Kajal Pashmi - State Farm

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We recently chatted with our friend and client Kajal Pashmi, the owner of a State Farm insurance agency in San Francisco to learn more about her work and her journey to get to where she is today. Read on to learn more about Kajal.

1.Tell us a bit about yourself and how you found your way to this business/passion.

When Market crashed in 2006, I was a full time student working part time at Countrywide as an in-house loan officer. It was devastating to witness the economic downturn and its negative implications for both newly homeowners and loan officers. In 2006 I received my B.A in Business Management and decided that I would start a business. I was looking for stability and entrepreneurship and so I decided to start my own insurance agency. I love what I do and I’m passionate about educating my clients on risk management and asset preservation.


2. What excites you most about your business/industry?

Innovation. State Farm is testing commercial drone technology to respond more efficiently to clients in catastrophic situations such as the devastating fire we had in Northern California in 2017. This is one of many ways that State Farm is keeping their promise to be the best in the industry and lead by example. This is all exciting to me, I am representing State Farm and I know they keep their promise to continue to be ahead of the game and offer their clients top of the line technology with their clients in mind.

3. What character trait do you see most common in yourself and fellow entrepreneurs/business leaders?
Enthusiasm. Passion for what they do and an incredible ability to overcome obstacles.

4. What virtue do you value the most in your team members?
Commitment and drive.

5. What advice would you give your younger self?
Do not lose sleep over the small details. Everything will work out.

6. Living business visionary you’d like to share a cup of coffee with?
Carly Fiorina simply because she was the first female CEO in Silicon Valley.

7. What is one strategy you’ve seen work when growing your business?
Having multiple long term as well as short term marketing strategies in place.

Lightning Round, Answer with the first thing that comes to mind

Coffee or Tea? Coffee

Michelin Star Restaurant or BBQ? Both

Would you describe yourself as more of a Beyoncé or an Adele? Beyoncé

Personal hero? Martin Luther King

Last good book you read, show you watched, record you listened to, or movie you consumed?

  • Book I read: Letters to young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke

  • Record I listened to: This is Gorillaz

  • Movie: Dead Poets Society (for the millionth time)

Ben Kanner - Worklete

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Meet Ben Kanner (right), Co-Founder and CEO of Worklete - a digital health platform aimed at decreasing work-related injuries. Read on to learn more about Ben and his journey toward becoming boss.

1. Tell us a bit about yourself and how you found your way to this business/passion.

My father was a safety consultant. Everyone loved what he did, but it wasn’t scalable. I wanted to take that and leverage technology to build a big business.

2. What excites you most about your business/industry?

We have a lot of opportunity to build a big business and revolutionize an industry. However, we are also actually helping people. We can improve people’s lives helping hard working folks have long careers while being able to enjoy their lives outside of work.

3. What character trait do you see most common in yourself and fellow entrepreneurs/business leaders?

Drive. And continued persistence in the face of unimaginable adversity. It ain’t easy. And you hear “no” many more times than you hear “yes”.

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4. What virtue do you value the most in your team members?

Work ethic, but also other viewpoints and feedback on what I do.

5. What advice would you give your younger self?

The work never ends. Balance life. Don’t party so much. Have hobbies.

6. Living business visionary you’d like to share a cup of coffee with?

Ben Horowitz

7. What is one strategy you’ve seen work when growing your business?

Persistence.

Lightning Round, Answer with the first thing that comes to mind

Coffee or Tea? I like both for different circumstances/occasions. Probably with Milk.

Michelin Star Restaurant or BBQ? Michelin as they probably have a solid Manhattan.

Would you describe yourself as more of a Beyoncé or an Adele? Who?

Personal hero? Spiderman

Last good book you read, show you watched, record you listened to, or movie you consumed? The Hard Thing About Hard Things should be read by every aspiring entrepreneur and maybe everyone in an early stage company.

Marlo Gertz - Marlo's Bakeshop

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Starting with just her Grandmom’s soft-baked biscotti recipe, Marlo Gertz started Marlo’s Bakeshop, a small bakery creating fresh takes on your favorite desserts by using wholesome ingredients and time-tested family recipes. Read on to learn more about Marlo and how she came to be a part of the baking business.

