Nothing worth having comes easy. Many people give up quickly in business (or even just life) because things become difficult. I set very high goals for myself and companies, but I know what it will take to reach them. Many people don’t realize what it takes to start and run your own business, or to be a woman in the C-Suite, because so many of us make it look easy. I remember when my non-profit organization, Miami Children’s Theater, reached 10 years and the Florida Department of Corporations sent me a congratulatory letter stating that 90 percent of business don’t make it to the 10-year mark. All of the sleepless nights, long meetings, and hours spent figuring out how to solve our problems were worth it — but they were not easy.
As a part of my series about strong female leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Angela Ardolino, founder and CEO of House of Alchemy, LLC. Ardolino has been caring for animals since she was 8-years-old and has operated a rescue farm for over 10 years. She is the owner of Beautify the Beast a natural pet salon and spa. Angela is an expert in medical cannabis and has dedicated her life to providing all-natural relief for pets of all kinds. She has four dogs, and four to 10 dogs at any time that she is fostering or boarding. You will never see her without a dog, chicken, goose, or bunny by her side, and her love of animals combined with her sense of humor and ability to pivot have made her one of the leading women in the pet industry.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
After moving to Tampa with my young kids, I realized that there was no legitimate resource for moms looking for parenting guidance, support, and community events. So, I took a page from Oprah’s book — I saw a niche and I filled it by creating Tampa Bay Parenting Magazine. As the founder and CEO, I was able to grow the magazine rapidly from 2006 through 2016, eventually bringing on partners to launch the same concept in other cities.
While at Tampa Bay Parenting, I was struggling with rheumatoid arthritis, stress, and anxiety. But, I was not content to subject myself to an endless merry-go-round of pharmaceutical treatments. So I searched for ways to treat myself naturally. After exhaustive research and some trial-and-error, I discovered medical cannabis, and it literally changed my life. That’s when I realized I should do everything possible to bring this natural medicine to people and pets. I sold my ownership in the magazine, resigned as CEO, and founded House of Alchemy, LLC.
I threw myself into learning everything I could about medical cannabis and the medical cannabis industry. Putting that knowledge to work, I earned a degree in the therapeutic uses of medical cannabis from the University of Vermont School of Medicine. I also produced a regional conference to educate as many doctors, veterinarians, health professionals, and members of the public about medical cannabis as possible — all while I assembled a talented team of people who would successfully promote this natural medicine to those who needed it most.
I searched for full spectrum hemp CBD products that were all-natural, sustainable, and formulated specifically for pets — but found that nothing existed. So, I decided to change that by creating my own formulas specifically for pets, that would eventually become CBD Dog Health’s initial product line. We released our dog products in June 2018 at Super Zoo in Las Vegas, and since then have launched cat and horse products.
It has been a winding path that led me here, but I wouldn’t change a thing because I get to help pets live longer, healthier lives.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
With this being a new industry, there’s something surprising every day. One day I’m convincing state officials in the Midwest that CBD is no longer a controlled substance, and the next I’m educating huge corporations on the benefits of this natural medicine.
I think one of the most interesting things about leading a company as a woman is that men are either terrified of me or they gravitate to working with me. And as a female leader, I have faced challenges that my male business partners never experienced. Even with the challenges of being a female leader I have been approached by men representing huge companies asking to carry our products, all of which happened relatively quickly.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
When I was in the research phase of my business in 2016, I joined a start-up who had a growing operation for medical-grade cannabis. I went to Los Angeles to help launch the first legal grow for the company, and I shadowed the founder/CEO, going everywhere he went. This included attending a secretive “network” meeting with LA’s biggest cannabis distributors. I heard stories of shortages at dispensaries, how some growers were selling products grown using pesticides, and how some dispensaries were buying from the cartels because there was such a high demand and not enough supply. It wasn’t until after I left that I realized we were sitting in a room with some of LA’s biggest marijuana dealers — both legal and NOT! And as you might have guessed, I was the only woman and the only one asking a million questions, which put everyone on edge. Lesson learned? Know where you are going and know when to shut up!
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
My intent is to help as many animals get the relief they need and deserve. That relief exists in nature, and we create all-natural formulas to calm, ease, and heal animals’ biggest issues. I think this mission is what makes us stand out the most. When I started the company three years ago, we couldn’t even extract CBD from the hemp plant in the U.S., much less manufacture my products. Instead of letting that end our company, I pushed even harder to advocate positive changes in the laws while also educating doctors, veterinarians, and the public on the benefits of this all-natural medicine.
