Gina Panella of Pop Creative: Five Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Launched My Business or Startup

An Interview With Doug Noll

Doug Noll
Authority Magazine


I acknowledge the importance of networking and building relationships with other entrepreneurs, manufacturers, and potential clients. I believe that networking can lead to valuable partnerships, collaborations, and new opportunities for growth. Additionally, I have learned that manufacturing requires expertise, patience, and attention to detail. Great products are not enough to succeed in the competitive marketplace, and marketing is crucial. Financial planning and management are also critical for long-term success. Finally, there are many legal considerations to keep in mind when starting a private label manufacturing company, from product liability to intellectual property.

Taking the risk to start a company is a feat few are fully equipped for. Any business owner knows that the first few years in business are anything but glamorous. Building a successful business takes time, lessons learned, and most importantly, enormous growth as a business owner. What works and what doesn’t when one starts a new business? What are the valuable lessons learned from the “University of Adversity”? As part of this interview series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Gina Panella.

Gina is a co-founder and COO of pop creative, a leading creative manufacturing agency. With over 20 years of experience in the manufacturing industry, she is a trusted authority in the field. Her dedication to innovation, excellence, and philanthropy makes her an inspiring role model for aspiring entrepreneurs and business leaders.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Thank you for having me! My journey to this career path began when I was working for a woman who owned a similar business. I was disheartened by her lack of empathy towards her employees and vendors. During her maternity leave, I began to take on more responsibilities and noticed the immense profits she was making. That’s when I realized that there was a gap in the industry for a company that focused on kindness and quality standards. With this in mind, I decided to start my own business, and that’s how pop creative was born.

Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?

Certainly, when I first started my journey, I faced some really tough times. I had left the company I mentioned earlier with no money in my bank account, and I had no idea how I was going to make this work. My business partner was incredibly supportive and bought me groceries for the first year we were in business. I had no choice but to make it work, and I poured all of my energy and effort into getting pop creative off the ground.

Despite the initial hurdles, I’m proud to say that we managed to turn a profit in our first year. It wasn’t much, but it was still profit, and it gave me the confidence to keep pushing forward. Looking back, I realize that those hard times were actually a blessing in disguise. They forced me to be resourceful and creative, and they helped me develop a strong work ethic that has served me well throughout my career.

Nowadays, I’m grateful for those early struggles, as they helped me become the person I am today. They taught me the value of perseverance, resilience, and hard work, and they’ve inspired me to help others who may be going through similar challenges.

Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

Certainly, there have been times in my career when things have been really tough, and it can be hard to keep going. Most recently, the COVID pandemic had a huge impact on our industry. In-person events were canceled, and several of our major clients went out of business or scaled back their operations. As a result, our finances looked terrible. In 2019, we had our biggest year in sales, but that success didn’t carry over to the next year.

One of the biggest challenges we faced during this time was losing our line of credit. This was essential for us to continue to grow, so it was a huge blow to our business. Working through this issue has been very upsetting and difficult at times, but I remind myself that if I could build this business once, I can do it again. This time around, I’m wiser and smarter, and I have more people to help me.

The drive to continue despite these challenges comes from a deep belief in the mission and values of pop creative. We’re committed to providing high-quality, innovative products and services to our clients, and we’re passionate about doing so in a way that’s ethical and sustainable. When times get tough, I remind myself of why I started this business in the first place, and that keeps me going. I also have an amazing team of people who share my vision and work tirelessly to help us achieve our goals. Their dedication and support inspire me every day, and I know that together, we can overcome any obstacle.

So, how are things going today? How did grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?

Thanks for asking! Today, things are going well for pop creative. We’ve managed to weather the challenges of the pandemic and are starting to see some growth again. It’s been a tough road, but our team’s grit and resilience have been essential to our eventual success.

Looking back, I can see how my own perseverance played a big role in getting us to where we are today. In the beginning, I did everything the same way I did when I started the business. I showed up consistently and followed up with clients and partners. I asked the difficult questions and was never afraid to ask for help when I needed it.

I also surrounded myself with people who shared my values and work ethic. Our team is made up of creative, hardworking individuals who are passionate about what they do. We’ve been able to rely on each other during the toughest times, and that support has helped us get through even the most challenging situations.

Ultimately, I think our success has come down to our unwavering commitment to quality and our willingness to adapt to changing circumstances. We’ve always put our clients first, and we’ve worked tirelessly to provide them with the best possible products and services. I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished so far, and I’m excited to see where pop creative will go in the future.

