In times of stress, Miriam Leigh has always turned to cooking as an outlet. So it’s not that surprising that she began to do a lot more entertaining when she started Wharton’s MBA for Executives Program in San Francisco.
“I felt like my life was thrown a bit into a tailspin with all the demands on my time from work and school. I found myself inviting people like my classmates over a lot to cook for them,” says Leigh, who is director of marketing and communications at Computers and Structures, Inc. “They started asking me for recipes so I decided to start a blog (http://www.mirileigh.com/) as a hobby.” But what began as a hobby and stress outlet has blossomed into a cooking blog read by thousands, popular cooking demonstration videos on YouTube, and a possible new TV show.
Leigh explains that her MBA classes inspired her to take her blog to the next level. “It started as just a few postings, but in Prof. David Bell’s marketing class we talked about the concept of how to make your consumer feel that they are part of something and generate a sense of community. In my case, my product was the blog and I felt that videos would let people into my life – they would see me in my own kitchen – and I could do cooking demonstrations,” she says, adding that she went down the list of marketing techniques and thought about which ones she could apply.
When Leigh began receiving positive feedback from her videos and even comments that she should be on the Food Network, she thought it might indeed be worth a try. “I didn’t know anyone at that network, but I searched Wharton’s alumni database and found an alumnus who worked at Scripps Networks, the parent company of the Food Network, and sent him an introductory email asking if he could help put me in touch with anyone who might be interested in watching my videos,” she says.
Within a day, the alumnus had written back with an offer to introduce her to the creative director at the Food Network who was interested in seeing her videos. She says, “I didn’t think it would be that fast much less that I would be talking to the top guy there!”
After watching her videos, the creative director was very encouraging, giving Leigh specific pointers about what to work on and requesting additional materials as they were created. A few months later, Leigh sent more videos and landed a meeting with the network in New York.
At that point, all of her Wharton classmates had learned about the blog and her interest in creating a TV show. She recalls, “At lunch one day, a friend casually mentioned that one of her kids goes to school with the kids of a guy who used to be a Food Network producer and asked if I wanted to be introduced to him. I said sure, and she emailed him my information. It turns out that he was the producer of a major show on the Food Network and I was so flattered when he wanted to talk.”
After finding an entertainment lawyer – again by searching the Wharton alumni database -- Leigh and the producer filmed a single episode of what will hopefully become a full TV series. Currently, she’s in discussions to see if it gets picked up by the Food Network.
Leigh, who graduated last May with her 90 San Francisco classmates, credits Wharton for much of her success. “Wharton has everything to do with what I’ve been able to do. The MBA curriculum helped me get the product off the ground and the Wharton alumni network is helping me turn it into a TV show and a career!”
Stay tuned for updates on Miriam Leigh’s blog and TV show!