Social Media Marketing

Kevin Noparvar

Don’t Read This If You’re Hungry

Kevin Noparvar

Location: Toolsy Headquarters
Date: Tuesday, 2/11/20
Title: Social Media Marketing With Kevin Noparvar. Don’t Read This If You’re Hungry.
Profession: Food & Real Estate

Q & A

Tell us about yourself. Who are you and what do you do for a living?

My name is Kevin Noparvar and I’m 27 years old. I am an Iranian American Jew and grew up in Beverly Hills.   I am a food blogger on Instagram and I consult and market for restaurants around Los Angeles. I help restaurant owners steer the right target audiences into their restaurants.

What’s your backstory and what led you to food blogging? What drives you?

My dad is literally me before the era of social media. To this day, he is the biggest foodie I’ve ever met. Since I was a kid he was always putting that perfect bite together for me to have at lunch and dinner. That was my introduction to food. I always craved my dad’s love and being foodies together was how he and I bonded. I remember on Sundays after basketball as a young kid we would have our father-son time where we’d just go have amazing meals together. He’s definitely a big reason as to why food has always been important to me.

Growing up as a kid and watching TV, I always found myself landing on the Food Network channel. My favorite TV shows were any of the ones that showed people tasting and reacting to the food that was prepared.  What I didn’t like was that the reaction every time was good within the first second of tasting the food.  You can’t get a proper taste profile that fast, so that kind of bothered me.  Regardless, I couldn’t wait for the moment at the end of all the preparation when they would taste the food.  I always wanted to be there trying it with them.  That’s kind of what influenced my Instagram page today. It’s almost like I was training myself for what I’m doing now without having known it growing up.

I was born and raised in the most loving household of all time.  I could do no wrong.  Early in middle school I would get made fun of for my food passion. People would say stuff like, “Look at the way he eats, what a pig. He’s so weird. Why is he talking about food like that?”  Back then that really hurt me, but it never stopped me. It didn’t matter how weird people thought I was because it was just something that I loved.  I always thought about food. 

When high school came around I started getting bullied really badly.  I actually ended up leaving Beverly Hills High School to go to a school called West Mark.  I went from this superficial bubble to a school where no one really cared about those things.  I think when I went to West Mark it really changed my mentality about everything.  All of the “weird” stuff I used to get made fun of for was now stuff that kind of made me cool. That was a big help as far as fostering my growth to where I am now. It made me proud of the stuff that made me different.

When I first started my Instagram I was super vulgar and sexual with my captions.  My Persian friends would tell me to tone down the sexuality because they thought it was inappropriate.  My white friends would tell me the complete opposite and ask me to turn up the sexuality. That’s kind of how we ended up here.

When I graduated from high school I went straight into Culinary School at the Art Institute in Santa Monica.  At first my parents weren’t completely for it.  They always supported me, but I could tell that they would rather I did something else. I loved the school, but I didn’t like the intensity of the kitchen environment. It’s really intense having to get things done correctly and in a short amount of time. Everything has to be done cohesively and executed perfectly or else there’s an element of the dish that’s completely screwed up. As much as I loved cooking, culinary school showed me that it was just a hobby for me and not something I wanted to make a job of. Instead of being a Chef at a restaurant, I preferred opening a hotel with a restaurant in it and being involved in hospitality that way.

Within three months, I dropped out of culinary school and eventually ended up going to University of Southern California (USC).  I studied Social Science with an emphasis in Psychology, which I loved. The curriculum included lots of marketing, advertisements, social psychology and other psychology courses that I loved.  At the time I didn’t put enough emphasis on growing and building my network.  Had I known what I know now, I would have networked a lot more while I was there. 

I graduated college not knowing at all what I wanted to do. All I really knew was that I didn’t want to do more school. Instead of pursuing anything related to my major, I chose Real Estate. Being in my community you’re kind of nudged into that field and I already kind of liked it.  We had just moved into a new house in Beverly Hills and I had helped a little bit with designing the house, which kind of sparked my interest.

I always loved taking photos and videos of my food and seeing what people thought of what I was eating.  At first, I wasn’t even doing that on Instagram.  I would just put them on my Snap story from time to time.  It didn’t really occur to me that I could make an actual business out of it.  It was just for fun.

While I was working at Compass doing residential sales, I used Instagram as my creative outlet.  I started posting every day trying to grow my page.  I even set an alarm every 60 minutes to follow 120 people every hour.  Instagram would cap the amount of people you could follow every hour and every day.   Sometimes I would get weird looks from people at the office when my alarm went off.  They didn’t know I was side hustling and following 120 accounts every hour in the middle of work. I was trying to get as many eyeballs on my page as possible.  I imagined what it would be like if the page actually blew up.

Describe the process of starting your business. What was it like?

