I have two loves of my life right now: my book, Cooking Up a Business, and my startup, Guesterly. The book is full of inspiring stories of some of today’s most successful food entrepreneurs, from Vosges Haut-Chocolat to Hint Water and popchips. I was so inspired while writing it—and interviewing super-inspirational founders—that I co-founded guesterly with my husband, Lorne. We empower people to make mini-books about all the attendees at an event, like a wedding or conference. Our goal is to connect people and create new friendships, one guesterly book at a time.
Ha! I wish there was science behind it but I’d say it’s all art—the art of being open to possibilities and new experiences. It’s also realizing that so many skills transfer from one industry/career to others, and that your worlds and skills and knowledge ends up being helpful in the most surprising ways. So yes! I thought I was going to go to law school (I wanted to be an environmental lawyer) but that changed overnight when my mother asked me a seemingly simple question as a way to cut through my law school angst: What would I do if I could do anything? Without thinking twice, I said, “I’d be a magazine editor” and we both looked at each other in surprise—it was something I’d never talked about, or even really thought about, before. I loved magazines, but it always seemed like a job that existed only in fairytales, like “I want to be a fairy godmother” or “I want to be a princess.” Nice work if you could get it, but really?
But I ended up taking a giant leap. I moved to New York City for the last semester of college, got an amazing internship, and ended up over the years getting to chase down my passion of becoming a food editor, landing amazing gigs at places like O, the Oprah Magazine and Reader’s Digest. I got to eat a LOT of amazing food, work with fantastic people, and direct big time stories with hundreds of moving pieces. But one of my favorite parts of the job was unexpected: I would meet with food entrepreneurs to try their new product, and would walk away so enthralled by the entrepreneur’s story. The food was delicious, but the stories were inspiring and fascinating! I soon profiled some of my favorite entrepreneurs for O, and the response to that was so overwhelming that I was able to parlay it into a book deal.
And that’s when the real fun began: as I spent hundreds of hours interviewing and writing about top entrepreneurs, I realized I was becoming as inspired as I hoped my future readers would be. I caught the entrepreneurial itch, and in June of 2013 my husband, Lorne, and I launched Guesterly. In the last eight months I’ve been living the life I wrote about for so long—and it’s exactly as hard and exhilarating as it always sounded!
Is writing a book as hard as everyone says? How did you balance it all?
I had nine months to write my book, which is actually a fairly long time. I asked for more time
because I was also trying to plan my wedding! (And yes, I did end up doing a few book interviews
on my honeymoon. But to make it work, I had to carve out specific blocks of time and learn
what did, and didn’t work for me. For example, the idea of writing after work was a joke (I was
working full-time as a food editor while I wrote the book). So instead I got up at 5:30am a few
mornings each week and would write for three hours before work. Then I’d set aside at least one
weekend day to write for over nine hours, plus the majority of my vacation days (I remember writing on Thanksgiving day until 4 pm while my husband cooked our feast!) And I also had a crackerjack team—my book assistant, Grace, transcribed all of my interviews and gave each chapter a first read, and then dozens of my friends and family edited chapters.
But for that year, the book (and wedding) were my “extras”—I didn’t try to run any big races, like the marathon I’d trained for the year before, or take on any other projects. It took a lot of focus and I had to let myself fully concentrate on creating the best book I could as my one outside-of-work “extra.
Pictured: Rachel Hofstetter in Sabrina Stretch Ponte Combo Sheath Dress (Ivory/Black)
What are some gifts you would give this holiday season to someone about to start their own business?
1. If they’re thinking food, a Costco membership card! You would not believe how many aspiring food entrepreneurs buy their first ingredients at Costco.
2. A gift card for a business card company like Moo—there’s nothing more exciting as a first-time business owner than printing your first cards.
3. A copy of Cooking Up a Business
, of course! It’s perfect inspiration for starting any business. I’d add in a few of the products from the companies to make it extra special: a jar of Justin’s almond butter, a bar of Vosges chocolate, and of course Maddy’s Love Grown Foods Oat Clusters & LOVE.
