Young Upstarts

All about entrepreneurship, intrapreneurship, ideas, innovation, and small business.

What Being A Woman Has Taught Me About Being A Business Leader

by Jana McDaniel, CEO of First Saturday Lime

I am a wife. I am a mother. I am a daughter. These things do not define me, but refine me. These roles make me a better person. The responsibilities associated with these roles require that I be a leader and innovator, and the strength and knowledge I’ve gained from performing these responsibilities has helped me successfully launch a new and exciting business in a highly competitive and male dominant industry. This is my story.

I’m not a health nut, but I can’t ignore the news about pesticide risks.  As a mother, I see it as my duty to protect my family from anything that may bring them harm. As a member of the same small community for my entire life, I also care deeply about the health and well-being of all the people around me. The area that we live in tests high for nitrates in the water due to farm runoff. We made a significant investment in water purification systems in our home and places of business, so that I know my family and customers – both local and national – have the healthiest option.  When I was advised that I needed to spray the inside of our local restaurant once a month for insects… I cringed!  I eat there. My family eats there. Thousands of other people eat there. I don’t want a mystery chemical sprayed where food is stored, prepared and served! I quickly sought a solution. Luckily, it wasn’t far away.

Along with our small restaurant, our family has always been in the limestone business.  We were able to naturally convert the strongest type of limestone, hydrated lime, into a safe form that still dehydrated and repelled insects. Unlike, the normal hydrated lime, or barn lime you’ve always been able to find in stores, our new limestone based product is both safe and non-caustic to humans. So, with my sister’s support, we started our business.  We made it for ourselves and anyone else who was in need of a pesticide alternative.  We researched, built our plant, and hit the market.  First Saturday Lime was made to be applied once a month, on the “First Saturday” of the month. We offer a subscription service as well as fun giveaways and reminders on the first Saturday of every month. The demand for our product grew exponentially. Through production, study, and customer interaction, we discovered this all-natural product, due to its harmless nature, had a host of other uses! After some student testing, we found that it qualifies as a sanitizer, and has now taken off with the farming community to treat chicken coops and horse stalls for bacteria.  It is also used as algae and mosquito prevention in standing water.  It can also be used as a chalk paint. A few customers used First Saturday Lime to successfully deodorize some stinky situations and now it is widely used for just that. The list of uses keeps growing.

I mentioned my sister earlier, but what I said wasn’t enough… not nearly enough.

I wouldn’t have started this business without her.  She is my driving force and my strongest ally.  We are highly critical of each other’s work, but we complement each other well, and together we’ve built and continue to grow a company in which we are both extremely proud.  We have both learned to not take anything personally.  We accept feedback and step in when one or the other needs help. When you’re related, it’s often better to keep the family thing separate from the business, but on the other hand, I consider the other employees in our privately owned businesses as family. We care about each other. We care about the product. We care about our customers. We care about the world!

I don’t know what it’s like to be a white man… or African American, or Mexican, or homosexual or transsexual, etc..  I do know what it’s like to be a woman.  Although I do feel very fortunate, I can admit that at times things have been tough and seemed unfair.  Ok, they were definitely unfair. But, as I often tell my children, “That’s life!” It has made me who I am, and I see myself as strong.  Sometimes, I imagine trading it for the ability to pee standing up. Oh, to be able to take a 5 minutes shower! And it would be nice to know I’m not being judged differently because I’m wearing a dress instead of a suit. However, it doesn’t take much consideration to know that I would never make that trade. The lawn and garden industry may be historically male dominant, but the purchasing power of customers has become more and more female driven. As women working in the industry we recognized, respected and most importantly related to what women want. It turns out that many men want the same thing. They’ve just been doing it the same way too long without any alternatives. We were happy to shake things up!

One thing I have learned, male or female, don’t be afraid to accept help. Also, keep close the important things in life. Don’t let slip away the things that can’t be replaced. Choose your time wisely.  It may be fun to “network” but make sure its with people who value your time as much as you do. Know your audience, recognize the situation, and always act accordingly. Starting a business comes with a series of unknowns, but always maintain your composure and confidence when it counts most. It should be fun, but it’s still serious business. You invest so much time and money, don’t let an opportunity to impress slip through your fingers. Communication is key. New ideas and exponential amounts of new tasks are common occurrences that must be delegated in a startup business, and as Owner and CEO, I often forget people can’t read my mind. Furthermore, the more brains, the better. Yes, two are better than one, but you don’t have to stop there. Let as many people as you trust critique, proof, edit and contribute to everything you can. My brain is wired for engineering and math.  So, I get as many eyes on things as I can before hitting send.  For example, I consulted with my sister on the content of this article. Also, this would also be a good time to thank my wonderful husband for proofreading the final product. (Editor’s note: Her husband is happy to help and a very lucky man.)

I try to live with no excuses. About anything. Stepping on toes rarely breaks bones. You have to open some doors yourself. In the hectic pace of a startup company, full of passionate people, it’s also easy to overreact and lose one’s temper. But I try to see all people for who they are. I try not to judge. The only thing I care about is treating people kindly. I care about caring. If what you believe and want to do doesn’t hurt others, I support you and your decisions. I am no better than anyone else. I do, however, work very hard. We created First Saturday Lime to help people, to protect children and animals, and to provide safe alternatives to other people who care. It gives me joy to contribute something that is safe for the environment, when the alternatives can be detrimental. Maybe it’s that sense of accomplishment that compels me to move forward. Maybe that’s selfish. But if that’s my downside, then I will take it.

 

Jana McDaniel is the CEO of First Saturday Lime, an organic pest control product that started production in 2018 and is now part of the GroGroup network of distributors, which serves 25,000 independent lawn and garden retailers in the U.S. Jana graduated from Duke University and grew up in the limestone industry which gave her the inspiration to create First Saturday Lime. 

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This is an article contributed to Young Upstarts and published or republished here with permission. All rights of this work belong to the authors named in the article above.

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