“5 things I wish someone told me before I became a CEO” with Anne Hulett of Rock Grace

Don’t overspend in the beginning — it gets really tempting to spend quick and raise money and spend a bunch of money on advertising and sponsorships and your go-to-market plan, but you learn so much in the first year and start to build a relationship with your customers that is so valuable. It is worth waiting a […]

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Don’t overspend in the beginning — it gets really tempting to spend quick and raise money and spend a bunch of money on advertising and sponsorships and your go-to-market plan, but you learn so much in the first year and start to build a relationship with your customers that is so valuable. It is worth waiting a bit so you are ready for what you wish for. I’d much rather grow organically,slower because this means the product is quality and loved. Also remind yourself you aren’t doing your business for fame and fortune and you stay grounded and true to your mission and vision.

As a part of our series about strong women leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Anne Hulett. Anne is the Founder and CEO of Rock Grace. She created Rock Grace to fill a gap of there not being anything exciting, healthy, and interesting to drink in the non-alcoholic beverage category. Before Rock Grace, Anne owned a health and wellness lifestyle business leveraging her degree in nutritional science and worked in senior product development and marketing positions at early stage health startups as well as Expedia, Inc. She is married to Matt Hulett, President of Rosetta Stone, and a proud mom of their 9-year-old son, Pete.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

I wanted to improve the quality of my own lifestyle by cleaning up my diet and beauty routine and exploring natural health remedies for stress and anxiety. I couldn’t find a lifestyle that worked for me that involved being social while practicing self-care and I wasn’t finding the right advice on anxiety relief and lifestyle changes that made me feel good and aligned with who I am.

I found several lovely health and beauty products promoting wellness and balance to use for my daily routine, but couldn’t find a substitute for alcohol that promoted relaxation, positive energy, wellness, and beauty. I saw a huge gap, in a space I define as next generation drinking, for non-alcoholic beauty and wellness beverages designed for people that love to drink alcohol and want to start drinking with intention and without the hangover. There weren’t any good drink options between the extremes of Veuve and Duckhorn to Le Croix and NA Beer.

I believed non-alcoholic didn’t have to be boring and wanted to add excitement to the non-alcoholic beverage options offered while being social, glamorous, enjoying down time, and taking the edge off. I saw a world where if you didn’t want to drink alcohol, you also didn’t have to drink beverages with non-alcoholic screaming on the label, you didn’t have to order a mocktail, you didn’t have to experiment with mixing water based beverages together, or drink something unhealthy, but non-alcoholic or drink way more club soda than you ever imagined and as a bonus you would be drinking something with beauty and wellness benefits, drinking with purpose. I wanted something to celebrate with that didn’t take away from all of the healthy habits I had put in place and didn’t have all of the negative side effects I experienced from alcohol, but would still help manage stress and anxiety in a clean and natural way and give me the sensation of taking a break and having a glass of fine wine.

After extensive research on alternative health remedies, I grew a deep fascination with and passion for crystals and adaptogens and their healing powers. I noticed the power these two energy balancers contained, the harmony they created, combined the two, and what I was looking for was born, Rock Grace.

I started making Rock Grace in my kitchen for myself. It was over a course of a year of research and trying out different mixtures of ingredients from local health and wellness stores in Seattle when I finally came up with the recipe that Rock Grace is today. My background in nutritional science and my love of premium wine influenced my final creation.

My first batch of Rock Grace was all natural, calorie and sugar free, looked identical to rosé and gave me the feel of having a glass of fine wine. I knew I had created something special that didn’t exist anywhere else and could help a lot of people. I started bottling my beverage myself and doing local tastings, but quickly realized I would need to find experts in the beverage industry to help me take Rock Grace to the next level allowing me to share Rock Grace with a broader audience. I found them and the rest is history.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

I attended the In Goop Health Summit in NYC for Rock Grace inspiration and had the opportunity to meet Gwyneth Paltrow which I was really excited about. I also stayed at Bobbi Brown’s hotel, The George Inn, in Montclair, NJ for a Rock Grace business trip and it ended up connecting us so I was able to have beauty legend Bobbi Brown taste Rock Grace which was a lot of fun.

