Tiller’s founder, Kathleen Sheppard, sat down with Mimi Connelly to continue our Female Founders/Creators spotlight. Mimi started her Instagram & blog, Mimi's Meals to empower people through positivity and vibrant content surrounding all things food & wellness.
Tiller: Tell us about yourself!
Mimi: I'm 23 and just moved to San Francisco from New York City in May 2020. I recently quit my job in social media and editorial to pursue Mimi's Meals and various other projects I'm working on. I love writing and have written multiple books, short stories, and poetry. Probably my favorite activity is going out for meals (haha!) or going to the beach, surfing, walking, swimming, etc.
T: What sparked your interest in food and creating content and what was the inspiration that led you to start Mimi's Meals?
M: The summer after my freshman year of high school I had back surgery to correct my spinal curve. After being in the hospital for a week and unable to stand or move on my own, I lost a lot of weight, which then fueled an eating disorder that I struggled with for the majority of my high school years. I never used to tell the real story about why I started Mimi's Meals, but the truth is that I started it to help me recover from my eating disorder. When I so desperately needed a community of support but was too ashamed to find one in person, I turned to the internet. That being said, this was over seven years ago, the platform was much different back then. There weren't trendy food blogs or influencers or anything, but I needed help, so I went to Instagram to share my story, and then eventually came full circle and my goal with it now is to help others who are struggling.
T: How did you originally start your page and how has it evolved over time?
M: Continuing my answer above, I started it as an eating disorder diary so-to-speak. To keep myself accountable in recovery but to also have support from others. I kept it a secret for a while, there was a time my family didn't even know about the account. But I jokingly told them one day, if I get 10K followers they can follow me. Within a couple months I had 10K and was growing. But, being in high school and then college, it was difficult to keep up with the social trends for a couple years, and I put the account on the back burner. I was no longer slaving away in the kitchen every time I came home from school, to have "content" stocked up, it became more of a hobby. After graduating from Trinity College last May, I found my love and passion for it again. I learned how to manage my time better, and do it in my free time. But this time, on my own terms. I am open and honest with my followers again (after I told people about the account I stopped being authentic with my struggles and shifted to just sharing perfectly curated meals), now I'm sharing my struggles again, I'm sharing myself, not just my food, I'm sharing my writing, and anything else that brings me joy.
T: What was the most difficult part of being a content creator, especially in the world of food? What has been the most interesting/rewarding?
M: It's a 24/7 job. Literally. I can barely go a couple hours without posting something, responding to comments, DM's, emails, etc. That being said, I'm generally posting things/ creating content around things that bring me joy. That's the only way, in my opinion, to make this kind of lifestyle sustainable. You have to do it in a way that brings you joy, because in many ways, my account actually isn't for me, it's for you, it's for them, it's for everyone following and not following, I have to think in a way, how do I create content that will be useful for my audience. That they can take away something from it...while simultaneously doing that around things I love and I connect with. I think something tricky with food too is like I mentioned earlier, I used to struggle with an eating disorder. My mind was constantly on food, what I was going to eat, how much of it, what I wasn't going to eat, foods I labeled as bad, etc. Having a food blog, I am still thinking about food a lot, and sometimes I feel like I'm mirroring past tendencies. This is when I have to step back and do things for myself. I don't have to post a pretty meal everyday. I don't have to create recipes everyday. Instead, I can share with my followers, maybe how I'm struggling with food that day, or how I just feel like a bagel instead of a smoothie. Bringing more realness into the social space is always beneficial in my opinion, and connecting with people daily, on how they have similar struggles, or resonate with something I shared, is so rewarding. Not rewarding in the sense that they struggle, but more that we are all human. And we don't have to deal with any of our struggles alone.
T: How have your previous experiences shaped Mimi's Meals and how do you stand out from other food accounts?
M: I'm human and I'm not afraid to show what that means. As humans we feel all things. A highlight reel, like Instagram, does not usually depict what it's like to be human. I'm not afraid to show all of the emotions I experience. I'm not afraid to share some vulnerable pieces of writing that I've written. I also don't eat like "typical" food bloggers. I don't follow a specific diet, I eat bagels, I drink, I smoke, I eat out, I feel like shit sometimes and that's not balance~~~ that's just living in a world where we feel like we have to have our "good" and "bad" habits validated with a label. I'm not about that. I'm just trying to connect with others so no one feels the way I felt when I was 14 years old. This account in many ways is for my 14 year old self, to show that life doesn't get easier but you get stronger, emotions aren't a weakness, and don't be afraid to lean on others.
T: What advice would you give other young women who aspire to do something creative, whether that's becoming a content creator, starting a business or just following their dreams in general?
M: Do it. Whatever you are passionate about or just feel in your gut, that there is something you want to do, then do it. It's not always going to be easy, and maybe you'll have to work some jobs on the side at first, but don't give up. I think one of the tricky things about trying to live a creative life is it's not the norm. There's no clear path for us. What works for someone might not work for you, and that's okay. Don't don't don't compare, it's just an addiction to losing. Stay on your path, listen to your intuition and share your passion and creativity with anyone and everyone. Even if you feel like people aren't listening. Keep sharing. People may not understand it, but it's not for them to understand. If anything people in their corporate jobs are probably just going to be jealous that you are happy and following something that lights you up. Don't let their projections make you think that you shouldn't do what you want to do.
T: If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be?
M: God, I would just give myself a hug. I would tell myself that there's no need to rush or stress through things. Life happens just on time and everything and anything that happens to you is exactly what is meant to happen.
T: What does the future hold for you? What are your goals with Mimi's Meals and what can we expect to see next?
M: I hope to continue to build a community of support for others. Continuing to create content and share parts of myself. I hope to publish some books, and just never stop connecting and helping others feel less alone.