I used to go to school with Jessica. At Harvard, we met often between parties, travels and class breaks. But this time, we met to talk about life and business. Jessica is the Founder and CEO of Bonny, the only deliciously clean and sustainably packaged fibre supplements brand on the market. On her second start-up, Jessica has many learning points to share with us on her journey leaving corporate life and setting up 2 start-ups.
Moments of change
Jessica gets asked about her move out of corporate life a lot – people thinking about jumping out, people on the fence, everyone wanting to know what the right time is to make the move. For her, she was working already within the industry, so that allowed her to meet lots of entrepreneurs. In some way, being close to this world helped her lose the fear, even if she also had lots of questions. She reminds us:
“There is never a right time to start a business”
Jessica started to look for her first business while still at her prior job and came across an opportunity to set up something already backed by VC money, a luxury not many entrepreneurs have. That was Olika, where she spent 4 years as CEO of Olika, a design-forward brand reinventing hand-sanitiser. But they were ahead of the pandemic and Jessica exited in 2019. In business, timing is everything.
Soul Searching meets pandemic
When leaving, Jessica wanted to take time off. She was soul searching and doing freelance consulting work – but when the pandemic hit she found herself unemployed and jobs dried up. She went through a period of learning and started attending all possible webinars, ensuring she kept her knowledge fresh.
At the same time, she started working on her health and nutrition. She had exercised all her life but not really thought about her food or combined the 2. In fact, as she says, “she would exercise to eat“. As she was tracking her calories and fibre intake, she realized it was super important but also VERY hard to get enough fibre. That’s when the entrepreneur hat came back in. And Bonny was created.
Launching Bonny during a pandemic
Jessica had her product idea, it was time to get it off the ground. She reached out to manufacturers and had to launch the business in a whole different way. She had a factory tour over Facetime and all contacts had to be virtual. The physicality was a big difference, especially when people are also taking a bet on you as a new product business.
Packaging was another challenge. Jessica was committed to fully sustainable packaging – plastic-free. But when the labels and packaging got put together, the labelling would not stick!! That is what you get by not being able to test and play with the paper in advance. Who would have thought something would not stick! Entrepreneur moments.
First vs. second business
There were more differences the second time around – and not all pandemic related.
When launching Bonny, Jessica had then a track record as an entrepreneur, and people responded easier to her emails and calls. After all, she had launched a business and achieved traction before. That was key to get credibility with manufacturers in a period where many people were trying to get e-commerce businesses going.
Another key change was that Jessica chose not to go multi-channel on Bonny. For her first brand, she was everywhere from Target to Moms and Pops shops. However, for this product, Jessica decided to focus exclusively on the e-commerce channel, selling direct and making her website the best it can be. Whilst she knows she will go multi-channel in the future, right now she wants to control the story and keep people engaged at trybonny.com.
“Patient is a well-learnt virtue”
When we talked about advice to entrepreneurs, Jessica was quick to react! She wishes she had known how long things can take, usually, beyond the worse expectations. Through this process, she constantly reminded herself that this journey was a marathon, not a sprint. She brought me back to Pridhee’s episode, telling me how it was so important to just celebrate the small wins! This has definitely been a constant with the entrepreneurs I met. Whatever the wins mean to you, you need to celebrate those small moments because the speed of want is faster in entrepreneurship and can be even harder to come by.
“It is serious but not that serious”
That is Jessica’s other piece of advice. Make sure you enjoy what you are doing because, at the end of the day, it is a journey and an experience. So it is important to try and enjoy and also have fun while you are on it.
Life through covid
Jessica stayed in New York through the pandemic and can attest to the fact that NY apartments are not geared to lockdown. It was through these times that she started devoting time to her health and fitness, and to taking care of herself. She focused on using time as wisely as possible, she engaged in lots of learning and she also focused on herself. It was important to recognise that time is precious and this period of life was about enduring time in a different way. As part of her journey, Jessica also started meditating, which helped ground her and centre herself. And naturally, nutrition played a huge role in this (and led her to create Bonny).
A central part of her journey through Covid-19 was friends and family. It is important to have “a bench circle” of people with whom you can be your real self. These will also be the same people that will give you a safe space to communicate the good, not so good, and the bad days. Verbalizing is an important part of this. When Jessica realized the lockdown was not going to be 2 weeks but rather 12 to 18 months, there were no doubt some tough times. And in those times, it was ok to be able to say:
A post-pandemic environment opens up a lot of opportunities for Bonny. In her prior brand, Jessica had attended trade shows and had customers test the product. Now, all she has are virtual reviews. Taste is very subjective, so she is looking forward to getting out there and getting real-life customer feedback and sampling the product so she can continue to create and enhance flavours. Oh, and naturally she is very keen to meet her suppliers and to have moments of personal connection with her team, that she has built entirely remotely.
As a hope or prediction, she expects the focus on health and nutrition to continue so she will be keen to continue to be part of this movement and get the word out!
Before we go…
- Advice: Don’t sweat it, pick something you like.
- 2020 Challenge: Being unemployed during the pandemic. And she knows her 4-walls a little too well.
- 2020 Lesson: It’s time, use it as wisely as you can.
- 2021 Book: Warnings: Finding Cassandras to Stop Catastrophes, Richard A. Clarke
- 2021 Word: Hope
Connect with us
- Meet Jessica on Linkedin
- Get Bonny (US only) and follow them on Instagram
- Join our free community online and on Facebook
- Follow me on Linkedin, Instagram or Twitter
Produced by Alice Stansfield