Q&A with Alison Gilbert, Business Consultant & Former COO of Tasting Table
Alison Gilbert is a business consultant and coach who helps owners and entrepreneurs grow profitable businesses quickly and efficiently. As the former COO and fourth employee of food media company Tasting Table, she was instrumental in the company’s growth to a 40 person organization reaching millions. She brings her expertise to her clients and now to SheWorx members as a Mentor-in-Residence!
Tell me the story of how you got to where you are today.
I went to George Washington University in DC and graduated a semester early. I was in the process of applying to law school. That extra semester was time for me to take a breather. I moved home and focused on downtime and cooking and spending time with my family. When it became summer, I had to finalize a lot of the applications and I couldn’t answer the question: “Why do you want to be a lawyer?” My friend said, “Alison, if you can’t answer that question, maybe you need to rethink what you’re doing.”
I made the decision not to go to law school and tapped into what I was passionate about. I thought, “Wait a second — I love to cook and bake, been cooking since I was 12… been avoiding writing law school essays by cooking, why don’t I do something that involves that?” I went on Craigslist, saw an ad for a new bakery, met the owner and got the job — one that didn’t pay much at all (what are expensive college educations for, amiright?) but it was one of the best decisions I ever made.
I started out as a baker and once the summer was over, I ended up running the entire bakery front to back. Then I thought, “I want to go to culinary school.” I wanted get into food media but first wanted the culinary education and restaurant kitchen experience under my belt as well. I went to the International Culinary center, did a 6 month intensive to become a certified pastry chef, and rolled that into being a pastry chef at a private dining club in Midtown Manhattan called CORE Club.
I was on the alumni newsletter for my culinary school school and read about a new daily email about food and drink called Tasting Table that had just launched. I signed up. A few months later, I was raving about it to my friend, who said she had a friend, Pete, who worked there. I was introduced to Pete, and he forwarded my email to the CEO, who said they weren’t really hiring, but would be happy to talk about a potential part-time assistant role. The CEO asked if I could come in next week, and I said “How about today?” and a couple hours later, I had a job in food media. I was very eager, soaked in as much as I could learn from the CEO and, with the help of some Googling too, I did a lot of figuring it out on the job. I became COO a year and a half later. I started as the fourth person at Tasting Table, and in my tenure, it grew from a 10k subscriber base to over 1.5 million and a team of 40. Once we got it to that place, it was time for me to take my energy for building and build something else!
I do well when I’m working in a dynamic space with a lot of challenges and problems to solve. I thought consulting would be good for that. For 6 months, I took a full-time job at Levo League. Then the pull to do the consulting full-time got me and I took the leap. Levo became my first client and Well+Good quickly became my second, and I’ve been building my consulting and coaching business ever since.
What’s been the biggest challenge for you over career?
One of the biggest challenges has been reconciling that dialogue between “You got this” and “You don’t know what you’re doing.” I think that doesn’t really ever fully go away, but my relationship toward that dialogue has changed. I have now fully embraced — to my bones — that when I am tapped into and fully connected to my confidence and when I operate from that place at 125%, that’s when all the really good stuff happens.
When you believe something fully and act on it, people believe in you, and you attract the right kinds of people, help, support and outcomes in your life.
What has been the most gratifying?
I’m always trying to tap deeper and deeper into what my truth is: what is my core competency, what is the value that I have to add, what is my highest and best use? Getting over the whole idea of trying to make my weaknesses stronger and instead laser focus on building up my strengths, that’s been really internally gratifying. Getting to that mental and emotional place has given me the freedom to be as proactive about what I am doing — like growing my business, which has also been incredibly gratifying! To have people reach out through the submission form on my website or email me directly, looking to work with me because they’ve been referred by someone, that’s been such an awesome feeling and validation that I’m on the right track.
What do you like to do in your free time?
Part of the reason I chose making this job for myself was to create my own free time and schedule that allows me to be working at my best. I like to read, cook with friends, workout, travel. I just got back from Puerto Rico for two and a half days — even just that short trip exponentially recharged me. I try to take a weekend or day trip somewhere at least once a month to get out of the city for a change of perspective and good soul recharge.
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