In this ongoing series, we are sharing advice, tips and insights from real entrepreneurs who are out there doing battle day in and day out. (Answers have been edited and condensed for clarity.)
Who are you and what’s your business?
My name is Shazi Visram, and I’m the Founder and CEO of Happy Family, a premium, organic food company for babies, toddlers, kids and their mothers.
I was inspired to start the company when a close friend of mine, a working mother of twins, struggled to find healthy food options for her babies. Her struggle led me to do some research about the marketplace. I found that most of the products were still highly processed, using preservatives, mostly non-organic and lacking the beneficial nutrients necessary to support a lifetime of wellness. My dream was to create a warm, modern brand with an enlightened assortment of organic meals and snacks that offer the right nutrition for every stage of development.
What does the word “entrepreneur” mean to you?
To me, being an entrepreneur means being a person who always finds a better way. It is about having a vision and mission that is bigger than me. From a strictly business standpoint, I feel that being an entrepreneur requires you to be agile with your strategy and to listen to your consumers. For example, when we first launched the company on Mother’s Day in 2006, we were selling a line of frozen food for babies, but we struggled to gain awareness and trial because moms weren’t shopping in the frozen food aisle for baby food. We knew we had to pivot -- to be where mothers were shopping -- the jarred food aisle but needed to find a way to disrupt the market.
What was your toughest challenge and how did you overcome it?
2012 was a critical year for us because we were growing very, very quickly. I was faced with two funding options: the first was VC funding, which would mean living on an investor’s timetable, and the second was finding the right partner for more thoughtful and safe expansion with experience in infant nutrition. I had been following Groupe Danone, a global leader in early life nutrition, since the inception of Happy Family. I knew that they shared the same commitment to quality as I did, so we became partners in 2013. The partnership allowed Happy Family to expand on our knowledge with world-renowned research and resources.
What’s the problem you just solved or are attacking now?
We know from extensive research that breast milk delivers optimal nutrition to a baby during his/her first year of life and I myself am a huge advocate of breastfeeding and normalizing breastfeeding and pumping in public (including at the office!). However, we also know that for some parents, exclusively breastfeeding is simply an impossibility. And I am so proud that this Spring, after five years of global research and development and input from nutritional scientists and experts in early life nutrition, we are launching Happy Baby Organic Infant Formula.
How did you discover this problem?
Being a mom and speaking with other parents, really. Being a new parent can cause a lot of anxiety and confusion -- and for many, feeding their infant is a key pain point.
What did you/have you learned through attacking this problem?
That every parent’s journey is different -- no matter what you plan for or how you hope to feed your infant. For some moms, the inability to breastfeed can take a huge emotional toll. They often feel shame, anxiety and a sense of guilt if they have to feed their baby with formula. No mother or woman should feel that way. We hope that parents buying our products can feel confident knowing they’re doing their absolute best for their baby.
What trait do you depend on most when making decisions and why is that useful for you?
It’s a combination of trusting my intuition and backing my decisions with analytical and strategic thinking. Second-guessing my instincts has never worked in my favor; go with your gut.
How has your leadership style evolved?
I am always looking to evolve...whether it's my management skills now leading a much larger organization or my communication or in harnessing the power of people by refining a team where everyone can utilize their best and highest skill set. In general, entrepreneurs are focused on achievement and staying successful. As time goes on we must develop our teams and further our own skills but somehow stay true to ourselves as creative pioneers. For me, add on having a family and let's just say I have plenty of areas for improvement! But I still have no time for and no use for guilt. Do the best you can with what you have and be happy with who you are.