Six Lessons from Entrepreneurship From Our President
by Alexandra Mamalider on Mar 07, 2023
Ally Mamalider is the President of Organic Traditions and daughter of our Founder, Jerry Zeifman.
Here are six lessons that Ally has learned over the last six years of entrepreneurship.
Yesterday marked six years since I left a corporate job and started my entrepreneurial journey with Organic Traditions. It’s been a roller coaster of emotions, learning and non-stop hard work. I’ve struggled, learned, cried (a lot), learned some more, grown, and learned even more. Reflecting on the past six years, these are some of the lessons I’ve realized so far. Some seem SO obvious now, but when you’re in the thick of it, it can take time for things to crystalize.
1. Take care of yourself
No surprise here, but it’s true, you feel like you can take on the world when you take care of yourself first. When I maintain all my self-care habits, I am more motivated at work and feel 1000x more energized. As an entrepreneur you have to give so much of yourself to your business. There really are no days off and your head is always jumping from one thing to another. But it’s easier to do this, and without any resentment toward the business, if you know you’ve checked things off that list for yourself first. In the first two years I’d stay up all hours, taking calls at 4:00 a.m. with distributors in different countries or developers overseas. I felt like shit on most days and missing my workouts left me lethargic and annoyed the next day. I’ve learned doing that regularly is NOT sustainable to building a business. Now, I have several habits worked into my routine that are non-negotiables; from daily workouts, getting outside and quality time with my husband and kids. Last year I also started regular therapy and it’s been a game changer.
2. Stop comparing!
In business there will always be someone else further ahead than you, someone smarter than you and brands with more of the spotlight than yours. There will always be a company that has more marketing dollars, a larger team and cooler offices. I used to get so frustrated that other companies had simple messaging while we have 100+ skus to talk about, other founders had one or no manufacturing facilities to worry about, we had three. Other brands had a national listing we wanted, we needed to innovate. Despite the polished posts on social, not everything is what it seems.
As an entrepreneur building a CPG brand, of course I need to know what is going on in the market, what my competitors are doing and what the trends are. But it has to stop there. Everyone has their own story, their own struggles, and their own unique opportunities. When I remind myself to focus on my own work and to do what’s best for our business, the strategy becomes so much clearer to me. There’s no point in comparing because no one else is in your shoes. You can look at what everyone else is doing all day, or you can look at yourself, then go out to execute.
Did I mention three production facilities? When you’re building a brand, you want everyone to know about it, you want it to grow, and you want it to happen yesterday.
This can lead to over-engineering a lot of things. This can lead to many distractions, including saying yes when you should say no, testing too much and not knowing what’s working. For us it was having too many production facilities, too many products, too many packaging types, alternate revenue streams, multiple holding companies, working with several banks and on and on…. too many complexities! We’ve simplified as much as we can year over year. When you simplify you can focus, cut out the clutter and get more done. Running a business is hard enough, if there is somewhere that things can be streamlined, DO IT!
4. Your team is everything
You are not a successful entrepreneur unless your business can run without you. Not my original words, but I think about that a lot. In the early years you need to be involved in everything. You need to know what is going on, know your customers and know the market. But you can’t be an expert in everything all the time and expect your business to grow. Letting go and trusting others can become the best feeling in the world when you find the right people. It’s been a lot of trial and error, but six years in and we’ve built an inspired, trustworthy, and brilliant team. I think a lot of business owners are scared that no one will care as much as they do, it might be true, but if you seek people out who are excited about what your brand stands for you can get really close.
5. Trust your gut
I came into this business as a second-generation founder. I didn’t do everything from scratch myself and I recognize this. There are pros and cons. It’s like buying a new home and designing a custom build where you start from the ground up and pick all your finishes, versus buying an existing home, and then doing total gut renovations. You love the foundation; you love the layout…but you may also find some mold. Because I wasn’t the one to lay the foundation, I’ve often questioned myself. There were decisions that needed to be made where I hesitated, whether it was figuring out the team structure, saying no to partnerships that no longer served the business, evaluating our supply chain and more. Sometimes you need to stop collecting information, or worrying about what people will think and make the tough calls. You need to make them sooner than later, then own them. Trust your gut.
6. Believe in yourself.
I guess having an MBA would be considered the most appropriate designation to prepare you for entrepreneurship. I’m not knocking it, but still, I don’t think anything is quite like just jumping right in. The problem is you will doubt yourself constantly. I’ve often wondered, am I the right person for the job? Am I motivating the team enough? Do I set a good example? Am I financially savvy enough? The imposter syndrome comes in waves, and it comes often. You get to take the credit when things go well, but you have to own it when they don’t. The truth is when you’re in this role you don’t often get checked and measured. You are nobody’s direct report, so you have to look outside yourself for that validation and feedback, you have to explicitly ask your employees how you could be better. I still struggle with this one but remind myself every day that I am right where I should be. I’ve learned that if you’re willing to struggle, learn and grow, then you should continue to seize the opportunities and believe in yourself."
Curious about Ally's journey? Follow along here!