LISA ODENWELLER is an “organic entrepreneur,” although the owner of Beaming, a growing chain of organic cafes and food products, hasn’t always been in the healthy food business. She started her career not in the kitchen, but in the boardroom, working for software companies like Oracle. After leaving the tech world she owned and operated a number of different businesses in San Diego, where she resides, but it wasn’t until 2012 when she opened her first Beaming retail store when everything clicked for her. She was able to marry her passion for health and nutrition with a business that helped others. Lisa spoke with Lady Clever about her journey starting Beaming and what she’s learned about life and business along the way.
What inspired you to start Beaming?
I have always been passionate about health and wellness and considered myself extremely healthy for most of my life– I exercise every day, eat clean, and have seemed to know a lot about nutrition, helping friends eat well and create an exercise program. All that being said, it wasn’t until I saw cancer survivor, author and health advocate Kris Carr speak at Marie Forleo’s Rich Hot Happy Live 4 years ago that it finally really hit me: food is medicine and truly is the cornerstone of our health. I, like most, wanted to feel empowered with my health. The best way I felt I could inspire and share this message was by helping people feel how good you feel when you feed your body well. As a self-proclaimed foodie, I wanted to combine my passion for health with my obsession for food into a deliciously addictive experience that people of all ages could enjoy and feel the benefits of eating clean, plant-based foods without feeling like they were sacrificing.
How did you become interested in organic superfoods? Why do you consider them so important that you would want to create a business around nutrition?
I am passionate about wellness and inspiring people to experience how good we feel when we feed our body well. Knowing how busy people are and how confusing nutrition and health can be, I wanted to do this in a way that would be simple, delicious and incredibly convenient to fit into anyone’s lifestyle.
My first love affair was with the superfood Maca. Maca is a superfood that helps increase energy, balance hormones and enhance libido – what’s there not to love about this superfood?!
How do you develop the menu items for Beaming?
As far as creating the menu for Beaming, I spent nearly a year traveling the country trying every juice, smoothie, raw and plant-based foods I could get my hands on. I would take notes and get a sense for what I felt worked and what didn’t. I would play in the kitchen for 12-14 hours/day trying to learn how to make plant-based foods, juices, and smoothies that tasted great. I wanted to learn everything I could about this style of food so that I could figure out to how to make it taste amazing and not “hippy-dippy.” I then worked with some of the best chefs in the industry. While I created many of the most popular items on our menu, collaborating with some incredible chefs was an integral part of creating the menu.
How do you balance your creative duties with the business side of your company?
My preference, of course, is to be in the creative side as this is what I am best at – food design and innovation, designing the overall customer experience of Beaming, engaging with customers, partners, branding, special programming and marketing, sharing the vision and mission of Beaming — especially education. These are the areas where I am most “skilled,” but as with any business owner, I am very involved in every aspect of the business.
Since the beginning of Beaming, I was very clear about what I wanted to do for the company, where I could bring the most value and what I love to do. Having clarity on this has allowed me to attract people to run the areas of the business that I knew not only were not my strengths but also not where I wanted to spend my time. I knew, for example, that I did not want to run the day-to-day operations of the cafes. My friends did not believe that I could open a restaurant and not be there 24/7 running it but I was very clear that I would hire people who could manage it better than I could. As it is today, I do not have keys to the stores nor do I know the security code for how to disarm the alarms to get in. The cafes had to be able to operate without me and while I am very, very involved, I do not run the daily operations.
What about your personal and professional lives?
Ha. Yes. I don’t think there is such a thing as “balance” although hopefully you find what I call “flow.” You don’t become an entrepreneur because you want more time to yourself. You do it because you love what you do. It’s a constant challenge and even as I write the answers to these questions, I have 3 children waiting for me to tuck them into bed and read a book to them. No matter how much Beaming needs my attention, my children do too and often at the most inconvenient times, like when you are running a board meeting and you get a call from school that your child has been sprayed by a skunk and needs to be picked up – yes, that happened.
Boundaries are key. You make time for what’s important. You make sacrifices every day and you have to make choices on how to spend your time. And likely you won’t get it all done nor will you be able to give your kids everything that you would want to give them but you do the best you can and make sure you are very very selfish with your time.
What has been the biggest challenge starting and running Beaming?
One of the biggest challenges for me was learning how to hire, lead and manage people. I made a lot of mistakes in hiring the wrong people — whether they were consultants or employees — which cost the me and the company time and money. I will also admit that I was not a great manager and had to learn patience while also learning that, while having very high standards for the business has been critical to its success, I can not expect everyone to see or do things the way I would do them. I had to learn how to let go and lead people by teaching and supporting as opposed to having them feel like they could not ever meet my expectations. It was a very humbling experience for me but one that I quickly recognized and committed myself to learn how to become a better leader and manager.
What do you consider one of Beaming’s biggest success?
I will answer this from two perspectives. From a business perspective, the biggest success was exceeding our initial sales projections year one by 2.7X or nearly triple what I had originally projected. In its first year of business, Beaming was one of the most successful if not most successful juice bar-like concepts in the country.
From a personal perspective and what lights me up most about Beaming is hearing every day how it has changed people’s lives. Seeing kids embrace Beaming, coming in between their sports practices or bringing it to school or enjoying Beaming as an after school snack, or even little toddlers with Beaming superfood smoothies all over their face is truly what it is all about and ultimately why I created it.
What is the best piece of advice you received as a woman starting her own business?
Probably the best advice is being very clear about why you want to build the business and how it fits into your lifestyle. It’s not for everyone. It will consume you because, hopefully, you love what you do and are passionate about it. That being said, it will consume you in ways that will kick your butt and you may just run away to Bali and disappear. You have to be willing to push through even when it is exhausting or you feel defeated. It is not for the faint of heart as it requires your undivided attention and to be incredibly resilient. As a single mom of 3 kids, my biggest challenge is trying to find a flow between pouring myself into Beaming while being available for my kids as well as for myself and my needs.
What is one piece of advice you would give to women starting their own business?
I am going to offer two, if that’s OK:
Most important is to surround yourself with people that know a lot more than you do. Find mentors and advisors that can support you and that you can learn from and be guided by. Don’t try to do it all because you can’t. Do what you do best and what you love to do and hire others to do the things that they do best.
Another piece of advice in starting your own business as a woman is to stand your ground and own your femininity. There is a balance between masculine and feminine energy that is so powerful as a woman but finding balance in this energy is key. There was a time in the beginning of Beaming when I was much more in my masculine energy (of course at the time I didn’t know this) and while it gave me the strength to push through everything quite relentlessly, I was considered a “bitch” at times. When I learned to incorporate more of my feminine side, I became a better, softer leader while maintaining my strength.
Have there been any gender-specific challenges you’ve faced being women in business, either with Beaming or at any point during your career?
Yes – see above.
I never really realized this until recently when it hit me that a woman being strong is perceived as being a “bitch” where as for a man, he is just being a man and being assertive – in society one is acceptable, the other is not. For example, if I don’t wrap my communication to my employees in a bow and perfectly package my delivery on nearly every topic, I am perceived as being in a “bad mood.” It is what it is and I can tell you first hand that I am much more effective when I wrap my communication in a bow but it can be exhausting because sometimes you just want to say what you want to say and not to have to always worry about how someone is going to respond.
Keep doing what you’re doing, Lisa — it’s working! We’re ready for a superfood snack!