Learn to separate your personal from your professional life. Leave your personal problems at the door and focus on the important things (this also applies to professional problems when you are having family time). There’s a time and a place for everything.
As a part of our series about 5 Things You Need To Run A Highly Successful Family Business, I had the pleasure of interviewing Alicia Torres Candé.
Alicia Torres Candè is the founder and CEO of Lasto Foods, unique silky nut butters in squeezable containers. As the CEO, Candé supervises production, corporate strategy, distribution and spearheads research and development for the brand.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I have many passions, but food is undoubtedly my biggest. Prior to starting my own company, I worked as a cook in restaurants in Mexico City for years. I absolutely loved it, but after some time I decided I needed a change. I moved to San Diego with my family while I looked for a job and started cooking from home in the meantime. I used a lot of nut butters in my cooking, especially to finish up plates. I would buy squeezable bottles and put store bought peanut butter in them to get that perfect drizzle, and at some point it clicked: why hasn’t anyone come up with a squeezable peanut butter? I told my sister, Alejandra, and my father about it, and that’s where it all started.
Can you tell us a bit about your family business and your role in it?
My sister and I founded the company, and our father Mauricio is our mentor. He is a successful entrepreneur and has helped us enormously with guidance and insight. We started two years ago with this idea and have been working on it full-time ever since. As a family-owned startup, we get to wear many hats, but as CEO of the company, I oversee our strategy, with a main focus on research, development and marketing. My sister Alejandra is the CFO. She manages administrative duties, taxes and finances and makes our execution impeccable. My father is our mentor, guiding us and pushing us.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began this career?
Our company took off right when the COVID-19 pandemic started, which is something we never would have expected. Like most business owners, we were a little scared at first with all of the uncertainty. It was hard to keep up at first, but we learned quickly and adapted to the circumstances. Thankfully, we grew really fast.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
There are many stories, but the funniest story that comes to mind is the time we had a machine filled with almond butter explode on us during a production day. Alejandra and I used to do everything at the beginning stages of the company — from cleaning the bottles, producing the butters, labeling and shipping. While using the machine to fill our bottles, it pushed out all of the almond butter! We were covered in almond butter from head to toe. The butter was on the floor so we couldn’t even walk, the kitchen was a mess and we lost all of the production of that day. We laugh at it looking back, but it was a real disaster.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
The simplicity and convenience of the product makes us stand out. I believe that less is always more, and this applies to every aspect of the company. We minimally process our product and use only the essential ingredients; our natural butters are made of either almonds or peanuts — that’s it! The flavored products also only have four or less ingredients in them. We want to have a product that is very honest and also very convenient. By removing one step in the cooking process, we make it easier for people to use it in their daily lives.
We are also very engaged in our community. We share a lot of recipes and invite wellness experts to talk about their knowledge and expertise with our customers. We try to do it in the most accessible way possible to benefit the majority of people.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
We have a lot of exciting things going on this year. We have new flavors coming up and other projects that we are currently working on. Part of what makes our company stand out is innovation, so we try to come up with new things on a consistent basis.
Part of our mission is to inspire living a healthier life, and we do this not only with our products but by building a strong like-minded community where we constantly share knowledge and tools to help our customers achieve this.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
It is very hard to name just one because we are very blessed to have a lot of people who have supported us along the way. But, I would say that we are very grateful towards my father. He is the one who has pushed us since the beginning stages of the brand. He’s been very supportive with his time and knowledge along the way and has helped us bring our vision to life.
We were born into a very entrepreneurial family, so business ideas and news are always a conversation topic around our table. I was always the kid who had a million business ideas and would always share them with my father. When we got serious about starting a business, we pitched a lot of ideas to him. What’s funny is that this wasn’t the idea I had for a business, but once I started bottling nut butters for myself and had my father try them, he said, “This is it; this is the one.”
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I like to help entrepreneurs who are getting started. I have always admired people who are willing to step outside the norm and make their dreams happen. I try to help out as much as I can. I’ve had people reach out to me for advice, and I always feel honored when they do.
Our brand is more than just products. We make a conscious effort to bring a community together and share valuable information to facilitate this lifestyle and encourage people to live healthier and happier lives.
