Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Wietske Helle, Founder and CEO of EatQ, located in New York, NY, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
EatQ is the food data platform for small, emerging brands looking to stand out in a crowded market. We provide affordable pre-sales planning, marketing, and research tools that CPG food brands need to differentiate themselves in the eyes of retailers and consumers alike. We're particularly focused on health and sustainability brands. With the surge in online sales in recent years and consumers being more conscious about the foods they eat, we want to help small brands get discovered and meet that growing demand.
Tell us about yourself
I love food, and I am a big fan of markets and supermarkets. I want to try everything. But I was also a lightweight national rowing champion and had an immensely tough time balancing training, weight loss, and eating, so I dove deep into nutrition. Now, as a mother of three teenagers, I am aware of the amount of readily available junk and the impact products have on the environment. I am very conscious of what I feed my family. I think getting basic information about what's in a product, how it's made, and what impact it has on yourself or the planet is unnecessarily difficult. Luckily I am also an engineer; I love data & building products that help people with insight, time, and money. So marrying these two passions is really quite easy for me.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
If you are passionate about improving your industry and solving as many issues as possible, choosing what takes priority is tough. Once you've designated your primary focus and talked with enough people to know you're onto something, it's even tougher to set limits to what point you will build out now vs. later because there is always more. As an entrepreneur, it's difficult to see so many of your peers struggle to get their product off the ground or watch them stay in their R&D phase because they're so focused on building the 'perfect' product. I believe ideas are truly a dime a dozen, but it's the execution that counts. The biggest accomplishment, I'd say, is that we were quick to have a real working product 'out there' to show to users. That happened twice: first with our consumer app, which we built in 8 weeks, and then again after our pivot to B2B. Our platform product was out in 3 months for brands to try out. It's not finished and probably never will be perfect, but that's okay. We just want to get it out there to be able to learn. It takes determination and initial clear 'scope' to get something off the ground. That is a lesson from my initial project engineering days.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
You're mostly at it alone. In my corporate career, I worked in big teams. There was always discussion, collaboration, and learning from one another. There's even chit-chat. That's different when you're starting out alone, the decisions are only yours to make, and when you talk with customers or external hires, you want to be mindful of their time. I missed the collaboration initially, and it can still feel lonesome at times. You have to be highly independent to be a solo founder. Luckily, I have a team now that I can openly discuss issues and even take a break to ask someone how they have been doing.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Don't be afraid to delegate even if you know you can do things well yourself; it doesn't mean they are worth your limited time and energy. You've probably got bigger fish to fry.
- Ensure you get to the root of a problem and approach solutions from different perspectives. It's important to be well-informed and knowledgeable. You'll also get more innovative ideas and make better decisions. Great ideas start with a full plate.
- Finally, here's one that doesn't come as naturally to me. You do need to focus on sales. Good salespeople are like chefs; they know how to mix the right ingredients, present them enticingly, and leave customers hungry for more.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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