Tips From The Top: One On One With Jeanne David

I spoke to Jeanne David, founder and CEO of Outer Aisle, about her journey and best advice

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Adam: Thanks again for taking the time to share your story and your advice. First things first, though, I am sure readers would love to learn more about you. What is something about you that would surprise people?

Jeanne: My coffee shop alias is “Fifi,” just for fun. Jeanne can be tricky for people (it sounds like Zhahn – I was born and raised in New Orleans, where we use the French pronunciation). So, I adopted Fifi to make things a little easier for everyone – plus, who doesn’t love a good alias.

Another thing most people don’t know about me is that in high school I had dreams of becoming a female pro football player.

Adam: How did you get here? What experiences, failures, setbacks or challenges have been most instrumental to your growth?

Jeanne: I was interested in business from an early age. In fact, I started my first business when I was just 10 years old – it was a summer camp at my house for kids ages 2-5. I made my own fliers and delivered them door-to-door to families in my neighborhood. It was a huge success – I hit “maximum capacity” and still have the flier today!

The idea for Outer Aisle Cauliflower Sandwich Thins and Cauliflower Pizza Crusts was born from mine and my husband’s decision several years ago to change the way we ate by cutting out sugar and processed carbs and increasing the amount of vegetables in our diets. As two people who absolutely love good-tasting, rich foods, we couldn’t stand the blandness that often comes with eating more healthily. So, I experimented with vegetables as a substitute for other ingredients in our favorite foods, and my two best creations were my cauliflower sandwich thins and pizza crusts. They allowed us to keep eating the delicious sandwiches, tacos, lasagnas and pizzas we love without the carb crashes or detrimental health effects.

One of the biggest challenges I faced was my own hesitation to bring my products to market. As I started sharing my cauliflower sandwich thins and pizza crusts with the people I loved, my family encouraged me to launch my own product line. With their love and support, I finally decided that was the right path for me, and I wouldn’t change that decision for the world now.

I always try to look at any failures, setbacks and challenges as opportunities for growth. Without those experiences, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. 

Adam: What advice do you have on selling to retailers? How were you able to get your products into chains like Whole Foods?

Jeanne: Tell your true story, but make sure you tell it in a compelling way that is built around how your specific product fulfills the consumer’s needs. Humanize your brand with your experience and tell retailers why people want and need your products.

Adam: More broadly, what are your best sales, branding and marketing tips?

Jeanne: In sales, you have to use fact-based selling. Collect your sales data and use that data to convince buyers that they want your product on their shelves based on your velocities.

For branding, it’s all about telling your unique story and connecting with your community, whether it’s right in your own hometown or across the country.

And for marketing, you must hire the best! Build a company that attracts and can hang onto top-tier talent so you can build a solid brand.

Adam: What other advice do you have for entrepreneurs?

Jeanne: One of the best things you can do for yourself and your business is to surround yourself with people who are better than you. More specifically, find a mentor or two in the same or a similar field.

Also – you’ve heard it a million times before – but for whoever needs to hear it right now, never give up.

Adam: In your experience, what are the defining qualities of an effective leader? How can leaders and aspiring leaders take their leadership skills to the next level?

Jeanne: Every effective leader I admire leads by example, acts as a chief motivator, is a better listener than talker and has heaping helpings of unrelenting tenacity and commitment to excellence.

Leaders get to the ever-present “next level” by surrounding themselves with an excellent team, serving that team, communicating well and by continually practicing and displaying their gratitude.

Adam: What is your best advice on building, leading and managing teams?

Jeanne: Build with gratitude. Always be available to your team. Set clear roles and expectations. Delegate effectively and efficiently – you can’t do it all on your own.

Adam: What is the single best piece of advice you have ever received?

Jeanne: You are only as good as the team you surround yourself with. Build a good team. One of my mentors early on helped me understand that one person cannot possibly have the skills and talents of a team. A team balances each person and adds strength to the group. A single person can only take a company so far, no matter how smart you are or how hard you work. 

Adam: What is one thing everyone should be doing to pay it forward?

Jeanne: I am a big advocate for servant leadership. When you’re in a position to pay-if-forward, look for opportunities to serve others – your colleagues, employees, customers, communities. 

Adam: What are your hobbies and how have they shaped you?

Jeanne: Running marathons is one of my favorite hobbies. Running taught me discipline, focus, drive and persistence – not to mention appreciation for the incredible rush that comes with reaching a finish line!

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