Dishing On Being Entrepreneurs: Heidi Worcester & Sam Levin | maaterra
Heidi Worcester, founder of maaterra and NEATGOODS, and Sam Levin, founder of Sam Lives! and qrky.studio, came together to discuss their experiences as female entrepreneurs.
Discuss the challenges and stereotypes you’ve faced in entrepreneurship
Heidi: When it comes to challenges, age-related stereotypes have been quite prevalent. There's this focus on what the younger generations are up to, often overlooking the fact that the baby boomers and millennials have a lot of purchasing power and wisdom.
Sam: As a female entrepreneur in my 20s and 30s, I’ve also experienced ageism but in the opposite direction with older businessmen not taking me seriously.
Share obstacles you’ve faced and how you’ve surmounted them.
Heidi: It's been an uphill journey, with obstacles cropping up left and right. As a designer, everyone's got an opinion, and that can be both helpful and overwhelming. I've learned to balance listening to others while still staying true to my creative vision. People’s opinions on social media make it tough to put yourself out there. Trying to find your unique voice in all the online noise is a challenge, especially if you're venturing into uncharted territory. Being the first one to do something new is tricky; you become an educator, needing to change people's behavior. Sustainability is in that same boat – convincing people to change their habits isn't a walk in the park. The tricky part is creating products that meet expectations while also having that sustainability edge.
Sam: Oh, there were so many obstacles when I started my juice business whether it was a distributor’s truck breaking down with all of my fresh product or pulling so many all-nighters in the production facility that the night-shift workers thought I was a new employee. Manufacturing a fresh product was extremely challenging, so I was happy and relieved to switch gears to branding. While there are definite obstacles to dealing with clients, so far nothing has compared to the headaches I experienced with perishable juice.
Discuss setbacks that you turned into opportunities for growth and learning.
Heidi: At first, when someone criticizes your work, it can feel like a punch to the gut. But then, I realized that these moments are golden learning opportunities. It's like, okay, let's take a step back, digest the feedback, and grow from it. It's a balance though, listening to others' input while still staying true to what you believe in. Getting feedback on our products, even if it's critical, has actually been super helpful.
Sam: I couldn’t agree more. Constructive feedback is vital to creating the best product. I learned early that demoing my juices was the best and only way to get honest feedback straight from my customers that I could use to improve the product. It’s a balancing act though. Sometimes I had to follow my own vision despite the criticism.
Discuss the strategies you’ve employed to maintain a healthy work-life balance, ensuring personal well-being without compromising on our professional goals.
Heidi: Balancing work and life as an entrepreneur is challenging. It feels like a 24/7 gig. I've made it a point to exercise regularly, no matter what. And I never regret prioritizing family.
Sam: Hydration and taking short walks throughout the day are a must for me. I also set a clear "lights out" time at night to unwind and recharge.
Explore the role of mentorship and the impact of having strong role models in your entrepreneurial journeys.
Heidi: Mentorship has been a game-changer for me. Having friends who bring different skills to the table has been amazing. Being part of women-focused groups has been a great source of support. There's something special about being a woman in this entrepreneurial realm – the network is fantastic. Entrepreneurship also runs in my family, so I’ve learned a lot from those around me and the value of taking risks.
Sam: I can relate. No one in my family had a 9-5 when I was growing up. My dad, mom and my entire extended family ran their own businesses. I learned a lot from all of them, but, most of all, they showed me what was possible.
Discuss how you incorporate social and environmental responsibility into your business practices.
Heidi: When it comes to our business practices, sustainability is a natural consideration. With maaterra, we're all about leading with sustainability, making it an integral part of our mission. We noticed this gap between design and sustainability and that motivated us to bridge it. Our products echo that commitment, like focusing on plant-based options and saying no to plastic whenever possible but sometimes there’s no alternative and that’s incredibly frustrating—true me, I have searched. It's all about being thoughtful about what we create.
Sam: Well, if I could go back in time, I wouldn’t have used plastic bottles, but I’m happy that I focused on organic, plant-based ingredients and promoting a plant-forward lifestyle.
Explore your perspectives on staying adaptable to change and embracing innovation to stay ahead.
Heidi: Flexibility is vital. It's not just about how you structure your business, but also about your mission. Being at the forefront means embracing change and staying ahead of the curve. We started with palm leaf tableware, and we're not afraid to evolve. We constantly keep looking for even better ways to do things. It's a continuous cycle of improvement and iteration.
Sam: I couldn’t agree more. Being able to absorb information and pivot when necessary is crucial. Knowing that your product is always evolving, makes it easier to launch. You’ve got to get the product out there, even if you think things aren't perfect. Feedback from real consumers is paramount to creating the best product, and you can’t get it if you don’t launch.
Share your final thoughts, advice, and words of encouragement for aspiring female entrepreneurs who are embarking on their own journeys.
Heidi: Be prepared for an extremely challenging yet rewarding journey. Embrace the obstacles as learning experiences. Listen to others, but also stay true to yourself. Seek out mentorship and be part of networks that support you and then offer to be a mentor. And don’t forget to be adaptable, embracing change will keep you ahead. Ultimately you need to believe in what you are doing because no one else can sell your vision better than you.
Sam: Don't aim for perfection before you start; sometimes getting your ideas out there and learning from feedback is the best approach. Iterate, iterate, iterate. Never stop evolving. Find mentors you can learn from who believe in you. Don’t stop learning.