How do you start your day?
I drag myself out of bed around 8:30am (I am not a morning person), read one of the teachings on my app for The Secret, walk my dog, and read emails. Some time around there I’ll have breakfast and my first cup of coffee too.
Who inspires you?
Successful business women: Dana Perino (Fox News), Ashley Graham, Ivanka Trump and Elisabeth Cardiello to name a few.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?
Pay no attention to those who speak poorly of you. That says more about them than it does about you.
What do you need to get you through each day?
My planner. I have it open on my desk at all times. I have a slight OCD about time and making sure that everything I need to do for the week/month is written down and properly timed out.
What are you reading?
Tied Up in Knots: How Getting What We Wanted Made Women Miserable, by Andrea Tantaros
Briefly describe your business and inspiration for it.
I am the founder of Adrienne M. Terzuoli, Lifestyle Expert and Edible Events NY. I started with EE NY back in 2010, and made it official in 2012. It began as a catering company and has blossomed into a private chef and consulting firm. We offer private and group cooking classes, as well as meal prep and nutritional consultations. I started EE NY because I loved making people happy with my food, and I was frequently asked by clients to offer additional services. I eventually slowed down with catering larger events, because I wanted to focus on being a boutique firm. There was something special about building a relationship with a client, and I found that I was getting a lot of repeat business when I went smaller.
How has your passion fueled your business?
Passion is the MOST important thing in my business. Without passion for any business, you won’t succeed. Talent and skill will only go so far. Your clients will know if you’re faking it. My passion for wanting to feed people and create a delicious atmosphere through food is what keeps me going. Even when I give talks, simply discussing food and the fact that I grew up in an Italian-American household surrounded by amazing female cooks makes me so happy. People come up to me and say that they feel inspired to go home and create something special for their families because they can “feel” my joy for my business through my words—and that is humbling.
What made you decide to become an entrepreneur?
I have always been inspired by strong women. They may not be loved by everyone, but they are respected and have a presence that you can’t ignore. When a strong woman walks into a room, she is noticed; everyone wants to talk to her, everyone wants to do business with her.
What was the tipping point for realizing you had a good business?
Everyone needs to eat! I started as a caterer, taking any job I could get, and suddenly found myself being sought out by new restaurants to help create full menus and train staff. My opinion was one of the ones that mattered most. I knew I had created something special.
What has been the key to your success?
NOT GIVING UP! There are days where I may not talk to one client and the fear of failure starts to creep up. I’ve thought about quitting and going back to my “regular” job more times than I care to admit, but every time I stop myself and say “Remember why you’re doing this. Remember why you left that other job in the first place.” Having a kick-ass tribe of female entrepreneurs who support you and your business doesn’t hurt either.
What lessons have you learned along the way that you wish you would have known at the beginning of your start-up career?
Unfortunately, people will be jealous of you and make you out to be the bad guy. I’ve lost a few friends who couldn’t understand my need to focus on me and my business and called me some of the most hurtful names. Not everyone is going to support your journey, but that’s ok. I’m an only child, so losing friends is like losing family members, but when you’re in business for yourself, you become selfish at the very beginning, even if it is not on purpose. Some people have a really hard time with that.
What challenges did you face in the early days of being the Founder of your own business?
Not having/making money. I didn’t want to take a loan for anything, so I would do things as I could afford them. I bought equipment piece by piece, paid for my website in installments, looked for coupons for business cards, etc… I wanted this so bad, but I had to take it slow, because I simply did not have the capital to do it all at once.
What is the biggest mistake you have made in your business to date and how have you moved past it?
Trusting the wrong people. Sometimes we get so excited about a new deal or the idea of making a new connection, that we lose the piece of us that made us successful: our instincts.
What would you have done differently?
Take things slower when people promise you the world in business. I hate to say everyone has an agenda, but let’s be real, they do. And most of the time, you’re so blind to wanting your business to be successful that we don’t slow down and do our research first.
