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Meet Trailblazer Samantha Binkley

Today we’d like to introduce you to Samantha Binkley.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I was not always in the food and healthy living business. I began my career in film and television, graduating from NYU Tish School of the Arts with my degree in documentary film production. I dabbled with film production in New York City before settling in advertising and marketing. When I moved to San Diego 15 years ago, I worked for start-up technology companies as Director of Marketing, traveling all over the world organizing tradeshows and conventions marketing very niche software and hardware systems for broadband cable operators. When my daughter entered high school, I decided to take some time off to be with her during that time.

When she went off to college, I had a choice to make: Do I go back to what I was doing as a technology marketer or find my passion and pursue my dreams? I decided the later. I grew up with a mom that was an amazing cook. She worked full-time but cooked all our meals and was an expert meal planner as well. I learned so much from her in the kitchen but I never realized the extent.

We are Jamaican, born in the West Indies and migrated to New York when I was six years old. My father doesn’t cook so my mom did everything. She cooked breakfast, lunch, and dinner and she made her own spice blends from scratch. I never realized how impressive that was until I was an adult and juggled work, home, and motherhood.

Knowing that I wanted to help people live healthier lives, I became a certified health coach but quickly realized, healthy living begins in the kitchen and that’s when Healthy On You was born. I understood that what you eat is even more important than how much you work out. If we realized what was in the foods we regularly consume, most of us would want healthier alternatives, especially if it tastes the same or better.

I decided I would teach healthy cooking classes and I set my first class date. I wasn’t sure how I was going to do it or if anyone would come, but I took the plunge!

The first class was mostly friends and it was chaos but so much fun. I learned from it and the next class was all new students that I had never met. People started to hear about the classes through word of mouth and so like clockwork, every month was a new class with a new healthy menu. The theme of the classes is still the same: turning classic favorites into healthier versions of themselves.

Then, my line of organic spices emerged. I would always teach students how to prepare spice blends for use during class and I would give away spice blends in their goody bags at the end of class. Many of the class participants would come back asking for more spices and I thought, well, this could be something special and fun. I knew the spices had to be organic, delicious and make cooking flavorful meals easier. I think I accomplished that with 11 spice and four salt blends. They are all sold locally in natural food markets in San Diego and online.

I love teaching my classes and because they are in my home, there are personal touches like visiting my organic garden to gather vegetables and herbs for our recipes and visiting with my flock of chickens. There’s something for everyone.

Has it been a smooth road?
It definitely hasn’t been a smooth road! I had never taught cooking classes before and really when I think about it, I had been to very few myself. I charted my own path and so all my learning was on the job. I had to learn how to source my ingredients while staying within my budget and how to market myself in a way I never had to do before because I believe I am inherently shy. People laugh at me when I say this, but its true!

But most of all, I had never produced a natural foods product before. EVERYTHING was a challenge. From getting licensed, choosing bottles, producing labels, meeting with retailers… I was charting new territory. I didn’t know anyone who did this before to ask questions so I had to be resourceful. I spoke with anyone who would listen to me about what I was doing and I was lucky enough to get connected with local markets. My advice to women or anyone who is wanting to start their own business is first and foremost, and I am stealing from Nike here, but “just do it!” If you are passionate enough, if you want it bad enough, the answers will materialize and you will realize that you can do it. Be confident.

We’d love to hear more about Healthy On You.
I will start with what I am most proud of. I never thought that day when I woke up and said, “I’m going to teach cooking classes” that three years later I would have positively impacted the lived of hundreds of people. It’s very rewarding when people write to you to say how you’ve inspired them to cook more and eat healthier. I’m also proud that my brand of spice blends are used in thousands of homes throughout California and elsewhere.

Those are two things that are affirming, rewarding and inspire me to want to do better and be better every day.

My business is really complex and I am hands on. Some days, I am producing spices and delivering to retailers, others I am developing recipes for my spices, and then there’s my cooking classes. I am always testing recipes and transforming them to teach in a class environment. There’s a lot going on so I stay pretty busy and am never, ever bored.

What sets me apart is my passion for what I do. Also, my love of people and food! Once you meet me, we are friends.

Do you recommend any apps, books or podcasts that have been helpful to you?
I’ve recently discovered a podcast called “Great Women of Business.” I love it! There’s one about Julia Child called “Investing in Oneself” that really shows what a genius she was. It’s so inspiring and after listening to her story, I felt like, “yes! good for her!” I will never be a chef like Julia Child, we are different in so many ways, but her story is certainly inspiring.

Pricing:

  • Cooking Classes: $125
  • Spice Boxes $44.95 or sold individually in local markets like Jimbos Naturally, Seaside Market Ocean Beach People’s Market and Harvest Ranch Markets

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Photos by Jody Lyn Photography, Anna Clevenger Photography

Getting in touch: SDVoyager is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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