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Women Of The C-Suite: “Someone once told me that your team doesn’t work for you, you work for your team.” with Gwen Burlingame and Katy Flannery, and Chaya Weiner

Work for your Team: Someone once told me that your team doesn’t work for you, you work for your team. This is great advice because when you give your best, you get their best and you push yourself further than you thought you could go. As a part of my series about strong female leaders, I […]


Work for your Team: Someone once told me that your team doesn’t work for you, you work for your team. This is great advice because when you give your best, you get their best and you push yourself further than you thought you could go.

As a part of my series about strong female leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Gwen Burlingame & Katy Flannery Co-founders of Beckon Ice Cream. The idea of Beckon Ice Cream was thought-up in a college dorm room by the now co-founders, Gwen Burlingame & Katy Flannery. Katy is lactose-intolerant and also an avid ice cream lover, but she wasn’t happy with the lactose-free ice cream options. Gwen, also an ice cream lover, felt that no one should miss out on true ice cream because of an intolerance. Together, they created Beckon Ice Cream and the brand is currently available nationwide at Whole Foods.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Katy: I grew up loving ice cream. It was something that my family always shared together but when I was in high school, I became lactose intolerant and couldn’t enjoy the treat I loved. Before starting Beckon, I was a Registered Nurse in the Pediatric ICU at Boston Children’s hospital and that career was instrumental in leading me here. When I began having dietary issues my background in health science helped me understand what was going on, which was that I was lactose intolerant. I couldn’t imagine giving up ice cream, my favorite dessert, and knew that there was a solution out there.

Gwen: I have always been a foodie and huge ice cream lover. When Katy first approached me with the idea, I was working in Marketing for a beauty company.

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?

Katy: When we first started the company, we sold our ice cream at a local Farmer’s Market in Boston. One day, while we were making a huge batch of Vanilla for the next day’s market, I accidentally added DOUBLE the salt that I should have. We couldn’t afford to trash the mix so we added even more sea salt, threw in some dark chocolate chips and created what is now our best selling flavor, Sea Salt Chocolate Chip. That taught me to be resilient, to think on my feet and that you can always make lemonade from lemons.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Gwen: Our ice cream is unique because we’re the only premium pint brand that is real ice cream, made from milk and cream, and completely lactose free. Our mission is to bring the joy of real ice cream to more people. Beckon stands out because of the uniqueness of our ice cream and the authenticity of our story. We built Beckon out of a real need, Katy’s lactose intolerance, and of friendship.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Katy: We’ve got some exciting new flavors in the works that haven’t previously been available to lactose intolerant ice cream lovers!

What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?

Gwen: Try to begin with the end in mind. It will help you stay focused and make decisions easier. Also, don’t feel like you have to say “yes” to every opportunity, like you may never get one again. Katy and I don’t like to disappoint people, so we were saying yes to everything and running ourselves ragged. This year we implemented a rule: the answer is always no, unless there is a really good reason why it’s yes. This has helped us pause, take a step back, and ask whether the opportunity is in line with our goals or is just a distraction.

What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?

Katy: We’re still a fairly small team but I would say that helping everyone on your team identify their superpower.

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 about that?

Gwen: There are so many people that have helped us at every stage of our business so far and we are extremely grateful. The founders of 88 Acres, Rob & Nicole, were two of our earliest mentors. We met them at Commonwealth Kitchen, back when we were selling at farmer’s markets, and they helped us dream big. They always answered our calls, gave us advice when we needed it, had us over for pizza when we were having a down day and celebrated our wins when they happened.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Katy: Ice cream is one of the few things in life that is purely for happiness and we want to spread that a little further.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

Lead with Vulnerability — Empathy, compassion and authenticity are so critical in being a good leader and it’s something that women do especially well. We’re still on our leadership journey but love this lesson we got from Brene Brown.

Everyone has a Superpower: Every person has something that they truly excel at. If you help your team identify and harness their superpower, it can be the magic that really moves the needle.

Surround yourself with intelligent people who have been there: Sometimes it is impossible to see beyond your most recent struggle. Having someone in your corner who has been where you are AND has gotten to where you want to go is invaluable because they can offer perspective that you can’t see in your current situation.

Work for your Team: Someone once told me that your team doesn’t work for you, you work for your team. This is great advice because when you give your best, you get their best and you push yourself further than you thought you could go.

Celebrate success: We have a hard time with this because it always feels like there is more to do but it’s important to look back at where you were and how far you’ve come.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire 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. 🙂

Katy: We want to inspire women and girls, when they see an obstacle or issue, to feel empowered to try to change it or create a solution.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Gwen: My favorite quote is from Martha Washington: “I’ve learned from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends on our disposition and not on our circumstances.” There will always be ups and downs, in real life and in startup life, but it’s important to keep perspective through it.

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 with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Katy & Gwen: Michelle Obama! She is the most incredible female leader and force.

Thank you so much for all of these great insights!

About the author:

Chaya Weiner is the Director of branding and photography at Authority Magazine’s Thought Leader Incubator. TLI is a thought leadership program that helps leaders establish a brand as a trusted authority in their field. Please click here to learn more about Thought Leader Incubator.

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