow,” she smirks, “but the goal is to travel the world and eat for a living.  So if I’m still doing that in five years I will be happy. “

What all started as a silly first post of a recipe she was playing with a few years back in her college apartment has now turned into a thriving social media company Sami can be super proud of.  And although, she doesn’t want to be famous, she would like to be respected within the F&B community.  She does point out, “If I happened to land a tv deal along the way I wouldn’t mind either.”  In my eyes, she’s already winning and living the life she has been able to create for herself.  Keep an eye on this one, because one post at a time, I believe things are only going to get sweeter for her.

All Photos Courtesy of Alan Roth

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Alan Roth

Alan Roth is a long-time resident in Miami who is passionate about food, wellness, hospitality and serving others.

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