Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Skyler Mapes, co-founder of EXAU Olive Oil, located in Austin, TX, USA.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

EXAU is a celebration of extra virgin olive oil, Calabria, and the joy of cooking. We ignite consumers' curiosity about a single product most folks have in their kitchen, olive oil. Our consumers are usually women aged 30+, and they absolutely love to cook for themselves, their friends, and their family. However, our market of men is growing, we see you!

EXAU specializes in the production of high-quality southern Italian extra virgin olive oil, intertwining ancient methods with modern technology. Each year we harvest, mill, bottle, and export our oil to the US, where we sell directly to consumers across the country. Since we are involved with every single step of the process, the quality is hard to beat.

Tell us about yourself

I did not want to work in the food industry. My career led me to become an architect. However, I did not find that path fulfilling. It was my business partner and husband that suggested we start an olive oil company. Looking for something else, I decided to dabble in the wine industry, which is similar to olive oil, before agreeing to start EXAU. I fell in love with the energy and excitement of harvest. I immediately knew if making olive oil was in any way similar to making olive oil, I could do it.

Each day I'm extremely grateful to work for myself. I know I'm building my own dream, and I get to show up in people's kitchens, which for me are a scared space. The kitchen is where you build memories, meals and share time with your most favorite people. This is what keeps me motivated.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

Landing a book deal with Ten Speed and being featured on Forbes 30 under 30.

What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?

The overwhelm. Everything is your responsibility. That doesn't necessarily mean you have to do everything, but it does mean that you are responsible for the final outcome. So don't mess it up. It's worth it!

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. Have a plan/mission/goal and be extremely clear about it (yes, you can adjust later). Having one thing to focus on provides clarity which equals productivity. Post it up on the wall, and every time you're going to do something, ask yourself, 'is this action going to get me closer to that?'. If not, it's not worth it.
  2. Do not share your ideas with anyone except those that are okay with you failing. Your family loves you! And that's wonderful. But they probably care so much about your financial/emotional/etc. Being that they're terrified of you failing because they don't want to see you suffer. But starting a business means you have to take some risks. You don't need them to dismay you. Tell the people that are okay with you landing on your face, which will help you get back up.
  3. Add at least 20% to your startup costs and stay scrappy!

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solopreneur that you'd like to share, then email; we'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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