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?

When I first started Rock Grace I had no idea how to take my recipe and turn it into a marketable beverage and high quality product. I started thinking about the beverages in the industry that I liked and respected and REBBL really stood out to me so I decided to LinkedIn message Sheryl O’Loughlin, who was the CEO of REBBL at the time. I think this is when most successful entrepreneurs say ignorance is to your benefit in the beginning because you do things that aren’t protocol because you have such a strong drive and passion to figure things out. She got back to me surprisingly and said that she didn’t have the bandwidth to talk, but that I should read her book “Killing It, An Entrepreneur’s Guide to Keeping Your Head Without Losing Your Heart’. So I did and this was a great read for me at the time and I LinkedIn messaged Sheryl again and let her know that I read the book and I loved it and picked up some great tips and was going to keep driving forward trying to figure out Rock Grace. She ended up agreeing to have a call with me and I studied for about a week what I was going to say and ask her, I had pages of notes, researched REBBL and its history, I watched her in online interviews and when I got on the phone with her I was extremely intimidated and she wanted me to start asking specific questions and I completely froze. She ended up giving me some excellent points to think about and I asked her at the end if she could give me one slice of advice, what would it be and she said “always be prepared”. I laughed to myself thinking “if she only knew how much I had prepped a lot for the call” but, what I learned was, always be prepared more than you think you need to be prepared, think deeper, relevant, and specific. Certain situations take practice, but I am always extremely prepared in the right way thanks to Sheryl.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. What is it about the position of CEO or executive that most attracted you to it?

I was never attracted to the position of CEO, but right now I am a one woman show so it makes the most sense at this point in time. As Eleanor Roosevelt said “Do the things you think you cannot do”, it’s working out so far☺.

Most of our readers — in fact, most people — think they have a pretty good idea of what a CEO or executive does. But in just a few words can you explain what an executive does that is different from the responsibilities of the other leaders?

The CEO has the ultimate responsibility for keeping the business, the mission and vision alive. Everyone else helps, but the CEO is like being a parent and the business is their child, the other leaders are like family, they are extremely important and valuable and key to the overall outcome, but they can take step away as need, the CEO position is all in and has full ownership of the future of the business.

What is the one thing that you enjoy most about being an executive?

I like playing in the game and not being on the sidelines. It’s extremely rewarding to see your vision and efforts come to life and to be able to mix intuition with business skills to overcome challenges and drive success.

What are the downsides of being an executive?

You just have to be careful of burnout, you are fully immersed so you have to figure out how to do a good job and stay healthy.

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a CEO or executive. Can you explain what you mean?

That CEOs know what they are doing. I’ve listened to so many podcasts and there is a common theme that CEOs start out not knowing what they are doing. So in my mind CEOs go for it, problem solve, think strategically, get experts involved where necessary, know their numbers, and are risky not reckless though.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women executives that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?

In my opinion, it is just speaking up and getting the confidence and stage to say what is on our mind. It is important for women to learn how to articulate their ideas and thoughts because they are really powerful and I don’t feel like this always comes naturally to us or can also be challenged for some. There is a lot of intelligence and insight being held back that we need to learn how to share and communicate effectively.

What is the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?

Everything takes more time than you anticipate so patience is key. I always look at companies I admire and then look at a point where they started from and it reminds me that success doesn’t happen overnight, at least not in the beverage business.

Certainly, not everyone is cut out to be an executive. In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful executive and what type of person should avoid aspiring to be an executive?

You need a strong sense of self and you need to be mentally and physically healthy. If you are mentally and physically healthy, you can handle more, you can instill good habits into your business routine, you have some sense of work-life balance and self-care and you can give more back to your company and have the energy and clarity to work smarter and more effectively. You also need a lot of confidence to own your idea and articulate your mission and vision.

What advice would you give to other women leaders to help their team to thrive?

Live your business mission and vision. Be a good influence and role model. This is inspiring and motivating to your team and they will want to follow in your footsteps and support you.

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?

