“Passion Fuels the Palette Event” @ Essex Market with Anne Saxelby, Rebecca Scott, and Leith Hill.
The other day I attended a great event at Essex Market for aspiring/new entrepreneurs and business owners. The ladies on the panel (Anne Saxelby, Rebecca Scott, and Leith Hill) gave their first hand take on life as a Founder/Business Owner and their advice for folks aspiring to take the leap to start their own business. Their advice was great, touching on everything from the mindset you want to have, how to treat your employees, the infrastructure you should invest in, to ow yes how to squeeze it all into your life!
Here were some of the top tips:
1. Culture= Clearly define the culture you want to have in your business, otherwise it will get defined for you, and it won’t be the one you want.
2. Hire slow, fire quick= Take your time to hire new team members. Your first few team members are critical in helping you create the company that you envision. And in turn, if an employee isn’t working out, don’t avoid the tough conversation, face the music to avoid a potentially toxic situation down the road.
3. Communication= Upon hire, meet with all new employees and clearly communicate the responsibilities, expectations, and benefits associated with the role and the company. This will prevent so many problems and create a positive employee experience in which everyone is on the same page.
4. Infrastructure= Don’t run before you can walk. Yes, there are benefits to fast movement in the ‘Silicon Valley’ way, but make sure you have some of that initial infrastructure (distribution network, website, etc.) set up at the onset. That way you won’t realize a year late that you can’t meet the needs of the clients that you’ve gained.
5. Bootstrap + Invest= Yes, there is a place for bootstrapping in the beginning when you have minimal resources and you are testing out what really works, but don’t cheap out on the fundamental pieces, otherwise you may find yourself double backing and having to reinvest two-fold down the road i.e. it’s great to have a ‘buddy’ that can build your website…but if you get an expert website developer on the case up front, it will pay dividends in the long term.
6. Finances= Know your numbers. Even if you aren’t good at numbers, KNOW your numbers. Take a course, read some books. Yes, it’s ok to hire a CFO but you cannot just delegate this critical function away, otherwise you will lose a sense of what drives the bottom line.
7. Know all functions of the business THEN delegate= To that end, you must know all the functions of the business so that you can eventually delegate them in the most proficient manner. No matter how best intentioned your employees might be, no one’s heart is in this business as much as yours, so it’s always good to be dropping in to your different departments/checking in with employees to make sure that each function is being performed the way you envision it i.e. make sure the business development team is representing the brand and value of the company/product/service in the manner you want it to, as they are the first impression for a new potential client. *It also gives you the ability to step into these roles when someone calls in sick in the early days AND a sense of empathy for each of your employees and what their day to day looks like.
8. Shameless Confidence= Have shameless confidence in your business/product/service. If you love and believe in your business others will feel that energy and buy into it too. And heck as a woman this doesn’t always comes easily, so if confidence isn’t your normal modus operandi, then ‘fake it till ya make it!’
9. Balance/It’s never a good time= When should you start your business? You can spend years in analysis paralysis of the ‘right time’ to start your business relative to quitting your job/paying off that loan/having kids/getting married/buying that house etc.…it will never be the right time…but believe it or not…it will all happen…you will somehow make it work. I know two instances of founders getting pregnant in the initial years of starting their companies and they both happily survived and thrived…you will too…it will work out.
10. Stick with It= There will be moments in the wee hours, when things will be grueling, it will be tough, you will be second guessing yourself left and right, but stick with it. Remember your reason for starting the business in the first place and stay the course!
11. Support System= Have a great support system whether it is family, friends, mentors. These folks will be your rocks when you have a wobbly moment. Lean on them for moral support and TLC during this experience, they will be an incredible resource of love, encouragement, and wisdom.
12. Rejection isn’t personal ‘try again’= You will get rejected OVER and OVER again during your business career but the key thing to remember is that it isn’t personal, it’s just business. The timing might not be right, the product/service might not serve a need for that person…whatever the reason…it isn’t personal, it’s just business. Get back up and move on to another potential customer that you could help.
13. No doesn’t mean no…3/4 keep going= No doesn’t always mean no forever. Often the timing might not be right or your business as it stands right now might not be suitable for that client…so just keep that person in the rolodex, move on, and come back to them at another time…3/4 times even. Persistence will pay off.
14. Federal, State, and Local Government= Take advantage of the great free resources that are offered tosmall businesses/business ownersi.e. Scoreoffers mentors/workshops for small business owners across the U.S. and in NYC there is the Women Entrepreneurs of NYC program (WeNYC) that offer a myriad of resources for women business owners. There are also several grants/awards offered to small businesses by various local and state organizations, so do some research and you may find a few different options that can help your business/help you start a business.
15. If you build it, they will come = Yes, there is something to be said for good marketing, but make sure to focus on creating an amazing product/service that truly serves a need/solves an existing problem. If you focus religiously on these 2 areas (quality content of product/service + serving a need/solving a problem), clients will find you and keep on coming back. I am reminded of the quote “If you build it, they will come” from that old school movie with Kevin Costner!
So, on that note, I will leave you with a Peter Drucker quote, “Whenever you see a successful business, someone once made a courageous decision.”
Follow your dreams!
And if you’d like help taking the first step to becoming an entrepreneur, starting your own business, or thinking through the next step in your career, do not hesitate to reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on the fantastic ladies from the panel, please check out their bios and websites below:
Anne Saxelby, Founder of Saxelby Cheese, Chair of the Essex Street Market Vendor Association
Anne Saxelby opened Saxelby Cheesemongers in 2006 at the historic Essex Street Market. Saxelby’s goal is to bridge the gap between local cheese-makers and cheese-lovers, creating a company where relationships are paramount. She operates a stall at Chelsea Market and a wholesale cheese cave in Red Hook.
Leith Hill, Founder & President of Ellary’s Greens
Leith Hill is the Founder of Ellary’s Greens, an eatery concept focused on organic, local, and sustainable food. Her goal is to provide a path to better living through delicious, sexy, nutrient-dense options, and to connect people with food they can trust. She launched a sit-down restaurant in the West Village and now has a location on Randall’s Island. Hill is also mentor at Women Entrepreneurs NYC (WENYC), sits on the New York State Restaurant Association Board, and has been appointed as an inaugural member of the New York City Mayor’s Council on Food and Beverage.
Rebecca Scott, Founder of Sustainable Snacks Co.
Rebecca Scott’s professional background in medical nutrition therapy and personal experience living with Lupus set her vision for Sustainable Snacks Co., a Bronx-based natural foods company on a mission to promote public health through better snacking. Rebecca built her company with the support of StartSmallThinkBig, a non-profit that provides legal, financial, and marketing support to grow small businesses.