If you had told me five years ago that today I would be the CEO of my own company, I'm not sure I would have believed you.
In 2018, my husband and I retired at 27. We'd saved $600,000 after five years of both working as engineers, and decided to travel across the country in a 2008 Sprinter van we converted into a camper. We thought that was the end of the story. But on the road, we were inspired to start our own business. It turned out that all the lessons we learned from our early retirement plans were instrumental in helping us run the company of our dreams.
Matt's father passed away from cancer in 2010, and I struggled for a long time with weight gain, PCOS, and hormones, which I was able to balance with help from diet and lifestyle changes. Because of our medical histories, healthy eating has always been really important to us, and we knew a lot of people who felt the same.
So we invested $10,000 of our own money and we launched Sweet Logic, a cake mix company for people with low-carb and keto diets. We are now based in Denver, and I am the CEO of the company. I haven't taken a salary yet as we continue to reinvest and grow.
Last year, our business did $150,000 in revenue, and in 2020 we are set to earn $400,000. We plan to expand into retail stores towards the end of this year. So far, we've been able to reach these revenue goals with an additional personal investment of $60,000, so we retain 100% ownership. We have big goals for Sweet Logic and are on track to do $1 million in sales in 2021.
Here are the three biggest lessons I've learned as a first-time entrepreneur.
When I first started thinking about early retirement, I got into the details about my possible daily schedule: how many hours per week I wanted to work, how many vacations we wanted to take, and so on. Then we calculated the amount of money we would need to live that life, and what kind of jobs or businesses could get us there.
Working backwards helped us get where we wanted to go.
When we had the idea for Sweet Logic, we did the exercise again with a brand new set of goals. But a big challenge for us as entrepreneurs was an issue you could call shiny object syndrome. We constantly had 10 or so ideas brewing in our heads, each one sounding better and more enticing than the last. We realized that the only way for us to succeed was to focus fully on one idea that we both felt good about pursuing.
Video by Mariam Abdallah
When you put all your eggs in one basket, it opens you up to the possibility of failure. That can be hard. It can almost feel easier to never commit to one thing because you don't have to actually follow through.
To succeed, we did have to sacrifice things like fun trips and late nights out — and some of those seemingly great, shiny ideas and possibilities that would have distracted us. We set our priorities, and if something didn't align with our goals, we eliminated it. It could feel ruthless but it was necessary. And it was worth it once we realized that Sweet Logic was resonating with people.
When I became the CEO of Sweet Logic in 2019, I set some big goals for us to reach — goals that, at the time, seemed impossible. My mentor Jillian Johnsrud helped me see that instead of thinking only about how to build a million-dollar brand, I needed to think about who I need to become to lead a million-dollar company.
That meant I needed to fill in the gaps of my own knowledge.
Since Matt and I are both trained engineers, we were great at the operations, logistics, and financial side of the business. We lacked in our knowledge of sales, marketing, branding, and design. We also came from the oil and gas industry and had limited connections when it came to consumer packaged goods, so I needed to network like crazy.
I attended trade shows, networking events, conferences, and even cold reached out to people on LinkedIn regularly. I hired coaches, took courses, read books, and listened to podcasts on loop. I learned that understanding what you don't know is often just as important as what you do know.
When you do something unconventional or out of the box, people will have something to say. Remember that other people's opinions are often more of a reflection of their perspective and insecurities than anything to do with you.
If you are able to separate out those opinions from the constructive feedback that will help you grow, you'll be ahead of the curve.
Video by Mariam Abdallah
When we began, we heard a lot of "no." We could've taken that as a sign to give up and quit, but instead we pivoted. We listened to that feedback and incorporated it as we developed new packaging, tweaked our company name, and launched six new products. After two years, we have started to hear "yes" more than "no" when it comes to partnerships, from retailers, and from our growing customer base.
Find people who support you, whether that's your biological or chosen family; peers who have done what you're trying to do, like coaches, peers, or mentors; and people who share similar hobbies. Some of these may be online relationships, and some of them you may only see once a year at conferences or events, but that's OK. You don't have to see them every day for the relationship to be important.
There's no one-size-fits-all for living the life you want. With some intentional planning and learning, though, success could be just around the corner.
Allison Escovedo Owen is an entrepreneur based in Denver, Colorado. She started Sweet Logic, a keto baking-mix company, with her husband Matt. They share their entrepreneurship insights on their website Sweet Life Fam. Connect with them on Instagram @sweetlifefam.
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