Scott Jennings Of Pantry Food: How To Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur

by Christina Gvaliant

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 Scott Jennings.

Scott Jennings is an impact investor holding a decade of Wall Street experience. He left the financial district to combine his two passions: people and health. Scott is the founder and CEO of Pantry Food Co., a gourmet cannabis-infused edibles company utilizing only the healthiest ingredients. As cannabis evolves, it’s becoming less about stoner culture and more about wellness. Pantry is at the forefront of cannabis health and is continuing to grow across the country as legalization sweeps the nation.

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. What was the “Aha Moment” that led to the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?

Scott Jennings: I’ve been a cannabis consumer for most of my life, but I’m slightly asthmatic so smoking doesn’t always work for me. I came to California from New York and saw legalization, so I watched all of these new products come out. So, it wasn’t like if I wanted the benefits of cannabis I had to smoke, there were other options.

The problem was, the choices didn’t fit my diet. These edibles were candy. High sugar, low calorie, artificially-flavored, so if I was trading lung distress for candy — that didn’t seem like a good trade-off. I figured there had to be other customers out there like me who consume cannabis for wellness and don’t want the lung distress associated with smoking or the poor ingredients that come with traditional edibles. That was my aha moment. There wasn’t a product for me or my community, so I moved forward and started Pantry.

In your opinion, were you a natural born entrepreneur or did you develop that aptitude later on? Can you explain what you mean?

Scott Jennings: My parents were both entrepreneurs, so I think there was a little of that in my blood. However, my siblings had gone into Corporate America and on Wall Street, and surviving in a big family and on Wall Street was competitive. So, I don’t think I was born a natural entrepreneur, but I was definitely taught over the duration of my life that hard work matters. That you need to be a self-starter. You need to get things done. And I think playing sports, working on Wall Street, running and managing a bar — nobody was telling me what to do. I was doing it on my own and I think as an entrepreneur, that’s really relatable. There’s no playbook. I think just being a self-starter and in a position to be in a positive, problem-solving mentality will position you well because I wasn’t in that mindset when I was younger. It’s definitely something I have developed over the course of my life and it’s something that led to me becoming a really great entrepreneur right now.

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?

Scott Jennings: There are many people that inspire me, but one of the most inspirational for me is Elon Musk. Everything he has done over the course of his life is amazing to me, and I have watched his journey in awe.

He came to America as an immigrant from South Africa through Canada, and he was very successful in Northern California in Silicon Valley. That’s inspiring, seeing someone come here from another country and utilize the freedoms the United States offers to become successful. He started X.Com in 1999 which later became PayPal, and SpaceX in 2002, and Tesla in 2003. He became a multi-millionaire before he turned 30 when he sold his start-up company, Zip2. He’s just done a lot of successful things and continues to seem like a genuinely good individual.

I would also say my business partner, Paul Rosen, inspired me. He jumped into cannabis in 2012 in Canada, so he was definitely early. He’s very much like me. He consumes cannabis for wellness, and he encouraged me to just be open with it and lean into it as much as I have.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Scott Jennings: I speak to a lot of investors because a lot of them are interested in getting into the cannabis space. One investor, in particular, asked me, what is Pantry’s unfair advantage? And I proudly said the people. I really do believe that after growing up with a large family and working in Corporate America and even running a bar in New York City, that the difference between family, work, a bar, wherever you go, is the people. It really comes down to the people.

She didn’t really like that answer, but I’ve always believed what makes Pantry different is the people. The people drive the passion, they drive the vision, they drive the experience, and a lot of times you have to be emotionally connected to brands. And consumers can feel that! So if you’re building a hollow company, versus something with integrity, intention, and passion — that’s going to stand out. So, while I can say we have outstanding products, differentiated ingredients, and all of these other good things, I fully believe the biggest difference is the people and I’ve seen that in every facet of my life.

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?

Scott Jennings: Being a self-starter is the most important one. You have to get up, you have to swing that bat, and you have to push forward. If you can’t be a self-starter, you won’t succeed as an entrepreneur. The good news is you can teach yourself to be a self-starter if you aren’t one already. It just takes practice and consistency!

I would say also remembering most things in business aren’t personal. You know, a lot of things happen over your career and you have to remember that this is an emotional roller coaster for everyone. There may be things that are said at different times, at different companies, in different scenarios, and remember to take that with a grain of salt. Not everyone is out to get you, there are definitely better people than worse. Making sure your emotions stay moderated in business is very important.

