I imagine this place called The Startup Forest. Sometimes there are blue skies and sunshine, but other times, it can be dark and scary. There are most definitely paths through the Forest — if only you know how to find them. As I interviewed dozens of successful food entrepreneurs for my book, “Cooking Up a Business,” I realized that the key to finding the way through the Forest is a brilliant mentor. Great insight, but easier said than done: What makes a great mentor want to work with someone?
I was talking with Mary Waldner, the founder of Mary’s Gone Crackers (and preeminent founder in the gluten-free market) when she mentioned her mentee, Janie, yet again. “I make sure Janie doesn’t make the mistakes I did,” Mary says. “She’s the best. I love working with her.”
Wait, isn’t this every newbie entrepreneur’s dream — to be taken under the wing of an established, connected, big-name founder? Janie made that happen, and I wanted to learn how that worked — from all parties involved.
So I called up Janie Hoffman, the founder of Mamma Chia, to get her story alongside Mary’s. How had Janie successfully created and nurtured their relationship? Here’s what worked.