Be Flexible. Nothing ever happens in a straight line. We had a recipe that we developed for our treats and, in our first test run, our co-packer forgot to put one of the ingredients in the treat. Well, we tested the treat with the dogs just for kicks, and they absolutely loved it. Instead of sticking to the original plan, we went forward with the “mistake” and used the forgotten ingredient in our next treat.
I had the pleasure to interview Anne Carlson. Anne is the Founder and CEO of Jiminy’s, producing sustainable dog food & treats using cricket protein. Prior to Jiminy’s, Anne was the VP of Market Intelligence at Big Heart Pet Brands where she led Shopper Insights, Market Analytics, and Strategic Projects. Prior to that Anne founded Secant, which she sold to IRI. She also worked for Accenture, Diageo and Seagram’s. Carlson holds a BA in Political Science, Economics, and Mathematics from Washington University in St. Louis, and an MBA from NYU. Anne lives in Berkeley, CA with her husband (Eric), daughter (Boothe) and two patient pups (Timber and Tuco).
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’?
I’m always more interested in the “frontstory,” but if I’m looking back, I’m surprised to see I’m more of a zigzagger than I would have guessed. The through-line is I’ve worked in consumer packaged goods industry for my whole career, but it’s not as straight a path as that implies. I worked for big companies, but veered off and started a few companies, sold them, and ended up back in the big companies who made the acquisition. The unifying feature in everything that I’ve done? I walked into the role to solve a problem. I love tackling tough problems. And this time I’ve chosen a doozy — climate change!
Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
Being a woman, the most interesting stories are definitely all of the “me too” stories — mostly from early in my career. If I look past all of that, being a woman executive is still not an easy role. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been the only woman in an important meeting or on a task force. Getting heard in that environment can be difficult.
I remember one meeting in particular where we were tasked with transforming a part of the organization. This is something that I’m really skilled at (I had spent the first ten years of my career in consulting after all) and, early in that meeting, I had an idea that felt right and good. I spoke up and shared my idea. Someone wrote it up on the white board and everyone else continued jumping in with their ideas. About ten minutes later, one of the men in the room expressed an idea that made everyone super excited. Of course, it was the same idea I had earlier shared — the one up on the white board — which had received little reaction in the moment. I was a bit stunned and, to be honest, pissed off. I almost kept quiet, thinking that at least my idea was going to be adopted. But something inside me couldn’t just let it go. I got up, walked to the board and pointed at where it was written down. One of the guys chimed in — “oh yeah, that’s what you said.”
I’m glad I pointed out that it was my idea, even though it’s awkward as hell. What I later learned is this situation is pretty typical. We all need to speak up and say — “yes, that’s what I already said” — when it does happen. Make the team realize they aren’t listening to everyone in the room. Also, it’s always better to have a diverse team in the room. When a team is being drafted, push for diversity then — it’s always easier to get it right at the start.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Standing out is absolutely not an issue for Jiminy’s. I mean we’re replacing traditional protein sources (like beef or chicken) with cricket protein! Almost nobody does that. Yet. It’s been really interesting being so different and new. I’ve gotten used to double takes and when I tell someone we use cricket protein, the most common response is easily “Wait, what?” Thankfully, there hasn’t been a spit take yet.
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?
I couldn’t have gotten to where I am today without my husband, Eric. Throughout my career he’s been my advocate but has also helped me see the humor in every situation. At some point in the last year and a half, I recruited him to come and work with me (he says he’s the frog I put in the pot of water). Anyway, we tried using a recyclable bag early on and I remember putting one of the bags on a table and pointing to it, looking for some sort of validation. His face said it all. The bag was lumpy, its print and color fuzzy — it was sad. And he made me laugh at it. Which cut to the chase and helped me to my decision to use a different, better bag. There are going to be forks in the road, dead ends, and deer jumping out (to continue the analogy), so being able to navigate challenges with humor is definitely an asset because you’re putting your sweat and blood into your company.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?
