Meet Brazen Member

Meet Brazen Member: Cyndi Demick

Author Cyndi Demick Published August 29, 2017
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Welcome to “Meet Brazen Member” an exclusive Brazen series featuring our Brazen Growth Group Members. We are excited to share a little bit of their professional and personal stories with you!

 

What is Mamakea?
Mamakea provides in-home assembly of flat-pack (ready to assemble) furniture such as IKEA, Wayfair, Pottery Barn, Target, etc.

 

One skill you’d like to learn this year?
Cold Calls

 

What business woman or woman-led business do you admire and why?
Maxine Clark is one because she is local and it has been fun to watch this business from the beginning through growth and to its incredible international position now. It is what we all dream about.

 

What is your favorite non-work related hobby?
Crafting–needlepoint, wet felting, beading

 

What is your favorite quote?
“Be who you are…Say what you feel…Those who mind don’t matter…and those who matter don’t mind. Dr. Seuss

 

How do you relax after a long day? Is there a small luxury you treat yourself to?
My favorite relaxation is a glass of wine and watching a baseball game. I occasionally schedule a massage–for medicinal purposes.

 

Besides social media and news sites, what website do you check often?
IKEA!

 

What is the inspiration behind your business?
The big picture inspiration was being laid off for the fourth time in my career and wanting to have more control over my own destiny. When I started to look for ways to go into business for myself and asked myself “what do I enjoy doing?”, it was a joke to say assembling furniture. But as I researched it I found that other metro areas with an IKEA actually did have similar businesses.

 

What do you love most about being the boss?
Finally getting to implement the good ideas I have always had.

 

Which of your personal attributes do you think equips you the most to be an entrepreneur and why?
I have strong intuition which helps with running the business and great customer service.

 

What is the hardest part about being a female entrepreneur and how do you overcome it?
The difficult parts of being an entrepreneur don’t seem related to being female. The only female related issue is knocking on a door to do service and having the customer look behind me to see who else is showing up to use these tools.

 

What is your favorite piece of business advice?
Don’t under-price yourself. I used to tell other small business people this all of the time, but it is still very difficult to take my own advice.

 

What is your favorite business / startup book?
The Goal

 

What service does your company outsource?
Bookkeeping

 

What is the most important piece of technology your company uses?
Power Drill

 

How did you hear about Brazen and why did you decide to sign up as a member?
I was referred to Brazen by a friend who has worked in the entrepreneurial environment in St. Louis. He has been very supportive and has given me good advice, so I trusted him on this.

 

How has being a Brazen Member impacted or changed your business?
The help in problem-solving is great, but the accountability built into Growth Groups is the most impactful thing for me.

 

How has your business grown since you joined Brazen?
One of my Growth Group objectives led me to getting some broadcast publicity on “Show Me St. Louis”. This increased my business by 50% or so.

 

Have you become more bold since becoming a Brazen Member?
Yes. Knowing there are others who are or have been in the same position gives me more confidence that I am not in the wrong place.

 

What is the #1 benefit you feel you receive as a Brazen member?
Networking and problem solving in a group rather than by myself.

 

Follow Cyndi and Mamakea on Facebook at @MamakeaInc and check out their website mamakea.com.

 

Cyndi has a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering as well as an MBA. She has spent most of her career in engineering consulting and food manufacturing. She am a single mom and after being laid off for the fourth time in her career, decided it was time to control her own destiny.

Interviews

Everyone Has to Have the ‘Sparkle’

Author Tricia Zimmer Ferguson Published August 22, 2017
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Tricia Zimmer Ferguson is loud and clear: relationships and team work help make Kaldi’s Coffee the company that it is. Build your company culture with intention and the right team members who fit within your company values. Read below to hear more of her tips and insights on leadership and teams. 

 

Are you a natural leader? What do you find easy about leading a team? What do you find difficult?
Yes, I would consider myself a natural leader. I enjoy and am passionate about helping people reach their full potential. I am more passionate about our team than anything else. People ARE our most important asset. I think two heads are better than one when solving problems. I believe team work creates synergies that you wouldn’t have by letting others work on their own. Sometimes the difficulty is knowing when you have invested too much in a certain individual and it’s time to move on. I want to see everyone succeed!

