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10 Questions with Kate Jesionowski

If you're a parent struggling to find healthy, delicious foods for your kids that aren't covered in icing, you need to meet MySuperFoods. Sure there are plenty of healthy baby food options, but the toddler and kid market is definitely lacking. After Katie Jesionowski realized there were no healthy snack options for kids that they would actually want to eat, she set out to start her own company with fellow mom Silvia from scratch, and MySuperFoods came to be. Find out how she balances owning her own business and being a busy mom below.

How did you come up with the concept for your business and at what point did you decide to make it a reality?

Silvia and I met when we were both pregnant with twins, living in Manhattan. We became and stayed friends, bonding like most new mothers do and talking at length about food and nutrition. When the kids were 18 months old, we had a play date and were talking about the void of nutrient dense snacks for kids once they graduate from baby food. I thought it was just a friendly chat. That night, Silvia sent me a text, asking if I wanted to start a kids' food company with her. I didn't know if she was serious, but the next day we were drafting ideas in a notebook at a local coffee shop.

Kind of related, how do you make the leap from a secure paid job to starting your own business?

I left my career in advertising at the end of my pregnancy with my twin daughters, Rachel and Claire. I was planning to be a full-time stay-at-home-mom. I was one of those moms who didn't realize she wanted to work again and was sort of punishing myself a little bit for not finding home life to be "enough." MySuperFoods found me. Silvia left a career in investment banking when Zoe and Luca were 14 months old because she wanted to see them more and have a more balance family life. But she knew there was a company on the horizon. She was busy building the idea even before she left banking.

How much money should someone have saved before starting their own business?

Impossible question. Just kidding! The capital needed to start and run a new business is the most challenging piece of the puzzle. Hands down. I don't know if we would have built this company if we fully understood the needs. But that's what you hear most people say who are already down the path. If I knew then what I know now! In all seriousness, the amount depends on a lot of factors. For us, the largest capital requirement in the beginning was hiring a food scientist. Although I started making our first product line in my kitchen, we needed someone to help us with the chemistry and science of maintaining the nutrition without molding. Think about anything you bake in your kitchen and it only lasts about a week. We found someone who was able to manage water activity, but that came at a steep price. We initially started with about $20-40K of our own money.

How long did it take for you to be profitable?

We are still working toward that goal. Any new business that is of sound mind will take all profits from sales and put them right back into their company. So, while we are making money, it is funneled immediately back toward working capital to fill huge orders from new customers, securing space at an important trade show and developing new products.

How do you balance your work/home life, or is there even such a thing?

I've never really loved that idea of "balance" because it implies a division of time and resources that I don't think is possible. Life is fluid. I think we do any amazing job of attempting to be in the moment wherever we are. That's our personal and profession goal as a company. Running a company doesn't exactly happen between the hours of 9-5 every day. So, we try to be where we are when we are. It's not always easy or possible, but the effort is helpful. Some examples are when I make a concerted effort to put my phone on silent and away during time with my girls at some point during the day. Sometimes that's 30 minutes before bed or 15 minutes before school, coloring at the table. It doesn't mean I'm not answering the phone during a trip to the grocery store or answering a text while I'm making dinner. But I try to be where I am as often as I can. When I do that, everything falls into place.

What was the best advice you ever received? Worst advice?

The best advice we got early on was to start small and build a saturated network in our backyard. When you start a company you feel this urge to grow big and fast. But there will be problems. You will want to change things. Even if you think your recipe or invention or idea is the greatest most perfect idea in the world, you will need to change something about it in the beginning. It's color, it's packaging, it's size. If you start small, changes are manageable. If you are national and sold in 10,000 stores, a change might bring you down.

The worst advice we got was anything that began with "you have to do this or you won't be successful." If there was only one way to succeed we would all just do that and go on more vacations. Trust your instincts and take all of the advice you can get. But bounce it off your intuition.

Since you've been through it, what would you tell someone starting out?

You will fail. A lot. But remember why you started. Right it down and tape it to your computer. Keep moving forward. Believe.

It takes a village for any mom, but for a mom starting her own business, it must take a huge village. So who are your go-to people/services? (I.e., I can't imagine my life without Amazon Prime!)

I've always had college babysitters in my life. I've been lucky to find several over the years. Especially with no family around to help. But I'm also not afraid to send a last minute text to a friend asking for kid coverage for an hour when I really need it. I didn't always do this but I finally realized that I would want them to ask me, so why was I holding back from asking them?

Services or shortcuts that I love? Amazon Prime, yes. Obviously. Zappos is great for ordering a bunch of shoes for the next season, trying them on my girls and then sending back the ones that don't work. Target, for everything. Whole Foods makes some great prepared food that I will grab in a pinch for an awesome dinner I can feel good about feeding my family: roasted chicken, sauteed green beans and sweet potato casserole.

What do you do to unwind and recharge? And related, what are you reading right now?

I love yoga and meditation. They are my go-to relaxation techniques and have truly changed my life. It goes back to that idea of being in the moment. Life-changing on every level. A little red wine and dark chocolate don't hurt either.

I'm reading anything by Gabrielle Bernstein, Mark Nepo, Tara Brach and of course start-up stories like Mission in a Bottle (Honest Tea), Conscious Capitalism (Whole Foods), Delivering Happiness (Zappos).

Finally, take me through a day in your life.

Up at 5 a.m. to work out and meditate, then shower while two 5-year-olds come in and out of the bathroom 15 times asking me about their outfits. Get everyone dressed, beds made, breakfast, lunch made and maybe even start on dinner by throwing something in the crock pot. Then out the door to preschool. Throwing some laundry in along the way.

Head to the office for some solid work time. Sales calls, press outreach, shipping orders, brainstorming a new store launch, prepping for an upcoming trade show, talking about the next product development. Fixing at least one major problem that arises. The day I realized that something always goes wrong every day is the day I truly relaxed about running a start-up. It's just part of the job.

Back home to relieve the babysitter and spend 30 minutes outside playing with my daughters. Maybe some bike riding if the mood strikes.

Then back to the kitchen to make dinner, read through preschool papers, put laundry away, clean up the house. Have dinner as a family and maybe a daddy-daughter walk after work after cleaning up while I make some phone calls.

A little TV time, showers, story time and off to bed for the kiddos! Then a glass of wine and (right now) my husband and I making our way through "Parenthood" Season 3. In bed by 10 p.m.

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