In Conversation with Stefany Nieto of Gwella

Stefany Nieto_Blog Header

Describe Gwella in a few words?

Gwella is a company rooted in wellness and intention, delivering mushroom-based products, content and tools. 

We’re developing and curating transformational mushroom products and experiences, elevating physical and mental health, and bolstering cognitive performance. We focus on adaptogenic, medicinal and psychedelic mushrooms that optimize three critical aspects of wellbeing: Mind, Body, and Spirit.

What made you take the leap to start your own business?

I fell into entrepreneurship. Gwella is actually my third start-up! The first two were social ventures that got off the ground to help improve the standard of living and quality of life people were facing in developing communities (e.g. better drinking water and food security). Once I got the hang of building up teams and structuring operations to meet milestones, it became a personal joy. From there, I was hooked on the entrepreneurship lifestyle. I jumped because I loved the ability to have a say in strategy and the freedom to take action to move action forward.

What was your background prior to starting your own business?

I started my first company when I was 19. For a long time, I felt I was ‘too young’ to be a founder and so I took it upon myself to get the best of both worlds and worked anywhere between 2-4 jobs simultaneously. I dipped my toes in diverse sectors ranging from government, a Fortune 500 company, accelerators, consulting, teaching, and charitable endeavours. All to say, I learned that I love variety in my day-to-day. These experiences gave me the opportunity to build a well-rounded professional background which landed me where I am today: Chief Operating Officer for Gwella.

Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?

Not at all, in fact, early in my career I would say I had an anti-entrepreneur lifestyle. As an operations enthusiast, the potential risk and uncertainty didn’t align well with my love for organization and planning. Instead, I took the safer route and dived into opportunities across government and the corporate world for several years. Overtime, I learned that the bureaucracy and limited space for innovation were sector attributes I didn’t want my future to hold. I left those roles and haven’t looked back since!

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?

I don’t think anything ever goes as planned when it comes to early-stage businesses. With Gwella, we’re still in the process of launching our first product, Mojo productivity gummies, so we haven’t had a plan backfire – yet. In regards to strategy, it always goes back to understanding your consumer and how your product or service can blend into the flow of a user’s life without pause. For Mojo gummies, we’re exploring the world of our target market to better understand their wants and needs in order to deliver product value that makes their lives at least 10x better.

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?

When I built my first company, I hired and developed it with several close friends. While building a company with your best friends sounds like a good idea (read: fun), the day-to-day operations can become a nightmare. Managing a team with diverse personalities is a challenge on its own, but mixing in friendships leads to bringing the office home with you and that can be incredibly draining both for the company and for your own mental health. Personally, I still love being close to my teammates and co-founders but I now take precautions when building relationships to ensure mutual boundaries are in place that can preemptively save me from conflict and headaches.

What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?

Most recently, it’s been following my own passions. Mushrooms and psychedelics in recent times have gotten a bad rep, due to my association with social-good, I had kept my psychedelic advocacy quiet. Recently though, I decided to take the jump and publicly support mushrooms and share my own personal experiences, especially through Gwella’s platform as a form of advocacy. I hope it inspires other closeted psychedelic enthusiasts to share their own experiences, thus moving the needle on psychedelic branding across the globe. 

To date though, I’d have to say the accomplishment I’m proudest of is making agriculture a possibility on the Arctic circle. That’s been pretty cool.

When hiring for your team, what is your go-to interview question? Please share any hiring tips you can share from your experience?

I always ask candidates what they’re hoping to get out of the opportunity, with no BS. I never want to hear a standard answer, instead I encourage candidates to share their selfish reasons for applying because that greed-driven reason is possibly the main reason that they will stick around and will help me understand how to invest into a candidate’s personal and professional growth to help retain their talent.

As for hiring tips, initiative is the single most important attribute you can bring to the table. See a job posting? Learn about the role, team, and company, find gaps and figure out what you can do to fill them. Also, don’t be afraid to go the extra mile (within reason). Several years ago, I found a ‘perfect’ job but I had just missed the application deadline by a singular day. So I did what any other inventive human would do and figured out who the hiring manager was (+what they looked like) and camped out in the lobby of their office until I could personally hand-in my resume. I got the interview.

How has your business or industry been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?

Throughout COVID-19, the population of consumers wanting to explore natural remedies that enhance their lives and improve their health (particularly mental health) has been steadily growing. People are demanding food and beverages that go beyond basic nutrition to help their bodies thrive. As a result of this demand, the functional mushroom space and psychedelic industry has become a bit of a gold rush.

What’s next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?

Starting in December, we’re going to be releasing mushroom-based products, content, and tools that are built to maximize user value. Within the next 3-5 years (regularly change dependent), we’ll be launching psychedelic products that are designed to be a middle-ground between clinical and recreational use, with self-improvement and reflection at their core.

What is the biggest lesson you have learned in 2020?

Expect the unexpected and life moves fast. It feels the world has turned upside down and even though it seems everything is a whirlwind, it’s alright to take a moment to yourself to breathe.

How have you managed to stay grounded this year?

Honestly, I think it comes down to my partner. My life both personally and professionally has been a rollercoaster and he’s been such a supportive presence every step along the way. There aren’t enough words to express how thankful I am for him.

Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?

Absolutely! However, I’m biased because I’ve faced burnout and have since made it a priority. In terms of best tips, it’s all about organization and sleep for me. Friends may judge me occasionally but I try to get 8-10 hours of sleep per night and I religiously use Workflowy to keep me accountable and on task. It’s a list-making app that is super simple to use and hitting complete is usually a highlight in my day.

What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?

Despite running a greenhouse business for 7 years, the first salad I ever ate only happened about 4 months ago, during COVID-19.

