Q&A with Female Entrepreneur, Smita Daya

Soham Photography

Soham Photography

Can you tell our readers about your background?

My name is Smita Daya. I was born and raised in Lusaka, Zambia. I left Zambia at the age of 12 to attend boarding school in England and then moved to the United States in 1980. After having worked in corporate for over 25 years, I decided it was time to follow my true passion for healthy eating. For the past 29 years, our journey has taken us to various countries where we became enthralled in the world of oils and spices. Living and traveling abroad has allowed us to explore the finest in savory spices, gourmet oils, and seasonings from home, charming ourselves and our two daughters along the way. Now a family tradition, every home-cooked meal incorporates different oils and spices, enticing our taste buds with exciting new flavors.

What inspired you to start your business?

Life is full of wonders, and we are fortunate to have lived next to an amazing Italian family (the Calamai family) for 16 years. Our lives changed when we were introduced to freshly pressed olive oils, straight from the Cantina. We grew to love fresh oils and continue to further expand our palate with gourmet olive oils, vinegars, and spices. We had the privilege to visit the Calamai family several times in Romola (near Florence), Italy and were fortunate to visit the Cantina, where the olives are first pressed. That did it, we were in love! Olea Oliva! ("The Olive Tree") is a family-owned and operated business, and we want to share this tradition with you.

Where is your business based?

Our business is based in East Cobb, Marietta Georgia. We are also an e-commerce business that ships in all 50 States.

How did you start your business? What were the first steps you took?

At the beginning of 2015, I was searching to find the right business to start that would allow me work to take care of my family. My husband, Dilip and I travelled to various countries over a period of several months to do some research on spices and olive oils. It became clear to us while travelling that we wanted to create a business where our customers know that when they buy an Extra Virgin Olive Oil from us, they are getting exactly that – the highest quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil, made with attention, care and love from preferred handpicked olive groves. With a family-oriented community, and an appreciation for health and good taste, it seemed to be a perfect setting for a gourmet super spices, olive oil & vinegar taproom.

So, both Dilip and I decided to get certified in our areas of expertise. Dilip, is a certified Olive Oil Sommelier from University of California-Davis at Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Sciences, together with over 10 years of experience from Florence, Italy with the Calamai family. In addition, he is also an Industrial Chemist. I hold a Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate from The T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies and eCornell.

It was very important for us to get certified. In a world where fast food and convenient foods devoid of nutrients have become the norm, we feel that offering people simple and quick cooking tools and techniques is more important than ever. Our passion is sharing our spices, oils and balsamic vinegars with you and getting people excited about cooking. With two daughters and a business to run we know how hard it is to plan freshly cooked, flavorful healthy meals every day. For us, these spices, oils and balsamic vinegars have changed the way we eat! Our products make creating flavorful and healthy family meals easy and fun.

What has been the most effective way of raising awareness for your business?

The most effective way of raising awareness for my business is word of mouth branding. I love to partner with the community and local business owners and help empower individuals to make sound healthy choices. We offer healthy cooking workshops in the store and private venues. I have been blessed to share my passion for healthy cooking at the local senior centers, fitness centers, YMCA’s and Churches. Community development and partnering with local businesses is very important for Olea Oliva! Social Media is another effective way I have been raising awareness for my business.

What have been your biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?

One of our biggest challenges is trying to educate the mass consumer on authentic Extra-Virgin Olive Oils, barrel-aged Italian Balsamic Vinegars and Super Spices. Since we opened our doors we’ve received so much amazing support from the Marietta and Atlanta community and local community business partners. These are our champions, our friends and the people who share our mission to spread the word about cooking real food with quality ingredients and amazing flavor combinations. We love the growing community of regular patrons - and the opportunity to serve them. We think of Olea Oliva! as a little store with BIG heart. Getting to know and understand our customers has been a rewarding experience.

How do you stay focused?

It is not always easy to balance work/life. You really have to be disciplined in so many ways. My boarding school days in England taught me a lot and having some structure in my life has helped me to balance both. I am an early riser and start my day with “me-time” and work out for an hour. This sets the tone for the rest of the day. My family is and will be the most important thing. I always plan ahead and prioritize what is important and take the time to understand what needs to get done first. Planning ahead is the key to managing the work/like balance.

