I am sure you all have heard of her product or seen it on shelves in your local grocery store. Her brownie mixes made whipping up batches of brownies at home much easier, healthier (since you just use yogurt) and best of all they are guilt-free with no fat! A dieter in search of light decadent desserts dream!
By reading the book, you get the complete story about how the product was thought up, created, manufactured, marketed, and went from being made in small batches in her home kitchen to being mass produced around the nation. As you know from the post, I flew through this book and found it so motivating. Since she is a former Boston girl I thought, what the heck. Why not contact her and get some advice for the entrepreneurs out there. And really I just loved her book so much and her story, I wanted to get her to know her more too.
First off, I want to point out how accommodating she was. When I first contacted her and asked if she might have time for an interview, her response was: “Michelle, are you kidding? Too busy for someone who is from my hometown and favorite city (grew up in Newton), loves food, wine and my book? Kiddo, I’m all yours!”
How sweet is she?! I am so excited to share her answers to the following questions. Check out my Q&A with her below and please, to all the foodie and business minded people out there, from Boston and beyond! Pick yourself up a copy of this inspiring, yet eye opening story about how a woman can do whatever she sets her mind out to do!
What was your biggest challenge when you first started out?
I had two pretty significant challenges to overcome in the beginning. One was the fact that I had absolutely no clue how to start – let alone run – a business. I think in the early years, this worked out to be a bit of an advantage – I didn’t know what couldn’t be done, so I just went ahead and did it. The other huge challenge was the fact that my husband was dead-set against the whole idea. He has an MBA and consequently was NOT clueless. So, where I envisioned a money-maker, he envisioned a money-pit. Given that we were just getting our financial feet back under us after a bankruptcy, starting a company to sell fat free brownies to the masses was the last thing he wanted me to undertake.
Any advice for future entrepreneurs who want to develop a product?
First, believe in yourself and your idea. The entrepreneurial route is hard and if you don’t believe, no one else will. Second, your product or service needs to be different somehow from everything else already in the marketplace. You have to ask yourself, “What makes what I’m planning to do, different – and better – than what’s already being offered?” If you don’t have a solid answer to that question, I’d suggest you head back to the drawing board and dig a little deeper. You must have a way to differentiate yourself (or your product) from everything else that’s already out there. Third, find a mentor. I would recommend it be someone who can be objective and honest! In other words – not your Uncle Harry. A smart, experienced stranger would be ideal. I found mine through SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives. For more info: score.org) – but lots of colleges offer mentoring programs as does the SBA (Small Business Administration). Finally, I would tell someone to spend carefully and wisely. Don’t go into big debt in order to spend on stuff you don’t really need – like a fancy office and new equipment. Save your pennies for the things that will have a direct impact on your product and, most importantly, your future customers. In my case that was a top-notch co-packer, a great graphic artist and 4-color, eye-catching packaging (not the package that No Pudge! is in today…).
Can you remember the exact moment that you really felt like you made it?
I don’t think there was any one moment, but rather a series of moments during my 10-year No Pudge! journey. The first, without question, was my first Trader Joe’s order. That was huge. Also when we hit $1M in sales and of course, when my husband finally acknowledged that I’d made the right decision to move forward.
Did you ever feel afraid the “gorilla” in the room would take over and your marriage was actually in jeopardy?
Absolutely. We went through some pretty rough patches. The more he insisted that I walk away from my idea and the angrier he got, the harder I dug in my heels – which at the time was very unlike me. I convinced myself that my motivation was to prove him wrong, but in hindsight, I now understand that I needed to prove to MYSELF that I could do and be far more than I had been raised to believe I was capable of. We both needed to meet, understand and accept the woman I was becoming.
What is next for you career wise?
LOL – trying to sell my book! Also, I’m starting to do some speaking using my own experiences as a way of offering hope to other women who are feeling stuck in roles that don’t make them happy. Or who face with challenges that leave them feeling overwhelmed. In fact, I’ll be in Nashua presenting at the New England Women’s Leadership Summit in June ( http://www.newli.org/?view=featured ).