What are your top 3 tips to stay productive each day?

  • Wake up early to get more out of your day.
  • Go to bed early so you can accomplish #1.
  • Remember to be human and maintain your social relationships. A happier you = a more productive you.

What does being an Entreprenista mean to you?

Leaning in and out at my discretion, and getting the work done.

Share it!

Posted in

Leave a Comment

Michele Henry of FACE FOUNDRIÉ on why she leans into her fears, and the importance of dreaming big

Describe FACE FOUNDRIÉ in a few words? Efficient and effective focused facial bar specializing in all things face, facials, lashes, brows, and skincare. What made you take the leap to start your own business? I worked in my parents’ small inground pool business from age 13 all the way through college. Being an entrepreneur is…

Ashley Spriggs of Pivot Media on the power of genuine relationships

Describe your business in a few words? We are a media firm that gets your message the attention it deserves. We offer services in Public Relations and Podcast Management. What made you take the leap to start your own business? It was the right time! I was growing my client list as an independent contractor…

Mary Allard of The Third Place podcast on inviting listeners to explore uncomfortable conversations in a safe space

Describe your business in a few words? The Third Place podcast is a weekly podcast that invites listeners into the hard conversations that we have a tendency to avoid. It is a podcast that “goes there,” within a safe place where curiosity is encouraged, differences are welcomed, and empathy is embraced through healthy dialogue. What…

Kelsea Olivia of East Olivia Creative on creating experiences that spark curiosity, joy, and connection

Describe your business in a few words? East Olivia is a boutique creative agency that specializes in large-scale floral installations. What made you take the leap to start your own business? I have been starting businesses since I was a child, selling my crafts and babysitting. As an adult, I had an innate desire to…

Tiffany Roman of Small Biz Highlight on creating a platform to help small businesses thrive

Describe your business in a few words? Small Biz Highlight is a web show, created to help introduce the people behind a small/local business, their products and services, and discuss how COVID affected them. What made you take the leap to start your own business? Back in April 2020, COVID shutdowns were in full effect…

11 Mamaprenistas share their best productivity tips to manage a business and a family

1) Tierney Larkin, Founder at Larkin Living Spaces: “Be sure to have a designated space to work that is just for you and your business. It can be a makeshift office in the corner of a room, or even a traveling cart that you can take around with you to store all of your supplies…

How Two Entreprenistas Launched & Scaled Their Business on Shopify in 30 Days

Within 9 years, Stephanie Cartin and Courtney Spritzer have bolstered the presence of over 300 women-owned companies — all through social media strategy, platform management, influencer marketing, paid media and creative service. Given their success with Socialfly, Steph and Courtney recently decided to create a podcast called Entreprenistas, which provides a community to celebrate and…

Sarah Kallile of Lunnie on building the first community-led brand for modern mothers

Describe Lunnie in a few words? Community-led brand for modern mothers. We’re reinventing the nursing bra. What made you take the leap to start your own business? I’m a mom of two young girls. While breastfeeding my second daughter, I was frustrated with my clunky nursing bra and how it made me feel frumpy. I…

Ramy Sharp on launching Ramy Brook to fill a void in the marketplace, and what inspired her to take the leap

Describe Ramy Brook in a few words? Happy, Sexy and Strong! Ramy Brook is female owned and operated, stemming from one woman’s dream to uplift, empower and celebrate women. The apparel, accessories and swimwear collections transcend generational dressing, offering something for anyone looking for a vibrant and celebrational style. My vision is for women who…

Charlotte Michailidis of Parenthood Ventures on fueling the next wave of innovation for early stage ParentTech

Describe your business in a few words? Parenthood Ventures is the founder ecosystem for early stage ParentTech – i.e., startups serving parents, from fertility to teens.  Companies in our community span sub-sectors like caregiving, employee benefits, food, physical goods, digital health, retail, clothing, education, media/entertainment and fintech.  The objective is to fuel the next wave…

Vanessa Coppes of BELLA Media + Co on how determining who her customer was changed her business

Describe BELLA Media + Co in a few words? Lifestyle media company sharing content and resources for living a beautiful life. What made you take the leap to start your own business? My mental health. Launching my business literally saved my life. I was suffering from postpartum depression and needed a creative outlet. I launched…

Ingrid He of the Sjogren’s Tracker app on using her creativity to help people with autoimmune disorders manage their symptoms

Describe your business in a few words? Sjogren’s (SHOW-grins) Tracker is an app that helps people with autoimmune disorders manage their symptoms and flares. We aim to help our users better understand their conditions and identify triggers to their flares. Our mission is to create innovative solutions to improve the lives of users and facilitate…

Bari Koral of Yogapalooza on pioneering kids yoga with Yogapalooza!

Describe your business in a few words? Bari Koral is a Kids Yoga Pioneer and recording artist. Bari inspires thousands of parents, teachers and young children every day with her kids yoga, music and mindfulness activities and popular YouTube channel. What made you take the leap to start your own business? After burning out on…

Angelica Hanley of ACouplePuns on growing her business while staying 100% true to herself, and the biggest lessons she has learned over the years

Describe your business in a few words? ACouplePuns specializes in sparking joy through laughter and delivers the punniest content and high-quality paper goodies for every special occasion and moment in-between. Whether your bestie loves her house plants, binge-watching Friends, or drinking coffee, ACouplePuns has a punny card for that!   What made you take the leap…

Kelly DuFord Williams of Slate Law Group on disrupting the traditional law firm space and building a business where employees can thrive

Describe your business in a few words? Slate Law Group is a forward-thinking, accessible San Diego-based boutique law firm that provides legal, tax and HR services for small to medium sized businesses and corporations. What made you take the leap to start your own business? I was inspired to start my own business because I…