My favorite part of my job: Creating something real and tangible every day—whether it’s stories a brand, Guesterly books, relationships, or memories.
My wardrobe workhorse is: My Nike Air-Cole Haan flat riding boots that I’ve been re-soling and wearing non-stop for the past six years. Sometimes I get them resoled twice in one season! (New York streets will do that to you.)
My go-to accessories are: A pair of hammered gold disc earrings I bought years ago at an artists’ market. They’re my everyday go-to pair, and after searching for months for some “special” earrings for my wedding last year I eventually decided to wear my gold standards–they’re a signature item!
The most useful advice I’ve been given in life, love, or work is: Go big or go home. I did an Outward Bound backpacking trip when I was 16 (a month without showering!) and that was our motto—and I’ve relied on it ever since for all things in life.
My favorite Dobbin Clothing piece is: The Eva V-neck dress in Wild Berry! I’ve worn it on book tour in three cities—without ironing it once! The color, the fit, the mid-sleeve length—it all makes it easy breezy.
Pictured (from left): Maddy D’Amato in Simone Stretch Wool Asymmetrical Neck Dress and Rachel Hofstetter in Eva Stretch Ponte V-Neck in Wild Berry
Name: Maddy D’Amato
City: Denver, CO
Occupation: Founder & Chief Love Officer at Love Grown Foods
What are some gifts you would give this holiday season to someone about to start their own business? Cooking Up a Business and Living Well One Line a Day: A Five-Year Reflection Book (to track all the ups, downs, and successes–and failures–of starting and growing a business).
My favorite part of my job: I get to spread the LOVE all day, everyday!
My personal style in three words: Comfortable, yet sophisticated and professional.
My wardrobe workhorse is: Frye Boots and/or a blazer.
My go-to accessories are: Silver watch & pearl earrings.
The most useful advice I’ve been given in life, love, or work is: Be passionate: love what you do and you’ll never work a day in your life.
My favorite Dobbin Clothing piece is:
Simone Stretch Wool Asymmetrical Neck (in black)
|Pictured (from left): Rachel Hofstetter in Sabrina Stretch Ponte Combo Sheath Dress (Ivory/Black) and Maddy D’Amato in Sophie Silk Crepe de Chine Blouse (Leopard Print) and Natalie Stretch Ponte Pencil Skirt (Black)
Can you describe a typical day in your role as CEO of Love Grown Foods?
As Chief Love Officer my job is to SPREAD the LOVE…and it is the best job! A typical day could be traveling the country (and to Canada) and making sales presentations to our national accounts (Kroger, Whole Foods, Target, Costco, Loblaws, etc) to grow our distribution. Or it could be at the LOVE Pad working with our team on new product development, packaging design, marketing campaigns, PR, or social media. Or it might be a day spent in the classroom educating kids on the importance of eating breakfast, what whole grains are, and why you should be able to pronounce every ingredient in your food! Whatever it may be, there is always lots of LOVE spreading involved!
What is the most exciting thing about being an entrepreneur? What is the most challenging?
The most exciting thing is lack of consistency…no day is ever the same. There are no dull moments. Every day is a new challenge, a new adventure, and a new opportunity! The greatest challenge is keeping a level head. The emotional roller coaster sends you spinning from the highest highs to the lowest lows multiple times throughout the week–even throughout the day–and it is critical to remain calm and not let your emotions dictate your decisions.
Where would you like to see Love Grown foods in five years?
Our goal from the very beginning was to build a natural foods company. We envision Love Grown Foods having multiple products in multiple aisles of the grocery store, while sticking to our mission of creating incredibly delicious and healthy products that are also affordable and available to as many people as possible.
How is working with your significant other?
It is the best! Alex and I are complete opposites. We complement and balance each other. He is the visionary and really loves the finance and operations side of the business, while I love people and am so passionate about our products and mission. We couldn’t do it without each other–we work long hours and have sacrificed so much to get where we are, and the support and encouragement we give each other makes it not only doable, but enjoyable!
**Check out Dobbin
and their fabulous clothes!