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Female Founders: Tara Lazar of F10 Creative On The Five Things You Need To Thrive and Succeed as a Woman Founder

An Interview With Candice Georgiadis

Be kind. Never be cruel. Businesses are about people. If you create an environment of kindness, you can trust everyone has the right intention. That’s so valuable when you spend more time with those you work with than with your own family.

As a part of our series about “Why We Need More Women Founders”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Tara Lazar.

Tara Lazar is a chef, restaurateur, hotelier behind F10 Hospitality, the leading hospitality group she founded and leads in the Coachella Valley in California. She opened her first restaurant, the popular casual breakfast spot Cheeky’s to much acclaim in 2008, before growing her hospitality empire with the opening of additional Palm Springs concepts such as al fresco Italian restaurant Birba, Mr. Lyon’s Steakhouse, cocktail bar Seymour’s, and a tiki-inspired lounge Toucan’s to name a few. Last spring, Lazar expanded for the first time outside of Palm Springs, partnering with the highly anticipated new Mission Pacific Hotel and Seabird Resort properties in Oceanside to open High/Low, a seasonal produce-driven restaurant, and more recently for the HIGH-Pie, a dessert concept which debuted at Top Gun House. Tara was recently honored in Palm Springs Life’s class of 2022 Women Who Lead, an annual recognition that identifies and celebrates role models embodying the I” Am Woman” feminisit anthem.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

I thought I should always follow a finance path and work on the stock exchange and then as an analyst, but hated it. I lost a bunch of money one day trading the market and decided that if I’m going to lose money anyway, I might as well lose money doing something I love- which has always been restaurants and hospitality.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

The most traumatizing thing that happened to us was Covid. Letting go of my 200+ team, of which many of them I had worked with for 8+ years. Not knowing if, or when, we would open again. And then the heartbreak of so many people not rejoining the company or the industry.

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?

In my first months of being open (14 years ago), I used to walk off the cooking line to let annoying patrons know how annoying they were.

In one instance, I went head-to-head with this surly patron who was erroneously correcting my pronunciation on a certain dish. He was ordering a prosciutto salad and kept saying “projoot”, which is a dialect for prosciutto. I would repeat the order back to him saying it correctly “you would like the prosciutto salad” and he would say “No, I’d like the projoot salad”. We kept going back and forth until he said, “I’m from New Jersey and I’m not going to allow some girl from California tell me how to pronounce projoot.” I insulted back, reminding him if he’d been to Italy, he’d know the correct pronunciation. The entire restaurant got quiet and stared and the staff had to physically pull me away. Not my finest moment, but still funny.

Now, I don’t take any food orders.

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?

I have quite a few business mentors but truly, I have to say my husband, Marco. The sacrifices we need to make as founders, especially regarding time at home and not being emotionally present because we are consumed with work, are massive. To have an understanding and patient partner is crucial. Marco knows how to amuse me when I need to be distracted and knows to be serious when I need to talk things through. I also think having a partner that is not competitive and proud of my successes is a blessing. He’s Rad.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. According to this EY report, only about 20 percent of funded companies have women founders. This reflects great historical progress, but it also shows that more work still has to be done to empower women to create companies. In your opinion and experience what is currently holding back women from founding companies?

Banks. I think lending institutions are extremely biased against lending to women. Not only are loan committees primarily men, if there is sign-off, the rates are typically less favorable than to that of our male counterparts. I remember applying for my first loan and they offered me a rate of 4% over prime. Empowering women is believing in them first and foremost, and once banks believe in us, then women can get the resources to take more risks and think bigger.

Can you help articulate a few things that can be done as individuals, as a society, or by the government, to help overcome those obstacles?

Again, belief is power. If you continue to showcase the incredible work that women do, like your are doing with these interviews, who often have less resources AND less funding, the narrative changes to, “it’s unbelievable what women can accomplish,” or “a woman is better suited to be the lead for this.” I think the greater examples we see at an early age, the more we feel comfortable with women at the helm for both boys and girls. We don’t need the women to believe in women, we need the men to believe in women.

This might be intuitive to you as a woman founder but I think it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you share a few reasons why more women should become founders?

Women are more caring for people. We care more about peoples’ feelings. That is such a valuable attribute not only when determining what our client is looking for but even more so when running our own companies. We are in a new era where it matters how people feel when they are at work. Are they being valued? Do they get satisfaction from their work? Are they being cared about? If you don’t care about your people, why should they care about you and what you are trying to create?

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a founder? Can you explain what you mean?

That you’re the boss. Of course, the final decision comes down to me, but I spend a good part of my day listening to my team wanting to do things differently than me. From chefs wanting to tweak things, spends I would rather not make, guests wanting a substitution on the menu, etc. I wish I could be more like Max in The Wild Things and say “this is the way it’s going to be!!”

Is everyone cut out to be a founder? In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful founder and what type of person should perhaps seek a “regular job” as an employee? Can you explain what you mean?

This took me years to figure out. Not that everyone isn’t capable of being a founder, but more that everyone doesn’t WANT to be a founder. I used to wonder why people would want to come work at the company that I founded if they could just start their own. But I realized, there are many that would much rather be in a number two role instead of a leadership role. It’s important to note, one is not better than the other — each one is critical for success.

The joy that comes from being a strong support or pillar is very satisfying to many. If you love doing a good, thorough job and you enjoy being part of the team to make that happen, then maybe being a founder isn’t the correct role for you. If you enjoy masterminding, managing people and risk taking- then consider being a founder.

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. Be kind. Never be cruel. Businesses are about people. If you create an environment of kindness, you can trust everyone has the right intention. That’s so valuable when you spend more time with those you work with than with your own family.
  2. Be over capitalized, not undercapitalized. Obviously easier said than done, but if you must compromise too much from having too little capital, you risk tarnishing your brand.
  3. Trust your gut. ESPECIALLY WOMEN! It’s our superpower. We have better intuition, better gut instinct and we understand people. Your gut got you here, trust it to the end. Just don’t confuse it with ego.
  4. Don’t waste your time on a sinking ship. I was told that’s the benefit of trading the stock market instead of betting horses. When a horse is losing, you can’t get out, but when a stock is tanking, you can still save something if you get out quickly. Same thing usually goes for business. When I’m in a conundrum about a business, a person, an idea, I do a litmus test and ask, “would I be relieved if this suddenly didn’t exist”? If the answer is yes, walk away as quickly as possible.
  5. And similarly: Mental real estate is priceless (and limited). The more time you can spend on bettering your business and the less time you deal with drama and problem recovery, the more of a favor you are doing for your company. Your magic is in driving the company forward, not getting stuck in operations. If you can free up chaos by making it go away easily, do it as quickly as possible.

How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

I’ve always been passionate about nutrition for our youth. Specifically, ameliorating childhood obesity as well as better nourishment for food scarce communities. As a person off the street, I wasn’t taken seriously. Now that I have multiple restaurants and I am an established business owner, it’s gratifying how that has opened doors to be heard. My phone calls are answered and people book meetings. I just launched a food truck concept that can feed kids quickly in a cool, experiential and nutritious way and I hope this is the future of addressing the aforementioned epidemics in our country.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

Let’s get our kids eating better!!! Better eating habits leads to better concentration in school, better eating habits as adults and less support for the processed food industry.

We are very blessed that some very prominent 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.

Martha Stewart all day long. She’s such a legend. She’s smart, funny, creative, elegant, and went to jail and still had a full comeback. How many of those do you know?

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.

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Candice Georgiadis

Candice Georgiadis

Candice Georgiadis is an active mother of three as well as a designer, founder, social media expert, and philanthropist.