Work and career are there to help us grow and enable our family to do special things together but as the old saying goes, a good work-life balance is one in which you work to live, not live to work. I have been so blessed to have such wonderful support from my family, friends and our local community! 

How do you differentiate your business from the competition?

I differentiate myself from others by offering healthy cooking workshops on how to use super spices with Extra Virgin Olive Oils and Balsamics by boosting flavors while maintaining high nutrition in a dish. My customers want to learn more on how to “Eat better, not less”. They want to be able to go home and provide their family with the healthier options. This is very gratifying to see!

What has been your most effective marketing strategy to grow your business?

Hands down, it has been word of mouth and reaching out to my local community partners! I also send out my monthly workshop schedules to my database email list. We love to work with local markets and do pop-ups.

What’s your best piece of advice for aspiring and new entrepreneurs?

Believe in yourself! Work hard. Know what you are capable of and have faith in your capabilities! Do what you do best!

What’s your favorite app, blog, and book? Why?

The internet as this allows me to work from any location.

What’s your favorite business tool or resource? Why?

We use Shopify because of the business tools, resources and processes it provides. This platform also provides us with information about marketing campaigns and promotions. We also use Shopify for our day to day analytics and shipping.

Who is your business role model? Why?

My father, who taught me how to run a business at a very young age of 18. Always giving me strength and courage to fulfill my goals and face my fears. Love you, Dad, for always challenging me to do my best!

What do you have planned for the next six months?

Growth, author another cook book, and start to teach at culinary schools!

How can our readers connect with you?

Olea Oliva!
The Avenue East Cobb
4475 Roswell Road, Suite 1000
Marietta, GA 30062

Website: www.oleaoliva.com

Phone: Tel: (770) 321-0099

Email: info@oleaoliva.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/oleaolivaUSA/

Top 15 Women to Watch in 2018 this International Women's Day

International Women's Day

To celebrate International Women's Day, we've scoured the web to find the most promising female entrepreneurs.  Here is the first list of women who are disrupting their industries and making changes to female entrepreneurship in a big way.  This list focuses on the up and coming female entrepreneurs rather than the usual suspects.

Meet the women who are paving the way to make a change as well as the future for the younger generations. 

Clarissa Shetler, Co-founder, C2 California Clean, Doctor of Pharmacy

She says the biggest challenge female founders face in business is:

Understanding that we may have to work twice as hard as a male but it's all worth it.

Best piece of advice she has for female entrepreneurs:

Connect with other business women. Don't be shy and reach out. Females want to help other females succeed. We always love helping others and sharing our advice.

Danni Lin, Founder and CEO, GREAT WINE, Inc.

She says the biggest challenge female founders face in business is:

We still see many women living with gender stereotyping and gender inequality. The biggest social assumption is that family should always be a woman’s top and only priority in life, not her career or passion.

As a female entrepreneur, I always think that confidence is the roots of beauty. Every woman is unique and uniquely beautiful because they all have a different life experience.

Best piece of advice she has for female entrepreneurs:

There will be ups and downs in the progress of setting up a business. At the up times, you may want to ride on the tides and go faster. At down times, remain confident and work hard to achieve your goals. Successful entrepreneurs are people who do not give up.

Danielle Tate, Founder & CEO MissNowMrs.com

She says the biggest challenge female founders face in business is:

Overcoming fear of failure is a huge challenge. Instead of the glass ceiling of Corporate America, we have the "sticky floor" of entrepreneurship. Amazing women can think of every reason why they are under-qualified to start a company, why it will fail, or why someone else would do a better job as the founder.

It's incredibly frustrating to have these conversations. Statistics have shown that women entrepreneurs return a significantly higher ROI than men, and I believe we have a moral obligation to solve the problems we encounter or no one else will.

Once we have our startups, finding funding as a woman is difficult. I'm excited to see more and more women-focused venture funds and hope to see more women have huge exits that give them the ability to become angel investors in women-led startups. It will take time, but positive change is coming.

