Written by Lia Hobel
For food bloggers and digital creators looking for a leg up, there’s a creative and educational space located on Middleburg’s main street that’s part of the nationwide Tastemaker Conference. This popular annual event connects hundreds of attendees to food brands and fellow creators while they learn the ins and outs of food content creation.
“There are so many skills you have to know as a food content creator,” says Tastemaker Conference founder, Abbey Rodriguez. “You have to be your own marketing person. You have to be your own content creator. Your own photographer. Videographer. Chef. Recipe developer. So many different things. There is a certain point where people hire out, but if you’re just starting out, a lot of people want to learn all those skills,” Rodriguez explains. “Tastemaker exists to teach people all [the] different hats that one needs to wear to run an online creative business” in the food industry.
In 2015, Rodriguez reached self-made success with her food blog, The Half Butter, when influencer marketing was just taking off. The blog features gluten-free recipes, herbal cooking, holistic nutrition, and wellness education for the whole family. Its success earned Rodriguez dozens of brand partnerships, and she became a role model for others who wished to break into the food content creator business.
“This industry is extremely profitable,” Rodriguez says. “Some of the top creators within our community are making $2 million dollars a year just on their ad revenue. It’s an incredibly lucrative business but also very fulfilling. You have a lot of time and creative freedom.”
The Tastemaker brand launched in 2017 to educate and connect people within the creative community through yearly conferences. They’ve been hosted in cities nationwide including Salt Lake City, Portland, and Chicago. That same year, the West Coast native first laid eyes on Middleburg. She recalls feeling as though “there was something there for me.” The moment came full circle for Rodriguez last August. She was looking to cultivate a meeting space for food content creators to learn, collaborate, and simply create as part of the Tastemaker brand in a more intimate setting. “I felt like it was very serendipitous how it came together,” she says about finding the roughly 500 square foot W. Washington Street space.
The interior is equipped for both photography and videography sessions and has the necessary lighting and backdrops for food content creation. “What we do there is host smaller workshops and it exists as a coworking space as well,” emphasizes Rodriguez, who welcomes anyone to rent it out or drop by for the day. As for small workshops, the next one is scheduled for June. Over the course of two days, attendees will learn about Google Web Stories. For this workshop, “We are partnering with Google as one of our brand partners and sponsors that we work with,” Rodriguez says. “Google web stories is a new and upcoming way to get content out onto the internet from an SEO perspective.”
“I wanted a space where people could come and get away from the hustle and bustle and have this calming retreat experience while also having educational opportunities and networking with people within the niche.”– Rodriguez
Rodriguez says guests travel from all over for the workshops, and she emphasizes that the town has been the perfect setting. “I wanted a space where people could come and get away from the hustle and bustle and have this calming retreat experience while also having educational opportunities and networking with people within the niche.”
As Rodriguez has always felt inspired to create in Middleburg, she believes the town also inspires others to find their creative spark. “This is for anybody who is looking to get into the online food content space, whether you want to start a food blog, whether you want to start an Instagram, a Tiktok, a YouTube channel, anything within that space, we are here to help you understand all that.”
In addition to creators, the Tastemaker team also works with businesses to develop their branding and digital marketing. ML
108 W. Washington St #201
Middleburg, Virginia 20117
This article first appeared in the May 2022 Issue.