By Nathan Carey
Like a musician who hears their band’s song on the radio for the first time, I am still in awe when I walk into a grocery store and see ProYo on the freezer shelf. It’s easy to get bogged down in the day-to-day, so I do my best to make time to reflect on the people who have helped me get to where I am today. From my high school teacher, Jamie DeVries, to fellow students and business mentors like Kevin Krieser, president and COO of Evy of California, and William McKinley, President & Owner Fruitstix, so many people have helped me get to where I am today.
While I don’t feign to have all the answers (I’m still learning, after-all), these days I get totally pumped to speak to young students about my own journey – the good and the challenges I’ve faced – because I know how those types of stories can help shape someone’s future. So, when I was recently asked to go back to my high school alma mater, San Marcos Entrepreneurship Academy, to speak to Mr. DeVries current students, I immediately said, “YES!”
Here’s a quick snidbit of some of the key lessons I shared with the students in my first two visits back at San Marcos:
- You’re never done – it’s a constant evolution. Just when you think you’ve perfected your product, something is guaranteed to pop up that will require you to pivot. For us, this happens time and again, like when an important national grocery buyer told us we needed to adjust the number of servings we have in a box of ProYo. I truly believe that when we stop evolving, our business will stop growing. As entrepreneurs our job should never be complete.
- It’s not all about you. While I do agree it takes someone with vision to create an innovative new product or company, that person can’t alone make a brand successful. Soon after creating ProYo, I quickly learned that while I had passion for my product, I was not a natural products industry vet or marketing guru, so I quickly brought on a team that I can learn from and that can help me realize my long-term vision, and I’ve already seen results in our growth.
- Be a networking machine. You can always learn something, even from a jerk. I also shared the value of networking and taking someone out to lunch, as you never know what you’ll learn. While you’re certain to learn beneficial business and career tips from a chill CEO who’s open to sharing, you can just as easily learn from a jerk who invites you to lunch. Sometimes, through exposure with even some bad seeds your future can be formed because you decide who you don’t want to become. Those experiences, or potentially a bad boss, can also help you learn how to deal with an awkward situation, and that lesson will be invaluable later in your career in other sticky situations or heated negotiations. Always be open to learning.
While I was the one asked to speak to the students, as I reflect back on these first two days back at San Marcos, I can honestly say that I’ve learned just as much from the students as I hope they have from me. I can’t wait to go back again soon!