We had the good fortune of connecting with Christel Oerum and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Christel, maybe we can start at the very start – the idea – how did you come up with the idea for your business?
My husband and I talked about starting our own business during our first date in 2000. But we didn’t have “the big idea” yet, we’re not inventors, and we were definitely not dreaming of a brick and mortar business with lots of employees. We both got our MBAs and worked for large corporations for years before we found our niche. The big change came when we moved to Santa Monica in 2011 and I was blown away by the fit beach lifestyle. I’ve lived with type 1 diabetes since 1997 (an autoimmune disease that requires several daily insulin injections) and have generally been healthy, but after moving to Santa Monica I took it to a whole other level, working out most days of the week at Gold’s Gym in Venice. As I intensified my workout routine, I realized exactly how complicated exercise with insulin-dependent diabetes is. If not managed correctly, exercise can lead to dangerously low or frustrating high blood sugars. I quickly realized that were no good online resources available on how to exercise safely and effectively when you live with diabetes. That in itself is mindboggling as over 34 million people in the US alone live with diabetes and approximately 7.4 million people manage their blood sugars with insulin. My own experience of not being able to find the right information to support a healthy lifestyle and my deep knowledge of the global diabetes market (I spent most of my corporate career working in the diabetes industry) made us realize that we’ve found a huge unmet need, and we left our corporate jobs and started DiabetesStrong.com in 2015. We started by establishing Diabetes Strong as the go-to website for information about exercise and nutrition for people living with diabetes. From that platform, we have grown the website to be one of the largest websites for people living with any type of diabetes, covering all diabetes-related topics.
What should our readers know about your business?
Diabetes Strong is a diabetes website written by people living with diabetes for people living with diabetes. It’s founded on the belief that if you have the right knowledge and tools, you can live a happy healthy life with any type of diabetes. The Diabetes Strong website is the main part of the business but it’s supported by our social media presence and sister website DiabeticFoodie.com. We have a large Facebook group with over 20K people and an Instagram account with more than 26K followers. While we hardly monetize the social media channels, they serve as the peer community arm of Diabetes Strong. We wanted to create a platform where people could find practical information on everyday diabetes situations. Where they would find information coming from a fellow person living with diabetes rather than getting a medical lecture. We frequently receive emails from people telling us how the information we provide has changed their lives, and that tells me that we’re on the right path. Growing and monetizing a website is not easy and it takes time. Diabetes Strong is completely free to use and the website is set up so that the majority of our traffic is organic through search. For that to be successful, we spend a lot of time on SEO (search engine optimization). That means creating content that answers people’s questions, writing for other publications to build backlinks, and nourishing our peer community group. Neither my husband nor I were writers or SEO experts when we started Diabetes Strong, but you can learn a lot from online research, YouTube, and by connecting with others in similar fields. We’ve learned a lot from the food blogging community and other people in the diabetes community. And finally, we learned that when it comes to online publishing, we don’t have competitors – only collaborators. In this business, we all benefit from supporting each other.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Since I grew up in Denmark, I often have people visiting and I enjoy playing tourists with them. Most often my visitors are jetlagged, so we start the first day with an easy stroll from the Santa Monica pier down to Venice. It’s a great way to get out for some air, dip your toes in the ocean, and just people watch. Dinner will be something low key but charming, like C&O Trattoria in Marina del Rey. The never-ending garlic knots, cheap Chianti, and generous portions accompanied by nightly “when the moon hits your eye” singalong is usually a hit with visitors. On day two, we’ll drive up to the Getty Museum to check out the exhibits and amazing views of Los Angeles. Even the trolly drive up to the museum is an experience. After that, we’ll head up to the Grove for some shopping and the fountain show or the “snow” falling over the Grove if we’re there in December. For me, hiking is such a large part of living in Los Angeles so I’ll plan a day of hiking. We’ll start with brunch at Duke’s in Malibu. I love that place, it has a great buffet and you can watch the surf and maybe some marine life while enjoying your food. After that, we’ll either hike Temescal Canyon or Malibu Creek State Park and go see the site where they filmed MASH. Most guests get a kick out of getting their photos taken in one of the old MASH cars. No trip to LA would be complete without a posh stroll up and down Rodeo Drive. If we’re feeling really fancy, we’ll stop for bubblies at the Beverly Wilshire hotel. If my guests need a bit of a rest and some sunshine, we’ll book a day by the pool at one of the many cool LA hotels. Tuesdays at the Roosevelt is a great choice, we can lounge all day in the sun and stay for the nighttime movie by the pool. A final stroll before my guest head home would be through the Venice canals, looking at all the different architecture and just soaking in the peace and quiet in the middle of the city. We’ll then walk over to Abbott Kinney and grab a vegan lunch at the Butchers daughter or dinner at Felix Trattoria, as they serve the best pizza’s on the west side.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
The diabetes online community (#DOC) has been instrumental in the success of Diabetes Strong. Without the support of others living with diabetes as well as the diabetes industry, we would not be where we are today.
Other: https://www.diabeticfoodie.com/ https://www.facebook.com/groups/FitWithDiabetesChallenge