Sarah Michelle Gellar is a Golden Globe nominee and Emmy award winning actress, who has gone from starring in Buffy to co-founding the food company Foodstirs.
Gellar is taking on a seven-billion-dollar baking-mix and prepared-foods industry with co-founders Galit Laibow, and Greg Fleishman. “I was really excited about what that change could be and what I would be capable of and what I could push myself to do,” she says.
Foodstirs sells organic and GMO-free baking mixes and kits. Since launching in October 2015, the products have sold in more than 15,000 stores in the United States. This includes retailers like Whole Foods Market, Kroger, Target and soon Starbucks.
Gellar says the career change has been a steep learning curve. “People think that doing a television show is hard. Well try having a business. It is twenty-four hours a day, 7 days a week. It never stops,” says Gellar. In this interview, Gellar shares the secrets to her success and why failing is such an important part of building a business.
Michelle King: How did you get started?
Sarah Michelle Gellar: All of our kids were really enthralled with these baking shows, which were targeting a younger generation. When we wanted to make these products with our children, we were very surprised at the lack of options in the baking category. All we could find were these old legacy brands that were filled with chemicals and ingredients that nobody wanted to see anymore.
When we started to research the category, we saw that it was a seven-billion-dollar category that was being dominated by these older brands that had an 80 percent market share. We thought that was interesting because as a consumer we know what people are looking for. We decided to take the leap and try it.
King: How is Foodstirs different?
Gellar: This first thing is our ingredients. We have amazing partners and source our ingredients from sustainable farmers all over the world. The second thing is that we are modernizing the way consumers shop. We have a large social media following and have been able to engage a loyal army of ‘bake sale ballers’ as we like to call them. We share how to use the products and different recipes.
The traditional baking Instagram’s tend to rely on taking a selfie and hoping someone buys it. But that is not how you get customers. That is not how you get someone to go down a different isle. So, we are trying to solve that problem.
King: How important is innovation and creativity in your work?
Gellar: Creativity is the road to invention. If you think of any great inventor, they were all creative thinkers. Basically, what you are doing is solving a problem. I always worry now days that we all are problem identifiers but not problem solvers. At Foodstirs we use innovation to solve the needs that consumers have. For example, we just launched a minute mug muffin because sometimes you get to four o’clock and you just want a piece of cake. But you don’t want to bake a whole cake. So, you can use our ingredients and some water, and make a cake in few minutes. And it is all organic. So, this is how we are solving a need and making it simple for people.
King: What has been the biggest lesson you have learnt so far as an entrepreneur?
Gellar: I think the biggest lesson that I have taken away is that this is who you surround yourself with. You have to have people around you that have experience and knowledge they can share. People who are smarter than you and who have done this before. Don’t be afraid to ask them for help and lean on them. So often we are afraid to ask for advice or help and we miss these great opportunities.
King: Often the challenge for women is confidence and overcoming the fear of failing. How do you deal with this?
Gellar: I always talk about the fact that failure should be the first attempt at learning. Failure should never be a bad word. It should be a challenging word. I look at failure like exercise. When you exercise you want to stretch your muscles until they hit failure. You do this so your muscles can grow stronger. This is how I look at failure. We use the word in such a negative way when really we should just see failure as a challenge. It’s a call to arms to do better.
Michelle King is a leading global gender equality expert, with a focus on advancing women in the changing world of work. To stay up to date follow Michelle @michpking.