  1. Tell us a bit about yourself and how you found your way to this business/passion.

Born in San Francisco but raised in New Jersey (so an east coast, Jersey girl at heart), I moved out to the Bay Area when I was working in tech and was offered a job at a SaaS company. I quickly decided to swap software for soft-baked biscotti and launched Marlo’s Bakeshop after I’d completed a professional pastry program across the street from my boyfriend’s apartment (now husband- I lured him in with hot croissants). I was very inspired by other women who had graduated from the same pastry program and were running successful baking businesses and I thought, ‘If they can do it, I can too.”

2. What excites you most about your business/industry?

That consumers are educating themselves about ingredients and standing up to Big CPG to say ‘no’ to ingredient lists full of non-food additives and preservatives.  I am obsessed with our ingredient quality and will never compromise on that for Marlo’s Bakeshop because it’s important to me to still feel good about eating our cookies and feeding them to my family and friends. Consumers are more aware now than ever before about what they’re putting into their bodies and that’s an exciting revolution in food.

3. What character trait do you see most common in yourself and fellow entrepreneurs/business leaders?

Passion and perseverance. You have to be passionate about what you’re selling or no one will believe it’s as great as you know it to be; and perseverance because you will be told ‘no’ time and time again and you cannot let it discourage you or convince you that what’re offering isn’t valuable to society.

4. What virtue do you value the most in your team members?

Honesty, attention to detail and a positive attitude. Being part of a startup is an emotional roller coaster so it’s important that everyone remains honest with one another about their workload and bandwidth, that everyone remember to slow down enough to get the details right and that – even when times can be particularly tough- everyone stay positive about our mission and the direction of the company and to keep smiling through it, knowing we will get to the other side together.

5. What advice would you give your younger self?
You will always remember experiences more than things. So stop buying things and save your money to go out and have more experiences.


6. Living business visionary you’d like to share a cup of coffee with?

Sara Blakely, founder of Spanxx.

7. What is one strategy you’ve seen work when growing your business?

The whole sales premise of ‘no’ doesn’t mean ‘never’, just ‘not right now’. Time and again I have revisited strategic prospects and ultimately secured them as customers; the first time I reached out just wasn’t the right timing for them. Calling or emailing that buyer one more time has paid off for me in spades over the last five years.

Lightning Round, Answer with the first thing that comes to mind

Coffee or Tea? Medium roast with a pump of chocolate and half and half, please.

Michelin Star Restaurant or BBQ? Michelin all the way. I live for a memorable dining experience.

Would you describe yourself as more of a Beyoncé or an Adele? Oooo for sure Adele though I love me some Beyonce

Personal hero? Probably my husband and my parents. The former because he’s the most gracious, kindest person I know while still being super strong, smart and a very sharp businessman; the latter because they’re both so accomplished in their respective professional fields and have affected so many peoples’ lives in a positive way.

Last good book you read, show you watched, record you listened to, or movie you consumed? Record: Tom Misch, Beat Tape 2

Cindy McGovern - Orange Leaf Consulting

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Recently we chatted with Cindy McGovern, CEO and First Lady of Sales for Orange Leaf Consulting to learn more about her journey to the consulting business and what's driven her along the way.

1. Tell us a bit about yourself and how you found your way to this business/passion
I am a help-a-holic. I love helping people to get what they want and deserve. I love helping companies to grow their business (Grow Big or Go Home, right?!) And as a former college professor and now a consultant for 14 years, I realized that I can help people to help themselves. How? Through teaching them to sell. Yep. I said it. SALES is the way to go. I think everyone is a sales person. In fact, I think we are born with it…we just tend to forget that we have that skill. Have you ever tried to reason with a 3-year-old? Best salesperson on the planet!

When I started Orange Leaf Consulting almost 10 years ago, I set out to help businesses to create a sustainable sales model. As I dove in to the deeper levels of each organization, I was able to help CEOs transform their companies from small to huge, creating dramatic and sustainable revenue growth through helping them to embrace their inner salesperson. My goal is always to help each person get what they want and deserve by embracing their inner toddler!

2. What excites you most about your business/industry?
Major paradigm shifts going on! The next generation of customers/consumers has grown up with Google, meaning they expect clear, understandable answers, right NOW! Plus, they’re not hesitant to interact directly with staff who used to be far removed from them. There is an opportunity to really reinvigorate the customer experience, and smart businesses are making changes now to set the stage for this new dynamic. This means that every job is now a sales job!