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?

Sure! When I first started my business, I made a pretty big mistake that ended up being a valuable lesson for me. I accidentally forwarded an email to a client that included a message from someone in my company that was not very flattering about the client. It was a pretty embarrassing moment, and it taught me a valuable lesson about being careful about what you put in writing.

From that experience, I learned to always think twice before hitting the send button. I try to be more thoughtful about the content of my emails, and I make sure to double-check that I’m sending the right message to the right person.

Another funny mistake that I’ve made is forgetting to scroll down in my emails, which often causes me to miss important attachments or information. It’s something that I’m still working on to this day, and I try to remind myself to slow down and be more thorough in my communication.

Overall, I’ve found that making mistakes is just a part of the learning process when starting a business. The key is to stay humble, take ownership of your mistakes, and use them as opportunities to grow and improve

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

As the owner of my manufacturing agency, I believe what sets us apart is our ability to solve problems and make things happen. We are dedicated to finding innovative solutions for our clients and exceeding their expectations.

One example that comes to mind is when a client had an urgent need for products from overseas. The lead time was originally six weeks, but due to unforeseen circumstances, we had only two weeks to get everything delivered on time. With quick thinking and strategic planning, we were able to successfully push the items out and have them arrive on time for the client. It was truly a miracle, but it’s a testament to our ability to solve complex problems.

Another way we stand out is by being there for our clients even when they don’t expect it. We have had former clients or current clients who gave a project to another vendor, only to have that vendor drop the ball. These clients come back to us and ask for our help. We never say no, and we always figure it out. We take pride in being a reliable partner that our clients can trust to deliver exceptional results.

Our company is also committed to sustainability and reducing our environmental impact. We have implemented eco-friendly practices in our manufacturing processes, such as using recycled materials and reducing waste, and we work with clients who share our values of sustainability and ethical production.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Setting boundaries is crucial to avoid burnout. As entrepreneurs, we have a tendency to work around the clock, especially when we have clients in different time zones. However, I have learned the hard way that it’s essential to set a hard stop time at the end of the day, and not check emails or work on weekends. It’s crucial to allow yourself to rest and recharge.

Additionally, it’s essential to be kind to yourself and recognize that there will be days when you’re not feeling your best. On those days, it’s okay to do the bare minimum and take some time for self-care. It’s important to prioritize your mental and physical health, so you can show up as your best self for your clients and team. Finally, seek support and build a network of like-minded individuals who can offer guidance, advice, and encouragement.

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?

My business partner has been the person whom I am most grateful for. We have been and currently go through a lot of issues with clients etc and he is always there to help or find a solution with me.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

In addition to creating jobs, we have also made a conscious effort to reduce our environmental impact. We have implemented a number of sustainable practices in our manufacturing processes, such as using eco-friendly materials, reducing waste, and conserving energy. We also work with suppliers who share our values and commitment to sustainability.

Overall, we believe that success is not only about financial gain but also about creating a positive impact on the world. We are committed to using our success to make a difference and leave a positive legacy for future generations.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first launched my business,” and why? Please share a story or example for each.

As an entrepreneur, I’ve learned that manufacturing is complicated and requires expertise, patience, and attention to detail. From selecting raw materials to manufacturing and packaging, everything must be done precisely. I’ve also realized that marketing is crucial to reach and attract customers, create brand awareness, and promote my products. However, financial planning and management are essential for long-term success. Starting a private label manufacturing company requires a significant financial investment, and I wished I had known how critical financial planning is. Additionally, legal considerations are important to keep in mind, from product liability to intellectual property. It’s essential to have a good understanding of the legal framework. Finally, networking is essential, and I wished I had known how important it is to build relationships with other entrepreneurs, manufacturers, and potential clients. Networking can lead to valuable partnerships, collaborations, and new opportunities for growth.

