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Women in Business – Surviving the First Two Years: “Do something small for yourself that is unrelated to your business every single day.” Interview with Nicole Frankel

Interview with Nicole Frankel, founder of Yum Actually, on her experiences being a woman entrepreneur.

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Please tell us a bit about yourself, and describe your company.

I am a New York City-based mother of a 7-year-old daughter and 3-year-old twin boys. I am originally from Virginia but made the move to New York right after college with the intention of only staying in the city for two years. Fast forward 15 years and I still call this great city my home. Before founding Yum Actually, my background was in Financial Technology working at various start-ups. 

Three years ago, and shortly after having my twin boys, I decided to take some time off. It was during this time that I was confronted with a very common parenting problem. That is, my daughter went on a complete fruit and veggie strike and began refusing any sort of fruit or vegetable. After trying just about everything, I resorted to pureeing different fruits and veggies and turning them into something I knew she wouldn’t refuse – ice cream! She took one bite, looked up, and said “It’s yum actually!”. I considered how many other parents I knew with the same predicament, and the light bulb went on as I knew then that I had something special with this ice cream. Each cup of our ice cream contains a full serving of either a fruit or a vegetable. Our tagline is “The Yummiest way to eat Fruits & Veggies”. 

I spent about two years establishing the business and formulating an ice cream that is both nutrient-dense and lower in sugar –  officially launched Yum Actually in early 2020. 

What has been the most challenging thing you have faced in the first two years of operating your business? How did you overcome it?

The most challenging thing about operating Yum Actually would be the timing in which I launched the business. Little did I know when I first began selling my ice cream into stores, that we had a major global pandemic on the horizon. Our ice cream began by operating on a business-to-business model, and this obviously posed a large problem. 

After doing some research, I discovered that ice cream sales actually increase during recessions and times of hardship. This was the motivation I needed to keep pushing forward. I began showing up to stores wearing gloves, two masks, and body shields and pitching my ice cream brand to them (what a sight to behold!). Stores were receptive, and I managed to get into 50 different retailers. Additionally, I partnered with Grubhub and DoorDash so that NYC residents could get our ice cream through contactless delivery.

What are some of the biggest digital marketing challenges you have faced to date? How have you overcome them?

The biggest digital marketing challenge I have faced is learning how to effectively use social media for marketing. When launching a business, I recommend that everyone start out by posting their own content on social media. This will save money and it will also give off a more authentic feel, which is important in the beginning. That said, it isn’t easy. You have to have eye-catching graphics and captivating copy. I recommended finding a local photographer early on and getting between 20 and 25 solids photos to use over the next 6 months. Additionally, be prepared to pay for social media ads. Instagram has recently changed their algorithms in a way which makes it hard for a new account without a lot of followers to gain visibility. Paying for effective ads will help accomplish this and grow your account in the beginning. Use examples you’ve seen that have caught your eye as a guide. 

Please tell us what led you to the path of entrepreneurship. 

Growing up, I was always told that I “march to the beat of my own drum”. I always considered this a hindrance when I was younger, but I now see how that independent spirit has helped me on what is an oftentimes lonely entrepreneurial journey. Additionally, the experience I gained working at start-ups in my 20s provided me with both tough skin and useful knowledge on launching a scalable business. Each day, I promise myself that I will do something for my business that pushes me out of my comfort zone. I find that this helps me grow as an entrepreneur. 

What are the three most important things every woman entrepreneur should do, when first thinking about starting a business?

Get an NDA (non-disclosure agreement) in place. Very early on, you will likely need to consult with product development experts, lawyers, web developers, marketing professionals, etc. Before going into these conversations, get them to sign an NDA to protect your business idea and give you peace of mind. There are easy-to-find templates online. After all, you don’t want your brilliant idea to become someone else’s. 

Learn to say no. The day your title becomes CEO is the day that your inbox begins getting flooded with sales pitches. Oftentimes women like to people please and do not like to say no for fear of offending people. Learning to say “no” is an empowering step to reducing the noise that comes with launching a business. 

Starting a business is about as mentally draining as it gets. My advice to women is to do something small for yourself that is unrelated to your business every single day. This can be going for a walk in the park, taking a long shower, or my personal favorite – buying yourself an ice cream sundae. 

Are there actionable steps a woman in business should take to ensure that her company is successful in two years?

Begin scrutinizing your profit margins VERY EARLY ON. Oftentimes businesses will think that this is something they can begin focusing on after they have launched – Do not wait. You are guaranteed to run into many painful hidden costs along the way, and it is best to get a solid grip on them and incorporate them into your pricing structure before you launch. 

Also, join a local networking community. I have personally found Hey Mama, Specialty Food Association, and SCORE NYC to be invaluable resources during my time in business. 

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