3. What character trait do you see most common in yourself and fellow entrepreneurs/business leaders?
Passion and perseverance. A gotta have both!

4. What virtue do you value the most in your team members?
Oh gosh! I am biased because I think I have the best team on the planet! They are seriously mind readers!  They can anticipate what I or the client needs and get it spot on every time. It is amazing!

5. What advice would you give your younger self?
Eat the cupcake. Take the trip.

6. Living business visionary you’d like to share a cup of coffee with?
Richard Branson

7. What is one strategy you’ve seen work when growing your business?
Stay true to your brand! It’s great to work across multiple industries, but never lose sight of what makes you different and unique in the benefits you provide. Let it drive every decision.

Lightning Round - Answer with the first thing that comes to mind.

  • Coffee or Tea?

    • Coffee
  • Michelin Star Restaurant or BBQ?

    • BBQ (I’m originally from the South!)

  • Would you describe yourself as more of a Beyoncé or an Adele?
    • Beyoncé
  • Personal hero?

    • Coco Chanel

  • Last good book you read, show you watched, record you listened to, or movie you consumed?

    • Bruno Mars 24KT gold-best CD to dance around the house to!

Angie Sticher - Ursaleo

For the first Meet The Doers feature, we asked our friend Angie Sticher, CoFounder + COO/CPO of Ursaleo, a few questions about her work and inspirations. 

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1. Tell us a bit about yourself and how you found your way to this business/passion.
I’ve worked in technology since the mid-90s. I worked hard and climbed the corporate ladder in two stints at larger companies. In 2014, I needed a break so I left my job to take some time off. During this break, I met my UrsaLeo cofounder, John Burton. He and I were in a similar position, a bit burned out while also wanting to do something fun and challenging. We began by discussing what we would both like to create in a company. We set out to create the environment we wished to work in and quickly realized a product for an underserved market that could utilize his hardware knowledge paired with my software delivery strengths.

2. What excites you most about your business/industry?
Creating a solution for an underserved niche is rewarding and challenging. Our respective backgrounds are leading us in the right direction and giving our clients the right mix of voice to make them successful in the data analytics age.

3. What character trait do you see most common in yourself and fellow entrepreneurs/business leaders?
Strength, humility, curiosity, and drive. Building something from scratch requires you to look outside of the paths that guided you in a school or corporate environment. You have to be willing to put yourself out there, ask questions, and take risks in order to move the ball forward.

4. What virtue do you value the most in your team members?
Honesty. When you’re in a small startup, you need to be able to trust your partners every step of the way. Likewise, they need to trust you.

5. What advice would you give your younger self?
Trust your gut. Every time my gut wasn’t fully on board with a decision, it has almost always ended up in a negative place. It’s not always easy to trust your gut, especially when you can’t pinpoint why your “spidey sense” is tingling, but it’s something I’ve learned to trust.

6. Living business visionary you’d like to share a cup of coffee with?
Sheryl Sandberg. I saw her speak at the Grace Hopper conference in 2013 around the time her book, Lean In, came out. As a female leader in technology and with so few role models around me, I was so motivated and inspired by her words. I devoured her book when it came out. I’d love to discuss Lean In with her now, a few years after its release and after the #metoo movement, to see how her views and opinions have changed. Would she give the same advice to young women today?

7. What is one strategy you’ve seen work when growing your business?
Communicate. Even when you think it’s not necessary. Things move quickly and everyone isn’t always aware of changes to plan. Speak up and do it often so everyone stays on the same page. We’re a team and the team only works if we are all on the same page.

Lightning Round, Answer with the first thing that comes to mind?

  • Coffee or Tea?
    • Coffee
  • Michelin Star Restaurant or BBQ?
    • Michelin Star!
  • Would you describe yourself as more of a Beyoncé or an Adele?
    • Beyonce
  • Personal hero?
    • My grandmother. She started in the workforce later in life but still managed to carve out a career for herself. She brought her daughters in with her and helped them grow into strong providers. She was the nucleus of our family and made every person feel like they were essential and loved.
  • Last good book you read, show you watched, record you listened to, or movie you consumed?
    • Reading Warlight right now for book club. Loving POSE on FX. I listen more to podcasts and artist radio stations - I really enjoy the No Such Thing as a Fish podcast and I’m currently listening to Bryan Ferry radio.