 

What kind of culture exists in your organization? How did you establish this tone and why did you institute this particular type of culture?
Our culture simply put is the values we have for our organization. They are: Continual Improvement, Ownership, Leadership, Openness, Respect, Fun, Passion and Humility (COLOR FPH). Values and culture should not change year to year in an organization. It’s about keeping these as you grow and not losing sight of what’s important. I always say, it’s more important to hire people who are culture fits even over skill set. There are a lot of people with every skill set out there but not as many who are culture fits within your values.

 

“I always say, it’s more important to hire people who are culture fits even over skill set. There are a lot of people with every skill set out there but not as many who are culture fits within your values. ”

 

How do you find people to hire that truly care about the organization the way you do and how do you know you’re bringing on the right team member? (What’s your biggest hiring tip/secret?!)
Quick to fire and slow to hire is our philosophy. We have an extensive interview process even for hourly team members. It takes years to build a successful culture through hiring. It can takes months to tear it apart with making some wrong hiring decisions. Hiring is one of the most important things we invest in throughout our organization and I probably spend about 20% of my time if not more seeking out great talent.

 

When you first started hiring employees, how did you delegate tasks, create a company structure, and make sure everything worked efficiently as you grew?
We are never 100% perfect with our hiring however I think it’s important for the entire organization to understand our recruitment process even if they are not making hiring decisions. They are then better informed of how we on-board successful team members and what we are looking for in a successful team member. We have also now been able to articulate and define who we are looking for in the hiring process. We break down the acronym GIFTS- and the S stands for Sparkle! Everyone has to have the Sparkle!

 

“In order for any partnership to be successful, they have to be culture fits as well.”

 

Do you have a business partner? How did you find them? How have they added to the success of your business?
We have business partners in some of our other businesses but not Kaldi’s. Each situation has been different in how they became a part of each of our companies. In order for any partnership to be successful, they have to be culture fits as well. A few of my favorite criteria include: You have to not only get along but have the ability to lead together, you don’t only solve problems together but also create synergies, you don’t just help each other but have to WOW each other, and finally you can’t just have similar values but you HAVE to share every single value of the organization or it will never work.

 

What do you think are some major differences between someone who is an entrepreneur and someone who works for someone else?
Entrepreneurs hire people smarter than themselves. Entrepreneurs take big risks and thrive when they do. Entrepreneurs delegate so they can keep moving forward and not micro-manage. Entrepreneurs say no to a lot so they can keep laser focused on what’s important.

 

Since your family bought the original single Kaldi’s coffee shop in 2005, you have grown the company by leaps and bounds. What are your future plans for growth? How do you plan for your locations to maintain the “neighborhood coffee shop” vibe as you open more store fronts across the region?
Again it’s really all about the people. As we grow it only becomes more and more important to having the right people so execution does not slip. We have to invest in our people so they invest in our customers and focus on what’s most important (providing a wonderful customer experience). In each community we go into, we need to build relationships with others and make sure we have the right people in our cafes whether they are in Honolulu, Atlanta, or St. Louis. It sounds simple but it’s not.

 

“In each community we go into, we need to build relationships with others and make sure we have the right people in our cafes whether they are in Honolulu, Atlanta, or St. Louis.”

 

Coffee shops probably seem like a pretty basic concept to an outsider, but Kaldi’s does so much more than make a good cup of joe. How do you manage so many different business segments which include your retail locations, wholesale accounts, catering, roasting, etc?
We keep our different business segments separated so we can continue to evaluate them to make sure they are successful in their own right. Also, we make sure we have the right people on the right seats on the bus and the right skill sets are in place because the business segments are all so different. It’s like one giant puzzle!

 

As our name implies, we encourage women to be brazen and bold! Tell us about a moment you were brazen in your business. When did you do something bold? Were you excited or scared? What was the outcome?
Well, back in 2008 we bought a company in Hawaii before we ever got to visit and check it out!! We didn’t go see it until after the deal was closed! Today, it has been an important investment in our family business portfolio and continues to grow.

