August Recap 2023

by Kaylee Franklin 

August has bid its bittersweet farewell, leaving behind a trail of memories, and incredible interviews. As we step into the embrace of September, let's take a moment to reflect on the tapestry of moments that August wove for us, and get a glimpse of what this new month brings!

1. Crackers, Cheese, and Challenges

To begin the month, we launched an episode with Francisco Pergola, Co-Founder of Cheddies Crackers!

Francisco shares his journey to becoming the Co-Founder of Cheddies Crackers, a high protein, low sugar snack brand made with real cheese sourced from regenerative farms. During this episode, Francisco shares his story of making something out of nothing, time and time again, from growing up in San Antonio, Texas (with dreams of working on Wall Street) to starting the first Ping Pong club in high school, and beyond. Francisco created Cheddies after realizing that hospital patients had limited healthy snack options. Working with nutritionists and testing his concept within clinics, Francesco and his family have taken the snack world by storm. 

Best piece of advice:

“There are going to be moments where you seek answers, you seek help from others, and the truth is, it’s your journey, and they are your answers to figure out.”

Tune in to Episode 169 to hear more of Francisco’s story!

2. Rowing, Resilience, and Reimagining Fitness

In the second week of August, we got to hear from Bruce Smith, Founder and CEO of Hydrow!

Sharing his extraordinary story is Olympic-level rowing coach turned entrepreneur, Bruce Smith. Bruce has been self-sufficient since his teens and in this episode, we discover his journey to becoming the Founder and CEO of Hydrow; the rowing machine company connecting the indoor rowing experience to the magic of rowing on water. From breaking into hotels and churches in order to practice piano, he transferred his passion wholly into rowing. Tune in to discover what he finds so engaging about the sport and hear all about his inspiring personal journey and entrepreneurial story.

Best piece of advice:

“Overall, I've become an even stronger believer in investing in culture and – who you are.”

If you haven’t listened to Bruce’s episode yet, you can tune in HERE!

3. Media, Memberships, and Marketing

On the third Tuesday of August, we had the incredible Michael Broukhim, Co-CEO and Co-Founder of FabFitFun!

In this episode, Lee sits down with Michael Broukhim, Co-CEO and Co-Founder of FabFitFun, a women’s lifestyle membership and shopping experience bringing joy and well-being to its members. Michael shares his experience growing up with his older brother in Los Angeles, his incredible story of starting an online media consulting company, some ups and downs of developing websites for politicians, pivoting to launching a wellness blog, and how this all unfolded into his trailblazing CEO journey. Tune in to hear how he has evolved as a leader, the challenges of growing the company, the secret sauce to launching a brand, the top tips he recommends to stay grounded.

Best piece of advice:

“Getting into that mode of constantly working on yourself, being a self-learner, and in some ways your own harshest critic, I think are really essential to leading a company.”

To listen to more of Michael’s story, tune in to Episode 171. If you want to know more about FabFitFun, go read our product review to hear more of our experience!

4. Sacrifices, Successes, and Sauces

Continuing the month strong, we had Vanessa Pham, Co-Founder and CEO of Omsom!

Lee sits down with Vanessa Pham, a first-generation Vietnamese-American and the Co-Founder and CEO of Omsom, a loud and proud Asian pantry staple brand. In this episode, Vanessa shares her journey from growing up with her sister (and business partner) Kim, and their Vietnamese refugee parents outside of Boston, to attending Harvard, working in consulting, and starting Omsom after being inspired by the 2016 elections to build something that would shift culture. Tuning in, you’ll find out how her father tried to escape Vietnam seven times before he was successful, the pressure Vanessa felt to honor her parents’ sacrifices and make them proud, and how she bootstrapped the business for the first year by offering SAT tutoring services just to make rent, plus so much more!

Best piece of advice: 

“My advice would be to continue to show more of who you really are in the [CEO] journey.”

Be sure to tune in to Vanessa’s episode, number 172!

5. From CPA to CEO

And ending the month with our fifth episode we had Curt Vander Meer, CEO of Endangered Species Chocolate!

Endangered Species Chocolate was a mission-driven company long before it was cool. CEO Curt Vander Meer joins us today to share the story of his career and impact, the five key duties of a CEO, and how he came to own the Endangered Species Chocolate brand. Join us for an insider’s look at Curt’s unexpected journey to protecting wildlife and continuing the legacy of his founder, mentor, and friend.

Best piece of advice:

“I’ve heard it said that being CEO can be a lonely position. There’s some truth to that so I would encourage people to find those that they can lean on. ” 

If you missed it, tune in to Curt’s episode, number 173!

Find Your Support

This month we got to hear from five different Founder’s and CEOs about their entrepreneurship journey and each one told a different story of finding the power in having your support system, and cultivating a strong communicative culture. Without support, the CEO journey can be lonely. Find and build a support system you can lean on!

This Month: September 

Stay tuned throughout September to hear from amazing CEOs such as:

  • Greg Starkman, Founder & CEO of Innersense Organic Beauty
  • Jeanine Lobell, Founder of Neen
  • Tom Hale, CEO of OŪRA
  • Kristy Morris, Founder & CEO of KAILO

Don’t forget to subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts, follow us on Spotify, or tune in wherever you listen to podcasts. 

Have any guest suggestions, comments, or questions about Stairway to CEO? Drop us a line here!

Kaylee Franklin


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