When I hit 1,000 followers within a month I was through the roof.  I didn’t even have 1,000 followers on my personal page that I had for 5 years. Within 3 months I was at 5,000 followers. I would ask other people that were trying to grow Instagram accounts if it was normal to grow that fast and they all said no.  What’s funny is a lot of those followers ended up being from the bubble I grew up in.

A couple of years after starting my Instagram I was at 20,000 followers.  I’m still working in residential real estate, but I’m starting to think about making a business out of this whole food thing. At this point I’m getting messages from different restaurants asking me to come in and try their food. Even my dad was telling me I’m sitting on a gold mine that I should explore further.  I was only 24 at the time so dedicating a year wasn’t a big deal.

I ended up speaking to my sister’s friend, Ashley Stahl, who’s a career coach.  Her advice was to spend the first three months of the year just networking with as many people as I could.  Complete dedicated focus on networking.  That’s exactly what I did.  I would go to restaurants and talk to random people.  If I saw someone taking a photo of their food, I’d talk to them.  In this process I started meeting and connecting with other food bloggers. We would shout each other out and I’d be going to as many food pop ups and restaurants as I could. 

I started getting hit up by this guy named Daniel.  Everytime I would post chicken on my Instagram, this guy would message me asking me why I haven’t tried Howlin’ Rays yet.  This problem went on for 8 months, every time I posted chicken. One day he messages me saying that he’s going and invites me to go with him. I went with him and it was mind blowing. Howlin’ Rays has become one of my favorite places to go to.  I became friends with Danny and now one of my best friends Josh (@the_hangry_rider). Josh is a 48 year old guy who rides around on his motorcycle and eats food.  He and I eat together all the time now.

After Howlin’ Rays I ended up really trusting Danny with places to go eat.  He took me to this place called Burgers Never Say Die, which was supposed to have the best burger ever.   The Chef, Shawn Nee, initially started by making burgers in his backyard.  The line outside of his house wrapped around the block and became so long that the neighbors called the police to have it shut down.  That’s when he decided to open up a pop up in an actual bar. I went there on a random Sunday and the line was two hours long.  It was the best burger I’ve ever had in my life. I posted a story on my Instagram saying how amazing it was.  I couldn’t understand how the best burger only had 4 ingredients.

Shawn reposted my Instagram story 3 times because he loved it so much. One of the investors in Burgers Never Say Die noticed the story and direct messaged me through Instagram.  His name is Lawrence Longo (@bigshot), and he’s also the founder and CEO of Off The Menu. He invited me for lunch to talk about Off The Menu.   We went, and by the end of lunch I was completely mind blown with what he was doing and his goals for the business.  His goal was to drive people to restaurants that need more exposure. Off The Menu is all about helping restaurants by bringing customers and giving them an opportunity to fall in love with the food. He offered me a salary to essentially continue doing a lot of what I was already doing. Within 5 months of quitting my previous job I was working for him full-time. Lawrence is like my older brother now. He’s taught me so much.  If there was one key takeaway from that job it’s the importance of building your network.  His network is so strong that I think he could start any idea and be successful with it.

I was working full-time with Lawrence for a little over 1 year and I just recently switched to part-time. I started thinking about my vision for the future.  I had recently gone through a break up with a girl I had really strong feelings for.  I was in a pretty dark place because of it. A big reason why we broke up was because her parents didn’t approve of my profession. My sister, Nicole, who’s also a psychotherapist, sat me down to talk about it.  She asked me about my career and where I want to be in 5 years. She asked me specific questions like, “What sheets are you waking up in? Are you living with roommates? Are you living in an apartment? Are you living in a house? Do you have a backyard? Is there a pool?”  That conversation was eye opening for me and is a big reason why I’m no longer working full-time with Off The Menu anymore.

My now vision is to continue establishing a career in Food and also in Real Estate. Real Estate has always been in my mind.  I love flipping houses and I have done two projects already. I’m closing on a house in Silverlake later this week with a partner and I will be the GC (general contractor), which will be a really fun learning experience. So, while I am full-time in food, I am also working on these Real Estate projects to build additional cash flow.

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome in business and how did you go about it?

The biggest challenge I’ve had to overcome is being confident with being myself.  I always had trouble with that because I’d be made fun of for it growing up.  Being able to confidently tell people about what I’m passionate about was a big challenge for me.   It’s interesting because the things that make you weird when you’re in middle school and high school actually ends up being the stuff that makes you really cool and unique in the real world.

I overcame that challenge by making myself vulnerable.  Sticking my neck out and putting my passion on camera was a big fear of mine, and I overcame that by just doing it.  When I noticed the way people started to react to it, I started feeling a lot better about it.

How are you doing today and what does the future look like? What’s your ultimate goal?