 

You can follow Tricia and Kaldi’s on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @Kaldis_Coffee and check out their website at kaldiscoffee.com

 

Kaldi’s Coffee was founded in St. Louis’ DeMun neighborhood in 1994. We specialize in sustainably sourcing and roasting the finest coffees in the world, and partnering with those who share our values. From visiting coffee farms to hand-roasting and hand-brewing, we are committed to creating memorable coffee experiences.

 

After attending and graduating from MU’s College of Business in 2003, Tricia went to work with Edward Jones until she crossed paths with Kaldi’s Coffee in 2005. In 2005 she and her family purchased Kaldi’s Coffee in St. Louis, MO. Kaldi’s has retail locations across MO, KS, and GA and a wholesale operation in mid-town St. Louis. In 2008 Tricia and her family invested in another coffee venture in Hawaii where they own retail locations, Honolulu Coffee Company, and have franchised stores in Canada, Guam, Taiwan and Japan. In 2013, the family invested in a joint venture in Nashville, TN with a company named Frothy Monkey Roasting Co. Also, in the same year, Tricia partnered with a new tea company, Firepot Nomadic teas.

 

Tricia currently serves on the Board of Trustees at Missouri Baptist Hospital, the Development Committee of the JDRF, University of Missouri-Columbia Entrepreneurship Alliance Advisory Board and the Management Advisory Board. She is also a member of EO (Entrepreneur’s Organization) and YPO (Young President’s Organization). Tricia resides in St. Louis, MO with her husband, Josh, and two sons, Hunter and Walter and baby girl on the way in September of 2017.

Event Recap

Food: Getting on the Shelves

Author Brazen St. Louis Published August 18, 2017
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Last week’s Brazen Immersion event included so much great insider info, that we are filling this recap with tons of tips and advice from the speakers and making it available to members only! We want you to make sure our members who weren’t able to make it hear some of the great content shared at the event. Lots more exciting events coming up soon! (Don’t forget to check out the “Events” link on your Brazen Member Dashboard to register for future gatherings!)

 

Our “Food: Getting on the Shelves” Brazen Member event featured Martha Ulhorn, President/Owner of Gourmet to Go and La Bonne Bouchee Wholesale Bakery, and Olivia Kelvin, CEO of Soozie’s Doozies

 

We gathered at Lemon Gem in the Grove (super cute kitchen goods store! Check them out!) to hear what these women had to share about their experience as food entrepreneurs. 

 

Q&A:

 

Getting on the grocery shelves seems impossible. How do you get started when you’re in the early stages?

 

Olivia sent blind emails to buyers requesting meetings, often finding their email addresses in press releases for other products! You might get their attention of you lead with what is unique about your product.

 

“Even if you have a great product, if its too expensive, you’re not going to sell enough volume to stay on the shelf. You may have to lose money at first until you get volume”

 

How do you make the decisions of what and where to sell (especially when considering adding product lines)?

 

“The market tells you. You have to stay fresh and respond to what your customers are looking for,” says Martha. This means you really have to know your customers. 

 

What is the best way to get reliable feedback?

 

Face to face – you have to know your customers and ask them directly. Social media has become a good place to get feedback from customers, but remember: you don’t have to pay attention to every good or bad review. One customer is just that – one customer.

 

The grocery industry seem to be changing, with online retailers and smaller specialty stores, how do you plan for that?

 

“It’s getting harder to introduce new products as online ordering increases because people buy what they know.” You have to be focused on your promotion schedule, and Olivia told us that studies have found that even just $1 off will capture a first time user. 

 

How do you figure out pricing?

 

Insider tip from Olivia: There are firms that will test pricing for you via mobile test that basically ask users “how much would you pay for this product?”

 

Can you grow without being in retail grocery stores? (in grocery stores you have to be able to get your prices so low!)

 

One of our event attendees was Anne Croy (A Brazen and Power Growth Group member) who is the founder of Banner Road Bakery Company. Anne chimed in with an answer to this one! She said the best way to grow your online business is by getting mentioned in a publication. And how do you do that? You have to give it away to get people to try it and write about it!

 

Where did you get the confidence to “go big”?