My husband, Matt Hulett. Without his support and encouragement I wouldn’t have continued thinking big and going for it. He really embraced my idea and was my biggest fan throughout the process. He would slyly slide advice my way, send me podcasts with successful female entrepreneurs who had a similar story to mine, put on motivational videos and just say the right thing at the right time that really kept me going when things got hard and helped me overcome any doubt or fear of executing on my idea.

How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

Rock Grace is inspiring people to live their best life and giving them a tool to do so. We are encouraging and amplifying positive thinking and we are giving people a lovely alternative to alcohol that makes them feel good, supports their health and wellness intentions and goals, and promotes well-being. Rock Grace also gives back 3% of their quarterly net profits to Shatterproof, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to ending the devastation addiction causes families. While creating Rock Grace I did a lot of research on alcoholism and the effects alcohol problems have on families and children and was really taken aback by two statistics:

  1. Over 7.5 million children live with a parent that has alcohol problems
  2. 43 percent of American adults have been exposed to the problem of alcoholism in the family, either as something they grew up with or something they experienced with a spouse or a partner.

I know Rock Grace will help lower these numbers in a powerful and graceful way.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. No one cares about your product as much as you do and there isn’t anyone there to advocate for you; you must do it yourself
  2. You haven’t found the right person if you keep hearing “no” to something you want done, I reached out to 100 co-packers before my current co-packer said, “yes, I can do that”
  3. Pick and choose advise wisely — people are going to give you advice that throws you off; stick to your gut and do your research
  4. There isn’t a need to move too quickly — get your name out there, but take the necessary time to build and grow a quality product that can scale
  5. Don’t overspend in the beginning — it gets really tempting to spend quick and raise money and spend a bunch of money on advertising and sponsorships and your go-to-market plan, but you learn so much in the first year and start to build a relationship with your customers that is so valuable. It is worth waiting a bit so you are ready for what you wish for. I’d much rather grow organically,slower because this means the product is quality and loved. Also remind yourself you aren’t doing your business for fame and fortune and you stay grounded and true to your mission and vision.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

I want people to find their Rock Grace happy place. Where you feel empowered and there is no desire for escape. Reality and fantasy are one and the same; it is a place that is authentic and pure, where your mind is healthy and clear and you feel beautiful and strong from within. Our goal is to let people know this place exists and inspire others to discover their Rock Grace happy place.

Living the Rock Grace lifestyle means you are taking care of yourself and being mindful about what you are putting in your body without feeling deprived or isolated. It is a desire to feel good in the moment and in the future and to live a fulfilled, healthy and beautiful lifestyle.

Many people can’t drink alcohol without it interfering with their intentions, goals and health. They may want to cut back on alcohol, but they still want to be social and drink beautiful drinks in beautiful glasses in beautiful settings. Rock Grace allows them to do this and gives people the opportunity to imbibe in next generation drinking by providing beauty and wellness crystal elixirs bottled and ready to drink in social settings. Their happy place of drinking, relaxing and socializing can still exist without alcohol.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“In the midst of movement and chaos, keep stillness inside of you.” Deepak Chopra Life and your business are going to throw you curveballs and challenging things are going to happen, but if you can stay healthy and keep yourself balanced and solid through it all, you won’t let the movement and chaos break you down and consume all of your valuable energy. This takes a long time to master, but it is so beneficial to manage and handle life and business successfully.

We are very blessed that some very prominent 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

Gwyneth Paltrow, I love her style and her philosophy to make every choice count. I admire her discipline and drive, her love for quality products and people and beautiful places and things and her inspiration to create a healthy lifestyle you enjoy and that makes you feel good. She also encourages people to live their best life and create a lifestyle they love so I really respect that she sees the importance in this mission and puts herself out there. I listened to her podcast with Reid Hoffman on Masters of Scale and really enjoyed hearing more about her story and how she started Goop and made the decision to be CEO. It would be amazing to actually sit down with her live and have a real conversation with her about Goop and the journey.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.

— — — — — —

About the author:

Phil La Duke is a popular speaker & writer with more than 350 works in print. His most recent book is Lone Gunman: Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence Prevention listed as #16 on Pretty Progressive magazine’s list of 49 books that powerful women study in detail. Follow Phil on Twitter @philladuke

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