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Inspiring Conversations with Christel Oerum of Diabetes Strong

Today we’d like to introduce you to Christel Oerum.

Hi Christel, so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
My husband and I talked about starting our own business on our first date back in 1999, but it wasn’t until 2015 that we found our business opportunity. In 2014, I started competing in bodybuilding competitions and realized how complicated that is when you live with insulin-dependent diabetes as I do. I couldn’t find any good and easily accessible information online on how to manage it all, so I started to document my own experience online in a personal blog.

The blog became quite popular in the diabetes community and that’s when we realized that we’d found an unmet need.

We started DiabetesStrong.com in 2015 to meet that need and it quickly grew into one of the largest diabetes websites. It now gets more than 1,000,000 page views every month.

In 2020, we acquired a second website, DiabeticFoodie.com, where we share healthy diabetes-friendly recipes.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
It took us some time to figure out exactly what our website/business should focus on and there have been some major ups and downs along the way. In the beginning, our focus was on the nutrition/fitness aspect of living with diabetes, as that was my personal focus at the time. I was the “face” of the website and on social media. That gave the website a strong start but also limited its growth potential.

To grow to be more than a “blog”, we needed to expand our focus and our team. We rebranded and redesigned the website in 2017, hired a team of freelance writers and recipe creators, and started publishing articles about everything related to diabetes. This paid off and our website traffic doubled in the next 12 months.

Our biggest struggles have been Google’s “core updates”. Most of our traffic is from Google search and Google has rolled out some major updates. Some of these updates have decreased our traffic by almost 80% while one increased it by almost 250%.

Our business has consistently grown every year, but the extreme volatility has made planning for the future and hiring staff very challenging.

As you know, we’re big fans of Diabetes Strong. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about the brand?
When you look for diabetes information online, you mostly find medical journals, medical guidance written by doctors, and personal anecdotes. They are often not very helpful for ordinary people. Diabetes Strong provides a journalistic approach to many of the issues people living with diabetes deal with daily, with articles written predominantly by people living with diabetes. That means that people can read an article from someone going through the same experiences as themselves but that it’s still thoroughly researched and accurate information.

It’s also important to us to keep the website completely free to use. People living with diabetes have enough health expenses already, so at least we can make information free. Our revenue comes almost exclusively from banner advertising and not from selling products.

What’s next?
Diabetes Strong is in a very good place right now and we just want to keep up the positive momentum. So no big changes there. Our main focus is developing and growing Diabetic Foodie into the leading recipe website for people with all types of diabetes. We are updating all the recipes, shooting new photos, and getting the word out that the website exists. We hope that Diabetic Foodie will have as much traffic as Diabetes Strong in 1-2 years.

We also just started to focus more on our YouTube channel as a place to share content that doesn’t really fit on our websites, such as product reviews and quick tips and tricks for people living with diabetes.

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