The last thing I would say is a mindset. A lot of people would look at something they endured and say “this is a negative experience”, or “something bad happened to me.” I think your mindset always has to be viewing things as a blessing in disguise or a learning experience. So if everything is a learning experience, then you’re constantly getting better. That’s something I actually adopted from Elon Musk. You have this feedback loop of consumers telling you “hey this is wrong” or “we can do better here” and that is not a negative thing. That is actually really helpful. That’s the most valuable feedback a company can have. And while so many companies have hidden behind layers and layers of service to get feedback back to management, Elon Musk has been very accessible. For Pantry, we aren’t here to be perfect. We are here to have open communication with our consumers to get their feedback and I think anyone who approaches that mindset in business will be perpetually getting better. Each time they get the feedback they don’t say “oh that person doesn’t like me.” Instead, they say, “well, let me think about that. What does he mean by that? Can I improve there?” There’s a healthy trait there in how you view feedback. That determines the progress you make personally and in your career.

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?

Scott Jennings: I was given the advice to trust people I probably shouldn’t have. I think going off of a recommendation from somebody I trusted led me astray. Kind of throwing it back to my last question though, I still think that was just a learning experience for me. I trusted people, I thought they were good people and I thought what I read about them online was valid. I thought they were real, nice, and with integrity but I was wrong.

I will say, nobody is going to suffer that pain like you are. Your trusted friends will feel bad for recommending the wrong person, but they won’t feel the hit you might feel. So trust people, but verify. Always try to have a balance in that because you don’t know what due diligence has been done. Even if I told you, “hey, trust this person” you should still ask yourself what due diligence you’ve done and how you view them. A lot of times, we can think a lot of people are our friends but the age-old saying is when you’re late in life how many people can you call? And there’s probably a very view. So always do your research when it comes to going off the recommendation of others and avoid a potentially misleading trap.

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?

Scott Jennings: Listen. How do I know someone’s burnout? I know how hard I can push. And you may think you know how hard someone else can push. But, you really don’t know. And most importantly, you don’t know what’s going on in their life. You don’t know what’s going on with their kids, you don’t know what’s going on with their health, and I think we have to instill the opposite of a dictatorship and implement trust. I think we have to trust our employees and build a level of communication, to be honest with one another, and to circle around passions, we want to work on to avoid mental fatigue. I think it’s important to do the things that set your soul on fire and things you are passionate about.

But, I’ve seen a lot of cannabis companies do the Wall Street Grind. They grind, grind, grind and it’s a bad culture — people are spinning out. And I think that’s something that makes Pantry stand out, is our culture. We really do lead with love, we really do listen to each other. I write notes to my team all the time and as the CEO, I join my team’s calls when I can whether I’m needed or not just to listen because I won’t learn anything by continuously talking.

What would you advise other business leaders to do in order to build trust, credibility, and Authority in their industry?

Scott Jennings: I think it takes time and communication. Trust is very hard to gain and so easy to lose. It all boils down to communication.

I like to say, everyone can throw a football but only Tom Brady can do it that well. It’s like communication. Everyone can do it, but a lot of times company communication is sloppy on many levels and it leads to mistrust. It leads to missed expectations. It’s not always what you say, but it’s also how you think it was heard.

You need to communicate with your audience why you are the expert. Why you know what you know and what your company is doing differently. And that takes time. You have to be consistent, and consistently place your brand in front of them.

Can you help articulate why doing that is essential today?

Scott Jennings: It helps accelerate the pace of getting things done. If you think of people’s trust as being a gatekeeper to doing something, when you have their trust, you can accelerate in anything you can do. That can be in sports, business, or whatever it is. I can’t accelerate certain things if I don’t have the consumer’s trust, and you have to take time to build that. That will allow me to, when the time is right, activate my network in an effective way to see results.

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?

Scott Jennings: The ego is one of them, I think. I think entrepreneurs can also get to drive in their vision and it’s important to be moderate. Elon Musk is again a good example of that. He has a very strong vision, but he listens to a ton of feedback. Sometimes, founders and CEOs, even if they’re right they can really be toxic to their company being too strong-headed.

I think companies would also do a lot better by moderating their growth. The culture right now is growth at all costs and that means asking for more money from your investors. Take it slow, and let your company crawl before it walks.

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”?

Scott Jennings: It’s the connection. When you work at a big company, you might be passionate about it. But as an entrepreneur, you have your company and it’s like your baby. So you’re like “okay, I’m going to be calm” when something happens but the truth is you’re so emotionally connected to that baby. If that baby goes up, if that baby goes down — you feel that connection.

