A couple of weeks ago, I am driving across Hilton Head Island. Nothing special about the drive. I make it all of the time. I pay my toll at the Cross Island Parkway, exchange a few pleasantries and I am on my way, just like everyone else. This last stop at the toll booth, however, was different.
I roll up and hand the young lady in the booth a five dollar bill. As she is reaching to put together my change, she stares at me. There was silence. A long, awkward pause. She’s still staring and now simultaneously holding my change hostage.
“I know you.” she says. “You’re Jesse.”
“Hi, how are you?” I said.
“Oh my goodness! I love your show! My husband loves your show! We watch it every Sunday morning. Oh my goodness!” She follows up with “My friend has a restaurant! It’s amazing. They want to be on your show! How do they do that? How much does it cost? They do everything fresh and make the most incredible food. You have to try it. How do we reach you?”
Keep in mind that this is happening before she hands me my change back. It took a good 45 seconds, which when you are waiting in line at a toll booth can feel like 45 minutes. So a car behind us finally beeps. I give her an email address on how to reach us and say “You’ve got people waiting. Email me. I gotta go.” And I drove off. With my change of course.
I don’t share that story for the opportunity to tell you that people stop me in the strangest of places to tell me they love our television show Eat It and Like It with Jesse Blanco. That actually happens all of the time. Multiple times a day. Which is pretty darn good when you are trying to build a loyal following.
No, the reason why I am choosing to share this story is because of something she said that got lost in the excitement of a toll booth hit and run.
“How much does it cost?”
Have I been asked that before? Of course I have. After all, September 24th marks 6 years that we’ve been doing our show. I’ve been asked pretty much everything. Every now and again, I am asked how much it costs to be featured. So why was this time at the toll booth different?
That incident was actually the 3rd time in a 2 week stretch that someone had tried to offer me money in exchange for exposure on my show. It told me a couple of things. We are obviously growing and reaching a larger audience, many of whom are unfamiliar with how we’ve been operating for over 5 years. But it also told me that people are so used to paying for exposure that it is automatically assumed that if you get some, you had to pay to be there.
That has never been the case with Eat It and Like It. Ever. And it is the one accomplishment I am probably the most proud of in all of the time we have been doing this show. That’s not how we operate. That has never been how we operate and it will absolutely be how we will continue to operate.
Full disclosure here: I have been offered thousands of dollars over the years to say things I don’t believe. I have been turned down by a potential advertiser because I wouldn’t agree to make being featured on Eat It and Like It a part of their ad package. Is that tough to do? Actually not really. Business is absolutely business, but money has never been a motivator around here. Our annual Eat It and Like It Foodie Awards are never ever tied to advertising. It’s tied to what we believe is the best in this area in a particular category. Period.
Good food, good people and a beautiful region to call home are the only motivators here. If you will indulge me for a second, it’s why I dare to say our following is pretty darn huge. And getting larger.
I find myself regularly telling people, because they ask, Eat It and Like It has been built from the ground up. There was no template in this area. There was no TV show on the air in the Savannah/Hilton Head Island TV market to emulate. There was no one really talking about food in the South like we are. Have we hit some bumps along the way? Of course we have, but through slow and sustained growth we’ve put ourselves in position to call Eat It and Like It the voice of food in this region. We’ve got a solid brand, a full-service magazine as well as a podcast on the way. And we never had to sell out. Not too many people in this market can say that.
Thanks, as always for your support. Here’s to many more years and many more trips through the toll booth! Meanwhile, if you know about a great restaurant that absolutely must be on our show, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
See you on TV,