She didn’t have a plan for what she’d do after selling her wildly popular Schmidt’s Naturals to Unilever a few years ago, but Jaime Schmidt hasn’t missed a beat. She followed the same north star– her passion–that she did when she started the company in her Portland kitchen in 2010.
These days, Schmidt’s passion is supporting other entrepreneurs. She’s sharing what she learned building her pioneering natural products company to help other entrepreneurs–women and underrepresented ones in particular–find their own success.
Schmidt’s new book, Supermaker: Crafting Business on Your Own Terms is one of the best, and most readable, business books I’ve read (and I’ve suffered through dozens). With her husband, Chris Cantino, she’s launched a media platform, Supermaker, dedicated to educating and inspiring entrepreneurs, and Color, a fund that invests in early- stage companies. Schmidt will also be a mentor on the upcoming reality show, Going Public, which will track five companies as they raise money–and for the first time, allow viewers to invest as well.
“My goal is for everyday people to understand that being an entrepreneur is within reach,” said Schmidt. “You don’t have to grow up with parents who are entrepreneurs, or have a lot of capital, or a solid business plan, but you do have to make a commitment to something and have a passion for it.”
Here are the 5 traits Schmidt sees as key to succeeding when starting a business or side hustle.
After Schmidt took a class in making her own shampoo in 2010, she began experimenting with recipes for other natural, nontoxic personal care products. Her homemade products were a hit at farmer’s markets and street fairs, but it was only after she decided to focus on a single product that her company really took off. Schmidt’s natural deodorant was one of the first on the market, and quickly became a cult favorite that propelled her to success.
In the early days of building her company, Schmidt didn’t take the time to find a mentor. “Looking back, I see it could have been really valuable,” she said. But Schmidt said she did find support from other creative makers in Portland. “We didn’t all turn our hobbies into businesses, but I always had people to bounce ideas off of,” she said.
While the pandemic has put in-person networking on hold, entrepreneurs can find plenty of encouragement and advice online. “There’s a lot of opportunity online to meet people and to build a business in public, and get support from strangers who are willing to help.”
Even while she was in talks to sell her hugely successful company, Schmidt found people asking her male colleagues questions that should have been directed to her. Women are scrutinized more closely than men, she said, and need to come to the table with confidence in themselves and their companies.
“It’s important that women don’t undervalue ourselves, our time, our products, or the prices we charge,” she said. “Women entrepreneurs need to come into the market with confidence, knowing that what they are creating is of value.”
Schmidt isn’t talking about fake-it-til-you-make-it. Preparation and a deep understanding of the competition are key. When she was first pitching her products to retailers, Schmidt’s emails brimmed with confidence backed up by the data she had from customers who kept telling her they wished they could buy Schmidt’s natural deodorant in stores. “I believed retailers truly needed my product, truly felt they had to have it, and that is where my confidence came from,” she said.
Schmidt sees a lot of entrepreneurs who quickly get frustrated when their businesses don’t take off right away. “I remind them that things do take time and that there are a lot of steps that need to be taken,” she said. “Cross one thing off your list at a time, and don’t allow yourself to become overwhelmed with big picture thinking or your long-term goal.”
Schmidt didn’t bring investors into Schmidt’s Naturals, and she advises entrepreneurs not to get caught up in the hype around venture capital. Sometimes the best next step isn’t funding at all, but making a strategic hire, bringing in a consultant or pivoting your model. Slow growth can also give you the advantage of control. “On the operational side, I didn’t have outside investors telling me how to run the business and muddying up my vision for it,” said Schmidt. She ran her company exactly as she wanted.
Schmidt talks to many entrepreneurs who have rigid plans in mind, which can mean missed opportunities of all kinds. ”We tend to think something should go a certain way or we think our customers should respond in a certain manner, but that doesn’t always happen,” she said. “You may be surprised at who your audience really is, too. You may assume your customer looks like this, but there is a whole other group that you should target. Flexibility is really key.”
With an open mind, entrepreneurs are more likely to notice when customer needs and tastes are changing. “They can really pay attention to where their opportunity is, and that doesn’t always mean a complete pivot,” she said. “It may be a different way of talking about your product or putting a different spin on it, or changing your roadmap.”
For a majority of her life, actress Sutton Foster was thoroughly invested in the opinions of others.
“I put too much weight on what other people thought or their criticisms,” shares the Younger star, who just finished the show’s sixth season. “And I spent a lot of time trying to win the naysayers.”