I think the other major difference between my company and others is that both my team and I truly care about animals. We are not in this to turn a quick profit. We are in this to help animals. If that means we take a little longer, spend more to source pure ingredients, or we have to work long hours to make that happen, then so be it.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
We are launching a holistic pet care podcast with the Cannabis Radio Network entitled It’s a Dog’s Life with Angela Ardolino, to bring practical holistic pet information to listeners across the country. We are constantly looking for ways to expand our ongoing educational efforts with e-newsletters, webinars, and even the planned release of a book about animal health and natural healing. And we’re always developing and improving our selection of products to meet the changing needs of pet owners — like our line of pet meal toppers, as well as treats for horses which we’ll be rolling out in the immediate future.
What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?
In case it’s not common knowledge by now, people will treat you differently just because you’re a woman. They will judge you not by your ideas, experience, and intelligence, but by how you look and sound. You will have to fight to make yourself heard at times.
Another important thing to remember is that people will tell you “no” a lot. And sometimes, you will have to tell people no. But unlike when a man says no to something (for example, if you have to turn down an opportunity because you don’t feel it’s right for your team), you may be called a bitch for it. Just ignore those negative comments — do what you feel in your gut is right for you and your team.
I always say to my team: Just because a competitor is bigger doesn’t mean they are better. Have confidence in your team, no matter how big or small. Know that the people in your circle and on your team want the company to succeed, and they want you to succeed as a leader. And no matter your gender, make sure that you are listening to your team and paying attention to their skills so that you can help each person on your team hone their skills and use them for good.
What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?
Teach and build up leaders on your team to help you manage the team. Find everyone’s talent and help them reach their potential.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
When I was just a shy 10-year-old, I met my first female entrepreneur, Sandy Faye. She recruited and trained girls ages 10 to 14 to be a part of the Mini Magicians, who would perform magic for children’s parties and huge events. Being a part of this group shaped me into the person I am today. The Mini Magicians were completely booked with a waiting list, and that’s when Sandy asked me if I would start doing shows on my own. So, at the age of 14 I started my first business! I hired my mother to drive me to the shows, and my little sister to assist me with the performances. I charged $100 for an hour-long event, which included a magic show, animal balloons, and face painting. By the time I was 17 I had saved enough money to move out of my parents’ house, buy a car, and attend Miami Dade College under a community service scholarship I earned by (you guessed it!) teaching magic to underserved children. Seeing and learning from a female entrepreneur like Sandy changed the way I saw business and how women can take control of their futures.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I feel like the opportunities I’ve had to bring goodness to the world, particularly working to help children and animals, are a big part of why I consider myself successful. Every business I’ve started — including the 23-year-old non-profit Miami Children’s Theater and my 10-year-old rescue farm Fire Flake Farm — has been to fulfil a need in the community of which I am a part. I’ve been helping children and changing animals’ lives since I was 14 years old and helping others to flourish is how I gauge my own success.
What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Trust your gut. It may seem like a cliché, but I listen to my gut and act on it, and it’s never let me down, so I trust the expression. If something doesn’t feel right, it’s probably not.
- Every stumbling block is an invitation to improve. Because I’m a very impatient person I feel like I run into problems a lot, but I use those problems as a sign to pivot, stop or change directions.
- Nothing worth having comes easy. Many people give up quickly in business (or even just life) because things become difficult. I set very high goals for myself and companies, but I know what it will take to reach them. Many people don’t realize what it takes to start and run your own business, or to be a woman in the C-Suite, because so many of us make it look easy. I remember when my non-profit organization, Miami Children’s Theater, reached 10 years and the Florida Department of Corporations sent me a congratulatory letter stating that 90 percent of business don’t make it to the 10-year mark. All of the sleepless nights, long meetings, and hours spent figuring out how to solve our problems were worth it — but they were not easy.
- If you put 100 percent in, you will get 100 percent out. The moment I pay too much attention to one business and not the other I can see the ripple effect.
- Change and growth will never happen if we simply accept the status quo.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
I would love to start a movement to show that cannabis users are not who you think. They are CEOs, mothers, fathers, and ordinary people. Not only would I love to take the stigma out of cannabis use, I want to inspire a movement to look for natural medicine and encourage others to do the same, by asking people to proudly proclaim “I’M A CANNABIS USER!”.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“I’m just an ordinary person with nothing to lose”. Whether I was facing a room full of board members, commissioners, a live TV audience, or anytime I feel a bit overwhelmed, I repeat this to myself.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them :-)
Oprah Winfrey. I watched Oprah every day and she showed me what was possible for a woman to accomplish. I saw a woman who came from much more difficult circumstances than mine build an empire — while making a huge impact in peoples’ lives. She is the epitome of what women can do when we just believe in ourselves. She was able to build everything she has from the ground up, despite all of the odds being stacked against her and despite all of the people who told her she couldn’t do it.