Only Up From Here: Seven Sundays + Trade Street Jam Co.
As part of an ongoing partnership, Hannah recently joined fellow female founder Ashley Rouse of Brooklyn-based Trade Street Jam Co. for a quick Q+A. Together, they shared entrepreneurial experiences, business advice and where they see their companies in the near future. PLUS (!) we're offering readers a special discount. Now thru August 31, use code FEMALEFOUNDER on sevensundays.com and tradestjamco.com to receive 15% off on the best cereal and the best jam out there.
Here's more from Hannah and Ashley...
A LITTLE BACKGROUND
How and why did you become an entrepreneur? Did you always see yourself doing what you do now?
Hannah: I always admired entrepreneurs - the way they are driven by their passion and the freedom they have over how their lives are set up. So perhaps I was always looking for an idea?
Ashley: No, I had no idea I’d be a jam maker! But I've had the entrepreneurial “itch” since college (I actually had a seamstress business before Trade Street!). Honestly, my biggest reason for becoming an entrepreneur was freedom. I was tired of working nights, weekends and holidays in the grueling food industry.
How did you come up with your business idea? What exactly do you do?
Hannah: I started Seven Sundays after falling in love with muesli cereal and not being able to find it anywhere in the U.S. I suddenly felt compelled to change the breakfast aisle for the better.
Ashley: I’ve always loved canning and preserving, so once I started making jams in college I just knew they were something that I’d love to sell one day.
What were you doing before you started your business?
Hannah: I was working in Finance as an investment banker in New York City. I worked with many food companies and entrepreneurs, which was a large part of my inspiration to start Seven Sundays.
Ashley: I was working for Condé Nast in the World Trade Center running the marketing and social media for their Café.
DIVING INTO THE DETAILS
Share your biggest failure.
Hannah: I’ve made a boatload of mistakes. I don’t believe mistakes = failure unless you quit. They are simply milestones and lessons. I will admit that many of my most painful mistakes occurred because I veered from my values to follow someone or something else due to a lack of confidence.
Ashley: Nothing comes to mind as my biggest failure. I’ve failed so, so many times. I try to just keep moving forward and look at those as learning lessons. I can’t look back. Ain’t nobody got time for that!
Hannah: Building a sustainable business that can support not just our family, but other families (our employees, farmers, suppliers, etc.). I am also very proud that Seven Sundays is a Certified B Corporation which means we meet the highest standards for environmental and social impact.
Ashley: So far, it’s hitting a half million dollars in sales last year. It’s so small in comparison to all of these rising successful CPG brands, but for me, it’s something I’d never imagined. Especially while being bootstrapped. It’s only up from here. Oh! And having my daughter Zola, of course.
What's your best piece of advice for aspiring female entrepreneurs?
Hannah: Pave your own road. Becoming an entrepreneur means you are innovating. When you innovate, you create your own way. It’s not easy and the more innovative you are, the more push back you will feel. Keep going, because that means you are on the right track.
Ashley: Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. This journey can feel so strange and different and challenging, but when you understand that that icky feeling means you’re growing, it's a little easier to swallow.
What are three tools (apps, books, podcasts, etc.) you use everyday in running your business?
Hannah: Apps: Google Sheets and Slack. Books: The ONE Thing and Traction.
Ashley: G Suite, Planoly and Instagram.
In running your own business, what strengths, weaknesses, or leadership traits have emerged that you didn't know you had? How do you learn from that?
Hannah: My biggest strength is my unwavering belief in our mission. My biggest weakness is being too hard on myself. And a leadership trait that I didn’t realize I had is that I place a high value on personal well being and weave that into our culture in many ways.
Ashley: My biggest strength is in understanding my weaknesses. In entrepreneurship, you have to wear so many hats, but it's important to understand what you're innately good at and what you aren't, and outsource help where needed so that your time is being used efficiently.
Is now the best time to be a female entrepreneur? If yes, why? If not, why?
Hannah: I hope not. I hope that someday women entrepreneurs are put on an equal playing field to men. Today, 97% of start up funding is men investing in men. That is awful. This does not mean as a woman you should wait to start a business. Get after it, work toward changing the landscape!
Ashley: Sure, I guess you could say that. Black women represent 42% of new women-owned businesses, so it's definitely a good time to be in that spotlight. But honestly, entrepreneurship is hard at any time, and just because it may be the "best" time doesn't mean we'll find success or be on an easier path than those behind us.
Where do you see yourself and your business in 3-5 years?
Hannah: For myself, I see me and Brady and our three kids squished into our sweet little Minneapolis house, taking trips to the North Shore of Minnesota and making time for each other and the things we love. I see Seven Sundays in everyone’s cabinets across the U.S., and us helping many more farmers switch to regenerative and organic practices.
Ashley: I'll be waiting for some major conglomerate to come in and buy this company for $100M so that I can build generational wealth for my family and focus my time on creating scholarships, investing in women and minority owned brands, teaching to young entrepreneurs and giving back to the communities that poured into me.
Seven Sundays is dedicated to creating the best possible breakfast experience that delivers amazing taste, maximum nutritional value, and minimal environmental impact. We make delicious and clean boxed cereals, gluten free oat-based mueslis, and grain free mueslis.
Trade Street Jam Co. is a chef, woman and minority-owned and certified business that started in a tiny apartment in North Carolina on Trade Street. Our passion for all things food grew into something more: a company built on the foundation of culinary innovation.