Nine years ago, Foster had an epiphany of sorts. She discovered that she didn’t have to answer to anyone. Her mantra became one of acceptance without expectation. “Especially accepting my circumstances,” she says. That shift made her feel more invincible, especially when dealing with relationships and people who didn’t agree with her. “It made me feel like the power was in my hands as opposed to giving other people so much power and ownership of my feelings.”
When Foster’s mindset shifted, other things did too. Suddenly the two-time Tony winning performer was more invested in her well-being. When she realized she had more agency in her life, she was more mindful. “I started to eat better. I began to exercise regularly,” says Foster. “Not that I was completely off the rails. But there was something about thinking towards the future and longevity that made me feel powerful and empowered. I thought I’m 35 years old and it’s all up to me.”
Foster shared more about her outlook on life.
What are the things you do to take care of yourself?
I really love to exercise, which I never thought I’d say. I try to exercise every day. I love to do cardio dance at Body By Simone, Pilates, spin classes and running. I’m also a BIG fan of taking a bath. I light a candle. It’s my ritual every night.
Is it hard to describe how becoming a mother to your daughter Emily, who turns three in March, has transformed you?
It’s like little rooms in my heart that I didn’t even know were there have opened up. I smile bigger and wider than I ever thought. I am more exhausted in ways I never thought possible. I notice every playground, every party store, every kid-friendly restaurant, every kids’ clothing or book store. I am completely in awe of my daughter. I am so honored to be her mother.
Does your daughter like to sing?
She does a mad remix of “Wheels on the Bus” and “Old McDonald.” She is constantly switching things up.
Many actors have said that the first Broadway show they ever saw was Thoroughly Modern Millie and how transforming that was to see you playing Millie. What was one of the first shows that you saw that had a great impact on you?
The one that really changed me was the Broadway national tour of Me and My Girl in Detroit. I went with my high school theater group. I remember being disappointed when we learned there was an understudy going on for the lead. But he was incredible. At the end of the show, the curtain fell down and I heard the cast behind the curtain applauding and screaming for the understudy. I was around 15 years old, thinking, I want to do that. I want to be behind the curtain. What is that magic? It made it real as opposed to just watching the show.
I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling depleted in far less time than I usually do because of the added stress of adjusting to the new normal of our lives. Mustering up the energy and courage to meet the day’s demands and the mercurial nature takes some extra strength. Building my resilience helps right now but also refills my reserves for the future.
According to the American Psychological Association, resilience is the process of “adapting well in the face of adversity, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress…” To do so, we need to be both mentally and physically strong, which requires some focus and work. Here are 5 things I think are crucial to becoming more resilence.
Your friends, family and long-time supporters are the lifeblood of your happiness. At your core you want to know that they are safe and well and discover new ways of connecting.
Facebook research reveals that talking online or off to friends is associated with improvements in well-being. Take the time to check in on everyone you care about. Having the emotional support right now will help you face these daily challenges with a fresh perspective. This also applies to business connections. You may read a social media post that someone is struggling in business, or quite the opposite that they are thriving. No matter which way the chips fall, reconnect with them. The wheel keeps turning so everyone you know is valuable to your wellbeing.
Having a mental image of the great things to come will help you move the balls forward. This is simply positive thinking; visualizing all of the wonderful things you will be doing two, three, six months out and so forth,and being excited about it. Johns Hopkins Medicine sites the link between positive thinking and cardiovascular disease. A study on positive thinking by Lisa R. Yanek, a master of public health and associate professor at Johns Hopkins University, found that people with a family history of risk factors for coronary artery disease who were positive thinkers were 13 percent less likely to have a heart attack or coronary event than their negative counterparts. Your ability to forge ahead in difficult times is directly linked to your health, so take extra measures to infuse your body with good positive thinking.
We know that mental and physical health is linked, and that you need to perform regular maintenance on your body to impact your mental health. Physical fitness is critical right now to be prepared for the challenges ahead. Being physically fit does not mean you need to lose 15 pounds immediately. Getting fit is simply taking care of your body, building strength and building up your cardiovascular strength to be able to bounce back in tough times. There are many low-impact ways to get fit, including walking daily, bike riding, and low-impact weight training. Companies like Team Body Project offer hundreds of on-demand fitness programs to choose from, including this free low-impact video workout for beginners.
The book Who Moved My Cheese by Spencer Johnson was published in 1998 and became an instant New York Times business best-seller. The book is a fable about two mice and the typical reactions and responses to change in work and life. The lesson illustrates that change is inevitable and embracing it is the key to success, and that instead of getting stuck in the moment, you must grow to move forward. While some goals might not be attainable right now, look to the ones that can be fulfilled and accept that the only certainty is that things will change. If you work at changing your perspective on inevitable change and welcome the unknown, your resistance to negative forces will build.
