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How Little Spoon Became a Big Deal | Lisa Barnett, Co-Founder and CMO of Little Spoon

How Little Spoon Became a Big Deal | Lisa Barnett, Co-Founder and CMO of Little Spoon

Lisa is wearing the women's Alistair II in White.

It seems like Lisa Barnett, co-founder and CMO of Little Spoon, a fresh, direct-to-consumer baby food company, is always smiling. Ask her why and she’ll tell you, “I try to stay as optimistic as possible. I always remind myself that there are many things that are out of my control, but the one thing I can control is how I react to them.”

From the sidelines, it looks like Barnett’s reactions to what life throws at her are pretty good—and always have been. Some of her ability to take command of situations started well before her career began. You see, she graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Pennsylvania while also receiving two prestigious scholar-athlete awards, and attended Wharton for her MBA.

After graduating, there was no slowing down for Barnett. Working in marketing, she fostered growth for Fortune 500 retailers as well as health and consumer clients like Estee Lauder Companies by helping them expand their reach and customer base and by redefining their customer experience.

Next, she brought her growth mindset and brand/digital marketing skills to venture capital firms like Maveron & Dorm Room Fund and Sherpa Foundry. It was during her tenure at the latter that she was named to Forbes “30 under 30 - Venture Capital” list in 2017.

Realizing not only the potential but the need for a company that makes organic products designed for a baby’s specific nutrition needs, Barnett jumped at the chance to join co-founder and “Chief Mom” Michelle Muller, CEO Ben Lewis and chief product officer Angela Vranich in bringing Little Spoon to life in 2017.

While making fresh, organic baby food accessible to more parents is what really makes Barnett happy, raising a combined $7 million from Kyle O’Brien, former executive vice-president of sales at Chobani, L.L.C. as well as Tinder founders Sean Rad and Justin Mateen, Kairos, Interplay Ventures, SoGal Ventures, the San Francisco 49ers and Vaultier7 to make that dream come true probably felt pretty good too.

Sure to put a smile on anyone’s face, here are some tips from Barnett on how to be a frontrunner in the rat race while staying happy and healthy.

HOW TO SUCCEED IN THE LONG RUN

Write what you know. It’s common advice but even more commonly misconstrued. It doesn’t mean write about your daily life, because that’s boring. It means take what you know and apply it to more interesting stories. Barnett says that the same advice holds true for entrepreneurs—take your knowledge and apply it to a new field to really create some exciting: a positive disruption.

“Having outsiders can be one of a startup’s biggest secret weapons. Experts often take industry norms for granted, whereas non-experts aren’t afraid to challenge the underlying assumptions,” she explains. “And sometimes asking these basic questions is what uncovers the most disruptive opportunities.”

“Consider Uber, Casper and Away. None of these companies have founders with experience in transportation, mattresses or luggage, yet they have beaten or stolen substantial market share from well-resourced market incumbents,” she points out. “This is because the founders asked the basic questions about the way things worked that the industry stopped asking. For us, that question was, ‘Why is grocery store baby food older than the baby eating it?’”

Lisa Barnett | Little Spoon

DON’T RUN FROM ‘NO’

Of course, asking the question in one thing. Answering it in a meaningful way that can be scaled up and turned profitable is a whole ‘other ballgame. That’s where, Barnett states, the key element of any entrepreneur comes in. And no, it’s not a trust fund, an Ivy League education or Steve Jobs’ iconic black turtleneck. Instead it’s something the former track star knows a bit about.

“Hustle. To me, that is hands down the most important quality of an entrepreneur,” she declares. “There are no novel ideas, so the successful entrepreneurs are the ones who can out-execute and persevere even in the face of setbacks and “no’s”—and there will be many.”

Again, Barnett’s experience is a good example of this. She says her partners at Little Spoon could see a glaring gap in the market, but figuring out how to design a fresh, organic and nutritionally dense product and brand that was affordable and accessible to families across the nation was not simple. If it were, someone would have done it before.

“We faced plenty of challenges – from setting up the operations and supply chain, to finding the right people to bring on board to realize this vision – from the team to our partners and investors,” she remembers. “One of the most important takeaways from this experience is that you cannot accept ‘no’ for an answer. If you’re doing something differently than the norm of an industry, you are inevitably going to get a lot of no’s.”

Getting told “no” for a lot people equals failure—but not Barnett. Instead, she sees it as a part of her job description. “That’s the nature of being an entrepreneur,” she explains. “Persistence and an orient toward problem-solving are what get you through it. You can’t fail if you don’t give up.”

Lisa Barnett | Little Spoon

SLOWING DOWN (SORT OF)

Though she wishes she had more time to run with friends like when she was on the track team at UPenn, her busy schedule doesn’t allow for a ton of that. But that doesn’t mean she still doesn’t run, and in fact working out is must for Barnett.

“I still run nearly every day. On days that I don’t run, I usually do a SoulCycle class,” she says. “Unsurprisingly, I am into nutrition and fitness, so working out is a priority that I rarely budge on.”  That means even on the days when she can’t squeeze in 10 miles, she still gets in some exercise.

“Being a New Yorker, I pretty much walk everywhere—regardless of the weather,” Barnett adds. “I love getting the fresh air and find it super relaxing to have 15 minutes to myself every morning while walking to work to process what I want to tackle in the day.”

Given her fast-paced job and the fact that she’s quite a speedster in sneakers, she knew she had to figure out ways to slow things down. In the gym, that translates to reformer Pilates, which emphasizes slow movements. “Since embarking on this entrepreneurial journey, I’ve also found that I increasingly need and want some quieter time to reflect and slow down,” she explains. “This gives me that.”

Outside the gym, taking it easy isn’t always easy so she makes a point of scheduling downtime into her work calendar. “I try to be intentional about planning time away from my business,” Barnett notes. “I plan nights out with my friends and boyfriend, and I have a few non-negotiables—like making time for self-care (for me that’s working out), for my family, and to take a fun trip or two during the year.”

No matter if it’s work or pleasure, you can count one thing. She’ll be doing something that puts a smile on her face. After all, as she says, “Nothing is worth doing if you aren’t having fun and enjoying the process.”

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