Best piece of advice she has for female entrepreneurs:

Begin with the end in mind. Pinpointing exactly what you want out of your startup before you start will help you make strategic decisions that make your dream a reality. Knowing if you want to build a lifestyle company, versus a 3-year flip, or ten-year unicorn will make finding a co-founder or investors with a similar vision easier. It also helps you avoid waking up 5 years into a business and realizing you don't have the company or life that makes you happy.

Michelle Lewis, Visibility Expert and Founder of Visibility Vixen 

She says the biggest challenge female founders face in business is:

I believe this is the most opportunistic time in history for female entrepreneurs online.

Best piece of advice she has for female entrepreneurs:

Do your research, don’t just jump. Know your purpose, find your unique voice in your industry, outline your product path. I see the most frustration from people because they want an entrepreneur lifestyle, but they spend months struggling with no income because these steps aren’t in place.

Kristen Baird, CEO and CVO, Kristen Baird

She says the biggest challenge female founders face in business is:

The fine jewelry industry is male-dominated, generationally owned, and characterized by mass-manufacturing. I'm a female entrepreneur, a first generation business owner, and a proponent of handcrafted fine jewelry. Shaking up the "norm" and gaining respect from my peers (mostly male) has been the most challenging part of my business and I would say that is one of the greatest challenges most female founders face today.

Best piece of advice she has for female entrepreneurs:

Relationships are imperative. Align yourself with positive, driven individuals across all industries, in all age groups, and from all backgrounds. They will be your tribe and you will need them through thick and thin. Likewise, it's not just a "take" situation. Be a giver and share with your tribe and the generations coming behind you.

Amy Hutchins, Chief Product Officer, Unearth Technologies

She says the biggest challenge female founders face in business is:

Fundraising is one of the hardest parts of any startup, something that’s especially true for female entrepreneurs. When looking at statistics, about 28% of proprietary software jobs are held by women, whereas only 7% of VC partners are women. Fundraising is largely driven by networks and its difficult to break into a male-dominated network.

Best piece of advice she has for female entrepreneurs:

Work on something you're passionate about and work with people you're passionate about. Every step of a startup journey can be exceedingly difficult, and the more successful you are, the harder it becomes. Working on a business idea that motivates you, and working with people that push you to be the best personally and professionally, are the two key ingredients to providing the momentum you need to get through the tough times.

Christine Hutchison, Co-Founder and CMO, Proxfinity

She says the biggest challenge female founders face in business is:

Access to capital.

Best piece of advice she has for female entrepreneurs:

You have to have gut and perseverance. Don't take failures to heart. Learn from them and make it better the next time. I am constantly asking for constructive feedback because I know we can always do things better.

Josephine Caminos Oria, Founder and President, La Dorita Cooks, LLC

She says the biggest challenge female founders face in business is:

I believe the greatest challenges women founders face today are not related to their gender but inherent to entrepreneurship itself. And that's access to funding. While it's been proven that women face greater obstacles than men when seeking traditional funding through financial institutions, I believe that this will change in 2018 as a result of the women's movement for equality.

Best piece of advice she has for female entrepreneurs:

The #MeToo movement has cleared the path for female founders in 2018. So I offer, "Get out of your own way, and get to it."

Joanna Dai, Founder, Dai

She says the biggest challenge female founders face in business is:

Compared to finance, my experience in fashion so far has been a far less male-dominated and a more level playing field. I've read the statistics on female founders receiving funding versus male founders, which has been quite discouraging. We have not gone for funding so I can't attest to that first-hand but it's great to see a wealth of support and networks for female entrepreneurs out there.

Best piece of advice she has for female entrepreneurs:

Take your time doing market research and product/brand development so you can really hone in on how and why you're unique.

Brianna Carney, Founder, Crew Bloom

She says the biggest challenge female founders face in business is:

Work-life balance and an expectation for female founders to lead like male counterparts.
There’s a pressure for female founders to be stoic and suppress their emotions and passion. It’s unfair because our ability to feel and to vividly express ourselves is one of our biggest assets.

Best piece of advice she has for female entrepreneurs:

Find smart people because you are only one person, and treat them well.

