This month, I was lucky enough to represent Pela at Koru Distribution’s Supplier Social in Toronto. Pela will be joining Koru’s family of eco-friendly brands this fall and it was an amazing experience to be in the same room as so many inspiring business leaders who are finding success without compromising ethical and sustainable business practices.
While the event was a mix of exploring various booths of innovative and beautiful products as well as getting to meet local retailers (and eating delicious sandwiches!) my favorite part was the keynote talks given by Juniper Ridge’s Founder, Hall Newbegin, Abeego’s Founder, Toni Desrosiers and S’well Founder, Sarah Kauss.
Although there was a wealth of knowledge and stories shared from these incredible leaders, these were the 3 gems that left the biggest impression.
Building a business is F&*#ing Hard
Hall Newbegin - Juniper Ridge - Wild Harvested Fragrance, Incense & Soap
Now this might not sound so much like a lesson as much as it does a warning, but when Hall opened his talk with this sentiment (I loved that he did not mince his words!) it reminded me that even the people or businesses you think are sailing towards success are actually working tirelessly and navigating rough waters along the way. Hall hilariously shared his realization that just because you’ve created a product that you think is great doesn't mean floods of customers will miraculously come knocking on your door.
So what will keep you going when times get tough or sales drop or products flop? For Hall, it was quite apparent that bringing natural scents and capturing memories of the wild trails in a bottle was more than just a business—it was a joy. A joy that was worth figuring out the not so joyful parts and to keep pushing forward.
Stay True to Your Why
Toni Desrosiers - Abeego - Beeswax Wrap that Keeps Food Alive
No matter how many times you hear someone tell you the key to success is authenticity sometimes you still have to learn this lesson with a few twists and turns. When listening to Toni tell us how Abeego came to be, the part of her talk that truly stuck out to me was how she struggled between telling people what Abeego is and explaining to people why Abeego is, or why she created Abeego to begin with.
The what: Abeego wraps offer a natural alternative to plastic food wraps and containers. For most eco-conscious consumers, that would be enough to satisfy a need. But the why is a much bigger mission, the why behind Abeego is to “keep food alive.”
This not only means providing a breathable wrap that keeps food fresh but Toni also wants to bring people together around the foods we love to eat, to have conversations about our food memories and to share the history of food and food storage years and years before plastic wrap even existed.
When you think about the story behind your business, does it excite you? Does it spark conversation? Does it invite others to share their stories? If the answer is yes, you’re probably on the right track of building a business people can engage with, not just consume.
Know when to say NO
Sarah Kauss - S’well Water Bottles - Made with Non-toxic, non-leaching stainless steel
These days, I can’t turn my head without catching sight of a beautifully designed S'well bottle on the streets of Toronto or at my local gym. S’well was created to help eliminate the waste created by single-use plastic water bottles and as an alternative to other plastic bottles on the market that just didn’t live up to Sarah’s standards. She wanted to make a bottle that was as fashionable as it was functional and to build a company that was able to give back to those in need.
A big aha moment in Sarah’s talk was when she told us that saying no was as big a part of S’well’s success as much (if not more than) saying yes. To keep the integrity of the products and the brand, saying no means understanding that not every opportunity is a good opportunity. When your company is young and growing, it’s easy to want to do everything out of fear that more opportunities won’t appear. But when you try to do everything you can stretch yourself too thin and end up with mediocre results and a mediocre business. Instead, S’well is well on its way to selling millions of beautiful bottles this year and has established itself as a premium water bottle in high demand.
Learn to trust your instincts, be clear of your goals and review them regularly. This will help you know what’s right for you and your business.
These lessons may come from eco-conscious business leaders but they of course apply to anyone setting forth on an entrepreneurial path. Preparing yourself for hard work, keeping your eye on your why and learning how to say no (so you can say yes when the opportunity is right) are just a few great lessons from these inspirational founders.
Thank you again to Koru Distribution for hosting such a great event and to all the people I was lucky enough to get to hear your stories.