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A year ago, actress Sarah Michelle Gellar joined the likes of Jessica Alba and Gwyneth Paltrow in the transition from celebrity to entrepreneur with her e-commerce startup Foodstirs.
Gellar founded the company with Galit Laibow, co-founder of ink PR Group, and Gia Russo Levin, co-founder of the lifestyle company MiGi and author of several cooking and lifestyle books. The company sells baking kits online and via subscription that’s a recipe in a box — and one easy enough for parents to make with their kids but impressive enough to make you and your family feel like Martha Stewart.
Speaking of the Queen of DIY, Stewart invited Gellar to speak at her annual American Made Summit last month in New York City to talk about her experience as an entrepreneur. After the event, she answered a few of our questions via email. Here’s what she had to say. (Responses have been lightly edited for brevity and clarity.)
Bizwomen: There’s a lot of competition in the food box space. How are you working to make sure Foodstirs stand out?
Sarah Michelle Gellar: At the end of the day we are a food product, so the hope is that the taste and quality are so good, you have to come back. But realistically, I believe we are taking a different, more modern approach in two ways: The first way is with our ingredient deck. We are being innovative and resourceful, truly uncovering the best quality ingredients. Foodstirs is the only baking mix currently on the market to use both biodynamic sugar and fair trade equal exchange cocoa. These ingredients not only stand to our modern approach to food but also enhance the taste.
Our second road of innovation involves community. We are taking advantage of all social platforms to involve our customers in the experience. The Foodstirs experience does not end with purchase. We offer alternative recipes, substitutions, how-to videos, as well as original content. I believe the modern consumer not only wants transparency in their food products, but they want their voices to be heard. With Foodstirs they get all of that. All of these attributes, I believe make us stand out in a $5 billion category ruled by legacy brands.
BW: What has been the biggest challenge so far of getting your startup off the ground?
SMG: I think anyone will agree that starting your own business is a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week job. As a co-founder of a startup, you are responsible for all aspects of the company. And even if you can afford some help, no one can understand your vision better than you. Thus almost all things fall to you.
For me, the tech side of starting as an e-commerce company has had the biggest learning curve. Two years ago, I had never even heard the terms SEO, SEM or ROI.
BW: How much has the name recognition and Buffy connection helped you in the startup process? Has it hurt you in any way?
SMG: My name recognition is definitely a double-edged sword. While it certainly may help me get in the door, most times it’s just as a novelty. I have much more to prove in a fundraising meeting than a business graduate or even just an average entrepreneur.
BW: You’ve talked about how the pitching process forced you to grow thicker skin. How did that compare to some of the criticism you’ve faced in Hollywood, and how did you deal with it?
SMG: It’s always hard to stand in front of people and show them your dream and have it rejected. In Hollywood so often it is based on your look and not your heart so that can be easier to shrug off. That being said, rejection is never easy. I just always remind myself that for 10,000 no’s, there can be still be one yes, and that’s all it takes.
BW: Best customer feedback so far?
SMG: We always say whenever we are having a bad day, all we have to do is look at our Instagram and see all the amazing, heartwarming connections that people are making and posting with our products. That never gets old. And I myself used to be fearful of the kitchen, so if we can tackle even a little of that intimidation, then I know we are doing something right.
BW: What’s your favorite recipe so far?
SMG: Asking me to pick my favorite mix is like asking me to pick my favorite child. So much goes into creating each mix that I love them all (or we wouldn’t release them). But I will say that as far as kits go, I love the creativity of the movie night kit. Every time people see it or make it they are blown away. So I am definitely very proud of that one.
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