Being a founder, entrepreneur, or a business owner can have many exciting and thrilling moments. But it is also punctuated with periods of doubt, slump, and anxiety. So how does one successfully and healthily ride the highs and lows of Entrepreneurship? In this series, called “How To Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur“ we are talking to successful entrepreneurs who can share stories from their experience. I had the pleasure of interviewing Kate MacDonnell.
Kate MacDonnell is the CMO for Coffee Affection – an online space dedicated to everything coffee. She takes hers with a bit of cream, no sugar. When she isn’t active in her CMO duties, she is probably somewhere walking her dog.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
Kate MacDonnell: Hi! I’m Kate MacDonnell, CMO of Coffee Affection. We are an online space dedicated to everything coffee – from different kinds of beans to the latest in coffee tech. We help pair people up with the products that will make them that perfect cup of morning coffee. I got started on this particular venture by getting a call from a friend who was thinking about starting this company. I was feeling like I could use a little change, and since I love coffee, I decided I should give it a shot. I have not regretted getting in on the ground floor and helping to build this company for a second!
What was the “Aha Moment” that led to the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?
Kate MacDonnell: The initial idea for the company doesn’t belong to me, but much of what we do now was my doing. Initially, we were just going to blog about different coffee brands, but I had the idea that, hey, people probably need to know about the best kinds of equipment to be using as well ( this idea came to me when I was shopping for a new coffee maker for myself). That was how that whole section of our website started.
In your opinion, were you a natural born entrepreneur or did you develop that aptitude later on? Can you explain what you mean?
Kate MacDonnell: I do think I was a naturally born entrepreneur. There always felt like there was something missing in my previous roles that finally felt quenched when I started developing this new business.
Was there somebody in your life who inspired or helped you to start your journey with your business? Can you share a story with us?
Kate MacDonnell: I had a mentor in college who always pushed me to follow my dreams. I would oftentimes be scared to for financial reasons. I couldn’t be gladder that I eventually listened to this mentor. I called them up to tell them after I helped start Coffee Affection and they were so happy to hear it.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Kate MacDonnell: I think we stand out since we are just a group of people who are sharing something we love (coffee) with the world. We know a lot about it, so we want more people to have that same access!
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
Perseverance – there were many times I wanted to give up. Whether it was financial reasons or I started to lose track of the end goal of the company. I’m glad I didn’t.
Leadership – If you can’t delegate responsibilities and get people fired up to work under you, it’ll be very hard to be an entrepreneur.
Sense of humor – I personally think it’s important to be able to laugh at yourself in what ends up being the very shaky process of getting a start-up off the ground level.
Often leaders are asked to share the best advice they received. But let’s reverse the question. Can you share a story about advice you’ve received that you now wish you never followed?
Kate MacDonnell: I had a friend towards the end of college tell me that getting a job right out of school was more important than taking a month or two to travel. I should have realized that jobs would always be there and that the time to travel wouldn’t necessarily.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them create a work culture in which employees thrive and do not “burn out” or get overwhelmed?
Kate MacDonnell: Again, I feel like this is where a sense of humor is key. I find when I incorporate humor into our company communications, everyone ends up being more engaged and productive.
What would you advise other business leaders to do in order to build trust, credibility, and Authority in their industry?
Kate MacDonnell: Just keep pushing yourself. You have to be willing to fail – it’s just part of it. You need to be able to face rejection in order to get your name out there. It’s really a numbers game…eventually you will be known but you have to be persistent and disciplined.
Can you help articulate why doing that is essential today?
Kate MacDonnell: All industries are flooded with an influx of people. If you put yourself out there for a day every other month, no one is going to remember you – they will just move on to the next thing. What’s important is persistence and showing that you’re here to stay.
What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?
Kate MacDonnell: The biggest mistake I usually see CEOs and founders making when they first start a business is thinking it’s going to be profitable right away. This is usually not the case and the company has to invest a lot of the money it does make right back into itself.
