Growing up, Helena Faustin did not envision a career in cooking. She was told to go to school, make good grades, and get a degree and a good job that offers a good pension. And she did just that by becoming a NICU nurse.
She has been a registered nurse for 12 years now. She cares for babies born with congenital heart disease in New York City. However, she now juggles her passion for cooking and her profession.
The 35-year-old developed a passion for cooking at a very young age. Her mother often sent her off to buy ingredients like garlic and scotch bonnet. At the of 15, she was inspired to cook after years of watching her mother cook. Faustin said her mother did not always have the time to teach her how to cook.
She also found it challenging watching how her mother mixed the ingredients during cooking because she didn’t use measuring tools. “So I would say, how much garlic should I put and she would literally look at me as say ‘use your judgment.’”
Although she pursued a career in nursing, her love for Jamaican foods didn’t stop her from cooking. Faustin is a first-generation Jamaican who grew up in Crown Heights, Brooklyn surrounded by Caribbean influence. Her family migrated to the United States in search of greener pastures.
Eventually, she commercialized her cooking to earn some extra bucks. First, she started by sharing a variety of foods she had prepared on Instagram in 2018. A year later, she decided to take food blogging more seriously and spent some $700 to officially launch her business.
“[The money] went into groceries, a ring light and a tripod because you are not only just going to buy the food you are going to cook, you also have to buy the props to stage it as well,” she told CNBC Make It. “I said I was going to turn my kitchen into my studio. I literally worked out of my kitchen in my home.”
She spends around $600 a month on groceries for her business and according to her, she sometimes goes to the supermarket with “pure vibes.” “No list, just pure vibes. I walk through the aisle and let the food speak to me,” she said.
Faustin’s side hustle in 2021 brought in three streams of income. She made $7,523.26 from ad revenues on YouTube, she made nearly $40,000 from brand collaboration and $71,000 from her ebooks. In total, she made $117,000 in 2021 and according to her, she is just getting started.
Faustin made the figures while working as a full-time nurse. She works a 12-hour shift 13 times a month. “Due to the success of my side hustle, now I have been able to scale it back to eight shifts a month,” she said.
According to her, when she first told her mother that she was not going to graduate school so as to concentrate on her side hustle, her mother rejected that idea but once her side hustle brought in a decent income, her mother endorsed her business.
Faustin said the most challenging period for her was during the pandemic when she had to leave her family at home and literally go out “to fight a war.” According to the NICU nurse and food blogger, it was during this year that she decided to give maximum attention to her business.
For others who want to be like her, Faustin said they should harness their talent and learn extra skills.