Perseverance: When describing what it’s like to persevere as an entrepreneur and leader, I like to use the phrase, “There are a lot of highs and lows and not a lot in between.” It’s the best reminder to me to push through the lows because they are temporary! And you must lean on the highs to carry you through the difficult times.” One time that we really had to persevere was during a packaging misprint which is a major issue when dealing with food products. Our loyal customers were very quick to notice that our nutritional facts didn’t line up quite right and we had to move super fast to fix it. We worked so many hours on the issue itself but we also had to focus extra attention on our customers. We sent out a very authentic apology letter and the openness and honesty really helped mend our relationship with a lot of people. Honesty is always the way to go and I think they really appreciated that.
As part of my series about the leadership lesson of accomplished business leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Amy Lacey, the Owner & Founder of Cali’flour Foods. Amy believes that eating healthy should taste as good as it makes you feel. Most people are tired of sacrificing flavor for health, which is why she developed the first no-mess, no-stress cauliflower pizza crust that actually satisfies cravings and nourishes the body.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder and wanted to find a way to still enjoy my favorite foods without getting sick. After a lot of testing in my own kitchen, fresh cauliflower proved to be a great substitute for flour, and I eventually landed on a winning recipe for pizza crusts that are not only gluten free and grain free, but taste great!
Can you share your story of Grit and Success? First can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
In order to be a successful entrepreneur, you must persevere through challenges and turn them into learning opportunities. I had a difficult time starting out, as I was working with a partner whose vision for the company didn’t align with mine. Ultimately, we parted ways and I learned the importance of working with people who are like-minded in values and understand/support my vision.
Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
This was a very tough time, as we were just getting started and I didn’t want our momentum to slow down. My drive came from the amazing customers we had and the chance to change even more lives. I’m SO passionate about bringing healthy food to America’s dinner tables. There are millions out there that suffer from autoimmune diseases, diabetes or have critical dietary restrictions, and they are why I do what I do. I am one of them. I know what it’s like to need foods that don’t trigger your body to fight back in ways that run you down. I know what it’s like to want to participate in Friday pizza night with the family. The customer will always be my driving force. I live to serve them. When I am down or overwhelmed, I think of all of the people that are counting on this company. I love to read their encouraging words on social media posts and in my email. I often go back to old voicemails from customers thanking us for what we do. It’s incredibly inspiring!
So, how are things going today? How did Grit lead to your eventual success?
You have to get up every day and live out your mission. No matter how tired, worried or insecure you might be. There hasn’t been one day in the last 3 years where I’ve been stagnant. Every day I have made moves, and, yes, sometimes they have taken me backward. But most often, they have turned into giant leaps forward. I just keep on keeping on, as the saying goes.
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 out, I was serving samples at our local farmers market. And I mean thousands of samples. So, in an effort to make things move faster, I stopped measuring. I was moving full steam ahead, adding a pinch of this and a pinch of that. Well, in all of the madness, I accidentally swapped the amounts needed for cheese and eggs. The outcome was a quiche! It was horrible at the time but very funny to look back on now. My family ate a lot of quiche that week and the poor farmers market ended up with only cauliflower rice and zucchini noodles. So many lessons came from this. 1- Work smart, not hard. If I had just slowed down and taken a breath I would have easily caught the mistake before I made it, and I wouldn’t have wasted my time or materials. 2- Perspective is key. All of this happened because I was trying to crank out as much product as possible, and the outcome was NO product at all that week. So sad! I wish I had just taken the perspective that everything would be fine even if I didn’t make as many samples as I had set out to do that day.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Our company stands out for being authentic, real and transparent. We’ve had a lot of people with diabetes write in to us and say that their blood sugars would rise after eating our pizza. We always ask them to take a picture of the packaging of their pizza, even if it means digging it out of the garbage. It is NEVER our product. Marketing can be deceiving, and there are a lot of cauliflower products out there. It’s so important to read the ingredients! This is especially true for a company that’s claiming to be the “healthiest” version of something or that they “sell more than anyone else.” Look at the label. With many of our competitors you will see added sugar, high carbs and fillers, so of course, it will raise blood sugars. Our pizza is made with healthy, simple ingredients. We hate it when people have brand confusion, and so we try our best to educate them as well as we can!
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
– Do not focus on the money! You should only produce a product that you believe in and that helps others. If you do it for the money, your drive will eventually fizzle. If you do it for the right reasons, however, the passion will carry you through the hard times. The money will eventually follow.
– Lean on your customers and their testimonials to guide you and keep you motivated.
– Never give up and keep pushing through, but allow yourself time to rest. You will burn out if you are exhausted. Make sleep a priority. Make working out a priority. Make eating right a priority. Make spending time with family and friends a priority. Take care of your physical and mental self so that you can keep grinding on!