 

Olivia knows all about this one with her product on grocery shelves around the country! She says you have to go big with product because you need the volume. Higher volume reduces all of your other costs around ingredients, production, packaging, etc. This is why retail grocery products often require investment upfront, because there is upfront loss to get to a higher volume. Starting in specialty stores can let you get to a profit position to reinvest in achieving volume.

 

Other tips:

– It is safer to sell in stores with their own warehouse system – you have a bit more control over spoilage costs that get charged back to you.

– “Your relationship with individual buyers is so important, they can champion your product” -Olivia

– Grocery stores will sometimes waive the shelf slotting fees for WBE/MBE certified businesses. And its much easier to get certification when you’re small, because you probably know where all of the necessary documentation is. It can be much more complicated when you are larger in size and more likely to have to hire lawyers to help you at that point.

– Grocery retail is cutthroat!

 

Looking for packaging resources? Here are some suggestions from the speakers:

– webstart.com (containers)
– roastar.com (packaging)
– planetlabel.com (labels)

 

Martha and Olivia both left us with some parting advice. Martha says to “have more money than you think you’ll need. And focus on service.” And Olivia suggests that to “make sure you’re offering something different, and market to your customers around that difference. 

Photos by Jonathan Veith

Being Brazen

Being Brazen with Keisha Mabry

Author Keisha Mabry Published August 15, 2017
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Having someone else expose some ugly truths and weaknesses about your business isn’t always what an entrepreneur wants to hear. Read below to hear how Keisha Mabry took those words and used them to motivate herself and stay Brazen in her mission to revive and promote #friendworking.

 

During my first year in business I did what every entrepreneur is advised to do. I surveyed my target audience, I completed a business model canvass, I did a competitive analysis, I developed a go-to-market strategy and I made sure there was always a host of mentors, advocates, sponsors and coaches around me. I made sure of this, and one coach in particular gives me reason to reminisce.

 

On January 11, 2017 I received my first session of executive coaching. I remember the day being very cold but I was warmed by the thought of fine-tuning the mold for my newly incorporated coaching and consulting firm. Oh how I was excited to learn. I walked in, sat down, pulled out my pen and paper and was ready to go to learning town when my coach walked in with a frown turned upside down.

 

He was smiling from ear to ear and cheek to cheek and I could feel his energy radiating. He said hello, I said hello back and then we started to chat. We talked about my greatest strengths, the contributions I wanted to make to the world, the top three things that were important to me, the way I spent my time when I had time that was free, the person that made the greatest impact in my life, what I wanted to do, who I wanted to be and what made me happy.

 

We talked and talked and talked for two hours straight, but then he asked me two questions that questioned my fate. He asked me if I was a performer or a leader and if the goals, mission and vision of my newly incorporated coaching and consulting firm were realistic. Can you really make a living by traveling the world teaching people qualitative things like networking or should you shift your focus to quantitative coaching, he asked.

“Yes I am a leader and yes I can travel the world teaching people qualitative things because qualitative things are a need.”

 

He asked and I answered: YES. Yes I am a leader and yes I can travel the world teaching people qualitative things because qualitative things are a need. In a world plagued by no new friends, counting friends on one hand, transactional networking and where talking via tech is preferred over in-person chats—friendship is more important now than ever. BUT, the art and science of making friends is dying and I, Keisha Mabry, want to revive it.

 

The Connection Curator is a mission-driven connection agency or better yet a movement. A movement to get people to stop networking and to start #friendworking. A movement to make the world friendly again or at the very least friendlier than it’s ever been. A movement to change the world one connection at a time with hundreds of people in hundreds of days in hundreds of ways. So YES I can.

 

He looked at me, I looked at him, he looked at me, and I looked back at him. He was impressed by my response but he still wasn’t convinced. He wasn’t convinced that I could make a living by doing this — this qualitative networking thing. He wasn’t convinced so I grabbed my pen and paper and I left in a pinch. I left in a pinch, I left hard-pressed, I left upset and I left cold. No. I was no longer warm from excitement – I was now cold from self-doubtment and yes self-doubtment is a made up word. It means the result of doubt.

