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Tawnie Wilson | SBJ

12 People You Need to Know in 2024: Billy Dove

Hungry for More

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Eagle-eyed diners across the Springfield area can spot the 417Foodist name popping up on social posts about pasta dishes, burritos, margaritas and even hot sauce bottles. But there’s a name behind the content: Billy Dove.

Dove, a Sparta native, loved taking photos of his meals for social media. Inspired by the Springfood, MO food review podcast, he started an Instagram page in July 2019 named after a term from the show: “foodist.”

“In the beginning, that’s all it was,” he says. “I’m here, and here are pictures of the food.”

The podcast was covering restaurants within city limits, so Dove says he looked up every restaurant in surrounding small towns and built a list on his phone, which he and his wife, Stephanie, referenced as they dined out on weekends.

His hobby started to gain followers, prompting KOLR 10 to offer a food correspondent gig.

“That was something I had never planned to do,” Dove says. “In six months, I went from posting pictures to being on TV.” 

One opportunity led to the next. In 2021, Dove worked with branding agency Longitude LLC and Murney Associates, Realtors for featured blogs, and he wrote articles for Springfield FitLife magazine. In 2022, he started writing for the Springfield Convention & Visitors Bureau Inc. blog, and in 2023, he began appearing on Power 96.5 with Jay Fotsch twice a month.

Dove says his audience grew to include restaurant owners and chefs who request coverage. That constitutes about 10% of 417Foodist’s content, and the rest Dove chooses based on new eateries or dishes and those he hasn’t covered before. Dove spends roughly 25 hours a week crafting, editing and posting content for his social platforms – over 13,000 followers on Instagram and 11,000 on Facebook.

Yet, Dove says he has no plans to quit his day job at John Deere Reman. His 15-year purchasing career comes with a fully vested pension, a 401(k), insurance and benefits that 417Foodist can’t match.

“I never wanted to profit off of this,” he says. “I don’t charge anything to appear on the page. My heart and my gut tell me not to.”

Dove says 90% of 417Foodist is self-funded. The remaining 10% are comped dishes that exceed what Dove would reasonably order.

Dove is now building the brand’s Facebook page and started posting to TikTok. Recognizing the reach of his platforms, Dove makes an effort to keep his content factual and positive.

“In the beginning, people really wanted this to be a critic’s account,” Dove says. “I kindly remind them that if you’re expecting that out of me, that’s just not going to happen.” 

As his impact grows, Dove has been exploring meetups for followers and other creative ways to expose his audience to new experiences.

“I want people to go out there and find something new they’ve never had or find their new favorite restaurant,” Dove says.

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