Lauren: Hi, I’m Lauren Stiebing and on this episode of the career success podcast we are joined by Sharon Joseph. Sharon has had an 18-year career in large multinationals such as PepsiCo, GSK and RB. She was rapidly promoted and considered a top talent in within these organizations, so why leave this fast track career to then make a complete shift to entrepreneurship? On this episode we will be discussing just this, I would like to welcome to the podcast Sharon Joseph.
Sharon: Thanks, Lauren! I am very happy to be here and talk about the next chapter of my life and being an entrepreneur
Lauren: Great well thank you for joining us! I’d like to start off by asking you why did you decide to leave large corporate to become an entrepreneur?
Sharon: Big question because, I mean, when you are in corporate you get to a point where you are used to a great salary and you are held in handcuffs almost, but I hit a point where I really wanted to, one, take myself to the next level. I was asking the reasons why I was doing it, and within the corporate landscape I felt like I was not necessarily using my skills, my capabilities or the things that I could be achieving, and in addition there is still a lot of burocracy. I was starting to feel like there were things that I wanted to push within the contacts to specific industries and even I may spend a lot of time in healthcare, but I was interested and attracted by other industries. Ultimately, I wanted to do something on my own and also inspire me to team on my own, and that is when I switched over and really started to think about what industries I’d like to work on I guess that is the fire that started within me, and it is really hard to stop.
Lauren: And now you are working in alcohol and the beer industry. Why that industry and why now?
Sharon: Yeah, it was an interesting switch for me, to think about healthcare and OTC and all that, and then looking at alcohol is also an extremely regulated, legally-binding industry so I thought that would apply. The alcohol industry is a 200 hundred-billion-dollar industry in the US. Half of that is beer, and what we found in the beer industry is that 26 billion of that was craft beer, and it was growing 13% and then starting to slow but with still a 6% growth, whereas overall beer was around 3%. When I saw the attractiveness is also in the margins, so this margins in alcohol where similar to pharma, which means looking at P and L, Profit and Loss statements, in pharma and I felt like there was a lot of opportunity in the data that we had in consumer packaged goods and apply it back to alcohol and specifically the craft beer industry. Just in another note, there are 7.000 craft breweries in the US, so that is more than Walmart stores and most people are within 10 miles of a craft brewery now.
Lauren: And, did you know anything about beer before looking into this business?
Sharon: Yes, funny enough I used to drink a lot of wine and so I really became attracted to the industry when I was approached by a few people who where looking at beer and healthcare and just start-up communities. So, we were all together consulting for start-ups, and I was introduced to a brand called Moon (it is funny to think about t now because I drink so much craft beers from breweries in Brooklyn), and I really loved it because it had that kind of slice of orange in it, and it gave me this kind of new experience of beer. I was traditionally grown up on the typical Budweiser and Budlight course light and so there was a huge expansion of beer that I had no concept or idea about. It was really interesting to see that there are more beers than I even thought, as many varieties as when it comes to. That is when I started to explore the history of beer which is also amazing because if you think about it, it dates back to 5000 BC and there is just a tremendous amount history on how and why we drink beer. It really started with the monks and being able to sterilize the water with just four ingredients, and we have grown from there. So, within a short period of time I became extremely educated on it and there are these four levels of training, globally and in the US: it is called Sister Round Training here in the US and you become almost a beer “sommelier” trough wine tasting, understanding the variety, all through food paring. There is just a ton you can do within the industry and there is a really good time to be in it right now.
Lauren: Yeah, and one of the toughest parts of starting a business, I feel is identifying what is your product or service different, what is your value proposition and competitive advantage?