 

Sometimes we as women entrepreneurs can doubt ourselves. We doubt ourselves because the road is rough, the road is tough, the road is bumpy, lumpy, coarse, and lonely. Really lonely because a lot of times we are THE ONLY. The only woman, the only person of color, the only one in our family. We are the only and when we are the only, coaching can come across as insulting and not coaching, coaching can come across as discouraging not encouraging, coaching can come across as a downer not an upper and coaching can come across as more hurtful than helpful.

“We doubt ourselves because the road is rough, the road is tough, the road is bumpy, lumpy, coarse, and lonely. Really lonely because a lot of times we are THE ONLY. The only woman, the only person of color, the only one in our family.”

 

But in retrospect, coaching is meant to propel us forward not backward, it’s meant to keep us from reinventing the wheel and to help us learn from the mistakes of others instead of experiencing the mistakes ourselves. It’s meant to do just that but we as entrepreneurs can at times take coaching out of context. We can and I almost did until I reminded myself that I was brazen. I was bold and without shame and I was bold unapologetically. And in that moment I didn’t need to convince my coach of this – I needed to convince me. Me, myself and I.

 

And so I did.

 

I sat in my car, in my wonder woman pose, in my Olivia Pope clothes, with my head held high, with my eyes to the sky and I cried. But it wasn’t a sad cry. It was a happy cry to clear my mind. Crying cleanses the mind, body and soul and crying is my way of getting back to whole. So I cried.

 

And after crying I felt less cold. I felt less cold and I thought about my coach’s comments. Yes…I was a leader but in what ways was I a performer and how could I obtain the skills and gaps in my leadership profile to move myself from performer to leader in those areas? And secondly, but most importantly, yes I could make a living teaching people qualitative things like networking – or as I like to call it connecting. Yes I could but did any parts of my business model need adjusting and did my pitch need some fine-tuning?

 

For the next hour I had a brazen conversation with myself and then I left the parking lot, headed home, sat on my counter top and fine-tuned everything from my problem statement to my value prop. My coach had called my baby ugly and I didn’t like it but I needed it. And after having a brazen conversation with myself I finally was ready to receive it. And that’s it. That’s my brazen story.
My Advice to other women entrepreneurs who might face a similar scenario is to be coachable and be brazen, bold and unapologetic to others – yes – but don’t forget to be brazen, bold and unapologetic to yourself when needed to conquer self-fear, self-doubt and all of the other things that tell us that we are not worthwhile.

 

Follow Keisha and The Connection Curator on Twitter and LinkedIn @KeishaMabry and on her website, keishamabry.com

 

The Connection Curator is a connection agency with ONE GOAL “change the world one connection at a time.” We are a group of wooers, doers and social influencers committed to genuine, authentic relationships. Connect with us and we will equip you with the confidence, charisma and communication expertise needed to succeed from branding to sales training and everything in between.

 

Keisha Mabry is an author, speaker and social entrepreneur on a mission to change the world one connection at a time. She has been featured on National Public Radio, the Nine Network, Fox 2, NextStepU, The Business Journal and Blavity for her work in personal branding and networking – or as she likes to call it – connecting. Pretty soon she will be featured on TED.com for her upcoming TED talk Hello – A Bridge to Friendships, Relationships, Good Health and Good Wealth. In addition, Keisha is a contributor for the Huffington Post and Watch the Yard, and her new book Hey Friend: 100 Ways to Connect with 100 People in 100 Days is a movement to make the world friendly again — or at the very least friendlier than it’s ever been. It’s a must-read, a fun read and the ultimate guide to teaching people how to meet new peeps. Keisha believes that by connecting people to people and people to resources she can increase movements, access, communication and progress to get the right people in the right seats to end inequality. Learn more about this fearlessly free human being at www.keishamabry.com. #heyfriend

Interviews

Healthcare Product Innovation for Parents and Babies

Author Agnes Scoville Published August 8, 2017
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After becoming a mother and experiencing common “mom struggles,” Agnes Scoville took her MD training and started tackling infant healthcare issues with innovative products. 

How have you deviated from your original plan? Has anything stayed the same since day 1?

My original plan was to make it easier to give medicine to babies. That has stayed the same, but I realized that there was a void in baby OTC health products. So instead of just one product, we now have a brand of products to help keep kids healthy from day 1 to grade 1.

