Behind every business owner there is someone that keeps that person sane. Back when I started my company I was fortunate to meet Alison Gilbert founder of Project AG, business coach, mentor and friend that has inspired me to think broader, push harder and not throw in the towel. Although Alison is based in NYC she works with entrepreneurs everywhere, she's essentially an entrepreneur whisperer. Next Monday, we have the pleasure of partnering with Alison for an in-person event on starting a business. Read on about how she founded her business and how she makes other brands shine.
1. You were one of the original members of the Tasting Table team. How has it felt watching Tasting Table grow from a small business to a very popular food resource.
When I first started out at Tasting Table as the fourth person on the team I knew intuitively I was joining in on something special. Thankfully, I was armed with a healthy bit of naivety (this was my first business world job) and an insane eagerness to do well, that all I did was laser focus on the work instead of getting distracted with the awesomeness and bigness of it all. I was so in it.
Becoming the COO after a year and getting it to where we got it in my four years there--forty person team, multi-million dollars in revenue, readership in the millions--was incredible. Since then watching the brand continue to grow has been such a cool feeling. We created this living, breathing media brand that continues to evolve. And to think, we started it while working out of the hybrid walk in closet slash office space in the CEO’s apartment.
2. What made you start your own business?
When I was ready to start my next adventure I asked myself “How can I do what we just did at Tasting Table, bottle that up and help as many other awesome entrepreneurs do the same thing?”
There was, and still is, this statistic out there, depending on the article you read, some say it’s 90%, some say it’s up to 99%--both percentages referring to the failure rate of startups. One of my personal strengths is execution, connecting the idea of something to the reality of making it happen. One of the biggest factors that contributes to the failure rate of new businesses (amongst a bunch of other complex factors) is execution, the operations of it all. I wanted to solve for that.
3. What's the most important advice a new entrepreneur can receive?
To always remember that the tiniest step IS the work. Even just thinking about becoming an entrepreneur IS the work. Any thought, conversation, reading, musing, email, jotted note, is in some way informing your entrepreneurial path. I find that a lot of entrepreneurs, myself included, we forget that the littlest things we do ARE the foundation for what we are building. This IS the process of becoming an entrepreneur.
4. What's the best part of owning your own business and working with entrepreneurs?
I took this great assessment called Strengths Finder by Gallup (I highly recommend), it revealed that one of my top five strengths is “Maximizer:"
“Excellence, not average, is your measure...Transforming something strong into something superb is...thrilling [for you]. Strengths, whether yours or someone else’s, fascinate you. Like a diver after pearls, you search them out, watching for the telltale signs of a strength... And having found a strength, you feel compelled to nurture it, refine it, and stretch it toward excellence.”
This really sums it up. I get to do work that allows me to build on and use this skill.
The owners and entrepreneurs I work with are really smart, really creative and really strong. They are the ones that have all the answers. They have the vision. When you boil it down my job is to create the space with the entrepreneurs to pull out what’s already inside them to create what they seek to create. It’s to tap into their strengths as individuals and the strengths of their business idea and help them achieve excellence. I’ve been a part of this journey now with over 30 entrepreneurs across a bunch of different industries. It’s been incredibly energizing.
5. As a business coach and consultant you have worked with some of the coolest brands in the industry (Well + Good, Plum Alley, Work Train Fight) to name a few. How have you grown?
I’ve been fortunate to meet, connect, get to know and work with great people who’ve organically and kindly spread the word. Word of mouth has also been effective because the people who do recommend me, really know me and understand the uniqueness of what I do and offer.
I’m not just a coach and I’m not just a consultant--I’m both. I ensure in working with the entrepreneurs that we level set and gut check on the "softer" aspects of building a business--how you feel, what you want, what you fear--with the "harder" aspects of building a business--making revenue and profit and scaling in an operationally efficient way. This approach has allowed me to produce strong results with the entrepreneurs I work with and has helped in building my practice by word of mouth.
6. What's been the biggest challenge so far and the ultimate "pinch me" moment?
The biggest challenge is how the path of being an entrepreneur can be so lonely. YOU are the only one that has the vision. YOU are the only one that knows exactly how you want the venture to go. Even when you find people who help and support you, YOU are the only one that can feel the gut reaction inside your belly to know when something just feels rights, or doesn’t. That’s both really empowering and really lonely.
The ultimate “pinch me” moment is the other side of that coin! By taking this leap and putting my truth out there as best I can--explicitly stating my vision, my hopes, my plans--has drawn me to and brought people into my life that I don't know what I'd do without. That all feels pinch me. I’m so grateful.