Helena Faustin, 35, is a neonatal ICU nurse in Freeport, NY, making around $105,000 a year. But she more than doubled her annual income last year thanks to her growing fame as a home chef on social media. When she’s not at work, you will typically find her in the kitchen whipping up all kinds of delicious meals that just about anyone can make at home.
She never expected to make so much money from her side-hustle, but her new business venture is paying off in spades.
That Nurse Can Cook
Faustin is best known for her food blog, That Nurse Can Cook, where she regularly shares recipes and cooking tips. Documents show she made $117,000 last year on top of her nurse’s salary thanks to advertising revenue on YouTube, brand partnerships, and e-cookbook sales. She creates, directs, and edits all the content herself, but her success didn’t happen overnight.
She started the project at home during the pandemic. More than anything, creating her own social media network helped her feel autonomous when everything around her felt like it was spiraling out of control.
“I felt like I was going to work really and truly out of necessity,” Faustin said. “You have bills to pay, you have mouths to feed, and the work has to go on no matter what. I said to myself, ‘Gee, if I could have more autonomy over my life, I’d be able to make a lot more decisions for myself and for my family.’”
Faustin has over 20 years of experience in the kitchen. Her mother, a Jamaican immigrant, first taught her to cook when she was growing up in Brooklyn.
″[My mom] didn’t always have the patience to teach,” Faustin remembered. ”[Jamaicans] cook off of instinct, so I would say, ‘How much garlic powder should I put in?’ And she would literally look at me and say, ‘Use your judgment.’”
She initially spent around $700 on groceries, ring lights, and other equipment, but it turned out to be a great investment. She now spends around $600 a month on food, her business’s largest expense.
As a nurse, Faustin never thought she would make as much money cooking at home as she does from her day job. She spent years earning her degree and training in the field to become a nurse but cooking just came naturally. She considered going to culinary school, but nursing seemed like the best route at the time.
“Anyone out there who is a first-generation American and are born to parents who are immigrants, we were always raised to crave stability,” Faustin explained. “They always taught us to go to college and get a degree. So, for me, I couldn’t envision a career in cooking.”
She started posting photos of traditional Jamaican meals she made at home on Instagram, but she soon found herself researching ideas and recipes that might appeal to her target audience.
“I had to learn … how to create content that resonates with people,” Faustin said. “In the beginning stages, I had a lot of growing pains, a lot of trial and error.”
Faustin capitalized on her newfound success after her friend recommended that she write a cookbook. She now has two e-cookbooks about 30-minute recipes for sale online, featuring “extravagant meals with sides.”
Publishing proved to be the most lucrative. Last year, she made $71,333 from e-book downloads, compared with $39,030 from brand collaborations and $7,523 from ad revenue.
She doesn’t have a lot of free time between work and running a business, but she feels she has to keep the project going or her following could fade away.
“When I first started this side hustle, I legit was so passionate about seeing my dreams come true that I did not stop,” she says. “I literally worked every single day that I was not working at the hospital.”
The extra income has allowed her to scale back her time at work. She now works eight 12-hour shifts a month, down from the usual 13.
But Faustin doesn’t plan on quitting her day job anytime soon.
“You do not have to either sit behind a computer or work a traditional nine-to-five in order to have the life that you want,” Faustin said. “If you have a talent, harness that talent, learn as much as you can from it and monetize that thing.”