When entrepreneurs Mackenzie Barth and Sarah Adler first moved off campus together in their junior year at Northwestern University, they realized they had no idea how to cook for themselves. They soon learned that they weren’t alone — this struggle wasn’t a unique one. They decided to launch a quarterly print food magazine. Eventually, what began as an effort by two driven students to help collegiate peers navigate the daunting task of “adult” cooking transformed into a global community of young influencers whose mission is to shape the future of food with unique tips, recipes, stories, and restaurant reviews.
Spoon University began as a magazine, but Barth and Adler created a website for it in 2012, which grew to include 100 editors, photographers, writers, and marketers in just a year. It wasn’t long before other campuses began contacting the duo for advice on starting their own chapters of Spoon. After graduating in 2013, Barth and Adler packed up their belongings, moved to the City That Never Sleeps, and immediately undertook the formidable mission of learning how to code. During this time, investors got wind of the venture and quickly took advantage.
Since the site’s initial grassroots genesis, it has grown exponentially — the New York headquarters has more than 27 full-time employees who help oversee over 250 chapters in the U.S., Canada, and India. The site garners five million unique visitors every month, and in 2017, Scripps Networks Interactive acquired the site in hopes of appealing to the ever-coveted millennial market.
Community Success Manager Jocelyn Hsu says her favorite part about working for Spoon is the people.
“We have such an incredible team of talented, passionate, collaborative, funny individuals,” Hsu says. “They really care about what they're doing, and you can just feel that energy.”
Barth and Adler’s initial goals of creating a platform where food-loving college students could come together, find their voice, and learn best practices in digital media have surely been surpassed. What Spoon has amassed to is an authentic community that provides college students a platform and outlet for their creativity, according to Hsu.
“It also gives students real world experience in the food and media industry,” she says. “Some of our members change majors and career paths because of their experience with Spoon. They realize that writing, photography, event planning, social media marketing, recipe development, etcetera is their passion, and they want to explore that further,” says Hsu.
Barth and Adler certainly are a key example of not letting anything stand in the way of your dreams. Their passion-turned-career has empowered thousands of young content creators all over the world and is teaching the next generation of journalists.
“Working with Mackenzie and Sarah is inspiring,” Hsu says. “It's crazy to think that they came up with this idea for Spoon University in college. They really ran with it, and their success shows.”
Hsu says that her experience has enabled her to better understand diverse perspectives.
“[Spoon has] really taught me to question surface-level assumptions and think more about potential trends and root problems,” she says. "Working with different chapters opened my eyes and helped me understand that each person has their own unique way of doing something, and my way isn't always the right or best one. That experience has changed how I view people, leadership, and teams.”
Here’s to Spoon’s success, chasing your dreams, and allowing workers to thrive in their own unique way.
For more empowering stories of working women making waves, check out InHerSight’s features on successful professional women.
By Cara Hutto
Born and raised a Tar Heel, Cara Hutto is a culinary aficionado and zealous writer consumed by wanderlust. She's passionate about women's issues and interviewing inspirational women in her community.