There’s a lot of meditating that goes on to try and mitigate that feeling and not ride too high or too low, but it’s the fact that it’s your vision. It’s your passion. You also can’t forget, a lot of people have everything riding on this. Maybe they left good jobs and careers to risk it all. So it’s a connection, but there’s also a massive risk associated with it.

As the baby gets bigger, the family grows. So now I have more people depending on the success of my company, I’ve got an entire team with a livelihood to maintain. That’s a lot of pressure.

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.

Scott Jennings: Going through the regulatory hoops to bring a cannabis product to market in California was a huge high point for us. This isn’t just a food product, it’s highly regulated and in the eyes of the federal government — it’s illegal. It’s an accomplishment to get a cannabis product to market and we didn’t just do it, we did it in a big way. We launched with six products at Hall of Flowers, which is one of the biggest B2B trade shows in the industry.

It was a fantastic experience and milestone for us to be there and say, “Hey! We did it.”

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.

Scott Jennings: When you aspire to do well, sometimes you do bad. What I mean by that, and what other health food companies mean by that, is healthy food spoils. There’s a reason why a lot of companies, and even the FDA, put pressure on food companies to put things in their food to preserve it. I would say there are some misunderstandings around it because it’s not perfect.

I did the tests to determine how long the food could stay good and guess what? They misled me. We had quality control issues early on because we went the hard way to not use gelatin, to use real fruit instead. Real fruit is hard. It’s not stable. I learned each fruit adds different acidity levels, different water levels, and creates a different consistency so it was low when I knew I sold a product with quality control issues.

Based on your experience can you tell us what you did to bounce back?

Scott Jennings: We went back to the drawing board and brought in the best of the best experts to troubleshoot with us and determine what we could do differently. From there, we put procedures in place to prevent that from happening again. Having protocols in place is important to avoid this, so you’re aware of when things have quality issues or not.

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?

Scott Jennings: “It’s not about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.” That’s what resilience is. Life is going to throw things at you, and you better believe it’s going to sometimes be super light or enormously challenging that will make you wonder how you will keep moving forward.

Here’s what you do. You get a good night’s sleep, which cannabis can help with if you’re of age, you wake up, you point one foot in front of the other, and simply move forward. That is resilience. Like I said earlier, you can’t just work harder and call that resilience. You have to make sure there is a smarter component to that, you don’t want to be resilient down the wrong path.

Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Would you mind sharing a story?

Scott Jennings: My whole life, honestly. Sports challenged me, my siblings challenged me, and my parents challenged me. It was always a matter of being resilient. Did you get this grade? Awesome, let’s go for a better one. You did this well in a football game? Try another one and see if you can do better. Your brothers are bigger, faster, stronger and you need to keep up.

In your opinion, do you tend to keep a positive attitude during difficult situations? What helps you to do so?

Scott Jennings: I think throughout my life I have been a positive person, but it wasn’t until I was older that I realized the benefits of a positive mindset. I was raised in a big family and was always told to keep going. Later in life, I learned more about consciousness and proactively having a positive attitude. As I got older, I realized a lot of the people I was hanging around were very negative. So, I started to take a more proactive approach to practice mindfulness and a positive attitude. Looking at your surroundings helps. What are you listening to? Are you around negative people? You are a product of your environment. Having a clean internal environment, looking at your surroundings, and making sure anything you consume is useful to your life.

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.

Scott Jennings: If you are around a leader that doesn’t have a positive attitude, he’s going to potentially influence how you react. So, it goes back to your environment. Having people around you with a positive mindset triggers the law of attraction. At Pantry, we are really big about positive mindsets. On our Monday calls, we start with gratitude. I tell the team why I’m thankful for them and tell them why I have a positive attitude for the company, and I move the ball forward. Also, I’m real. Being positive doesn’t mean being unrealistic.

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?

Scott Jennings: I’ll have to find the perfect quote, but I did find a YouTube video about self-mastery and how you operate through life. You do the things, you get the job, the wife, house, and kids. Until one day, you wake up and realize you were just going through the motions of life. The video basically wrapped up and said, “In self-mastery, you want to enjoy everything you’re doing. You have to be mindful of falling into a passive state of mind, and just doing what everyone else is doing.” The video talks about living with motivation, inspiration, and passion. This video was transformational in my life and helped me through so many things.

How can our readers further follow you online?

Scott Jennings: On LinkedIn, 

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with
this. We wish you continued success and good health!

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