Ok thank you for that. Let’s now pivot to the main parts of our interview. How do you define a family business? How is a family business different from a regular business?
A family business is any business in which two or more members of family are involved in it, when you share a common dream and work as a team to achieve it. This type of business does differ from a usual business. There should be strong rules around boundaries, guidelines on how to handle certain conflicts, an understanding of not involving family issues in the organization, an openness to including non-family members to the team and finally, clearly defined roles and responsibilities.
In your opinion or experience, what are the unique advantages that family owned businesses have?
A unique advantage to a family-owned business is that you know each other really well — both strengths and weaknesses — and that facilities teamwork enormously. I also think that family-owned businesses usually have a lot of commitment, unified leadership and accountability since we all share similar needs and desires. Usually, family-owned businesses are driven by a lot of passion, and that is great motivator.
What are the unique drawbacks or blindspots that family owned businesses have?
Family-owned business are often passion driven, and it’s very easy to let your emotional side blindside you. It is very important to try to be as objective as possible at the end of the day. Look at the data, measure and analyze and if there is a need to pivot, do it. If you need to invest more time or money on a certain thing, do it. If you need to change your strategy, do it. If you are someone who struggles with being objective, invite someone to the team who will make sure you see things from the right perspective.
What are some of the common mistakes you have seen family businesses make? What would you recommend to avoid those errors?
I think that the hardest part of having a family business is the ability to separate family issues from business. It is very important to set clear rules and boundaries at the time of founding. There is always a time and a place for everything. You talk about your work during business hours and about personal life in your personal time. We are very strict about this; it’s the only way to make it work in our opinion.
What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders of family businesses to help their employees to thrive?
Become a master talent spotter. If you find good talent, grab it and don’t let it go. Your team members are your greatest assets — you really cannot do it alone. Foster their growth and keep the team happy. Keep their working space as comfortable as possible, listen to their opinions and take them to heart, congratulate them on their success and give them feedback. Remember that a business has to be beneficial to all its parts: the owners, the workers and the clients.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean with a story or example?
Leadership to me is the ability to find the people who will join you in the pursuit of a common goal and to guide them towards it while influencing and inspiring them to be the best they can be. By doing this, you are not only empowering them but impacting your life and company too. A great measure of a company’s success is by the quality of the people who are in it.
Here is our main question. What are the “5 Things You Need To Run A Highly Successful Family Business”? Please share a story or example for each.
- Have specific roles. Have clear and concise roles and don’t cross over them.
- Become a pro at receiving constructive criticism. Even the brightest people have blind spots, and when it comes to running a company, ignorance is not bliss.
- Be prepared to pivot. A lot of things will not turn out as expected. Gather the information, learn from it and move on. And do it fast!
- Be patient. Practice patience towards yourself, your family, your team members and your business. Good things take time, and some things can’t be rushed.
- Learn to separate your personal from your professional life. Leave your personal problems at the door and focus on the important things (this also applies to professional problems when you are having family time). There’s a time and a place for everything.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I have this William Pollard quote on my desk that I look at daily: “The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow.” I love it because it encompasses what building and maintaining a successful business and life is all about: growth. I look at it every single day as a reminder to push a little harder, to see things from different perspective, to keep on going and to never stop evolving. Every single day I learn something new, my business or life changes and I adapt. Innovate or die. It’s that simple. As an entrepreneur, it be tough to hold yourself accountable, so these reminders that help you give “extra” can make up success.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
I have always struggled with these questions because there are so many people I look up to and would love to have a meal with, but I would say that business wise I would love to have a talk with John Mackey. I truly admire how he’s transformed the industry, his leadership style and his way of building a more conscious way of doing business. His passion and commitment towards making quality food more readily available is something that I look up to.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I strongly believe in the power that food has on our overall health, and a dream of mine is to inspire as many people as I can how to transition into this lifestyle and maintain it. Teaching kids from a young age to adopt healthier habits and introducing them to better quality food in schools is something that should be addressed immediately. I would love to see schools’ food systems improving with a greater emphasis on education around health, wellness and mental awareness at a very young age.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Visit www.lastofoods.com or follow us along on Instagram @lastofoods.
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.