No matter how deeply you look at the situation, the reality is rarely ever as bad as it may seem. In a list of 50 quotes on perspective from Psychology Today, these are my two favorites:
“Life is 10 percent what you make it and 90 percent how you take it.” ― Irving Berlin
“The optimist sees the donut, the pessimist sees the hole.” ― Oscar Wilde
I grew up in a Catholic family that went to Mass every Sunday. I stopped going decades ago, but there are things I still do miss. It wasn’t every Sunday that a priest would use incense, but I loved those mornings when the musty scent drifted across the pews. It connected me to something larger I didn’t quite understand.
Burning incense is part of many religions and cultures. In India, incense was originally produced by monks and used for healing, says UMA Oils founder Shrankhla Holecek. It’s one of the many gorgeously scented, Ayurveda-based products UMA makes that you’d want to use even if they weren’t so effective.
You could say Holecek’s company began more than 800 years ago. That’s around the time her ancestors began serving as Ayurvedic physicians for Indian royalty. In the 1800s, after the monarchy crumbled, Holecek’s family used its knowledge and farmland to make pure botanical oils for leading perfume companies.
In 2016, Holecek merged that legacy with the needs of contemporary women to launch UMA Oils. The line quickly won praise from Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Into the Gloss and so on, with Glamour naming its Absolute Anti-Aging Oil as one of the best products of 2017. UMA now has candles and a growing line of face, body and hair oils. She’s now launched a podcast to share her love of Ayurveda with a wider audience.
Holecek, who trained as an engineer, had been working at McKinsey for about five years when she realized that though she loved her job, she wanted to strike out on her own. She’d grown up in India watching her father and grandfather run their family business.
“I felt, almost subconsciously, that there was part of me that expected to create a tangible product and to create jobs,” she says. Her colleagues cautioned her against leaving without a fleshed-out plan or funding, but Holecek felt the time was right.
In Ayurvedic tradition, personalized treatments work to bring an individual’s doshas—energy centers—back into balance. For centuries Holecek’s family had created customized oil blends for people, based on the hundreds of recipes passed down through the generations. Holecek wanted to bring that knowledge to a scalable business.
“I want to bring Ayurveda to people through a product-based approach,”
she says. “It was a category that didn’t exist.”
She worked with her father to tweak her family’s time-tested recipes to develop formulas that would work for the majority of people with specific issues such as fine lines, acne, or insomnia. In keeping with family tradition, only a handful of people know those formulas.
Though her personal experience, and the lessons of her ancestors, assured her the oils were effective, she spent months testing the formulas on hundreds of women. Holecek also cites independent scientific research on many of the ingredients in UMA Oils such as frankincense, rose, and pomegranate. Pomegranate, for example, has been shown to protect against UV damage.
“I can talk all night about science,” she says. “I don’t believe people just have to take a leap of faith. I am still an engineer.”
Using oil in skincare regimens is a fairly new concept in America, where oil-free products have been touted by companies and dermatologists for decades. Their effectiveness, says Holecek, comes in part from the fact that oils are fats, and can more easily penetrate the skin’s outer layers so active ingredients can work effectively. And pure oils don’t need chemical additives to prolong their shelf life that might block absorption or irritate the skin.
“Oils resonate with people looking for something that works, but is also clean and understandable,” she says. “And as more and more consumers want to know what it is the products they are using, whether it is something they eat or drink or something they put on their skin, the interest in oils will keep growing.”
Since its launch with four beauty oils, UMA Oils continues to add products to help our stressed-out bodies and minds. The incense, with chamomile and lavender, can turn any room into a soothing sanctuary. I’m always lighting one of UMA’s candles so my house smells beautiful–and my mood seems instantly better.
We have heard a lot about grit the past few years, and I admit I had little interest in the discussion. The word reminds me of sand in my teeth, and makes me think of setting my jaw and forging ahead through come what may. I’ve had to do my share of getting through very difficult circumstances and didn’t want to hear that it was good for me
I still don’t like the word, but the hard truth is that we need that determination and resilience now—and as we work for our future goals individually and collectively. In her book, Getting Grit: The Evidence-Based Approach to Cultivating Passion, Perseverance and Purpose, Caroline Adams Miller outlines a definition of grit that encompasses sustained work and meaning. She also lays out practical ways anyone can develop more of it.
