Welcome to our special section, Thrive on Campus, devoted to covering the urgent issue of mental health among college and university students from all angles. If you are a college student, we invite you to apply to be an Editor-at-Large, or to simply contribute (please tag your pieces ThriveOnCampus). We welcome faculty, clinicians, and graduates to contribute as well. Read more here.
1. Tell me a little bit about your background. What did you study and how did you know that you want to go into business and entrepreneurship?
Entrepreneurship runs in my family. My father moved my family from South Africa after he purchased and end-of-line packaging company in Chicago. I attended Indiana University where I majored in production in design. After college, I worked for the Game Show Network and then for my father’s business in the marketing department. After I got married and had kids, the idea for Petal came to me during a workout class. I decided to go for it and Petal was created!
2. What jobs did you work in before Petal, and how did those experiences translate into your role now?
After college, I worked in sales at the Game Show Network and then worked at the marketing department at my family’s business. At both companies, I learned so much about marketing, sales and manufacturing. All three were key components for building the Petal brand.
3. There’s always a lot of doubt when you are starting a new business. It’s different from working for another company because you take full ownership and you have to keep pushing and growing. What gave you the courage to start Petal?
My grandmother was my inspiration to create Petal and most definitely my source of courage. She was a rebel, a romantic and a true boss lady. Both my grandparents and my parents have been incredible role models as entrepreneurs and as people. Their positive attitudes have been encouraging and contagious. I created Petal to honor the role models that came before me and to give something back for the next generation. I want to be a role model for my two little girls and inspeire them in the same way my grandparents and parents inspired me. I am passionate about making better-for-you choices when it comes to beverages.
4. What are the biggest challenges of running Petal? What was the most surprising challenge?
Every day is a new challenge. From research and development to distribution, every aspect of the business is challenging. I am surprised all the time that this little idea has grown so quickly into something that consumers enjoy!
5. How did you test the taste and brand your drink? How did you discover the market for Petal?
I am the Petal market! As a consumer, I was sick of drinks that were either full of sugar or artificially sweetened. Consumers are demanding better-for-you beverages and I want to revive the ancient botanicals. We went through so much R&D to come up with the perfect Petal taste. In terms of branding, I had a strong vision and gathered the best partners to help bring it to life. I wanted to create something beautiful and empowering that stands out in the beverage cooler.
6. A lot of college students today are worried about not knowing what they want to do after graduation. A lot of business-oriented students are considering going into consulting and investment banking to accumulate experience before starting their companies. Would do you think? Would you recommend it? Or would you say there are disadvantages to this train of thinking?
I can relate! I’ve worked with a lot of people who have a lot of experience in a lot of different fields. A lot of those that have helped me along the way have those skills they learned in consulting or some form of investment banking. They play an important role in my business. For me, the best way to learn is to do. I think if you want to understand how an entrepreneur thinks, you have to be one.
7. What advice do you have for college students who want to go into business/entrepreneurship?
Take your time gaining real life experiences. Go work for someone in a field that interests you. Once you have an idea set goals and conquer them!
8. The entrepreneurship lifestyle is exciting but also filled with uncertainties. How would you compare starting your own company to your previous roles working for other companies?
Every now and then I smile to myself about the chaos. I am actually really grateful for it. I compare my brand to a newborn baby because Petal is my third child. They say it takes a village to raise a child, and Petal is no different. Your own brand should be something that consumes you and you put your heart and soul into.
9. What’s your vision for Petal and how do you plan to grow it further?
My vision is to send an empowering message to our consumers to live their best life and radiate their inner rebel. We just recently expanded to the West Coast this year and I plan to grow the Petal brand from coast to coast! More so, we introduced three new flavors this Spring, so I’m excited to play more with the full flower “queendom!”
10. Did you always know you want to be an entrepreneur or was there something that sparked that as you were working?
The idea for Petal blossomed as a young girl. I used to have teatime every afternoon with my grandmother and I have always made my own teas. As floral flavors started trending, I thought this was my time to introduce ancient elixirs and botanicals in an organic and better-for-you beverage to consumers. Botanicals are too beautiful independently to be mixed with anything artificial. I wanted to create that clean label beverage.
11. What’s one piece of advice that you would give to your 18-year-old self?
Stick to your gut and believe in the journey!
Subscribe here for all the latest news on how you can keep Thriving.
More on Mental Health on Campus: