It’s Female Founder Friday and I am ecstatic to introduce you to one of my favorite women entrepreneurs, Aviva Goldfarb. Aviva is the founder of The Six O’Clock Scramble family meal planner, which she sold earlier this year, and the author of four cookbooks. Now she is primarily doing marketing and events for other food-related businesses including Silver and Silver Diner restaurants and From the Farmer (the farmer’s market—delivered!), as well as some pro bono clients such as the Capital Area Food Bank and Sips and Suppers, which benefits Martha’s Table and DC Central Kitchen. Aviva is also a Washington Post contributor on travel, food and parenting, and a private cooking coach for children and adults who want to gain skills and confidence in the kitchen. She is an active member of Les Dames d’Escoffier, an invitation-only philanthropic organization of women leaders in the fields of food, fine beverage and hospitality. On top of all of her commitments to her companies and philanthropies, Aviva is one of the kindest humans I know. The first time she met me, she offered to host a book launch party at her home and invited 100 of her closest friends. Her generosity is unparalleled, and it has made her a beloved pillar of the food and entrepreneurial communities.
So, if you’re considering a food-related business or curious about the feelings and dealings involved with building a business around your passion/skills, don’t miss Aviva’s excellent advice below!
What inspired you to create your latest company?
After selling my business, I wanted a chance to be more behind the scenes for a while promoting other businesses and helping them grow and challenging myself to learn and grow by working on some new topics and with new colleagues who I knew had a lot to teach me. I loved the family dinner space but was ready for something different now that both of my kids are in college and I wasn’t really making family dinners on a regular basis anymore. I also wanted to exercise my writing and marketing skills and realized that one of my biggest assets was the incredible network I had built up over the years of socializing and working in the DC area with an amazing amount of people through schools, business networks and volunteering and the credibility that I seem to have built up over the years by staying in touch with my network in person and over email and social media. Frankly, it has also been wonderful and liberating after 14 years not to be an entrepreneur for a while and to get paid for my work consistently and not to have to be the one who is up in the middle of the night when the website crashes or other stressers invariably crop up.
What was your biggest obstacle and failure in going from idea to business?
With one of my clients, I had to get used to some office politics and learn about hierarchies again after 14 years of being the boss with my wonderful and happy little team, so that was a learning experience but it’s been a valuable one. And I haven’t made as much time for some of the life priorities and freelance writing projects that I wanted to do, so I need to be more careful about setting my priorities and time management, because I get caught up in what is most urgent and exciting each day. But I have been amazed so far at how easy it has been to get clients so I feel very fortunate about that, and I think that’s all about the relationships and reputation I built up over time, and some very good luck.
As you’ve recently exited your business, can you tell us a little bit about the process, the feelings, and share some advice for other women entrepreneurs who are headed towards an exit?
I really needed to listen to what my brain and heart were telling me. I had grown incredibly bored with my business after 14 years (really after 12) and knew I needed to find a way out. I was fortunate to have some incredibly wise and generous friends and advisors who helped me come up with a 3-pronged exit strategy, and fortunately the first prong worked when I found an absolutely ideal buyer, again through my network, and we negotiated the sale in a very mutually respectful and honest way that I think we both will always feel good about. I consider the new owner a good friend and I think she feels the same way, and we are in frequent touch and had an absolutely wonderful transition where we basically served as co-CEOs for several months and we still talk regularly and meet monthly. I feel incredibly fortunate and know that the business is in great hands. I knew that this had to be a process that reflected my values and integrity and those of the business I had built and served the customers I cherished and I believe we achieved that. I am so grateful to advisors and friends like Robin Thieme, Bob Giaimo, Debbie Tyler, Matt Clark, Daniel Neal, Jeanne Rossomme, Patrick Bracewell and Marc Zwillinger who really helped me through this process by knowing me and what I wanted to achieve and helping me get there. My advice would be to build and nurture your network by connecting with and serving others and be true to your values throughout the entire process if at all possible.
For now I plan to keep doing what feels good—my current philosophy is to only do what is fun, challenging and meaningful and to say yes to new experiences and untether myself from my computer a little more now that I’m able. I’m also enjoying sneaking in some “field trips” with friends and traveling a lot more, so really just savoring the flexibility that comes with not running the business full time and not having kids at home anymore (although I stay in close touch with them and enjoyed nearly every minute of raising them.)
What is a life or business hack that you recommend to help other female founders?
It won’t surprise you based on everything I’ve said above that my “hack” is to be a supportive friend and colleague, show up for people, and be organized when it comes to staying in touch. In my world, my network and friends are so important and they come through for me with connections, ideas, resources, showing up at events and parties, and I hope I do the same for them. That’s what really makes life fun and meaningful—feeling connected is so important for me, and sometimes that also means being organized and systematic about it to be more effective. For example, every time I think of someone, I send them a quick little text or email to let them know I’m thinking of them. Or if I know someone had something big going on in their life, I check in on them to see how it went. These little things take very little time but mean so much. And when I meet someone new I want to stay I touch with, I add them to my contacts and to the appropriate email list. Most importantly perhaps, if I say I’m going to be somewhere or do something, I’m going to do it. Being reliable might just be my life hack 😉
If you had a theme song what would it be?
This year it’s “Rise Up,” by Andra Day. Really tough year in the world and I’ve needed this one to keep going some days.
Please share your best piece of advice for aspiring female founders.
Do for others and serve others first and it will feel good and come back to you in so many different ways. It fills your heart and makes the world a better place. If you say you are going to do something, whether it’s connect someone to someone else or follow up on something, do it! You’ll separate yourself from about 90% of people that way.