I spoke with Miller about good and bad grit, how our culture is making us less gritty, and where we go wrong in our pursuit of happiness.
I was speaking to someone who’s read all my books and she mentioned that every book I’d written had grit as its theme. I realized it was true. My book, Creating Your Best Life, which came out in early 2009, was the first book to connect the science of happiness with the science of success. I wrote a chapter on grit because one of the findings in positive psychology is that the happiest people among us wake up every day to hard goals. To achieve those, you have to have grit.
I started with Andrea Duckworth’s definition of grit as a passion and persistence in pursuit of long-term goals. But as I thought about it, that can apply to bad people doing harmful things as well. Authentic grit is when passion and persistence are applied to positive outcomes–those that help individuals but also inspire and influence others in a positive way.
I looked back through history and found that major figures at the turning points in history had this grit. They stood up for something they believed in. They were people who got lit up by something and stayed with it. When I talk about grit I am looking at this special quality, it is not just passion and perseverance.
Those people didn’t necessarily have grit in all areas. They save their energy for what matters most to them. It may be passion for a cause, or passion that sustains you to get through hard times. You won’t achieve hard goals without it.
There are a couple of forms of bad grit. There’s what I call “selfie grit,” in which humility has disappeared and people just want attention. They may accomplish something in life but not any hard goals, and they don’t inspire others or change the world for the better. Humility is a key to being an authentically gritty person.
There’s also false, or faux grit, in which we see people faking their results or pretending to have accomplished things. We have become a society that is rewarding people for accomplishing nothing. I have millennial children who played sports, and as they were growing up I was appalled to see how everyone got a trophy, that the idea of working to achieve something was getting lost in our effort to protect everyone’s self-esteem. Children learn that everything comes easy, that everyone deserves an A, and they don’t know how to sustain their focus.
Another form of bad grit is stupid grit, when you pursue an idea or a product past its expiration date. We see this with entrepreneurs who don’t have a board of advisors, who don’t seek advice or don’t take it. It’s like summit-fever. In business, stupid grit causes a lot of challenges. It causes people to throw good money after bad. Single-mindedness is not always a bad thing, but there is a time to pull back. Anyone who is creating something does become obsessed, but it’s crucial not to pursue goals in a silo. You have to have humility and surround yourself with people to advise you and you have to listen to them.
Goal-setting theory has really established that the happiest people are the ones who actually go out of their comfort zones because that’s where the meaningful life is. The meaningful life is not living small or just living inside your comfort zone where nothing’s hard. The biggest regret of people in hospice care is that they didn’t live the life they wanted to live. They took too few risks. They played it safe.
A pleasant life is not the meaningful life or the engaged life. It’s just a pleasant life. You want to find out that thing or you will regret not pursuing because the research on risk and regrets finds that people regret more the things they didn’t go after than the things they went after that didn’t work out.
Every person I have interviewed that has this special form of grit said a woman had been a role model. A woman who is a success has to be a hundred times better than a man. I think storytelling is essential here. It is through the legacy of storytelling that women become role models for others.
I wrote my first book in mid-20s when I overcame bulimia. It was in the 1980s, and I don’t think many people remember now but most people did not recover from eating disorders then. Karen Carpenter became the poster child for people with eating disorders. I became bulimic when I was 15. I was an athlete, and I went to Harvard. I was high performing but I hit bottom. Later I realized I had the intelligence and success but I hadn’t had grit. I just did everything I was supposed to do.
I started going after hard goals. I got better, and I wrote my first book because I didn’t know anybody else who survived. And then I became a coach to help other people to set the right goals and achieve them.
There are several key qualities gritty people have. You have to be patient with the process and understand that it will take time. You have to learn to delay gratification. I advise people to create longer-term goals and reward themselves along on the way as they achieve smaller goals. Being able to master short-term goals is possible for everyone. It is an acquired behavior. Hard work over a long period of time often yields the best results.
Curiosity and wanting to find things out is another strength of happy people because it is not all about them. And that’s related to humility. Being able to ask questions and knowing that you don’t know. You don’t have to be the star of every conversation. People who have this social humility find that other people are more willing to partner with them.
As I mentioned, you have to learn to take appropriate risks, and get out of your comfort zone. The biggest rewards are attached to the biggest risks. Always ask yourself, why not? And if the answer is just that you might fail, really look at that. You have to be willing to fail. Ask yourself if you will regret not taking the chance.
