UT alumna turns passion for food into a full-time job

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Photo Credit: Courtesy of Jane Ko | Daily Texan Staff

When Jane Ko announced she was going to host her first food crawl at 2013’s South by Southwest, she didn’t expect 10,000 people to sign up.

“Many were telling me I was going to ruin my brand by doing something that wasn’t done before,” Ko said. “But I just said, ‘Thank you,’ and went ahead.”

This wasn’t the first time Ko took a risk wandering into new territory. Before graduating from UT with a degree in nutrition in 2012, she started one of Austin’s top food blogs, A Taste of Koko. Today, Ko has nearly 45,000 followers on Instagram and more than 100,000 monthly blog visits. Additionally, she’s an official restaurant expert for Visit Austin, Texas.

Ko is part of a powerful group of bloggers who use their followings to partner with brands on ad campaigns and turn their work into full-time jobs. Ko said, within the industry, bloggers can make from $300 to $3,000 per post.

Along with the writing and posting that come with running a blog, Ko attends food tastings at Austin’s up-and-coming restaurants and travels to cities across the world. While Ko said that these perks are a privilege, she added that her job can also be stressful and tiring. Between phone calls with different brands, discussions with agencies, collaborations, restaurant tastings and events, her days are packed. The rest of the day goes to writing blog posts, editing photos and responding to more emails. Ko said that she usually doesn’t go to bed until 3 a.m.

But it didn’t start off this way. In 2010, while Ko was studying at UT, she started A Taste of Koko as a food diary. At the time, the world of food blogging was fairly new.

“I realized that I didn’t want to become a dietitian,” Ko said. “So while I was reading some national blogs, I was inspired by these women that created these
websites for themselves.”

When she first started blogging, Ko knew almost nothing about photography or designing a website, so she taught herself.

On top of the struggles that come with juggling school work and running a blog, Ko said that many people didn’t take her seriously when she started out.

“My friends would ridicule the food diary because they didn’t understand,” Ko said. “Even some local media outlets thought I didn’t know what I was doing because I wasn’t a professional food critic.”

Despite running a recognized Austin food blog, Ko remains humble about her success. For her, real success came when she relied on her followers to make welcome kits for those affected by Hurricane Harvey.

“I originally planned to make a couple of kits but then reached out to my readers and partners throughout Austin,” Ko said. “And then the donations started
pouring in.”

Over 500 kits later, Ko exceeded her original expectations. It’s something she has ingrained into her memory.

Ko also gives back to UT students. Sarah Teng, a business and management information systems sophomore, is one of Ko’s interns. Teng said working with Ko inspired her to start a blog in the future.

“This (experience) can be helpful for knowing how and what to do to make (my blog) successful,” Teng said.

For those who may be interested in starting their own blog, Ko advised taking advantage of the various resources available on the internet and learning.

“Pick a topic that you’re passionate about,” Ko said. “Whether it’s fashion, travel, food or even recipes for college students. Start now.”