BASED IN: NEW YORK
Gina: Think about all of your favorite sweets perhaps cupcakes or donuts and then that guilt you get after- EKG alleviates the guilt; we creates cleaner, healthier alternatives to some of our biggest cheats foods such as the donut, cookies, muffins, cupcakes etc that actually taste like their less healthy originals. (Check them out- www.ekgproject.com) The reason why Emily and I partner so well is that we also want to see our company be a vehicle for social change. We donate a portion of our sales to a given charity every quarter and will look to help employ those transitioning out of hardship to work within our kitchen. Our spark came from individual personal struggles with the same common root: bad nutrition and lack of clean options. My story was less unique- weight loss and really a better quality of life.
Emily: Once upon a time in our naïvely adventurous 20’s, we thought, “How do we get our parents to stop eating sugar cookies and canolies, hire people who are transitioning out of poverty/hardship and give monetarily back to the community, all at the same time?” And before we knew it, EKG Project launched with can’t-even-tell-it’s-Paleo treats often made by our #BuyToGive “sous-baker,” with a portion of each sale going to a legit charity. Mostly organic, non-GMO, gluten-free, grain-free, dairy-free & soy-free, EKG Project’s donuts, cookies, muffins, cupcakes and biscotti are made with almond and coconuts flours, so they won’t pull you off the wagon when you indulge (#cleancheat!). That may have been a mouthful, so please check out more at ekgproject.com/shop; email us at emily@ or firstname.lastname@example.org; or find us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter!
I don’t leave my house without… my phone and a change of flat shoes
People would say that I am… always on the go
The most important aspect of any business is… Purpose
My favorite business book of all time is… The Greatest Salesman in the World - Og Mangdino
My favorite entrepreneurial organization is… The Giving Key
I don’t leave my house without… my iPhone, Beats and my Bobble!
People would say that I am… British or Australian - I’m actually from Mississippi!
The most important aspect of any business is… Definitely purpose.
My favorite business book of all time is… It’s a tie - Start With Why by Simon Sinek and The Lean Startup by Eric Ries.
My favorite entrepreneurial organization is… The Father’s Heart Ministries, which provides a weekly soup kitchen, a retail teen program at Alphabet Scoop, a children’s program call KidZone, a GED curriculum, an ESL curriculum and a host of other programs for anyone in need. EKG Project is also teaming up with TFHM to expand our job program for people transitioning out of poverty, prison, homelessness or other hardship. They are simply amazing.
What is your proudest accomplishment so far when it comes to your business? What helped you get there? Was this accomplishment a clear goal or did it happen by chance?
Gina: I think seeing our products on shelves has been the biggest “Holy Crap” moment for me. As head of Business Development and Sales - it is one of those intangibles when you see a concept become a reality.
Emily: My personal proudest moment was the first time we had our #BuyToGive sous chef (via The Father’s Heart program) work with me in the kitchen. I couldn’t believe that we were finally giving back to the community, which is the number one way we measure success! Getting there was a 2-year process that finally happened once we decided to launch the program within 2 weeks, even though we had no idea where we would get the money, who would work or how it would go. We finally experienced the power of setting goals with vision and determination!
Who/What inspires you?
Gina: I am inspired to make change; to leave my footprint on this Earth. If we even help one person get back on their feet with EKG Project’s employment program - then I will consider it a successful endeavor.
Emily: As cliché as it is, love inspires me. It genuinely aches my soul to see others in pain (particularly the homeless and elderly in need), and I am driven to help as many people as possible experience more love and happiness, because I KNOW that’s what will make this world a better place.
How as being an entrepreneur affected your life? How did it change the way you think about life?
Gina: Well….I certainly sleep less; days off are something I need to make sure I take. Emily and I as best friends need to make sure we find days to do “friend” things outside of work. We just started playing tennis together with a coach as a way to step away from the computers and have fun together. We started this company as best of friends and we are super sensitive to not losing that element of what makes “us” …”us”…I truly believe our company wouldn't thrive without it…
I think being an entrepreneur gives a sense of autonomy in that you can create change, impact, create whatever your mind can dream up. I am not so much concerned anymore with my linear career; I think being an entrepreneur means you aren't bound by career norms - you don't need to work for a promotion in two years or meet someone else’s standard, you create your own and therefore try hard to exceed them.