Sharon: Obviously, with not having been in the industry as long as many other people the first thing is that really understanding the needs of the breweries because there are 7.000 of them in the US, there are a lot, and the same issues keep popping up, which are, as a brewery I need to make sure that I am driving sales and that I am profitable, because there are so many the competition has increased and what we really wanted to do at Brewasis was create a tech base platform that would help breweries in general bring new revenue and so that our goal would be to give the breweries that work with us and upper hand at being successful both in the short term and long term. So, what we did was divide our strategy in 3 platforms: one is around how you look at brewers as a distribution channel and take items that would help them be more profitable in their tap room, keep consumers in the tap room longer, or help promote their products better, meaning companion products that would we sold together and thing we could use, as they are already distributing beer, what else could they be doing either in the tap room or in their distribution channels. The second thing is around the brewers which are no necessarily brewing 24/7, so they are not 7 days a week every day, and there is opportunity to use that capacity for other things. Looking at big corporate programs even we just did a project with a software tech-company called Palantir. It was a 5 city, 3 country project where we worked with local breweries, so it was in Sidney, Australia, London England, in the US it was Palo Alto, Washington DC, and New York, and we did a Hackazon. We did a branded beer for that Hackazone , so we were able to distribute to all those countries at local breweries and supporting the local communities and local ingredients, which were used in this big event. And the last thing, and probably the most interesting and long-term strategic move for me, is driving sales by looking at data and analytics. I know all the hot words right now are “machine learning”, “artificial intelligence”… but coming from a data-driven, consumer packaged goods background, I found that the beer industry and in particular craft beer could use some of that beneficial data and analytics to drive the business and the breweries. Now, we are working with some proprietary tools to be able to help those breweries be more successful, so, look out for more on that, and our whole concept is around building beer brands so I want everyone to know that we are here for the long run and it is something that we look for in the individuals in our team. Obviously, they have to be very passionate about craft beer, but also, they have to be thinking about digital, analytics and all those elements that are going to help a brewery be more successful.
Lauren: Well, I am sure you have learnt a lot on this journey, so if you could share with us some of the top lessons by becoming an entrepreneur.
Sharon: Sure, some of them I’ve leant working at corporate as well, so they apply, but I think I took it to the next level when I came and applied it to this business. So, one is around the team, funny enough I have built three teams over the course of my business because I had to pivot, because as an entrepreneur you know in the first year you have to follow what are the issues you are trying to solve for that industry and for the specific costumer you are targeting, but also in addition you have to be really nimble. It is funny to look back, because we started with more hardware solutions for the breweries and the industry and I have pivoted since then. My team has to be people that I trust, we must respect each other and hold ourselves accountable, so you really pull the value. I think that in a corporate spirit, you have this values that you have to sit out and kind of have to put on a wall and need everyone to live by them. With being an entrepreneur, you can build them up and within, so you select people that live the values of entrepreneurship, innovation, the whole data and analytics… those are all thing we have built in our company and the individuals that we have working here. The thing is that I find if you are going your best, then often you get it in return, and get people that respect that and want to do well for you and the company as they have invested interest. The second thing, I’d say is, you know, you come out of corporate and you think how do I make sure I am goal-setting, how to have structures meetings and all of that because it is really important to set goals I the short term and in the long term and then even mid-term, and look back at those. Sometimes as an entrepreneur you are running so fast that you forget all the big wins you’ve had along the way even the fact that I have pivoted three times, and I’ve been nimble enough to do that it has been success for me, because you learn failure and picking up and moving forward again, for your team as well you have to set goals for them, so they get more structure. Looking for opportunities, you always must do that, not only stargazing at it but thinking “ok there are 15 opportunities I want to go after” you really have to know which ones are going to drive up your sales, and the ones who are really solving a problem in the industry. So, you need to go after the money as always, but fundamentally if you are doing it for the greater good of the industry and the costumer you are trying to solve a problem for, the money will follow. The thing that I’ve leaned as well, the financial package I have learnt at consumer packaged goods has been amazing, because you have to be diligent with you numbers, you can’t leave it to the last minute or the last thing to do, funny enough my book keeping wasn’t has diligent but you learn later that it is the most important thing, that is the tip I give to all entrepreneurs. Everyone kind of told me I need to have a good 100.000 dollars to start with, and I think that is the minimum of what you need, cause you need to have a burn rate in order to survive as an entrepreneur yourself, because you are going back to your collage days in what you are eating and stuff, you get used to a corporate paycheck and you don’t have that anymore. The other thing I’d like to mention, is learning to fail fast and getting over it, because you can’t wallow over it, and if something didn’t go right or something