I’d guess I go full Webster and define resilience as the ability to bounce back when things don’t go as planned. How do you keep going when everything changes? Be flexible but know your end goal or purpose. Straight lines don’t exist, so be ok with the twists and turns and look for ways to make it better. Have confidence in yourself — know that you can tackle roadblocks and even learn from them. Finally, build great relationships and don’t be afraid to ask for help or advice.
When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?
Stephen Hawking. (We actually have the same birthday.) He was diagnosed with ALS at the age of 21. Many people facing that kind of physical decline might give in to it, but Stephen didn’t and he never stopped himself. He advanced our thinking in so many areas and I find him incredibly inspiring. I take his warnings on climate change to heart and I wish I had been able to meet him to tell him about Jiminy’s. I like to think he’d be interested in a cutting edge, sustainable protein.
Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?
I’m not sure that I’ve been told that something was impossible, or if I was, I didn’t listen to them. That’s possible.
Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?
I’ve known three people with brain cancer and none of them are with us now. Two were extremely close to me and, in fact, one was my youngest brother. It goes unsaid mostly, but going back to work after a tragedy is really hard. People are used to your demeanor in good times and there can be a pressure — even if it’s self-induced- to maintain that outlook. It’s not easy but you can shut the tragedy out of your mind and never refer to it in the work environment. I used to do that with work and home being completely different worlds that I kept separate. When my brother died while still in his 30s, however, it was just too big. I started to open up to my team, managers, and executives about what was happening in my life. Instead of being detrimental to my career, it actually enabled me to forge deeper relationships with my work colleagues. I became more empathetic and I believe that others saw me in a different light. When I left and started my own company, all of those relationships have helped me achieve my success with Jiminy’s. Some have invested, others have reviewed, and some have provided introductions. There’s a warmth there that might not have existed without the impulse to share and I can’t imagine going forward in business without referring to our essential humanity again.
Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?
Growing up my family moved often. My dad was with IBM or “I’ve Been Moved.” The worst move happened during high school. I loved my friends and my school — I couldn’t imagine anything worse than leaving it all — yet my family did, moving all the way across the country. It was pretty terrible. Being forced into the role of the new kid over and over again gives you no choice but to deal with change. It’s kind of funny, because now, as an adult, I actually like change.
Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Know Your Purpose. We make dog food and treats but our purpose is combating climate change.
- Be Flexible. Nothing ever happens in a straight line. We had a recipe that we developed for our treats and, in our first test run, our co-packer forgot to put one of the ingredients in the treat. Well, we tested the treat with the dogs just for kicks, and they absolutely loved it. Instead of sticking to the original plan, we went forward with the “mistake” and used the forgotten ingredient in our next treat.
- Have Confidence. You got this far — trust in your strengths. Be self aware and know when to ask for help.
- Build Relationships. This has evolved for me. It’s about networking, listening, sharing, helping people when you can, and not being afraid to ask for help when you need it (this is a biggie — I’ve mentioned it twice).
- Learn. When things don’t go as planned, think about what happened. Don’t repeat mistakes.
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. :-)
The big movement is right in front of all of our eyes. It’s pushing back against the climate change threat that looms over our whole planet’s way of life. We can fight climate change by making better choices. The answers are here — that’s what’s so incredible — we already have the answers. I’m dedicated to helping individuals identify the big and small things they can do that in aggregate will make a difference. Through Jiminy’s I’ve provided a better choice for our pets, but there are so many other things that can be done. I think what we need to see is for people to support those businesses (like Jiminy’s) that are really making a difference. That means buying our products. Not just once as a novelty, but as your go to brands.
We are blessed that some very prominent leaders 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, especially if we tag them :-)
Leonardo DiCaprio. I’m a big fan — of his movies AND his planet advocacy. We’re a newcomer to the world of climate change solutions, so the more high-profile people like him that engage on cricket protein, the better. Awareness is all and it’d be great to make the case for cricket protein as a vital piece of the solution to climate change.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Learn more about Jiminy’s at https://jiminys.com/
Follow Jiminy’s on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and YouTube @JiminysForPets
Follow me on Twitter @annecarlson or LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/annetcarlson/