by Kaylee Franklin
I can’t believe we’re nearing the end of the year. With only two months left, we’re entering the madness season with all the holidays, dinners, parties, and more. We hope you stick around for the exciting things we have planned here at Stairway, including our 2nd annual Top 10 Gifts of the year! Though we won’t be covering that today, we will be taking a look back at October and the four amazing guests we had on the show, while also taking a look into what November offers.
To begin the month, Lee was joined by Greg Vetter, Co-Founder and CEO of Tessemae’s.
Available in retail stores nationwide, including Whole Foods, Tessemae’s offers a variety of all-natural salad dressings, sauces, marinades, dips, and condiments that are gluten-free, vegan, and sugar-free, they are the country's number one organic salad dressing and condiment company.
Greg and Lee talked about his childhood growing up in Annapolis, what it was like playing professional lacrosse for three years, to realizing a friend stole his mother's lemon garlic salad dressing out of their own house, and how it sparked the idea to launch Tessemae’s.
He also talks about the good and bad that came with fundraising, the advice he has for others in the fundraising journey, how to build a relationship with investors, how he keeps going even when times are tough on the ups and downs of the rollercoaster, and how he’s grown professionally and personally as a leader since becoming an entrepreneur.
Best piece of advice:
“If you approach each day with this foundational understanding of you know who you are, and what is important in the world. Then you can overcome these obstacles that come your way every single day.”
In the second week of October, we got to hear from Richard Li, Co-Founder and CEO of July.
July is a next-generation, digital native travel brand. What started off with one perfect carry-on and luggage, now has a full range of travel accessories and goods that aim to elevate people's travel experience.
In this episode, Richard talks with Lee about being born in China, what it was like growing up on a cargo ship for five-six years of his childhood, how he started a furniture business, and why he decided to leave to start July.
He also shares his advice to get people to buy into your business and your products, how he began to market the business in the early days, the hard lessons he’s learned along the way, and how to feel out if everyone working on your business with you have the same vision as you.
Best piece of advice:
“My heart was telling me that I needed to build something else in a completely different category.”
To hear more of Richard’s great advice tune in to Episode 127!
Continuing the month of October, we had the incredible Jane Fisher, Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Harper Wilde.
For those who haven’t heard, Harper Wilde was founded by Jane Fisher and Jenna Kerner’s frustrations with the overpriced hypersexualized intimate apparel industry, inspiring them to launch Harper Wilde to change the conversation and create everyday bras that are ethically made, reasonably priced, and comfortable.
Jane shares with us her journey from growing up in Florida, working as a hostess at a tourist restaurant, to studying business, to earning her MBA at Wharton where she came up with the idea for Harper Wilde. She talks about the challenges she's faced fundraising from investors, how she had to change her pitch, how to land on a good price point, and why she hires for culture fit first.
Best piece of advice:
“At the end of the day, it's humans who are doing these jobs, and it's about the relationships with those people who are helping create the brand.”
To listen to more of Jane’s story, check out Episode 128!
Ending out the month strong, we had Will Nitze, Founder, and CEO of IQBAR.
IQBAR is a brain-body nutrition startup known for their keto, vegan, plant protein bars that come packed with 12 grams of protein and 6 brain nutrients.
In this episode, Will shares his journey from growing up in New Jersey playing competitive soccer, to studying neuroscience and psychology at Harvard, to learning about the impacts of food on our brains, which inspired him to start IQBAR. He talks about CPG hyper-growth and valuations, how he hacked his way into launching a successful Kickstarter campaign, and the lifestyle implications of being an entrepreneur.
Best piece of advice:
“Let's say you wanna be an entrepreneur, don't just go start the company, go get a job, do the travel thing, be a professional, get a job, have a boss, learn that it kind of sucks having a boss go into an office. Understand how the world works in that way, and how you interact with coworkers, what a meeting is like, how you lead a meeting, learn all of that.”
Throughout the month of October, we listened to four very different CEOs share their very different stories about founding their businesses, and throughout each interview, each founder shared human-centered advice. Each stated that being a founder is a diverse career journey and that in your experiences and personal growth, you have to be willing to form relationships, experience new things, and work to accomplish difficult tasks all at the drop of a hat. Having the relationships of investors, family, friends, mentors, and confidants helps you accomplish it all-it is all human-centered.
Stay tuned throughout November to hear from amazing CEOs such as:
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Have any guest suggestions, comments, or questions about Stairway to CEO? Drop us a line here!
Welcome back to another monthly recap! I know for some, the month of September felt like the longest month of the year, and for others, it flew by. But nonetheless, we had an incredible lineup of four amazing guests, with incredible backgrounds and stories. Let’s jump in to see what they all had in common, some life lessons they had to share, and take a peak into what we have coming out in October.
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