  1. I have learned that when clients or colleagues act out, it’s often because they’re under pressure or dealing with their own issues. I advise not taking things personally and instead asking questions to gain clarity and understanding.
  2. I believe in being proactive and assertive when it comes to communication with clients. If there’s a lack of response, I recommend asking for clarity to prioritize where to focus my energy and time.
  3. I have learned that clients are focused on results and not necessarily interested in hearing about problems or errors. I advise staying positive and offering solutions rather than criticism.
  4. I have also learned that until a purchase order or signed statement of work is in my inbox, it’s not an official order. I advise being patient and making sure all the paperwork is in order before proceeding.
  5. I acknowledge the importance of networking and building relationships with other entrepreneurs, manufacturers, and potential clients. I believe that networking can lead to valuable partnerships, collaborations, and new opportunities for growth. Additionally, I have learned that manufacturing requires expertise, patience, and attention to detail. Great products are not enough to succeed in the competitive marketplace, and marketing is crucial. Financial planning and management are also critical for long-term success. Finally, there are many legal considerations to keep in mind when starting a private label manufacturing company, from product liability to intellectual property.

Can you share a few ideas or stories from your experience about how to successfully ride the emotional highs & lows of being a founder”?

Sure, as a founder, I have experienced a lot of emotional highs and lows in my journey. One thing that has helped me successfully ride these waves is to remind myself that challenges are a part of the journey and that we have overcome them before. When we face delays in manufacturing or problems with goods delivered, it can be frustrating, but I try to focus on finding a solution rather than dwelling on the problem.

There have been times when clients have made absurd demands, and in those situations, I’ve learned to pause, take a deep breath, and respond calmly. It’s important not to take things personally and instead approach the situation with a clear head. By asking questions and gaining clarity on what the client truly needs, I can often find a solution that meets their needs while also staying true to our capabilities and limitations.

Another thing that has helped me is having a support system of other founders and mentors who have gone through similar experiences. Talking with others who understand the challenges of entrepreneurship can be incredibly helpful in processing and navigating difficult situations. It’s also important to take breaks and practice self-care to avoid burnout and maintain a positive mindset.

Overall, I’ve found that staying focused on finding solutions, staying calm and collected in challenging situations, and seeking support from others are all key strategies for successfully riding the emotional highs and lows of being a founder.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start 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. :-)

As someone who has experienced the negative effects of micromanagement, I feel strongly about starting a movement to abolish it. Micromanagement can cause a lot of stress and anxiety for employees, which can lead to decreased morale and productivity. When I was micromanaged in the past, it made me feel like my work was not valued and that my manager did not trust me to do my job properly. It was a frustrating and demoralizing experience.

That’s why I believe that it’s important for managers to give their employees space to do their jobs and trust that they will do it well. By giving employees autonomy and ownership over their work, it can lead to increased engagement, creativity, and motivation. Instead of micromanaging, managers can provide clear expectations and goals, offer support and resources, and provide constructive feedback when necessary.

Of course, this is easier said than done. Micromanagement can be a hard habit to break for some managers, and it may require a culture shift within the organization to fully abolish it. However, I believe that it’s worth the effort to create a work environment where employees feel valued and trusted to do their jobs to the best of their abilities. Ultimately, this can lead to greater success and growth for the organization as a whole.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

About the Interviewer: Douglas E. Noll, JD, MA was born nearly blind, crippled with club feet, partially deaf, and left-handed. He overcame all of these obstacles to become a successful civil trial lawyer. In 2000, he abandoned his law practice to become a peacemaker. His calling is to serve humanity, and he executes his calling at many levels. He is an award-winning author, teacher, and trainer. He is a highly experienced mediator. Doug’s work carries him from international work to helping people resolve deep interpersonal and ideological conflicts. Doug teaches his innovative de-escalation skill that calms any angry person in 90 seconds or less. With Laurel Kaufer, Doug founded Prison of Peace in 2009. The Prison of Peace project trains life and long terms incarcerated people to be powerful peacemakers and mediators. He has been deeply moved by inmates who have learned and applied deep, empathic listening skills, leadership skills, and problem-solving skills to reduce violence in their prison communities. Their dedication to learning, improving, and serving their communities motivates him to expand the principles of Prison of Peace so that every human wanting to learn the skills of peace may do so. Doug’s awards include California Lawyer Magazine Lawyer of the Year, Best Lawyers in America Lawyer of the Year, Purpose Prize Fellow, International Academy of Mediators Syd Leezak Award of Excellence, National Academy of Distinguished Neutrals Neutral of the Year. His four books have won a number of awards and commendations. Doug’s podcast, Listen With Leaders, is now accepting guests. Click on this link to learn more and apply.



Doug Noll
Authority Magazine

Award-winning author, teacher, trainer, and now podcaster.