What a great time for female entrepreneurs. We are delighted to share with you features and essays written by super women with inspiring careers and businesses that are reshaping our economy and the way we consume. They share their journey, the process it took them to get to where they are now and what they’ve learnt along the way. Welcome to Modern Mentors.
I recall sitting on the 1950s era countertop in my grandmother’s kitchen with the metal edge pressing into the back of my legs. We were always picking feathers from a chicken recently butchered for dinner or grinding the end of a ham hock for ham spread served on warm home-made bread. Summer and fall were filled with canning sweet cucumber pickles or making crab apple jelly from freshly picked fruit to fill my grandparents’ dirt cellar for the West Virginia winter.
Growing up with a Southern-cooking grandmother and a mother who carried on those traditions, I naturally took to cooking. I considered culinary school but instinctively knew I did not want to live the stereotypical food & beverage lifestyle. Receiving a degree in photography from Hollins University, I embarked on a journey of successful 20+ years in marketing, PR, and development in Atlanta, GA then Charleston, SC.
After our daughter was born, I researched baby food available in the store and quickly realized the best I could do for her was to make her food myself – using what my grandmother and mother taught me about the importance of the freshest ingredients and how some special ingredients make the best meals. I loved watching her experience new foods and develop her own palate to devour seasonally fresh, real fruits, and vegetables. Launching Harvest to Highchair ultimately married my love of cooking with my love of family. H2H is simply a family business for growing families.
Planning the launch of Harvest to Highchair was a side hustle. I was still working a full-time, high-intensity fundraising position until about 6 months after the initial market launch. Even today after 3 years in business, I work a part-time flexible job that allows a little safety net and extra funding for the business. Our funding has completely been from friends and family, but we are considering an incubator program or opening a round of investments as we gain more momentum.
The hardships and glories
Entrepreneurship is one of the hardest, yet exhilarating experiences of my life beyond motherhood. I equate it to being like a duck on water – keeping cool on the surface while you’re furiously paddling under the water. I have used every nugget of knowledge gained from my education and work to grow Harvest to Highchair into what it is today. Our first sale was so exciting, but scary at the same time because all of a sudden it wasn’t just a passion and I had to deliver, and I did. But it came from putting myself out there, taking every opportunity to tell people what we were doing, and not being held back hearing no. I still do a little happy dance when we get an order from a new mom who just wants the best for her little ones, a mom coming back to us because she had a great experience with her first child, or a compliment about the quality of our products.
Failure is not really failure. It’s just the opportunity to wipe the slate clean, learn from your mistakes, and start again.Ann Read
There will always be struggles being an entrepreneur but it’s how you face those struggles that defines your success. I get overwhelmed with the big picture- how to get it all done, and the pressure to be successful. I received one of the best pieces of advice when we first launched from a friend. He said, “look at success like a big tree that you’re trying to cut down with a small ax. You are not going to be able to take the tree down with one swing. If you take one swing at the tree every day, you make small strides to success. Focus on the small swings instead of yelling timber and you will get there.”
Whenever I feel overwhelmed by all the minutiae of entrepreneurship, I remember…just to take one good swing today.
Ann Read is the president and owner of Harvest to Highchair, a seasonally fresh artisanal baby and children’s food company. She launch H2H in 2015, recognizing a need for high quality baby food after her daughter was starting solids. She has had a 22 year successful career in major project fundraising but losing her mother in 2014 opened her eyes to the importance of slowing down, enjoying life, and living a more intentional life.