Mom Has Mindset of Classic Entrepreneur, Lets It Flow
Entrepreneur Kathy Zucker, a one-time New York City hospital marketing director, nationally ranked kayaker, award-winning tweeter and mother of three children under 10, says it also helps to have the personality of a goal-oriented hyperachiever who always has to be doing something.
Goals are critical, but so is the willingness to pivot, because as you move forward your view will change, Zucker said, during a recent conversation at her home in Hoboken, N.J.
"Life often pulls the rug out from under your feet," Zucker says. "The goals I have are not things anyone else can impact. Your life comes first. Everything else should flow from that."
With no knowledge of the beverage industry but a capacity to learn new things quickly and research deftly what she doesn't yet know, Zucker helped launch Serenity, a relaxation beverage that is now distributed at The Ritz-Carlton in Florida and several casinos in Las Vegas.
Zucker was invited into the Apex Beverage business by the developer of her condo building, for whom she'd started doing freelance marketing.
Entrepreneurs, she notes, always have their fingers in a few pies and cross-fertilize through the relationships they make in each. It also helps with the seasonal ebbs and flows to have businesses that peak in each season. The developer, who has about 10 different business interests, recognized Zucker's marketing prowess and invited her in as a partner to launch the relaxation beverage.
Doing it all yourself
Learning how to do it all yourself is a necessity of entrepreneurship. It plays to Zucker's strength to move quickly. (She wrote the complete business plan for a local drop-in medical clinic in under an hour.)
"You have to be able to do everything – IT, Billing, Marketing," she says. "You are literally doing every single thing. It's a crash course because you can't afford to hire anyone."
Zucker began her entrepreneurial life nine years ago after the birth of her first child and a challenging pregnancy. Her husband said this was the "rainy day" they'd been squirreling money away for. So she asked her employer if she could be a contractor and got an immediate yes.
Zucker, who turned 40 in April, has consciously integrated her life with everything she does in business. When she toured bottling plants and tested flavors, she brought her then-3-year-old son to the factory with his DVD player. It was his introduction to science and just another day with mom.
It was Zucker's life experience as a mom buying things on Amazon.com that prompted her as product and marketing director to start selling the beverage on Amazon, where it shot to the number one sales position after some promotion that caught the attention of bloggers.
In addition to helping identify where the bricks-and-mortar distribution opportunities existed, this status gave the product instant credibility and propelled it to appear on the first page of Google search results. That and a LinkedIn business page prompted inbound calls resulting in a sales rate of about $250,000 per year.
The product is now featured at the Ritz-Carlton in Florida. Zucker left in 2011 when she became pregnant with her third child.
Sometimes you have to move on One thing is: You have to do what is best for the business and what is best for you," she emphasizes. Zucker made a deal with her husband Noah -- a two-time national fencing champion whose salary was one fourth of hers when she was a full-time employee -- that she would fund her entrepreneurial ventures with the money earned through them.
The 6 percent stake she cashed in was used to start the Metro Moms Network, a concept Zucker conceived through her favorite pastime of just walking around and talking to people.
The network, a collective of women now 2,000-strong, gathers to learn more about each other and cross-refer their businesses. This led to a semi-annual Metro Moms Expo. The last one drew 1,000 people to a Hoboken gym on the eve of Superstorm Sandy in 2012.
Sandy derailed the Metro Moms for awhile. Five of Zucker's six team members' homes were flooded, shifting their focus to sheer survival and rebuilding their homes. Zucker became a point person for information on Twitter, campaigned, and then won a Shorty Award for her service broadcasting 140-character alerts. Winning the "Shorty Award" led to a spot in a Dove ad for Unilever. As a judge of the Shorty Awards the following year, she found herself seated at a table next to Tumblr founder David Karp. Her phto was purchased by Getty and featured alongside one of England's Prince William. She's had agents approach her to take the "Kathy Zucker" brand to the next level. Yet she still thinks of herself as a mom.
"You have to look at things in cycles. You need to know, 'This is when I need to pay attention. This is where I need to move fast,' " she says. She always looks ahead in two-year cycles because that's how long it takes to make impactful change.
"Just set a goal and in the process you'll learn things. You have to be goal-driven to be successful. But you have to be able to change on a dime."
Zucker gives freely of her knowledge and believes this eventually comes back. "I overshare. I'd rather give more than less."