Carin Luna-Ostaseski, Founder, SIA Scotch Whisky

She says the biggest challenge female founders face in business is:

Fundraising. Unfortunately, we're still very much at a time and in an environment where women face a challenge raising capital. I hope to turn the tables someday with a fund that helps fellow female spirits entrepreneurs.

In the meantime, every year for the past 4 years, SIA Scotch Whisky has contributed a percentage of our gross sales to a different organization that helps support women start and run their own businesses.

Best piece of advice she has for female entrepreneurs:

Ask for what you want. You will get rejected, absolutely ... and then one day, you won't.  I didn't know anyone in the spirits industry when I set out to create my brand. So I reached out to 80 people for help - every single distillery I'd ever visited, every name and resource I found in magazines, books, online. I got 80 "no's" (no we can't help you, no we are not interested, no you are crazy....) and came close to throwing in the towel a few times, but I persisted. And then finally on the 81st time, I found the person who was the one who changed everything for me. And this door to this "old boy's club" was opened to me by a woman!

Vikki Hankins-Jones, CEO and Founder, VMH Media/Publishing - VMH Magazine

She says the biggest challenge female founders face in business is:

I find the most challenging area for female founders is the male-dominated market in my field. Although a great deal of progress has taken place, women are not taken as seriously as their male continuer parts. Further women, in particular women of color, have to work ten times as hard to gain recognition for their brands.

Best piece of advice she has for female entrepreneurs:

My best piece of advice for young entrepreneurs is to believe in their mission, product, services. When the going gets tough it is your 'belief' that will bring the tenacity needed to reach your goals.

Serena Holmes, President & CEO, Tigris Events

She says the biggest challenge female founders face in business is:

I don’t think female founders necessarily face bigger or different challenges than their male counterparts but I’m sure this could be dependent on the industry.

As a business owner starting out, I think some of the biggest challenges may include creating a point of difference in a competitive marketplace, learning to manage cash flow well and understanding how to work on your business while also working in it. That is a challenging balancing act until you are able to grow a team to support you.

Best piece of advice she has for female entrepreneurs:

Get help as soon as you can. Find a mentor or hire a coach. This will help you accelerate your learning and in turn, your growth. I didn’t get help until eight years in and it made the world of difference. I wish I had done it sooner.

Cynthia Jamin, Owner and Designer, TwirlyGirl

She says the biggest challenge female founders face in business is:

I do believe women buy into the stereotypes that are pervasive in our society. It takes a lot of self-determination and confidence to go against these social norms. A lot of them being centered around either women settling for less because they feel they wouldn't be able to compete in the business world (a "man's" world), or they feel obligated to be just a mother or just a wife.

Best piece of advice she has for female entrepreneurs:

Be willing to put in the work and be open to learning everything you can about every aspect of your business. Don't just hire people right from the beginning to do the jobs that you might not be interested in, or feel you don't have that skill set. There is nothing you can't learn. It's through actively being a part of "the every day" that you get to see what works and what doesn't.

You will have first-hand knowledge of how you want things done because you have done them. Growing a business is so much more than just getting sales, it's about creating a whole world, an environment that people interact with. It's a big responsibility that requires your full attention. Be prepared for long hours and no weekends off, but in the end, it's so worth it.

Steph Webster, Co-Founder, Miss Collective

She says the biggest challenge female founders face in business is:

A lot of the women that I've met through the industry and through our Miss Collective network tells me just how prevalent the confidence gap is. I meet incredible women who I'm inspired by, who really doubt their own contribution or level of accomplishment. I'd love to see us continue to work together as an industry to help break down the confidence gap and the barriers that it can create.

As a founder, you have to be a good leader, so you have to find ways to believe in yourself and project that confidence to teams and those around you to keep driving your business forward.

Best piece of advice she has for female entrepreneurs:

Follow something you're passionate about! Sounds so cliche and I know common, but for me, the things I've pursued in business have resonated strongly with me personally. I founded a mobile application called Barkparks, because I wanted a tool to find fenced dog parks for my foster dogs.

Miss Collective started because I found a lack of support for women in my industry and wanted to find a way to give back to the community and help other women. It shouldn't be a stretch to get excited about the business you want to create!

Stay tuned for our next installment coming on March 15th!