Steven Cruz On How We Need To Redefine Success

Don’t Be Afraid to Sell: Entrepreneurs must sell to succeed. One of the biggest fears anyone faces is the fear of rejection. We don’t like to hear the word no and magnify the actual impact. To be successful, we have to get comfortable selling, whether to investors, employees, vendors, etc. Have you ever noticed how often […]

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Don’t Be Afraid to Sell: Entrepreneurs must sell to succeed. One of the biggest fears anyone faces is the fear of rejection. We don’t like to hear the word no and magnify the actual impact. To be successful, we have to get comfortable selling, whether to investors, employees, vendors, etc.


Have you ever noticed how often we equate success with more? Whether that’s more products, more profits, more activities or more accomplishments, we buy into the belief that we have to do more to have more to be more. And that will sum up to success. And then along comes The Great Resignation. Where employees are signaling that the “more” that’s being offered — even more pay, more perks, and more PTO — isn’t summing up to success for them. We visited with leaders who are redefining what success means now. Their answers might surprise you.

As a part of this series, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Steven Cruz.

Steven Cruz is the co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Hazel, an innovative femme care brand. He co-founded Hazel to bring empowering, groundbreaking products to women as they evolve through life.

With a background in corporate finance and data analytics, Steven began his career in public accounting and ultimately took his skillset to the consumer startup space. This better aligned with his personal mission to create change and build mission-driven companies. He joined the 3D Printing space to change the relationship between consumers and their physical products, and from there, he went on to lead FP&A and Strategic Finance at Plated, a meal-kit company. He scaled the business to a 300 million dollars acquisition to Albertsons. He then partnered with one of the Plated co-founders to build, validate, and scale a physical-space concept focused on the 50+ audience.

Steven built upon the raw and candid conversations with these members, which served as the genesis for Hazel. Steven has a B.S. in Public Accounting from the Gabelli School of Business at Fordham University.


Thank you for making time to visit with us about the topic of our time. Our readers would like to get to know you a bit better. Can you please tell us about one or two life experiences that most shaped who you are today?

Of course! It’s the story of my parents. Both are immigrants from Portugal coming from a long lineage of farmers. Believe it or not, we traced back our history, and as far back as we can go, this has remained the same since the start of time. When I say the same, I mean the generations before me lived in the same area, fielded the same lands, and the list goes on.

My parents, wanting more from life, decided to break this chain and try a new life in the US. My parents immigrated in their twenties without much education, ability to speak the language, and money to their names. That said, they found themselves a community in the US that was going through a similar experience and made it work. With a single action, they forever changed the course of history for their families. This was what I witnessed growing up, and it was infectious. I saw my parents take an unconventional path to the people before them and succeed through grit and perseverance.

We all have myths and misconceptions about success. What are some myths or misconceptions that you used to believe?

Growing up, I believed that success follows a linear path, and you have to wait your turn. Others defined it, and if you didn’t achieve it, you were considered a failure. The expectations were to go to college, decide and commit to a profession that you’d practice for the next 45+ years, and then wholly dependent on your hard work and intellect would dictate your varying levels of success — completely formulaic. This was and has remained chiefly the societal way of thinking. While my parents took a nontraditional path to success, they preached the same rhetoric, driven mainly by not wanting to risk it all. Witnessing and coming up with their success, I never fully believed it. In high school, I realized this definition of success was flawed. This was post dot-com bubble — but still, nascent internet times — a friend and I started an internet venture and made 5-figures in a single year before we could even legally drive.

How has your definition of success changed?

There is no shortage of answers to defining success, but the truth is that success is very personal. We all have our unique purpose, and success should be determined by what matters to you. It’s essential to go through this exercise as an individual to ground ourselves in our definition of success and have a north star to live a meaningful life.

In short, success is fluid — like time, it’s relative and subjective.

The pandemic, in many ways, was a time of collective self-reflection. What changes do you believe we need to make as a society to access success post pandemic?

Get comfortable in believing that anything can and will happen. It’s the first time most of us are living through a pandemic, albeit we knew this was always a potential reality. In trying to find the positive in all of this, we can apply that same mentality to our meaning of success. Said differently, don’t doubt your capabilities and refrain from trying because probability odds are low or against you. The reality is that it’s better to try and have a reaction than not try at all.