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?
Oh yes! I have advisors and attorneys that have worked tirelessly alongside me in the middle of the night and on weekends. I am so grateful to them. I also have a team that is full of passion, the desire to pay it forward, love for me, the products and their teammates. Having a like-minded team like this has been an amazing blessing and the company would not be so successful without them. With that said, the most important person who has been by my side since the beginning is Jimi, my COO and the soon to be Vice President of Retail Operations. Jimi is the one that prays with me, cries with me, has sacrificed family time, vacations and her own dreams to make this company successful. She is the first one I call at 6am every day with the exception of Sunday. She has traveled the world with me to make this product even better. She has lifted me up and literally been my angel for the last 3 years. Don’t get me wrong, we butt heads and it would not be a true, authentic relationship if we didn’t. But some of our best success has come from doing so and our learning from failures. She is my true partner in this company and I’m forever grateful to her!
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
Our 5 P’s of success that we now use at Cali’flour Foods.
1- Paying it forward: It’s important to have a humble and giving heart; being other-centered, rather than self-centered. I truly believe that the more you give the more you receive, and I’ve built my business around that mantra. Even when the company was in the negative, we always made sure to find ways to pay it forward, and we continue to do so to this day. Whether it’s through contributing to an employee’s dream charity or a cause that we believe in like the Lupus Foundation, we’re happy to help. It doesn’t always have to be money or material items either. Your time and energy can be so valuable as well. Looking back over the years, the most cherished gift I’ve ever given was donating supplies and money to the Camp Fire evacuees and victims here in California. We spent countless hours cooking up fresh pizzas and welcoming them into our brick and mortar shop. The time spent with them was such a blessing and really quite healing for all of us. The relationships you build are everything. Always pay it forward!
2- Product: I’ve said it many times before that you have to be passionate about your product in order to find the grit it takes to be successful. Building a business isn’t easy, and it’s not always fun. But if you have the determination you’ll keep pushing through to the end. At Cali’flour Foods, we are so proud of the product we have made that we truly want it to be on every dinner table in America. It’s not for the money, but rather because it’s just plain good for you and we want to positively make an impact on lives! We use simple, fresh ingredients that satisfy those with autoimmune disorders, diabetes, dietary restrictions and those wanting to lose weight or simply eat healthier.
3- People: I believe that people and relationships are some of the most precious gifts we have in this life. Surround yourself with those that are like minded to you and build one another up! I love the phrase “stay in your lane.” As soon as you determine that you are not knowledgeable in a certain area, hire someone that excels in this space. Always surround yourself with people that know more than you do. I have done this in my business and it’s one of my favorite things about the group of people I have hired both internally and through external partnerships.
4- Perseverance: When describing what it’s like to persevere as an entrepreneur and leader, I like to use the phrase, “There are a lot of highs and lows and not a lot in between.” It’s the best reminder to me to push through the lows because they are temporary! And you must lean on the highs to carry you through the difficult times.” One time that we really had to persevere was during a packaging misprint which is a major issue when dealing with food products. Our loyal customers were very quick to notice that our nutritional facts didn’t line up quite right and we had to move super fast to fix it. We worked so many hours on the issue itself but we also had to focus extra attention on our customers. We sent out a very authentic apology letter and the openness and honesty really helped mend our relationship with a lot of people. Honesty is always the way to go and I think they really appreciated that.
5- Passion: If you are not 100% passionate about what you are doing, then move on. We are only here for a finite amount of time so there is no reason to waste your time and energy on something you don’t love. You have to believe in yourself and be willing to chase your dreams. I chose to make a message out of my mess and look where it has gotten me!
You are a person of great influence. If you could start 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’d definitely want to lobby for stricter laws regarding what is allowed in our food. For starters, I would ban the 20% rule that allows companies to be up to 20% off from the true ingredients they list on a label. This is just crazy! Additionally, I’d like to get some of the harmful fillers still used here in the U.S. banned. I believe it’s one of the reasons why we are among the unhealthiest countries in the world, and I also believe that our healthcare system is going to cause economic harm if we don’t act fast and get people eating better.
I would also rally for stricter marketing laws. People are so impressionable; especially these days living in such a digital world. A company shouldn’t be able to make the claim that they’re “the healthiest pizza in America” unless they truly are! That’s why at Cali’flour Foods we want to empower our customers. We encourage them to read labels and look closely at nutritional facts like sugar, carbs and sodium content. With our simple ingredient lists, we allow them to have great insight into exactly what they’re putting into their body. Educating the consumer is key!
How can our readers follow you on social media?
They can follow along with Cali’flour Foods on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter at @califlourfoods! They can also follow my journey at @heyamylacey on Instagram.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!