January Recap 2023

written by Kaylee Franklin

Welcome to 2023! We hope everyone has been having a happy new year and we’re excited about what this year has to offer. We’ve officially gone through a whole year of recaps and we’re pumped to do it all again. So, let’s recap the first month of 2023, it was a good one!

1. Balance, Bracelets, and Beverages

Starting off the new year strong, we had Steven Izen, Founder and CEO of Lokai & Elements!

Steven filled us in on his two companies, the functional beverage brand Elements, and the charity bracelet brand Lokai.

Steven and Lee talked about how he sold wooden pens in high school, and how his grandfather's diagnosis with Alzheimer's disease inspired him to create Lokai when he was just 19 years old. He shares why the top of Mount Everest might not be as beautiful as we all think, and what it's like running two businesses at once.

Best piece of advice:

“You go through it and you realize that in every business there are highs and lows. It's about staying level-headed and continuing to push to the next.”

If you haven’t listened to Steven’s episode yet, listen HERE!

2. Going Buck Wild

Our second episode published this year was with Emily Griffith, Founder and CEO of Lil Bucks

Emily joined the show to talk about her journey to becoming the Founder and CEO of Lil Bucks, a sprouted buckwheat brand that offers a healthier alternative to granola and snacking with their grain-free superfood clusters and sprouted buckwheat crunch that you can enjoy on top of your smoothies, yogurt, oatmeal, or even in your salad.

Emily and Lee talk about her struggles with ADHD and feelings of shame, how she hired a burnout coach to help her get back on track, and how she fell in love with buckwheat while living in Sydney, Australia. She also shares Lil Bucks retail strategy, and how they’ve started to sell into retailers! 

Best piece of advice:

“Know when to ask for help, and allow yourself breaks and grace cause it is a very imperfect road. And I don't think it's ever perfect.”

To listen to more of Emily’s story, check out episode 140!

3. Mission and Nutrition

Tero shared his journey to becoming the Founder and CEO of Four Sigmatic, the coffee brand creating crash-free coffee, almost unbelievable plant protein, and other elevated essentials using rigorously tested mushrooms to deliver mental and physical benefits in a safe, authentic, and delicious way. 

In this episode, Tero talks about his first business attempts that failed, how he began a women's clothing line in Vietnam and progressed to online marketing for a tech company in Switzerland until he realized how coffee and mushrooms were underutilized. He shares how having a vision and mission helped him find a purpose in life, which is to help people elevate their health and wellness, and how this sparked the idea of starting Four Sigmatic.

Best piece of advice:

“But maybe, more importantly, being yourself in that journey is pretty important and vulnerability to admit your flaws, but then not be too harsh on yourself about those.”

To hear more of Tero’s great advice tune in to Episode 141!

4. From Debt to Dynasty

Continuing the month strong is MaryRuth Ghiyam, Founder and CEO of MaryRuth’s Organics.

Lee chatted with MaryRuth about her journey to founding MaryRuth’s Organics, a rapidly scaling vitamins, minerals, and supplements brand offering high-quality, organic, and vegan nutritional supplements to benefit the entire family.

MaryRuth talks about her childhood growing up in New Jersey to tragically losing both her father and brother, which inspired her to shift career paths, leading to the creation of her business and a book called Liquids Till Lunch. She shares how she went from being in debt to scaling her business without any outside funding in just seven years. She also shares some great insights on building a highly profitable business and why patience and time blocking are keys to success.

Best piece of advice:

“Be patient and put in the real work on a daily basis.”

Listen to MaryRuth’s inspiring story here!

5. The NFL and Nut Free Snacks

Finishing out the month of January, we had Blake Sorensen, Founder and CEO of Blake's Seed Based!

Blake’s Seed Based was created due to a deathly nut allergy, and realizing the need for safe snack options. Blake created Blake's Seed Based as a way to provide gluten-free and allergy-friendly snacks that everyone can enjoy.

Blake talked about what it was like growing up in Minneapolis, how he got rejected from the NFL, why he originally launched his company as Blake’s Nut Free, and the three-month process he took to launch a successful Kickstarter campaign. He shared how he reformulated and rebranded the business, how launching a crispy treat saved the company, and so much more!

Best piece of advice:

“If you have that idea just take that next step. I was shocked by how many people are willing to help you out. Reach out on LinkedIn, reaching out to friends, getting feedback, and just sharing ideas with people in your network have been super powerful for our story.”

If you’d like to learn more about Blake’s story, tune in to Episode 143!

Take the Next Step

In looking back at the month of January, the biggest advice these founders gave was to lean into your network and not being afraid to take that next step. It may be scary, but relying on your support system and taking the leap to follow your passion will be the only way to make it happen. 

Next Month: February 

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

  • Bill Moses, Founder & CEO of Flying Embers
  • Scout Brisson, CEO of De Soi
  • Alex Bayer, Co-Founder & CEO of Genius Juice
  • Christopher Gallant, CEO of Chamberlain Coffee

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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