What do you see as the unexpected positives in the pandemic? We would love to hear a few of your stories or examples.

While the Great Resignation has led to labor shortages in the market, the overarching narrative is ultimately wrong. This isn’t fueled by greedy employees demanding higher wages. Instead, it’s a response to the reality of life we have lived the past two years. If anything, Covid has been an awakening for us to put value on where and who we want to work with. It may sound a bit cliche, but life is short. I believe that if allowed, people will always align themselves and their output to society to build the life they seek and choose value-creation and positive-sum outcomes.

We’re all looking for answers about how to be successful now. Could you please share “5 Ways To Redefine Success Now?”

  1. Your Word is the Most Powerful Thing you Have:

This is the key to building trust with others, but importantly, yourself. Successful people tend to overcommit. While there is plenty of virtue in commitment, overcommitment displays a lack of focus and the inability to say no. It’s important to say no to things that distract from our mission.

2. Don’t Reinvent the Wheel / Do More of What Already Works:

Entrepreneurs are constantly victims of reinventing the wheel. It’s the entrepreneur’s responsibility to determine if this is a new experience or if this has been solved before and to apply the best practice. 9 out of 10 times, the problem isn’t unique and can be solved with the proper counsel and the willingness to ask for help.

3. Don’t Be Afraid to Sell:

Entrepreneurs must sell to succeed. One of the biggest fears anyone faces is the fear of rejection. We don’t like to hear the word no and magnify the actual impact. To be successful, we have to get comfortable selling, whether to investors, employees, vendors, etc.

4. The Power of Compound Interest:

As Warren Buffet states, “Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world.” I don’t believe this statement is limited to financial markets. Improving by 1% each day isn’t noticeable, but these small incremental improvements compound as time goes on. If you get one percent better each day for a year, you’ll end up 37x better by the time you’re done.

5. Get a Team:

You are nothing without your team. To create a positive impact on the lives of many, you can’t do it alone; you need a team. A team isn’t just a group of people working at the same time at the same Company. A team is a group of individuals with various backgrounds and experiences who are committed to helping an organization achieve its goals and fulfill its purpose.

Progress, Not Perfection

While having standards is essential, perfectionism can be debilitating. Perfectionism kills dreams, and we’re all victims of falling the trap. Taking consistent action is more powerful than waiting to have all the plans in place. With action, we are able to get back a reaction and have more information on how to move forward. Said differently, there’s no way to improve and grow until you’re present and put yourself out there.

How would our lives improve if we changed our definition of success?

Our lives would be dramatically different! It would allow us to focus on ourselves and our north star. We could genuinely prioritize what matters most to us as individuals and not what we believe society values.

From there, we wouldn’t find the need to continue to compare ourselves to others and ask for their validation. Life is short, so stop surrounding yourself with people that don’t align with your definition of success.

With focus and the right people at our helms, we can increase our levels of happiness and meaning. If more of us changed our definition of success, we’d have better experiences dealing with depression and anxiety.

What’s the biggest obstacle that stands in the way of our redefined success? And what advice would you offer about overcoming those obstacles?

Our egos are typically the first thing that stands in the way of achieving success. It stands in the form of learning, asking for help, and being vulnerable. When you get rid of your ego, you get rid of your limitations.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help, and constantly challenge the way you think.

Where do you go to look for inspiration and information about how to redefine success?

My go-to places are typically books, like biographies and other works of non-fiction and podcasts. I’m a pretty avid reader/podcast listener, so I’ll include a few titles that come to mind:

  • Books:
  • The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz
  • Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike by Phil Knight
  • The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg
  • Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t by Jim Collins
  • Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek
  • Podcasts:
  • Exponent by Ben Thompson
  • Business Breakdowns
  • Trapital
  • Masters of Scale
  • Acquired

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, and why? He, she or they might just see this if we tag them.

Phil Knight, the founder of Nike has been a role model and an inspiration to me and my journey. His story is filled with hardship and conflict, but that’s typical of any market creator. Nike succeeded because they always focused on the customer. This has led to customer-led product innovation and marketing campaigns we’re still talking about years later. Most importantly, this focus has enabled the brand to be clear and consistent on who they are, what they do, and who they serve.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Follow me on LinkedIn!

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this. We wish you continued success and good health.

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