As I mentioned yesterday, I met a lot of fabulous ladies at OC Fashion Week one of which was the founder of Eco-Eats™, Nancy Kerr. Based in Laguna Niguel, today we're walking in Nancy's shoes as she tells me the story of what inspired her to get over her fears of starting up a business, why it's important to give the courtesy of reply back to emails and phone calls, and her advice for women looking to begin their own start-up.
HG: How did you get inspired to start up your business?
NK: Whether I was at a food festival or at a food truck, I always had the challenge of holding my drink, my plate, and trying to eat at the same time. If I was at home party or networking event, I would put down my drink to eat and would often lose track of which drink was mine. I had thought about making a plate that solved this problem, because I had seen other plates similar to mine. Being that I was a stay at home mom with no business experience, I didn't have the know-how or courage to do it. Then on March 23, 2009 seven days before my 35th birthday, my father (who my family was reunited with when I was 15 years old) was run over and killed. 11 months later a childhood friend got into a head-on collision. That gave me a wake-up call and soon after that I decided to get over my fears of starting a business to develop my main product Plate-A-Cup™.
HG: What makes Eco-Eats™ stand out from the traditional partyware scene?
NK: Eco-Eats™ stands out with the use of Plate-A-Cup™, a plate with a cup holder built in, so you see less misplaced drinks laying around. This helps create a better flow of people through a party because it frees them from standing watch over their drink while they eat. Plate-A-Cup™ by Eco-Eats™ is also different from other products because it is tree-free, plastic-free, biodegradable, compostable and works with stemware, bottles, cans, or cups.
HG: What has been an unexpected business lesson you learned a great deal from?
NK: I may be a day or a few days late returning calls or emails, but I always give the courtesy of a reply whether I’m interested or not. Not many people are not the same way, so I've learned to become persistent because it takes an incredible amount of effort to see a payoff.
HG: What has been your biggest shoe splurge?
NK: Charles by Charles David quilted stitch pattern boots.
HG: Fill in the blank: my favorite shoes are a pair of _____ because ________.
NK: Jessica Simpson Josette heels because they are sexy, comfortable, and fit my slender feet well.
HG: What are three pieces of advice you would give to women looking to start their own business for the first time?
NK: 1. Forgive yourself when you make mistakes and learn from them when you do. I tell my kids it’s okay to make mistakes, as long as you learn from it, but it’s better to learn from other people’s mistakes.
2. Educate yourself as much as you can to minimize mistakes. Don’t spend your spare time doing mindless things. Read, take classes, get mentored, constantly learn as much as you can. Try your local SCORE or SBA chapter, watch TED videos on YouTube, listen to iTunes U, Business Rockstars radio show, and anywhere else you think you can learn more from and about. You’ll find there is so much information out there if you search for it!
3. Work with street smarts, but at the same time with ethics, compassion and purpose. People are usually more willing to help a good person succeed, rather than helping a jerk.