Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Mariah Craig, Founder of Maria Bowls, located in Toronto, ON, Canada.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Did you know that 99% of coconut shells end up being thrown away? My business, Maria Bowls, sustainably sources coconut shells from farms in Vietnam that would have otherwise been discarded and burned, creating harmful greenhouse gas emissions. The shells are then cleaned, carved, and polished naturally by local artisans to make our custom coconut bowls.
We also offer bamboo straws that come in an organic cotton pouch, so you can easily say no to plastic anytime, anywhere. And lastly, our 100% natural wooden cutlery to complete the collection is handcrafted by artisans using reclaimed ebony wood.
Tell us about yourself
It all started with a trip to Mexico, but really, it started in 2011 when I was diagnosed with Lyme disease. Long story short, I had to completely change my diet lifestyle at the time to manage my symptoms, particularly inflammation. I went back to school for nutrition and began following a plant-based diet which kick-started my professional journey in the health and wellness industry, starting with a plant-based food blog. I made a LOT of smoothie bowls... So much so that a decade later, when I was living in Mexico, people started calling me María and then started calling my smoothie bowls Maria Bowls.
I’m obsessed with branding and the beginning stages of creating a business, and I immediately fell in love with where I could take the concept of Maria Bowls. I initially started with the idea of a full circle moment and starting a food blog again, but then I started noticing coconut bowls being used at the local smoothie shop I was visiting in Mexico every day. From there, I started to learn how many coconut shells were being discarded as waste and started building out the vision of the vessel that my smoothie bowls would be presented in. The rest is history.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
It is an accomplishment in and of itself to create a business and do what you love. I am just as proud to run a business that gives back in every way. Not only does Maria Bowls offer exclusive dishware that respects nature, we sustainably source and repurpose materials that would otherwise go to waste, and we have everything crafted by the local artisans of the community that they are sourced in.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
One of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner is figuring out a work-life balance. This looks different for everyone, but for me, it is a massive key to my success. A mistake that people often make is thinking that if they work more hours, they will be more productive. I know that entrepreneurs are especially guilty of never stopping. I used to be one of those people. However, it’s so important to realize that quantity does not equal quality when it comes to working hours. Life is short - find your purpose, let your brain rest and take care of yourself. This will only positively impact your business.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Get comfortable being uncomfortable. Coming from someone who never had a clear plan or vision when it came to a career path, I attribute a great deal of my success to the fact that I was never stagnant. I was always trying, doing, failing, and succeeding. There are transferable skills in everything. The worst thing you can do is to stay inside your comfort zone and expect change.
- Hire smart! Like any entrepreneur, I’ve had to learn my fair share of lessons the hard way. One of the biggest mistakes I made at the beginning was not designing a better hiring process. I think a lot of what we’re taught in terms of behavioural questions is outdated and doesn’t reveal the qualities in a candidate that really matter to ensure they will be a good cultural fit. Knowing what you’re looking for is a lot harder than it sounds, but I have learned that thoughtful hiring is extremely important, and in order to hire thoughtfully, you need to really break down the qualities and behaviours that are important in the role outside of what’s on a candidate’s resume. Your team is everything!
- To piggyback off of my last point: Choose your inner circle wisely. Who do you surround yourself with? Do those people inspire you? Do they support you? Do they bring positivity into your life? Do they challenge you? The most uninspiring year I’ve had to date was the year that I would have answered ‘no’ to all of those questions, and that is not a coincidence. Choose your circle carefully.
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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