Keep It Simple Syrup® or Kiss®, a product free of artificial additives such as flavor, color, sweetener or preservatives1, was just an ‘idea’ when Susan reached out to her SCORE mentor John Anderson. John was able to assist Susan with marketing, developing a business plan, pricing, and even assisting with creating vision and mission statements. “He is a reliable, candid sounding board, thought partner, and trusted friend,” says Susan.
Since working with SCORE, Susan has turned her idea into a growing product that is available online and in over 200 retails stores in eight states.
During our interview, Susan shares how she started her business, why she admires a leading women entrepreneur and advice for other business women or aspiring entrepreneurs.
How Keep It Simple Syrup® began:
"Just three months after relocating from midtown Manhattan to Richmond, VA for a senior-level role with a financial services company, my entire department of 200 people was eliminated. While looking for another full-time position, I decided to work part-time at Starbucks due to their notorious health insurance benefits. As a Barista, I couldn’t help but notice the popularity of flavoring syrups. Reading the labels, however, shocked me as I discovered they were loaded with artificial additives. I began paying attention to the ingredients in other flavoring syrup brands and cocktail mixers. Sure enough, I kept seeing the same things: high-fructose corn syrup, artificial flavors, artificial colors, potassium sorbate, sodium benzoate, and the like. This struck me as odd: We pay premium prices for top-shelf spirits, high-quality coffee, tea, and other beverages, and yet we tarnish them with artificial flavors, sweeteners, colors, & preservatives. I decided to develop a product that would bridge the gap in the premium beverage market, while simplifying the process of making high-end cocktails at home."
Susan who admires Bethenny Frankel, creator of Skinnygirl Cocktail for her “vision and fortitude”says she is very "proud" of the increase of women-owned businesses from 8.6 million to 9.1 million in 2013. Although the business owner is very proud of the accomplishment, she knows it takes more then just gender to become successful, “successful business ownership has nothing to do with gender. It’s all about desire, creativity, resourcefulness, opportunity, and perseverance. Women do not lack these characteristics, as the numbers show,” says Susan.
And when it comes to perseverance, Susan says she would have offered this piece of advice to her younger self, "It will happen. Believe in yourself, believe in your product. Be resilient. Do not accept “No” for an answer. Let others’ doubts serve as inspiration. Visualize success."
Speaking of advice, what's a quote that women entrepreneurs should know?
"I like to replace the word man with woman, and he with she in The Man in the Arena, an excerpt from a famous speech made by Theodore Roosevelt during April 1910 in Paris, France:
“It is not the critic who counts, not the not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or how the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the [wo]man who is actually in the arena… who, at best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who, at worst, if [s]he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that [her] place may never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory or defeat.”
How can women juggle a work-life balance?
"Just as there is no universal playbook for how to be a parent, you’ll find yourself figuring it out as you go. Learn to prioritize and tackle one issue at a time. It will come to you. When the glass seems half empty, remind yourself of all that you’ve accomplished."
Advice for women considering starting a business.
"Do not let the fact that you’re a woman factor into any hesitation. To borrow from Nike®, Just Do It!"