Sisi Yemmie – Dominating The Dot Com One Recipe At A Time
Yemisi Odusanya, also known as Sisi Yemmie, is one of Nigeria’s top content creators. Particularly known for her mouthwatering recipes that she shares on her social media platforms, Yemisi has applied dedication to her craft, which has blossomed into a thriving career, one that she admits surprises her every day. In this interview she talks about how her journey began, her thoughts on the industry, and future plans for her brand
-NNEOMA EKWEGH –
So, tell us how you got started?
It was when I was doing my Masters at Birmingham [University]. I was bored a lot of the time because I was alone; I did not have family over there. That was when I discovered social media, especially Twitter. I started [a] blog [where] I used to tell random stories, and for some reason, people liked what I was writing about, so it was a hit. After a while I had to evolve because I got tired of writing stories. I decided to rebrand and include all the things I was interested in. It used to be called gist.com, then I rebranded it to SisiYemmie and started talking about all the things I like: Food, lifestyle, sometimes travel, and all that. That was how it started.
Over time your brand has been more centered on food. What inspired you to focus on that, considering how varied your interests are?
I was [always] passionate about food and when I started blogging [I think] I talked about my love for food. Everyone was like Sisi Yemmie and food [go together], so I thought, since [I’ve been] associated with food, I might as well take this to another level. That was the major reason I went in that direction. Also, every time I put out a recipe, the feedback was always fantastic. I thought, this is validation! It is not just about me feeling or thinking I am a great cook, it is the fact that people can follow my instructions and get amazing results.
How influential is food to our culture, our way of life and the way we communicate?
Food is very important. Different cultures have their different meals and spices [and] it helps to tell a better story of a culture. There are people that are Yoruba and they have never tasted an Igbo meal before, because maybe they have lived in, like, Ogun State [their whole lives], and they have not come across something like abacha or nkwobi. I feel food is a way to discover one’s culture. I grew up in Warri, I love banga rice, banga starch, I love Niger-Delta food. People used to think I was from Warri, or that I was from Delta but I am actually Yoruba. Of course, I love my Yoruba food as well. I think where I grew up made me open to all types of Nigerian foods as well. I have had [the opportunity to sample] diverse cultural meals that just tell me about the people that [make] the dish. I think that is what makes food important and I think one of my strengths is that I am able to create a fusion of meals. Today it can be a Yoruba meal, tomorrow an Igbo meal -this is something that others struggle with, especially when they have not tasted it before. Maybe because I have gone around a bit, it is easier. For example, when I say, have you tried beans pie? People look at me confused. Or when I say agidi jollof, they stare at me blankly… But these are things I had growing up in Warri. So if you cannot even picture it in your head, how can you create a recipe about it.
As a food influencer, how do you monetise that?
I started by [sharing] recipes, then I started doing restaurant reviews. I realised that blogging was actually lucrative [when I got a deal with] Maggi,d and I could not believe my eyes. I told myself, maybe this is the direction I’m meant to go. I expanded into video content and I think that is when everything took off. I talk about my experiences; I talk about what I like to eat; I talk about spices I use or what people use. [I do this] on all my platforms: Twitter, Instagram, Youtube. That is how I monetise it and of course brands want to jump on that kind of conversation. There are different ways you can get paid: review a product, attend the launch of a restaurant, use an ingredient in your recipe video… There are many ways food can be monetised.
How about collaborations? Have you had the opportunity to work with others?
I have had some, but very few. [In] this particular industry, a lot of people just want to be by themselves. I am always interacting with my colleagues, but I have not met a lot of them in real life. It is just an industry where a lot of people stay by themselves, we comment on each other’s pages but there is not [as much] collaboration as I would like. A lot of people are in different places, [but] there is a lot of support and well-wishes we extend to each other. I did collaborate with Chef Fregz [and] to me that was a very good collaboration because he is a chef and I am a home-cook; I’m mostly self-taught; he went to culinary school. So we did a video together, and that collaboration has yielded a lot of results. I would like to see more [of] that.
Beauty influencers evolve to make-up lines; fashion influencers often have clothing lines. What do you feel is the next phase for you?
It could be so many things. The crazy thing about what I will call my career is, I didn’t start it intentionally. A lot of these other businesses, or fashion bloggers a lot of them are very intentional. I only became intentional two/three years ago, when I thought, okay, this is my business, this is my career. I am discovering something new about my industry and about myself [everyday]. It took a long time for me to get to the point where I realised I could actually create merchandise for this brand. It even took a long time for me to realise that this is a brand. It’s something I still struggle with on some days because I can’t believe this is the position I am in right now, to create something. For me, one thing I would like to create is a recipe book. That would be epic, and I have gotten a lot of requests.
What sort of requests?
I got approached by a publisher from America, to publish a cookbook, but they told me, after you write this you do not have permission to write another Nigerian recipe book. [Also] they didn’t want to put it in my name, per se, it was going to be part of a series. So it is a publisher that does recipes about different countries, I [was going to be featured] in the Nigerian series as the author, but it would not be a Sisi Yemmie recipe book. To me the terms were not great, but I thought, wow, [if] someone has looked at me and thinks I am capable of writing a recipe book, then maybe I should. That was the first time that it clicked in my head, and I have been working on it. It has not been easy conceptualising how I want it to look, I have recipes on my channel, on my blog, but I want to create something special. I am also thinking of expanding into other things like spices, cookware and all of that.