Saturday, March 19, 2011

We're a Real Company Now

It was Expo West last week, the biggest tradeshow of the industry.  In the past I would have been terrible at savoring the moment; now that I’m more present in my life I’m getting better at this.

It was one of the first times I felt like the thing that started as an idea in my head has grown to be a real company.  Last year I was there by myself.  Four days of crushingly busy booth traffic and meetings before and after.  I could barely stand up by the time the show was done.  Product flew into the hands of random people; I managed to talk to very few store buyers.  But we were there and people were seeing us for the first time.

This time we had three people at the show from the company.  Amazing.  I could go to the bathroom, walk the show, talk to industry colleagues.  And people were coming up to us who were already customers.  Store buyers saying their customers love our product and want more sku’s.  People loving the branding, packaging, website.  I even met the guy who founded Clif Bar. Wow. It felt like a long way from an idea in my head.

The best thing about this show for me was the stories, most of which, not surprisingly I guess, came from women.   Two women from a rural area in CA described how they started selling teraswhey in their little community’s health club.  At first people either wanted the cheap stuff or didn’t know what whey protein was.  Gradually, even the guys who were used to the cheap stuff have started to convert to our organic. Apparently they think it works better and want to be a part of shifting away from a global food system.  The women smiled and said it felt like teraswhey was changing their entire community.

Another woman came up and said she was a devoted customer and loved what we are doing.  She was my age.  She started talking about how important she thinks it is that I am doing this, that is, that a woman created this company and the brand not a man.  Like me, she is of a generation of women who had to work hard to prove that we could do anything a man could do in the business world and elsewhere.  We are the generation that paved the way for the younger women following us.  I have two daughters and because women like us have done what we have, my daughters know that they can do anything they want to do in this world.

The show had a poignant moment too.  I woke up to a worried call from home the day the Tsunami was due to hit the California coast.  It reminded me of being on a trade show floor in London on 9/11 and getting a call to tell me my kid’s Dad’s house had a fire the night before and while they were fine, the house was not habitable until it was fixed.  Then the planes hit the towers and I was stuck in London for almost a week, no longer able to even call my kids.  Now my kids are grown, two living in California.  I hung up from the call from my boyfriend at home and got on the phone to talk to each of my kids.  The Tsunami warning turned out to be a non-event, and I felt really grateful for having a person in my life at home who was concerned enough to call me that morning.

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