AUSTIN (KXAN) — Jane Ko, or “Koko,” was an influencer in Austin even before the term was coined. If you’ve searched for anything food or entertainment in Central Texas, then you’ve probably seen her videos.
She’s a University of Texas graduate who claims no one would hire her with a nutrition degree, so she pivoted and started food blogging. Now, she is one of Austin’s longest-running and most successful influencers.
“I started doing this because the system failed me. I got the degree. I had the job experience and the internships,” Ko said.
This “small town” girl from South Texas now appreciates her humble beginnings.
She learned to tune out the negativity, those telling her she “couldn’t” and those uncomfortable with someone without a journalism degree, writing the stories of chefs and restaurants and posting pictures of cuisine.
“Anything that’s kind of unfamiliar… people don’t like,” she said.
Ko was creating content back in 2010, at a time when most of us had not realized the power of social media and influencing. It was years later when she would turn the camera on herself. Turns out, that was her recipe for success, and her page went viral.
“I posted my first photo of me sitting at a table, eating at a restaurant, and that’s when people were just so excited. I think there was like this emotional connection that everyone felt,” Ko said.
Folks loved seeing the self-proclaimed “girl next door” alongside delicious Austin food. Her following has now blown up to over 150,000 people. This is still something the introverted influencer is trying to get used to.
“I’m still very shy, so sometimes when people come up to me I kind of get a little nervous,” Ko said.
Ko said the 80-hour work weeks she put into her brand for the last decade have paid off. She’s had 500 partnerships throughout the past decade, working with big-name brands like Ikea and Whole Foods.
She was even featured in Times Square in New York City and has most recently starred in the Netflix hit Show “Somebody Feed Phil.” When asked about her monetary success, Ko said “I think I’ve been pretty lucky” and left it at that.
She has adopted Austin as her hometown and said she does not accept money from local businesses. That promotion is based off her connection and love of Austin and small businesses. Her generosity extends past supporting local. She is most proud of rallying her followers to help the community during the pandemic and winter storm of 2021.
“My audience stepped up and we raised $160,000 in a week and that truly reminded me how much I love the city,” Ko said.
Her second book “Koko’s guide to Fredericksburg,” which highlights Texas wineries in the quaint German town, recently published. Part of those proceeds go to the Wine and Food Foundation.
Ko’s message to Austin is simple — she’s grateful to this city and its people.
Her book signing is coming up on Dec. 10 from 12-4 p.m. at William Chris Vineyards.