 

Do you create goals for yourself or your team? How do you measure and define success and how far are you willing to go to succeed?

We have but one goal: sell more products. For our first 6 months of sales that meant in small independent baby stores and pharmacies. Now that we have grown, it means increase sales in the big box retailers and internationally. How far am I willing to go to succeed? I’ll work 24/7/365, but I’ll never compromise my family or my health for my company. Perhaps because I have encountered so much tragedy in my job as an ER doctor, I have a very clear hierarchy in my head of what’s important in life.

“How far am I willing to go to succeed? I’ll work 24/7/365, but I’ll never compromise my family or my health for my company.”

When you first started, where did you see your company headed? Where you see yourself and your business in 10 years? 20 years?

I thought we would license Pacidose to a larger company. But then the sales and accolades started adding up, and I realized the potential for a whole line of smarter baby health products. Now I see us growing the brand and selling to another larger infant retail company in 4-5 years.

 

How do you generate new ideas? How important is innovation in your business?

Super easy. Motherhood gave me special insight into baby health issues. Doctorhood (really, did I just say that?) gave me insight into clever ways to address those issues. My whole focus is to equip parents with tools so they can avoid a trip to the doctor or the ER. Innovation is critical to AGGIE MD. I’m not interested in slapping my label on something that’s already out there. I want to make better products.

 

How do you view strategy? Do you have some examples of tactics you use to look at the big picture and work “on” your business (vs. “in” your business)?

Strategy occurs away from the office when I am doing some physical task like exercising, yard work, or folding laundry. My brain is then able to see the big picture better. I break the company into sales, marketing, and product development. Then under those categories I have subcategories of ways to move ahead. Then I dictate notes into my phone to revisit back in the office.

 

How long do you stick with an idea before giving up? When do you know that it’s time to pivot? Can you give us an example of a dead end strategy or a time you had to pivot?

First I evaluate the need for the device. Not many infants suffer from SIDS (fortunately) so I am not focused on home monitors. I focus on the most common health problems. We’ve played around with some devices until we figured out that we couldn’t make it for less than $25. That’s my limit because I want my products to be affordable to parents of all income levels. We did quit on a home ultrasound machine for several reasons, not the least of which is that ACOG (the professional organization for OB’s) recommends only ultrasounding babies for medical reasons. There is limited data on safety of repeated exposure to ultrasound waves.

“$25 [is] my limit because I want my products to be affordable to parents of all income levels.”

Your first product, Pacidose, was inspired by your own experience as a mother trying to give medicine to your baby. I’m sure there are many healthcare products for babies that have not seen innovation in years. What other products from Aggie MD are in the pipeline?

We have 6 other products in development that address colic, rashes, and overall health. They are super cool and we’ve gotten rave previews at the baby shows. And, there’s more to come! But I have to pace myself (and our R&D budget).

 

Owning a business is a lot of hard work and comes with its fair share of difficulties. What have been your biggest rewards as a business owner and entrepreneur? How have these rewards also affected your role as a mother?

The biggest reward, by far, is receiving testimonials from parents who say Pacidose has been a huge help in giving medicine to their babies. Some of these babies have lifelong problems requiring multiple doses of medicine a day. It makes me grateful for having been able to help them. I do try to communicate this to my seven year-old daughter. It’s more important to help people than to make a buck.

“It makes me grateful for having been able to help them. I do try to communicate this to my seven year-old daughter. It’s more important to help people than to make a buck.”

You are an MD so your training and experience are all in the medical field. What business skills have you had to actively learn or work on to help Aggie MD succeed?

Ugh. Can I mention how Quickbooks still gives me palpitations? I really do not enjoy the financial aspects of the business. Fortunately, my business partner is a Quickbooks whiz kid (please don’t tell him I said that), so he’s been super helpful in guiding me on the finances.

 

You can follow Agnes and AGGIE MD on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @Pacidose and you can check out their website at aggiemdbaby.com

 

AGGIE MD creates smarter products to keep your baby healthy at home. From day 1 to grade 1, we have the solution to every common childhood illness. AGGIE MD: invented by a doctor, inspired by a daughter.