I’ve shifted my mentality from trying to figure out how to be motivated to now working on building better habits. Motivation comes and goes, but the habits you build when you’re doing good or bad are what stays.  Good habits supercede motivation. I’m focused on shifting away from the bad habits and introducing really good new ones.  For example, I love staying up late and watching Netflix, but I’m trying to go to bed early and wake up early so I can have my morning habits on point and get triggered into workflow.

Ultimately, I’d like to have a family.  I want to wake up and look at myself in the mirror proud of who I am because I am happy doing exactly what I want to be doing. I want to provide for my family and be happy with my work.  That is my definition of success.

Software & Tools:

What software do you use for your business?

As far marketing for restaurants goes it’s all through Instagram. To edit my photos I use a free app called Snapseed from google.  They have different filters and settings that work really well for editing food photos.

For video editing I use an app called Splice. I used to use iMovie, but it compresses all videos into a square whereas Splice keeps the videos vertical. Splice also has royalty free music in the app, which is fantastic.

I use an app called Followers to keep track of my Instagram followers because after you hit 10K you can’t see exactly how many followers you have. It’s a good tool to see follower trends and gage the heat of your page.

I also recently started a YouTube channel.  My goal this year is to post at least one video a month

What software would you recommend to someone starting out in your field? Why?

I would say to get started on Tik-Tok, Instagram and YouTube.  Those are the top three social channels right now.  Regardless of which social media platform you use, you have to be consistent and remember why you’re doing it. For example, if you’re starting a page to teach people how to eat certain things make sure all of you captions explain to people how to eat the dish. It sounds simple, but consistency is really key.

What software would you advise people to be wary of, or not to use at all? Why?

I would say don’t use iMovie for the sake of Instagram or Tick-Tock.  It just looks a lot better if you use an app like Splice and you should definitely download it if you’re going to be posting a lot of content.

If you could wave a magic wand and create any kind of software to help you scale your business up – what kind of tool would you build?

I’d really like a tool that explained Instagram algorithm trends. For example, there was a time when you could post a carousel with a video and photos and your content would get more views. I’d love to be able to click a button and see what type of content is performing the best at any given time.

What tools, other than software, do you use for your business and why?

Whiteboards are huge.  I have this thing where I create top 5 lists on my page.  I have my top 5 sushi places, top 5 tacos, top 5 pizza, etc. I have them all sectioned out on my whiteboard and am constantly shifting it around depending on the places I go to.

Resources:

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources you’ve learned from along your journey? Why?

Books: Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill is definitely one of them.  It’s basically a meta analysis of a ton of rich people and how they got there.  It shows you the commonalities between all of these people and there is a workbook that helps you apply the success principles in the book. I go back to this book all the time.

Brené Brown wrote a phenomenal book about the power of being vulnerable called Daring Greatly.  Her TED talk on vulnerability is arguably the best TED talk of all time

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. The book teaches you the importance of being genuinely interested in others.

Podcasts: Definitely the Tony Robbins Podcast. It probably has changed my life more than any other thing I’ve listened to.  If you listen to this podcast you will see why Tony Robbins is a household name.  You will understand why hundreds of thousands of people pay $5,000 each to go to him for 6 days.

I listen to Snacks Daily every single day. It’s not a food podcast. It’s a business and stocks podcast, and it provides really digestible 5 minute business news 3 times per day.  It’s super fast paced and the two guys that do it have great energy.

There are two really good food podcasts which I really enjoy.  One is the Dave Chang podcast, which I just started and I’m really loving.  The other is the Air Jordan podcast.  No it’s not about Michael Jordan. It’s a guy named Jordan Okun who interviews some really cool people and is extremely passionate and knowledgeable about food.

Resources: I go to YouTube for every question I have.

Where would you steer someone looking to learn more about business, food and marketing?

I would say to start an Instagram and have an underlying theme that matches exactly what you’d want to follow.  From there just DM 250 people.  Ask them what they did and how they started.  The best thing you can do is network with people and talk to others around you.

What are you doing to continue learning and growing in your business as well as personally?

I try to observe different people and things that I admire.  Then I try to connect with them and ask how they got there. For example, let’s say I’m a person who isn’t comfortable in his own skin.  I would find someone who is extremely comfortable and confident and ask them about their mentality.  Learning from people is the best way to grow.  Be open to the perspective of others, be open to being wrong, and just be open to being open minded in general. 

Personally, I’m realizing that if you approach fear head on you will always thank yourself afterwards.  It’s the scary stuff that actually makes you grow.

Final Question:

What advice do you have for entrepreneurs looking for the right tools to succeed in business and in life?

Number one, over and above all, be yourself. Trust your gut.  If something feels right, do it.  If something doesn’t feel right, don’t do it.  If you are scared of something by feel like you should do it, do it. Number two, create a vision of the person you want to be and execute on that vision.  Break your goals into small steps and just kill it every day.

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