Easy as 1, 2, 3…4
That’s never going to sell, they said, but they couldn’t be more wrong. 4 Ingredients has become the biggest self- published title in Australian history with sales nearing eight million copies worldwide. How does Kim McCosker do it? She’s got ticker.
It’s an ordinary Wednesday and dusk is falling on the McCosker household. Kim runs her finger along the spines of her catalogue of cookbooks looking for inspiration. It’s been a long day, the kids are hungry and there are a gazillion chores still to be done around the house. Flicking through the pages, she stops at what looks like a quick and easy mid-week meal for her family – that is until she reads the long list of ingredients needed, spatchcock and all.
Nope, not going to happen at 5.50pm. “That’s not my rush hour, that’s my crush hour, that’s when I’m so overwhelmed,” she says with her trademark effervescence.
“Teach me how to prepare a little bit of beef with some barbecue sauce, add some sesame oil and let the magic begin, show me how to get a quiche dish out, line it with a bit of puff pastry, beat up three eggs, add sour cream and whatever vegetables I have, preheat the oven to 180 degrees, bake for 35 minutes and there’s a quiche. That’s the recipes I was after.
“So I started to write a book, I was on a mission to create the easiest cookbook ever. I knew you could cook successfully with four or fewer ingredients because when I moved out of home and went to uni, I used to ring my beautiful mother to ask how to make apricot chicken – it’s so easy, slice up your chicken, add your onion, some french onion soup and apricot nectar and Bob’s your uncle.” Kim and her founding business partner Rachael Bermingham chained themselves to the kitchen bench, testing a thousand recipes to whittle it down to a manuscript of 300 of the best dishes using four or fewer ingredients.
“That 2000 copies that were never going to sell, has gone on to become the biggest self published title of all genres in Australian history.”
It was the beginning of 2007 when Kim and Rachael embarked on an unimaginable journey, “not in a million years did I expect to have the success we’ve had,” gushes Kim. “The experts in the trade said to us, ‘that’s never going to sell, that’s got a green jacket, there’s no pictures how is everyone going to know what it’s meant to look like, you’re not famous, you’ve got no culinary expertise or background, you’re battling Gordon, Jamie and Nigella, are you dreaming?’
“We were on a trajectory to sell the first 2000 books that cost us a lot of money to print, funded from my family’s mortgage, and they were sitting in my living room as we were literally selling door-to-door. We were up against the odds and I think that’s why we’ve been so popular, people can resonate with that.”
Kim also credits 4 Ingredients’ followers on Facebook to their burgeoning success. “We have built a loving and loyal tribe along the way and have one of the fastest growing social media footprints in the country,” she says. “That is our voice to the world, that is how we communicate, that is how I continue to live my life with my beautiful family on the beautiful Sunshine Coast because I have that.
“We listen and we answer and we learn from that Facebook page, it has taught us many things that would help busy people in the kitchen and we’ve written books based on that information and further research. So it’s more than just a voice, it’s a communication tool, it’s an education tool. “That is my core strength and the strengths of your business are your characteristics that set you apart from your competitors and that is a massive strength of ours that we have that tribe, wherever we go.”
Kim says so many people consider her to be lucky to have experienced the success she has, but it’s been more than a whimsical roll of the dice. “I learnt the secret to success when I was 10-years-old and wanted a new pair of shoes and my dad said to me, ‘go and pick apples on our farm’ – the secret to success is hard work,” she says. “If you have passion and purpose tied into that work ethic, you’re streets ahead of so many other people. “That’s another key strength of my little team here in Caloundra is we just genuinely love working with people. I see so many great ideas but they fall flat because they don’t love working with people. “I am the author in the aisles, on the stages, at the expos, at the shows and I am the one communicating and staying ‘til stumps and that takes ticker and requires significant stamina.” Kim says Rachael, who she bought out of the business four years ago, taught her not to take no for an answer. “If we hadn’t have persisted we would never have broken through on 11 June, 2007 when we broke through morning TV, which is exceptionally hard, but it was that we kept calling.” And it’s that persistence coupled with human contact that has put 4 Ingredients in good stead to continue growing. “Twenty books later, I don’t have a series anymore, I have a library,” says Kim. “That 2000 copies that were never going to sell, has gone on to become the biggest self published title of all genres in Australian history. That little book has sales nearing 2.8 million copies domestically, global sales across three continents, 26 countries and in six languages over eight million copies.”
Kim’s tips & tricks
- Know what your message is: Be really clear about your message and repeat it over again – repetition is reputation. It takes a lot to build a brand but once you have it, maintaining it is infinitely harder, so everything you do has to come back to that core message.
- Reinvent and reinvigorate: Brand fatigue is a real term! Know your product really well and keep your brand relevant, innovative, new and fresh and at the forefront of people’s minds.
- Preempt change: One of the constants in life are death, taxes and change. You can’t just roll with change, you have to pre-empt it and thrive rather than just survive.