 

Agnes Scoville grew up in Richmond, Virginia and graduated cum laude with a bachelor’s of science degree in Applied Mathematics from Virginia Commonwealth University. She was a computer programmer for four years, then attended Brown Medical School and completed an emergency medicine residency at George Washington University Hospital in Washington, DC. She served four years of active duty in the US Navy, and was a combat doctor in the Iraq war.

After leaving the military, she practiced emergency medicine in Los Angeles, where she met her husband and had her daughter, who inspired her to create Scoville & Company, DBA AGGIE MD. Pacidose, the first product, was launched in June 2015 and is now in over 300 stores including Giggle, Whole Foods, Nordstrom.com, Buy Buy Baby, Babies R Us and soon Target.com. She won an Arch Grant, MESC, the Accelerate Saint Louis Bright Futures Award, the Husch-Blackwell award, InnovateHer, a national small business administration award, and a grant from the New England Pediatric Device Consortium.

Interviews

Beth Handrigan on the Importance of Networks and Date Nights

Author Beth Handrigan Published August 3, 2017
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Beth Handrigan’s Brazen interview is an honest look into how entrepreneurship can be tough (missing out on family time!) but oh-so-rewarding (making a difference!). Conclusion: it’s 100% worth it.  

Photo Credit: Jonathan Veith

What inspired you to start your business? What pain were you solving? How did you get motivated to take the first step?

The idea for Lean Media was born at my husband’s digital media and marketing agency that actually ended up transitioning from a services business into more of an incubator for new business ideas. The fact is, we were experiencing real problems that other agencies were also facing and we were good at creating solutions to solve these problems. We were also experiencing the volatility that an agency can have when it comes to clients, revenue, and staffing. As a result, when we identified the lack of effective targeting in online advertising and came up with a solution that addressed this issue, taking that leap of faith to build a company with the potential for a more predictable and scalable business model was a natural next step.

What sacrifices have you had to make to become a successful entrepreneur?

As a female business woman and mother of two girls, it often feels that the biggest sacrifice I have made to become a successful entrepreneur is “missing out”… from sports events to class parties and school shows, those pangs of guilt that come along with being a working mother are ever present. And these don’t necessarily stop once I am home, because the work of an entrepreneur doesn’t stop when you leave the office. It takes a certain level of discipline to remind yourself that once-in-a-while you need to find time to be present, that childhood slips away in an instant, and that sometimes playing an excruciatingly long game of War is more important than any business plan or pitch deck. It’s also important to remind myself that there is a silver lining that comes along with this sacrifice. I am confident that I am raising two independent girls that have learned to solve problems on their own and that see the sky as the limit when it comes to what their futures might hold.

“I am confident that I am raising two independent girls that have learned to solve problems on their own and that see the sky as the limit when it comes to what their futures might hold.”

What motivates you and how do you stay motivated?

Like every entrepreneur I am driven by building something that can make a difference. But, I will be honest, staying motivated can sometimes be a challenge. There have definitely been days when I have asked myself if I should throw in the towel – when I look longingly at strangers and wonder what their 9-5 lives must be like. Times like these are when it is important to have that network of other entrepreneurs to turn to for encouragement, ideas, and support.

If you had the chance to start your career over again, what would you do differently?

It took me a LONG time to discover that I had the makings of a successful entrepreneur – beginning my professional career as a classroom teacher and slowly shifting to the world of digital marketing and media and finally a business owner and CEO. However, when I look back at what seems like an unusual path, it is clear that there were some innate entrepreneurial characteristics there all along – specifically: a passion for making a difference, a drive to always go beyond my comfort zone, a comfort level in taking risks, and a tendency to see opportunity where others might see obstacles. If I could change one thing, it would be to realize this sooner!

How has your business changed your life? How has it changed the lives of others?

Being the CEO of a startup has not only forced me to learn skills I never thought I would, but more importantly I have developed a sense of confidence that I never had before, I am less focused on what others think, and I am more comfortable “thinking big”.

Have you ever been treated differently because you’re a female? How did you deal with that discrimination?

