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Can I seek advice from a CEO who started a business like mine a long time ago?

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I started an RTD tea-producing company, with my own brand name, and I am going through many obstacles and challenges that are slowing me down dramatically. I was wondering if it is a good idea to contact a CEO/ owner of a multimillion-dollar company for lunch or meeting for advice, encouragement and motivation. If it is proper, how do I approach him? Is it OK to call on the phone?
Thanks so much for this terrific question! Yes, you absolutely should try to contact more established people in the tea business. You have nothing to lose by doing so and everything to gain.

I’d suggest seeing if anyone in your network can facilitate the introduction first, or see if there is a place you might be able to meet one or more of your industry’s leaders at national or regional conferences, or at other venues where they might be speaking.

If not, then pick up the phone and tell the gatekeeper your story. Keep your pitch lean and mean, and ask if they would be willing to chat first (it’s unlikely that a major CEO will agree to meet a complete stranger without some kind of vetting process or formal introduction.)

I’d also suggest looking into the food industry for other well-established entrepreneurs. Go into any gourmet food store and you’ll find an array of companies to choose from right on the shelves. If you don’t already belong to The National Association for the Specialty Food Trade (NASFT), then make inquiries about joining as they are a great gourmet food organization. The idea is to seek out a few different successful tea entrepreneurs, as they may be more likely to help you sort through your challenges (just in case the CEO you were referring to comes from a major national brand). Another tip: Google “tea entrepreneurs” and check into what pops up!

Wishing you success!

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