didn’t work out the way you thought it would be, or even getting a client and that client didn’t work out, at the end of the day you have to brush off and move on quickly, and the faster you do that the more successful you’ll be. You obviously have to identify what went wrong or what could be done differently next time and then live that positivity and resilience. It is something I even think I’ve become stronger, even though I already thought I was resilient, as I have changed companies and cities before, but you become even more resilient when you become an entrepreneur and you have to fail even faster and get up. Selling yourself, that is a big one, one thing I’ve had to do is to remind myself where I came from, what is my background, what would make me successful as an entrepreneur and in my own business, and specially in a very competitive industry. I go back to credentials, you know my education, the number of years of experience you have, those are thing that are invaluable in everything you do, and you should remind yourself that this is what you wanted to do, and you have de background to do it, and sell that to other people, because they do not know, when they meet you for the first time, what your background is, why you think you can be an entrepreneur, it is not like they are sitting there and looking at our Linkdin profile to get a whole back story. The better you get at selling yourself and your business the more successful you will be. The last thing I’ll kind say is surround yourself with great mentors and cheerleaders because you are not in a corporate environment where you see people every day and affiliate with people who would be constantly motivating you, you wake up and you are at your desk motivating yourself and what I have done is really picked up not only professional individual who are either in my industry or know my background, but people who don’t necessarily now my work, but have a really good sense of what it takes to be an entrepreneur. Also, family and friend who are my cheerleaders when you are having a day like what am I doing which you question at every day. Those days where you are like, this is hard, and it is taking a lot longer to gain clients than I
thought, or it is taking longer to get ahead in the sales, those individuals are the ones who really help you in those tough times. That is why I am so thankful to have family and friend who do that for me, and are helpful not only within you, but also having that wisdom to drive you through those times. Those are kind of my tips that I have leaned as I have moved from corporate to entrepreneur role.
Lauren: They are great, I can say I agree with all of them, I already was going to comment on the surrounding yourself with great mentors, I completely agree. I’ve has the luck of having two great mentors starting LS International, and they have really helped a lot. I would suggest from my experience it could be one with a similar industry knowledge and one with a very different background that will really present different ideas and solutions which probably you has never thought of. And from the friends and family perspective, absolutely I think that anyone who would try to start a business and didn’t have his/her husband or wife on board it would be almost impossible, because you need them there to cheer you on.
Sharon: Yeah, I agree. One other thing I forgot to mention is to work your network, Lauren, I think that one of the most important things is to look at your network first, working on your network as much as possible is another tip I’d say I’ve learnt.
Lauren: Yeah, I’ve known a lot of female entrepreneurs as well and from the point of learn how to sell yourself, initially they focus so much on their product and service and they don’t explain anything about themselves, and I mean it could be male or female, but I think I have seen more female struggling with that, introducing them selves before their product makes them feel uncomfortable, which it shouldn’t, cause they are there for a reason, and they are there and other people aren’t, so to always keep that in mind and not be afraid to discuss your background or how you feel, why you started the business, etc.
Sharon: Yeah, I agree.
Lauren: So, just to close off, any words of encouragement to give to other entrepreneurs out there?
Sharon: Yeah! The bottom line, Lauren, and I know you know this as well, it is though it is hard, if it was easy everyone would do it and I think that is something my dad reminds me every time we hat, and my family has always been very supportive of me going after my entrepreneur desires. I think if you have the chance to have a clear direction and following your north star, and make sure you have something documenting the journey, because things change so fast. I laugh at where I thought I would be this year and where I am now, but because I have so many thing: my business, my plan, or financials , things that have showed me along the may that I am learning and getting better, the position of the company and the places we will be generating revenue. I am very excited to start 2019, having positive revenue my first year, I am proud of that and proud of my team. I think you will always have stress, even if you have worked at a corporate job versus being an entrepreneur, I think we need to roll with the times and know that there are picks and values which are the ones we really go after. And then, you’d be amazed at the people who will be cheering you on that you wouldn’t even expect, just wait for that and take it in, because it is all a journey for us. Be proud of your accomplishments and good luck.
Lauren: Yeah, that is great and completely agree, I think that a lot of times I have seen people I have worked with that, because of social media, Instagram, Facebook, and all of these things seem to be seeing this young entrepreneurs which are 22 and millionaires, and they think that they should be there or think that it is easy cause of that and I am always there, not that I am the wisest person, but think, look they are always going to portray themselves in whichever way they can, but you have to wait for it, keep working hard and it will come for sure.
Sharon: I 100% agree, and it is always a pleasure to work with you Lauren
Lauren: Yes, thank you so much, and I really appreciated having you on the podcast today.
Sharon: Thank you!