Five(+) Steps to Becoming a Successful Entrepreneur

With the experience of creating two distinct product lines and eventually selling these brands to S.C. Johnson, Monica Nassif, founder of Caldrea and Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day shared her steps to starting a successful business at a recent UST Master’s Pub event.

To be a successful entrepreneur, you must:

1. Know yourself well.
Working with investors is often a critical component of an entrepreneur’s job. Have an understanding of your own risk tolerance. Why would investors be willing to take a risk if the founder is not?

2. Collect the dots and then connect them.
The dots in this scenario are trends. Understand trends in the overall market as well as the nuances of your specific product or service area. Connect each of these trend ‘dots’ in creating an overall strategy.

Rather than going with a consumer product agency, Nassif chose a New York fashion PR firm to help collect and connect the dots. Their product line needed to follow fashion trends to stay differentiated in the market place. The ‘dots’ can come from a variety of places – some are ‘outside the box’ in terms of the way a traditional consumer packaged goods company would operate.

3.  Execute.
What good is a strategic plan if it isn’t implemented? Know what you want to achieve and hold yourself accountable for executing this plan.

Nassif told the story of approaching Williams-Sonoma to create their branded line of cleaning products. She learned they had already worked with several other vendors who could not get the formulas for scent and effectiveness right. Knowing that the Caldrea philosophy for cleaning products fit well into their retail & consumer mix, Nassif  approached Williams-Sonoma with her ideas. Caldrea continues to produce the Williams-Sonoma branded cleaning products today. She had the idea and executed it to expand the business.

4. Learn on the run.
Know that mistakes will be made in any business venture whether it’s a startup or mature business. Learn from these mistakes but do not dwell on them.

Nassif confessed to making many mistakes along the way. She realized early on that making mistakes was a way to learn and would respond to her team with “well, now we know.”

5. Learn to pass the ball without looking.
Build a team with the right people who understand the company’s mission, goals and strategy. This will allow the team to ‘pass the ball without looking’.

On finding the right team, Nassif shared a story about her initial hiring for Caldrea. She would ask candidates if they were willing to bring their own desk to work with them. The hiring decision would often be based on the way they handled this question. If they were open to this idea, they would fit in well with the culture of her startup.

6. Enjoy the ride.
Do not spend so much of your time building the company that you forget to enjoy the process.

Nassif created a company to address the question ‘why can’t cleaning be great?’ Through the ups and downs of starting, building, and eventually selling the company, she strived to never get so caught up in the process that she forgot to enjoy the ride.

Monica Nassif founded the Caldrea Company in 1999 – a company devoted to creating luxurious, fragrant and earth-friendly household cleaners through two distinct brands – Caldrea for the specialty retail market, and Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day for the mass market. As chief executive officer, Nassif built a team to grow the company to more than 15,000 stores across the U.S. In April 2008, Nassif sold her business to S.C. Johnson. Two years later, she left the company to consider other possibilities.

Want to learn more about how the Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day concept began? This video tells the story: