I have been running Spera Foods for almost 4 years now. Some days it feels like I just started yesterday, and on others it feels like an eternity.
Since graduating college, working on Spera Foods has become such a huge part of my life.
When I reflect on a typical week the three greatest challenges I face as an entrepreneur are time management, self confidence, and outside advice (when to take people's advice and when not to).
From the beginning of owning Spera, I liked the freedom to set my own schedule.
With the exception of a part-time job I am completely full-time on Spera.
Having flexibility in my work hours has been super important in my husband and I's relationship.
He is a nurse and has been since I started Spera.
He works 12 hour shifts, and often has to work the mid or night shift.
As a result, he is usually home in the mornings, but gone in the evenings.
Being able to take the morning off to see my husband, and work later into the evening when he is gone has been super important to me, and not many jobs could offer that kind of flexibility.
When trying to set or make a schedule for a certain day I am guilty of sometimes prioritizing people over work.
A major challenge I face with not having a traditional office or work hours is that people assume I am available all the time.
To be honest, I am an easily distracted person. Carving out blocks of time for focused and uninterrupted work has been harder than I could have imagined.
The weeks where I let the interruptions and distractions go too far end with a never ending to do list and a lot of stress.
For all that the modern office is incompatible with my lifestyle, it does provide clear divisions between a place you do work and a place you relax and unwind.
My challenge when working from home is that no separation of place exists. The home for me serves a dual purpose, and switching from work mode to relaxation mode or vice versa is sometimes difficult.
I am a social and extroverted person by nature, so working by myself all day can sometimes get lonely. I find when I am in these lonely states I am more prone to distractions or a loss of motivation.
I have tried coffee shops, but personally they're not for me. I am not very productive in them, and can concentrate a lot better when working in silence.
In the long term, I am not worried about this because one day Spera will have a nice office with employees, and my work will not have to be done in relative isolation.
I have found with setting my own hours that I don't always need to work a 9 to 5 in order to be productive.
I am responsible for and run all aspects of my business.
This means that what I'm working on can change drastically from one day to the next.
Some days I am delivering products, others are for production where I am physically making the product, and some days are just for meetings and other general tasks.
On the days that I am really able to concentrate I can sometimes get everything I need done in just 3-4 hours.
Time management is continually something I experiment with and work on. Some days are really good, others are a struggle, but I think that is normal with any job.
I have always struggled with worrying to much about what other people think of me, and this has made owning my own business super challenging at times.
I love what I do, but that hasn't stopped me from feeling like other people might be judging me.
Ill imagine, people thinking things like,
“Who does she think she is to start her own business.
She is just doing this as a hobby.
She won't make it very far.
She's not smart enough to do that.
She will eventually fail or give up.”
The list of negativity goes on and on. I know so much of this is just in my head, and even if some of these thoughts people have actually had, it doesn't matter.
I have to remind myself all the time to get out of my head, to be more positive with myself, and be proud of what I am doing.
People mean well when they ask me things like “how is the granola going?”, but it disappoints me to think that is all some people see Spera doing, because we do so much more than just sell granola
I have small and large retail partners, I sell nationwide on Amazon and daily gain new customers. Spera has helped people with Celiacs and other dietary restriction bake and eat foods again that before were completely off limits to them.
Despite all of the progress I have made I find myself still struggling with self confidence. I worry about what people might think, and this is a constant back and forth for me.
When To Take People's Advice
I have strong intuition. I got this from my mom. When something feels like the right call I can just feel it, and the opposite is true as well.
When I first started Spera, there weren't many other entrepreneurs in my community that were starting businesses in the food health and wellness industry.
I found it difficult to take advice from mentors who had only ever operated in the tech space. I found that advice from tech people usually involved lean startup methodology.
In the industry of high end health food, lean startup agile methodologies don't actually work too well.
I got a lot of advice from my tech friends and mentors too quickly get an "MVP" or rough version of my product to market and start selling it at scale. This would allow me to get lots of feedback and then make alterations to my products based on that feedback.
In the industry of high end health food I have one shot to win a customer over.
When’s the last time you bought some food brand, did not like it, and then gave it a second chance.
Engaging with customer feedback and translating that into improving your product is important for any industry, but to think that it can be done quickly and easily is an incorrect assumption that those in tech make about other industries.
Making alterations to recipes and then implementing them into mass food production isn’t as easy as just changing or writing some more code.
I didn't always have the experience I do now to properly articulate why I felt a lot of the agile lean startup dogma wouldn't work well for me, but I trusted my gut, which told me that I needed more time to perfect my recipes before trying to sell them to large audiences, and I'm really glad I did.
Since the early days, I have found people in the same industry, who are just a few steps ahead of me on their entrepreneurial journeys. They have been invaluable resources.
I get advice from new and different people every single week. Some of it's good. I now know from experience that a lot of it's really bad.
People always mean well, so being able to respectfully pass on their advice or explain why I think differently has been a super important skill I have had to develop.
If you made it this far I really appreciate you taking the time to read this.
I hope to share more candid and honest stories about my entrepreneurial challenges and journey in the near future.
If you have any thoughts or feedback please leave them in the comments below!