What is the biggest challenge you have had in your business to date and how did you pull through it?
Remembering that I’m a woman first and a boss second. When I first started, I literally sat at my desk for days and just worked and made phone calls and read up on things, because I really jumped into this full time without a safety net. When I left my job it was an almost immediate change and I had to deal with knowing I wasn’t going back to the guaranteed paycheck, or the health insurance, or the pension and that was a very scary, yet liberating thing for me. After a while, I had to take a step back and realize that while I now run this company full time, it is not my whole life.
When self-doubt hits, what do you do?
Meditate and write. I really love having alone time and meditating on something I’m struggling with. We forget that we have the ability within ourselves to create the most amazing life.
What is your biggest fear as an entrepreneur?
Staying relevant. The culinary industry is full of insanely talented people, especially women. I am always working on myself, my skill, and my business to make sure that I stay ahead of the curve.
What aspects of being a start-up entrepreneur do you love and/or dislike?
I love new challenges—whether it’s building a website or making a menu—I like having something new to do with the business. I dislike that sometimes you spend more time explaining things to people who claim they support you, when they really don’t. Think about how much time we waste answering questions only for people to say, “That will never work.” I’m not a very negative person, so having the negativity around me sometimes can take its toll on the business, especially if you start to take things personally.
Which books, articles, blogs have helped to shape your business and/or leadership style?
I tend to use my group of female entrepreneur friends as my sounding boards. We are so unique in our businesses and our approach, I love getting together with them for a fun brain storming session. We all have ideas that we need to bounce around and what better way to do it than with your tribe. When I was a teacher I read this book, Good to Great by Jim Collins, and it has quickly become my go-to book for all things leadership. He talks about how all companies have the ability to make changes and go from good to great, but only some use the tools and take the chance, and that’s what truly sets them apart from everyone else. It’s a really incredible book.
Are there any go-to resources that you have found useful to run your business (service, web site, etc.)?
I can’t live without GoDaddy, Wix, Vistaprint, Amazon, Webstaurant, and Pinterest. With the exception of GoDaddy, I’m on the others almost every day.
What has been your best strategy for selling your product or service and what have you learned along the way?
In my opinion, there is no better (or worse) strategy than word of mouth. Websites are great, social media works, but to be able to speak to someone, that can make or break your business. I get a lot of my clients from referrals and luckily I have had some of the most incredible clients who have spoken such wonderful things, I couldn’t be happier.
How did your experiences in the corporate world prepare you for entrepreneurship, or not?
When I worked for Scripps Networks I was surrounded by female executives. I wanted to be them. I loved how powerful they were; smart and fierce, and yet at the same time very real and down to earth. They had busy lives and families and really emulated the idea of “having it all.” When I worked for the Department of Education, however, I saw women who abused their power and were ugly (in personality), threatened by female teachers they feared were after their jobs, vindictive, the total opposite of an inspirational woman. They were everything I didn’t want to be. All of our past work experiences shape the business woman we become.
What do you think the most important attribute a female entrepreneur/ business owner can possess?
Thick skin, persistence, humility, graciousness, humor.
What do you do outside the office to help you stay creative/productive?
I live for spin classes at SoulCycle. Plus, I always take a day to literally do nothing. I don’t cook or watch cooking shows; I read, watch Bravo and allow myself to just relax. Sometimes it’s the absence of doing anything that can create something amazing. We need to let our brains rest once in a while.
What would you say to another woman who asked you if they should take the leap and start their own business?
I was speaking with a chef one time and he gave me the following advice: think of your dreams as a butterfly. People are always trying to catch butterflies, but they are not easily caught. You keep trying and trying, changing your approach, coming up with new strategies, and always going after that butterfly. One day you will catch it. Those are your dreams—we keep going after them, we keep thinking about them, we keep figuring out and eventually, we grab them. We catch our dreams. It was so interesting to see it explained that way, but I completely agree. I even got a small butterfly tattoo on my wrist to remind myself to never stop trying to catch my dreams.