Ande Lyons on being a 4x Founder, Startup Champion, and Live Stream Host at Startup Life LIVE
Describe your business in a few words?
Startup Life LIVE is a bi-weekly live stream show supporting startup founders by exploring strategies and solutions, insights, and inspiration through conversations with diverse business owners, investors, and experts. Launching a startup is hard – and founders need to continually up their skillset and embrace doing hard things.
What made you take the leap to start your own business?
It was never my intention or dream to become an entrepreneur, but here I am – a 4x founder and unemployable since 1992. All my businesses came to me like a stray cat at the door – yowling until I let them in and fed them.
What was your background prior to starting your own business?
Executive Assistant to Founders – bootcamp – earned an MBA – spent 3 years as a commercial lender at an international bank.
Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
No – I’m a “reluctant and accidental” entrepreneur.
Take us back to when you first launched your business, what was your marketing strategy to get the word out and did it go as planned?
My first business was a dot.com – raised $8 million – scaled to 100 employees – hired a PR team and a Marketing Team. Second business was a food manufacturing product – leveraged WBENC certificate to scale nationally in less than 24 months – avoided grocery stores and distributed product through Sodexho/Compass/Aramark/etc. food service companies. Marketing was to these entities and it went great. Third business was a playful, tasteful 21+ website – 100% social media marketing. Learned a lot about online branding – marketing was interesting given the website’s focus on helping long term couples stay tuned in and turned on with each other, year after year. Yup – I talked a lot about sex and relationships. Fourth business – startup coach – leveraged word of mouth via local startup events, national startup events, and volunteer mentorship at accelerators. Marketing as a solopreneur is hard, IMHO.
We always learn the most from our mistakes, share a time with us that you made a mistake or had a challenging time in business and what you learned from it?
My food manufacturing business was in its 5th year when a “A Series of Unfortunate Events” happened. Two of the primary ingredients were hard hit due to agricultural events – Mother Nature. Then my manufacturing facility was hit by lightning and burned to the ground. Again, Mother Nature. Finally, my husband was laid off – we had a 9 and a 7 year old – it was too difficult to keep the business moving forward under severe stalled events. It was a phenomenal run, but I had to close the business down. It took me months to recover – lots of grieving. I was very fortunate – my angel investor told me “even knowing this outcome, I still would have invested in your business.” Each business teaches us so much and prepares us for our next entrepreneurial endeavor. You NEVER LOSE from launching a business.
What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?
Scaling a food manufacturing business nationally in less than 2 years without going the grocery store route, which is very expensive. It was a creative solution to grow using food service company’s supplier diversity programs – kept strong margins and was quickly profitable and sustainable.
When hiring for your team, what is your go-to interview question? Please share any hiring tips you can share from your experience?
I look for alignment with team members, and I dive into their ability to solve problems and be flexible. Startup life is a roller coaster ride, so I ask questions that revolve around their ability to quickly shift into a solution mindset.
How has your business or industry been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?
My newest business, Startup Life LIVE Show was a response to COVID-19. I knew the best way to continue serving first-time founders was to create a live stream show airing on all the social media platforms. I’ve been a live stream host since 2012, so this was a solution that was familiar and felt wonderful. Now I’m doing it full time and LOVE IT! “Every Adversity, Every Failure, Every Heartbreak, Carries With It The Seed Of An Equal Or Greater Benefit” – Napoleon Hill.
What’s next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?
Find an Impact Investment Sponsorship Partner, hire a Community Manager to help reach underserved communities around the world, and onboard a Producer for the show.
What is the biggest lesson you have learned in 2020?
Life happens for you, not to you.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting your business?
Building a business is not a horse race – it’s a marathon.
How have you managed to stay grounded this year?
Hiking and connecting with folks virtually.
Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?
You can have it all in life… just not all at once. If you don’t take care of your Self and your personal, significant relationships while you’re building your business, you will suffer as a founder. Carve out time every week, without fail, for personal time to replenish your creativity and energy.
What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?
I was a bartender at a country-rock bar in my early 20s. Happy Hour was from 11pm – 12pm – yikes!
What are your top 3 tips to stay productive each day?
SOPs!! Standard Operating Procedures are a must for founders. Prioritize your calendar, set the timer when you’re on social media, say NO more often, don’t hesitate – delegate, and schedule time for your personal life.
What does being an Entreprenista mean to you?
Stepping into the fullest and truest expression of yourself.