Ok fantastic. Thank you for those excellent insights, Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview about How to Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur. The journey of an entrepreneur is never easy, and is filled with challenges, failures, setbacks, as well as joys, thrills and celebrations. This might be intuitive, but I think it will be very useful to specifically articulate it. Can you describe to our readers why no matter how successful you are as an entrepreneur, you will always have fairly dramatic highs and lows? Particularly, can you help explain why this is different from someone with a “regular job”?
Kate MacDonnell: Being an entrepreneur is definitely different than a “regular job” because you really only have yourself to rely on. There are added securities in “regular jobs,” and typically, how the company does as a whole doesn’t really affect you too much. However, for a founder, they’re fully staked in the business so their mood can easily sway with the fluctuations of the business.
Do you feel comfortable sharing a story from your own experience about how you felt unusually high and excited as a result of your business? We would love to hear it.
Kate MacDonnell: I remember when the site got its 100,000th click. It might not seem like a big deal, but to me, the fact that 100,000 people had visited our site was mind-boggling.
Do you feel comfortable sharing a story from your own experience about how you felt unusually low, and vulnerable as a result of your business? We would love to hear it.
Kate MacDonnell: There was a time where traffic was on a downward trend for months on end. I was fully exerting myself day in and day out to try to get this flipped around, but things just weren’t changing. I began to think that the business was going to fail (spoiler alert: it didn’t).
Based on your experience can you tell us what you did to bounce back?
Kate MacDonnell: I just stayed persistent with my efforts to turn things around. As has always been my experience, eventually things turned around for the better.
We are living during challenging times and resilience is critical during times like these. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?
Kate MacDonnell: A resilient person, in my opinion, is someone who wakes up each day with a fresh attitude of taking on the day. No matter what happened the day before, it’s important to attack each day with a new perspective and see what you can bring to the table for your company. When COVID first started, I was really down and found it hard to be resilient. Eventually, the thought came to me that we would get through this, but it would take some extra effort on my part. I forced myself to be cognizant of having a positive attitude to start each workday – seeing what I could bring to the table to make things better on that specific day.
Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Would you mind sharing a story?
Kate MacDonnell: In middle school, I got cut from the 7th grade basketball team. It might not seem like a big deal now, but at the time, it was the absolute most important thing in the world to me. All my friends made the team and it left me feeling extremely excluded. I dedicated myself to practicing basketball for the next year and ended up making the team in 8th grade.
In your opinion, do you tend to keep a positive attitude during difficult situations? What helps you to do so?
Kate MacDonnell: I definitely tend to keep a positive attitude during difficult situations. I think my experience is what allows me to do this. I’ve proven to myself that no matter what happens, I can always bounce back from hard times – even if it means something I really don’t want to do.
Can you help articulate why a leader’s positive attitude can have a positive impact both on their clients and their team? Please share a story or example if you can.
Kate MacDonnell: A positive attitude of a leader oozes over into every aspect of the company. The same is true in the other direction – if a leader is negative, everyone is going to have a negative outlook. People like working for positive people. I’ve found that the days in which I am able to convey to my employees how much I believe in them and the company, everyone seems to be operating at a much greater efficiency.
Ok. Super. We are nearly done. What is your favorite inspirational quote that motivates you to pursue greatness? Can you share a story about how it was relevant to you in your own life?
Kate MacDonnell: My favorite quote is from Theodore Roosevelt. It’s: “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” – Theodore Roosevelt. This quote has been really essential to me to keep things in perspective. As an entrepreneur, sometimes I feel like I need to solve the world’s problems in one day. However, that isn’t possible. I need to remind myself to keep things simple and do the best I can for my company on each day. There was one day in particular where there were a million fires to put out. I wanted to get them all done at once and just move on to bigger and better things. However, I had to remind myself of the simple notion of keeping things simple and taking each problem one at a time.
How can our readers further follow you online?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with
this. We wish you continued success and good health!