Emily: Being an entrepreneur has both spoiled me and ruined me! It’s spoiled me because I literally get to create my life. It’s ruined me for the same reasons! Entrepreneurship has changed my life perspective by showing me that (1) neither sticks nor stones nor words can ever truly hurt me unless I let it: (2) money is a much better by-product than absolute goal; and (3) we each have WAY more power than we think!
Do you believe that there is one specific formula for success? What does it mean to be a successful business owner?
Gina: No. I think every company is different and success is such a matter of perspective. I think beyond the numbers - and selling clean, healthy donuts; success will be when we help folks get a second chance at turning their lives around. For us to have that ability is remarkable.
Emily: I don’t believe that there is one formula for success, but I do believe that integrity, purpose and opportunities (whether presented or created) are major components. Oh yeah, so is karma ;).
What does it mean to have competition/competitors? Do you compete/collaborate or just observe? What is the best practice to approach your competition?
Gina: It’s good to be aware of who is within your competitive set but also what sets you apart. Competition is healthy, its normal but to be successful in articulating why someone should pull my product off the shelf before my competitions is all the difference.
Emily: To me, competition means fighting for the same market share. We don’t actively compete with anyone at the moment, but we do watch the food, health & fitness markets and try to create a bridge to meet demand (whether current or future) considering trends. I believe the best practice to approach competition is to make a SWOT analysis of all parties and see what your target markets truly want (numbers don’t lie!). Discuss all the different approaches (especially ones that your competitors are not using), run small tests and pivot to those that are most effective. Never guess what your consumer wants – prove it!
Do you have hobbies? What are they? Is it important to take “time off” and focus on other things such as friends, family, hobbies etc.?
Gina: Yes, besides tennis which has grown into a mini obsession. I also love to workout. I take a ton of fitness classes such as Barry’s Bootcamp, the Fhitting Room, Soulcycle, Work Train Fight. I also love to cook and take down some serious Netflix series from my couch. Hobbies or more so passions, friends, my family, traveling, having new experiences are so crucial to keep the tank full when you work all the time.
Emily: My hobbies are tennis, working out, jogging on the Hudson, traveling, visiting family, hiking, snowboarding, stand-up paddleboarding and all thing outdoors. I find it ESSENTIAL to take “time off” at least once a week for a full day in order to operate with creativity, energy and love. Otherwise, my body and soul just shut down.
Is there one “rookie mistake” that new entrepreneurs keep on making? What is it? Did it happen to you?
Gina: Yes, not knowing when to cut losses and try a different strategy. I was so stuck on how I sold products in my other career in advertising- I wasn't open minded to understanding the nuances to selling a CPG.
Emily: The quite obvious (now that I look back) rookie mistake we made was that we didn’t test, learn and pivot fast enough. From going to market a second time and launching new products to finding effective marketing strategies and testing different sales channels, we learned that time is money; money is money and opportunities rise and fall. We’ve made some costly mistakes by not learning and pivoting fast enough, but I can promise you that’s a lesson we will not forget now!
Why do you think it is that women get less funding than men? What can we do to change that and close the gender gap?
Emily: I attended the launch of the Women Entrepreneurs of New York City (WE NYC), and they performed an extraordinary study on this very topic, which can be found here. They show that the biggest roadblocks women entrepreneurs face in NYC are (1) funding, (2) targeting the right customers, (3) finding the best mentor, (4) lacking the right business skills and (5) finding the right resources and information to launch. This hit the nail on the head for us – it actually scared me how much we could relate. However, it’s programs like WE-Rule and WE-NYC that are making it so much easier to overcome those issues and close the gap. This isn’t an anti-man movement by any means. It’s simply pro-women.
What is one thing you find to be true that most people would disagree with?
Emily: I believe that privacy is a privilege that many have voluntarily given away and will one day work hard to reverse. I also am starting to see how the more one focus on “me,” the worse things get in life, although logic and the ego work hard to make this untrue!
What are some pros and cons of having (OR not having) entrepreneurial parents?
Gina: My father was an entrepreneur and seeing him succeed gave me more confidence in that I could own my own business and do well. It gives me freedom in that I do not have to have a conventional career to be a success. I watched how he treated every client that he had and still has at Cavallo Insurance and it taught me the importance of good customer service. That is a principal that doesn’t change no matter what your selling.
What is failure?
Gina: Not trying.
Emily: Ditto. Plus, something is only a failure if you didn’t learn.