People want to work harder for people they enjoy working for. They respect when their leaders hold them accountable and don’t let them get away with things or let things slide. Set clear deliverables, boundaries, and understand that people are all unique, but more often than not, your team’s attitude is a direct reflection of the leader.
As a part of my series about strong female leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kimberly Stiele. Kimberly brings a track record of accelerating growth for new businesses. She has built high performing teams, created/developed new products and repositioned iconic brands. Kimberly has 17 years of CPG experience at companies like General Mills, Hershey and ConAgra. During her 17 years of experience in CPG, she has run high growth business divisions, been head of marketing, won prestigious vendor awards, been instrumental in YOY double digit sales growth and founded a non-profit organization. Under her strategic guidance, as General Manager at Just Born, the Retail Division grew from less an $1MM to $25MM in 24 months.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
A series of unfortunate events! Well, yes and no. I had an amazing mentor who helped me leverage years of building individual skills and running a business. He showed me how the experiences I had were the foundation for not just a house, but a skyscraper. I also had the coolest parents in the world that never discouraged me from following my dreams. This led to my positive attitude of “why not?” and I found myself back in the job market looking around, wanting to find something to complete me. I found that in itSpray and here we are!
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
Yes! I have one particular time that has come to mind. I was discussing with some friends about how we made our sprays watermelon flavored and after listening to my elevator pitch, they said “Okay so I just spray it on my leg?”. When I spoke about the watermelon flavor, I made the quick assumption the consumer understands you ingest it. However, I am often surprised that people ask if you spray it on your body. What this teaches me is that education is critical in understanding the product.The interaction between our consumers and our products is wonderful because we are always learning and hear interesting experiences by interacting with the people who used it.
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?
I was in love with this agency, but really it was the founder that had me hook line and sinker. We started working with them and come to find out that the team was not in sync with their leader. This was a funny experience because of the hilarious stories we had with each other and the fun ideation sessions, but also a mistake because all the genius ideation in the world won’t work if it’s not executed properly and doesn’t garner results.
The lesson learned was that you are only as strong as your people. I loved her for the great ideation, but what we soon found out is that her team lacked the ability to execute. When you are evaluating key partners, you need to evaluate the whole, not just the one person. Sometimes the pitch is better than the product.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
We are creating simple solutions for today’s lifestyle. itSpray has found a way where consumers can receive their vitamins in the easiest, fastest and most effective way that absorbs quickly. I have personally experienced the struggle of trying to break a gummy vitamin, that ultimately leads to waste and uncertainty of how much is actually going into my body. Our sprays make it easy for everyone in the family to receive the same benefits without having to pack two different types of packaging, pills for adults and gummies for the kids. I can spray my daughter with 2 sprays, my son with 3 sprays and myself with 6 sprays of the same thing! Bottom line, we stand out because we make things a little easier! As a mom, school volunteer, carpool driver, weekend cook and business owner, I’m always looking for something that can help make life just a little easier. I am also confident that I am not alone in this. You can only get that self care and me time by accumulating all those seconds to make life a little easier.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
We have a few things in the cue. One I am excited about involves a new frontier, a bit of white space in the health and wellness industry. As a consumer, sometimes the industry confused me. I had to educate myself in order to create products that I felt good selling to consumers.
We started by helping provide solutions to everyday problems. Our first entry was Sleep, Energy & Immunity. Currently in development, we are looking at everyday solutions for stress, anxiety, inflammation. We will continue finding ways to improve and enhance people’s everyday lives.
Where we are going with this new line is to try and help educate and demystify for consumers. Some of the greatest innovation in supplements in the last 10 years has involved helping the consumers understand what or why you take certain supplements or blends.
What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?
It is all about developing a team, empowering a team, leading a team and growing the business. Be the best business person you can be. When an entire team is working towards a common goal, nothing else matters.
What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?
- Attitude trickles down hill.
- Empower your people and your people will empower their people.
- Never ask anyone to do anything you wouldn’t do
- Sometimes the biggest failure leads to the most incredible wins, but if you create a culture that hides failure you won’t be able to react quickly.
- Make sure everyone knows bad news travels fast
- People want to work harder for people they enjoy working for. They respect when their leaders hold them accountable and don’t let them get away with things or let things slide. Set clear deliverables, boundaries, and understand that people are all unique, but more often than not, your team’s attitude is a direct reflection of the leader.
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?
My dad! I know I know, but that guy sat in the back of the room at a debate tournament. Can I tell you how boring that is? I can’t think of a single time since the age of 4 where he didn’t just sit me down to say do what you want to do and figure out a way to do it. From ice skating (which I am horrible at) to starting my own business, there was never any failure to him. It was just do or do not and take in those learning experiences.
Another person I am grateful towards is my business partner and mentor. He has had the confidence and believed in me since I walked into my first interview with him. The day I started, he began to teach me by example and has never stopped. He has taught me how to manage large teams, make business decisions, and trust my instincts. He lets me fail everyday and there is never a conversation where I feel like asked a dumb question. He always has the patience to listen and ask questions to help me come to the conclusion that maybe we shouldn’t do that. Now if I have the same conversation with him twice, he is a little less patient. But that has rarely happened in the almost decade we have been working together.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
A few years ago my sister lost her daughter to DIPG, brain cancer. We lost Maddison 3 days after her 8th birthday. I take any opportunity I have to share Maddison’s story and bring awareness, even in the simplest ways like posting on Instagram and sharing it in this interview. From driving charity events, providing awareness and supporting children’s cancer research, this is my cause. Our products are amazing and this journey is incredible, but for the rest of my life any platform I have will include sharing Maddison’s story.
What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Be consistent. I learned that really early in my career. I watched leaders who led based on their mood.
- Never ask anyone to do anything you wouldn’t. A leader is always ready to dig in. You have to know what your motivational role is and sometimes it’s just going and getting the pizzas. But it works with leadership style too.
- Have a turtle shell. If you take things personally, you will never get to the best business decision.
- A group that collaborates well together is always going to come up with a better idea or solution, than you would alone.
- Be humble. Say thank you and reflect on gratitude daily.
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. :-)
Influencing and the development of children, which needs to start community by community. My husband is really active in our local community, which means the whole family is. From packing backpacks at the beginning of the school year with Resource West to our involvement with Beds for Kids, I believe that you can’t change the world without first putting in time in your community.
Resource West is an organization that helps families with children in need. One of their initiatives is filing back packs at the beginning of the school year for children whose families don’t have money for new supplies. These backpacks are filled with supplies to allow kids to have a fresh start to the school year.
Beds for Kids is an initiative from Hopkins Rotary. The number of children in the community that don’t have beds is alarming. How do you expect children to go to school and learn if they can’t even get a good night’s sleep. We are part of the fund raising and delivery team for these beds. Wasn’t it Crosby Stills and Nash that said teach our children well.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
It is always easier to identify what someone else did wrong, than what you can do better. What you can do better is the only thing you can control. I wake up every morning and try to be just a little better than the day before.
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 :-)
Bethenny Frankel. Because she stood in grocery stores asking people to try her product and because that’s what you have to do sometimes.
Bethenny built a brand. Lots of people have done great things in business, but to start a brand from the ground is a skill set that is different than someone in Entertainment or Sports. Very few people do what Bethenny has done.