Gritty people also have hope. You have to remain optimistic and see setbacks as setbacks, not failures. It helps people to surround themselves with people who are also optimistic as well. This is particularly important for women. Too many women have frenemies. When things go right in someone’s life, the only right way to respond is with enthusiasm and curiosity. If your friends do that, it shows they are really on your side. Having frenemies can really harm you and keep you from achieving goals.
After another week of devastating news, I was wiped out. I needed a non-pharma, non-alcoholic boost to keep on keeping on.
A few years ago I’d taken a workshop with Maria Sirois, a clinical psychologist, speaker and author who studies resilience, meaning, and happiness. Maria is a positive psychologist, one of the folks putting a framework on how we can feel better no matter our circumstances or what’s happening around us. She’s worked with children with terminal illnesses, their families and caregivers, and is the author of A Short Course in Happiness After Loss (and Other Dark, Difficult Times).
Some of the perspective-shifting techniques I’d learned at her workshop had helped me while I was caring for my elderly mother while she was ill, and I’m calling on them again now. It seemed a good time to call her, and here is some of our discussion.
So many of us have been feeling anger and despair. However justified those feelings may be, it is a challenging way to live. How can we begin to move beyond those states?
With any large emotional wave, and we are going through one as a nation, the first step is to feel it and to recognize what we are feeling. A lot of people are feeling disrespected, and that they are not being heard. It is on both sides of this political divide.
For many people anger is energizing. Despair is a depressive state, which is very different. Despair comes when feeling that your authentic choices are not being valued or heard. And those choices also may be causing harm in families or relationships.
Once we recognize how we are really feeling, we can begin to decide how to live with and what to do with those feelings. What does engagement and activism look like for me at this time? What does raising a family mean to me in this time? What does teaching students look like, or other work? Those are the kinds of questions we are living with right now
Those choices aren’t always so clear, and in the meantime, we can find ourselves reacting—to the news, to other people’s actions and fears—rather than creating our own paths.
We have to begin with ourselves, with self-care. Anytime something this large comes around, we have to ask ourselves what healthy living looks like as we engage.
We know that we do better as a species when we actively keep in mind that we want to do as little harm as possible and do more good. It comes down to this: that other people matter and we matter, too. It is a balance that we need to strike.
This is true, for example, if we are sitting around with our siblings as a parent is dying and deciding how to handle it. That moment can drive families apart. People handle that situation differently, and in times like that we have to allow ourselves to matter and to allow others in our family to matter as well.
Civil discourse is mandatory. But you can’t as a family come to peace around letting go of a parent–and we cannot move forward as a nation–if we do not see that the other person has value and if we are not civil.
There doesn’t seem much appetite for understanding or compromise, on either the right or left.
A lot of moral positions people take are rooted in fear. If we can get down to having real insight and discourse around what it is we fear—maybe it is losing our income or our health or a right—we might find a way to connect. We have to keep our perspective big enough that we can be inclusive about what we have in common, while we are true to ourselves.
Look at apartheid, the coming down of the Berlin Wall. We know that finding balance is possible. We can hold a belief and at the same time move toward unity. It is not one or the other.
How do we get to that insight, when we may be feeling fear and when those things we believe in are being threatened?
In positive psychology, we look at human beings at their best, who we are when we are at our best. Positive psychology has a practice called appreciative inquiry. To reach the best we can be as a group, we need to be open to discovery, to ask exploratory questions. It means being open to hearing those who don’t agree with us.
Here is one example of that inquiry in my own life. I was raised Catholic, and as an adult I searched through various religions and eventually chose the Jewish faith. I have an internal wound around being Catholic and Christian. I met a woman who was a born-again Christian. I talked with her about why she chose that path and she said she’d been an alcoholic, and that she had tried everything, and it was the only thing that freed her. My bias around Christianity had nowhere to go.
To hear one another’s deep feelings and choices is moving. And it reminds you, who am I to say this is right or wrong?
What are your favorite techniques or exercises that can help us be happier no matter what is going on in the world, or our own worlds?
Happiness is what nourishes us. We need joy, we need to boost our awe and wonder of the world to continue this fight.
One thing I recommend is to set aside time to list the things that make you happy, and to prioritize them. What makes you happiest? It is not enough to rely on random occurrences. Consciously make what is on your list part of your life.
Another practice is to look for moments in which you recognize happiness both in yourself and out in the world. Notice happiness around you—a gracious exchange between a clerk and someone in a store or a helpful person in your workday. Recognize the moments in yourself when you are happy. Pay attention to them. Savor them.
I consider those two practices foundational to our happiness.