Author Nina Tickaradze advises female entrepreneurs to find themselves “a crew” of women who will support them as they experience the hardships and successes of their businesses. (iStock/monkeybusinessimages)
When I started an all-natural healthy beverage and snacks company from scratch a handful of years ago, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I had owned and run a wine distribution business earlier in my career, and I thought that knowledge and experience would give me a leg up in the packaged food and beverage world.
It soon became clear that there was a much steeper learning curve than I could have ever imagined as I worked long hours to get NADI up and running. Getting USDA organic certification took longer and was more expensive than I anticipated. Choosing a glass bottle manufacturer, labeling machine, shipping container inserts and other packaging materials pretty much requires a Ph.D.
Importing our products from the country of Georgia, learning about ocean freight pricing, and how to clear customs was more complicated than you might think. But it’s one of the most interesting and rewarding things I’ve ever done, and each time we learn something new it helps us advance our social mission of creating jobs for displaced refugees so they can rebuild their lives.
Here are seven things every woman entrepreneur must do in the food and beverage business:
- Find Your Crew — Surround yourself with other strong women who are on the same path as you and will support you. You need a crew that will lift you up through the hardships, as well as celebrate your successes.
- Look to History — Find people who have been successful in launching similar products or services. Ask for their advice, lessons they’ve learned and pitfalls to avoid. Also, ask them to introduce you to other successful entrepreneurs.
- Fail Quickly — When something is clearly not working, shut it down, figure out why it didn’t work and pivot to another strategy.
- Fail Forward — Embrace and accept your mistakes, and learn from them. Each failure puts you a step closer to success and makes you stronger.
- Study What Your Customer Really Wants — Make sure you build everything around your customers, their needs and their wants.
- Outsource Things You’re Not Good At — Whether it’s branding, graphic design, logistics or accounting, find other professionals to take things off your plate if it’s not your core strength. This frees you up to spend more time on areas where you can impact the business.
- Treat it Like a Marathon, Not a Sprint — This business is a long marathon. Understand that brand building, product awareness and name recognition will take time. Stay focused and true to your mission and goals.
So many strong women have inspired me, and I’d like to share the wisdom of a couple of other women entrepreneurs who also run businesses that are socially responsible.
Claudia McMullin started her career as a Wall Street litigator who realized one day that her passion was in animal rescue and the cozy vibe of locally owned businesses. She moved to Park City, Utah, and discovered that a local coffee kiosk was shutting down and selling their equipment. She bought it, and started Hugo Coffee Roasters, which she named after her rescue dog Hugo. They only buy fair-trade coffee and give back 10% of profits to animal rescue groups.
“Hugo Coffee’s vision is to become the go-to coffee for animal lovers nationwide,” Claudia says. “My goal is to impact animal rescues throughout the country. The more I sell, the more animals I save.”
Another social venture that I admire is Dress It Up Dressings, in which Sophia Maroon started to replicate the delicious natural salad dressings her mother made when she was a child. She asked her local Whole Foods store if she could have the boxes that their clementine oranges came in because they were the perfect size for holding her jars of dressing that she was delivering to a growing customer base.
One day, a Whole Foods employee asked her what she was doing with all those boxes, and she told him about her salad dressing business. He asked to try some, and soon Whole Foods was carrying her olive oil-based dressings in dozens of stores. Today, Dress It Up is available through more than 300 retailers.
The company also supports its local community by offering discounted salad dressing to public schools in the Washington, D.C., area, and Sophia supports the F Project, which supports other women founders. Her mantra is to live life and run your business with rose-colored glasses: “Believe that what you are trying to do can be done. Every entrepreneur needs that level of conviction.”
I hope these lessons help other strong women chart their own course, and gain confidence that they can do hard things and succeed in this highly competitive industry.
Nina Tickaradze is originally from Tbilisi, Georgia, and immigrated to the state of Georgia when she was a teenager. She is the founder and CEO of the natural beverage and snacks company NADI LLC, which was started as a social venture that creates jobs and economic opportunities for refugees who have been impacted by war and geopolitical conflicts.