With a male co-founder there have certainly been occasions when potential clients and/or investors appear to speak directly to him, sometimes barely acknowledging my presence in the conversation – similar to how I have felt when attending a business event as my husband’s +1. At first, I was taken aback when this occurred, and honestly did not deal with the issue head on. However, over time, I’ve made a conscious effort to be more “brazen” and interject myself in these conversations, making my presence and role more clear.

Lean Media is growing! What is something that has surprised you in the growth process?

Yes, we are growing, which is very exciting and incredibly frightening at the same time. The most surprising (and humbling) part of this has been being able to find folks that are willing to leave their “normal” assumingly more stable jobs to join our team!

Beth, you have participated in a couple of accelerators. Do you recommend an accelerator to others? What is the biggest benefit you received from your participation?

Yes! I am a Prosper Women Entrepreneurs Accelerator graduate and I am currently participating in The Yield Lab Accelerator program as well as the Pipeline Fellowship program – each of which has been greatly beneficial to me in very different ways. However, the common thread among them all is the networks. I am consistently amazed at the how giving the Midwest startup community is. An introduction to a potential investor, team member, or service provider is only an ask away. In my opinion, you can only fit so much content into an accelerator program (whether it is 13 weeks, 9 months, or even 1 year) so to truly get value from these programs you need to go beyond that information and take advantage of the amazing networks they provide.

Your husband is also an entrepreneur. Tell us a little about that experience! What is the biggest piece of advice you would have for husband/wife entrepreneurs?

Having husband and wife entrepreneurs is definitely an emotional challenge, even for the strongest of relationships – not to mention the financial instability that it can create. That being said, you simply cannot replace the value of having your partner truly understand the daily challenges you are facing and support you through them. Yes, that means our dinner conversations often center around exciting topics like cap tables and valuations – and our children have watched more pitch rehearsals than I care to count – but I wouldn’t have it any other way 😉 On the flip side, it is also important to know when to step away from all of the family business ventures (yes we have more than two) and challenge yourselves to have that date night where you don’t talk about work!


Follow Beth and Lean Media @lean_media and visit their site www.lean-media.com

 

Beth Handrigan is the CEO of Lean Media, which helps give agribusiness advertisers (such as farm equipment manufacturers, seed/chemical companies, and crop insurance providers) confidence they are delivering the right online ads to the right people at the right time.

Event Recap

My Pizza & Pasta Entrepreneurship Story with Katie Collier

Author Brazen St. Louis Published August 1, 2017
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“I’m a restless entrepreneur. I’ve never settled. I want to keep pushing and keep innovating and keep doing stuff.”

 

Katie Collier, Chef/Co-Owner of Katie’s Pizza & Pasta and Vero Pizza & Pasta, hosted a Brazen Immersion event for our Brazen members and it was amazing to say the least! 

 

Brazen Immersion events let us have more discussion with our host entrepreneur and each other, talk in more specifics about individual businesses and ask really honest questions. Katie has just made a pivot in her business to a meal delivery service Vero, so it was great to get to meet at her warehouse.

 

We got a tour of the kitchen and operations and she kindly offered some delicious food. Our conversation was casual and educational. Katie told us her story, how she got interested in Italian cooking and pizza making, how she got started, the bumps along the way, how she grew and what she’s up to now.

 

“My partner taught me about being fearless and learning how to ask people for things.”

 

“I really don’t care about how much money we’re making right now (as long as we can pay our staff and bills). I just care about growing.”

 

Katie’s businesses have 120 employees, and are about to hire 150 more. She’s learned a lot about how to lead people and cites culture as the most important thing and hiring people who believe in the company’s vision.

 

She says that entrepreneurs should lead the people who believe in their dream. They are crazy to they need team members who are going to get behind the craziness.

 

Katie’s tips & advice:

-Listen to the reviews but don’t get down about it. Just keep going. Keep going and make it better.

-Keep pivoting. Listen to your customer and give them what they want. Keep changing but try not to panic and change too much.

-It’s always the tough people who keep trying through the failures she eventually make it.

-Practice patience.

 

Did you miss the event? Make sure you sign up for membership to get exclusive access to all of our future events as well as other perks like swag, exclusive Vault content, private social groups, and more.

 

Photo Credit: Jonathan Veith