Stacie Czech & Kristi Kelley on finding purpose and fulfillment with Thryv Organics
What made you take the leap to start your own business?
Stacie Czech: I’ve been an entrepreneur with my husband in the Dallas community for many years. Prior to that, we were in corporate finance, but about 18 years ago, we decided to leave the corporate rat race and have never looked back. I love being my own boss and feeling like I’m in charge of my own destiny. Kristi had a similar path. She had been in corporate finance for 20 years and was completely burnt out. She was looking for something more purposeful and fulfilling, and she’s found it with Thryv Organics.
What was your background prior to starting your own business?
Kristi Kelley: I worked in corporate finance for 20 years. I did equity stock trading for several firms in the Dallas area, including Lehman’s Brothers and Barclays Bank, before leaving to start my own business. Stacie worked for Southwest Securities as a sales trader. She had worked for several financial services firms in the ‘90s and early 2000s but has been an entrepreneur since 2003. She has owned several businesses and currently owns two craft beer bars with her husband, in addition to Thryv Organics.
Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
Kristi Kelley: No. For me, it took several years of dissatisfaction in the finance industry to finally decide to start exploring different avenues that made me feel inspired. It’s not easy figuring out what the “next chapter” is going to be, but with time, commitment and putting the intention out into the universe, things started to fall into place.
Stacie Czech: No, I had no idea. When my husband (then boyfriend) suggested we quit our corporate jobs and buy a cabin operation in Ruidoso, New Mexico, I thought he was crazy. But we both quit our jobs, sold our homes and took the leap! We’ve owned several businesses since then, and I now realize that being an entrepreneur is what I was made to do!
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?
When we started Thryv Organics in early 2020, we knew we needed to get the word out any way that we could. We held events in our store and went to every networking event we could find. Then COVID hit and like everyone else, we had to pivot. Fortunately, we already had our website set up, so we poured more effort and energy into e-commerce and digital marketing.
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?
Kristi Kelley: We opened the doors to Thryv Organics in January 2020, and within three months, we had to close due to the pandemic. At that point, we had two choices: close the store for good or find a way to adapt. So we chose the latter. We started offering free nationwide shipping, as well as local same-day delivery within 10 miles of our Dallas store. This new strategy was very well received by customers and really helped us make a name for ourselves in our community.
Stacie Czech: Prior to launching Thryv Organics, I owned several businesses with my husband. One of those businesses did not do well. No matter how much we marketed or poured effort & energy into it, it was failing. We reached a point where we were pulling out of our savings to pay our employees and keep the business running. Up until this point, we had always been successful at everything we did. I had no idea that you could work hard, do all of the right things and still fail. It was very painful and humbling. We did end up selling the company, but it was at a huge loss. When I reflect on that time, I realize that the missing piece was a passion for that particular business. Neither my husband nor I were passionate about what we were doing, so now anytime we open a business, we always make sure it’s something we are truly passionate about.
What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?
Kristi Kelley: I’m most proud that we grew Thryv Organics’ revenue by 300% during a worldwide pandemic. Not many brands can say that.
Stacie Czech: I’m proud that I no longer fear failure. Once you go through it and survive it, it no longer has a hold on you. I’m able to make decisions out of possibility, instead of scarcity. In fact, the bigger and more impossible the goal, the better.
When hiring for your team, what is your go-to interview question? Please share any hiring tips you can share from your experience?
Stacie Czech: I don’t have a go-to question per se; I go by my instincts. I look for people I don’t need to “raise”, people that want to do well because they take pride in themselves. I’m not a micro-manager. I expect that people will choose to do their best, and after training, they will make the best decisions they can. If I have an issue with a decision, I explain why a different decision would have been better. I’ve found that when you expect the best out of people, you will usually get it. If not, you can’t be afraid to cut ties.
How has your business or industry been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?
The CBD market overall is actually growing. Because of the pandemic, people are experiencing more stress, anxiety and sleeplessness, and CBD can address those challenges. Our goal is to spread the word that Thryv Organics can help ease those difficulties in a COVID-safe way. We offer free phone & Zoom consultations, so people don’t have to come to the store if they don’t want to. We also offer curbside pick-up and free shipping for orders over $75 across the country.
What’s next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?
Although our products are organically grown and all ingredients (when possible) are organic, we recently received USDA certification on several of our products. We expect to get the remaining products certified by the end of 2021. Right now, we are in growth mode. We want to further our reach not only in Dallas, but nationwide.
What is the biggest lesson you have learned in 2020?
You don’t know what you don’t know. You can strategize and make plans, then BOOM! Pandemic. There is no way to predict the challenges ahead, so just be prepared mentally for the unexpected and be willing to change course when needed. These challenges make you stronger, so don’t fear them.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting your business?
Kristi Kelley: With the CBD business specifically, I wish I knew that digital marketing was going to be so challenging. Because of government regulations, marketing and advertising a CBD business can be tricky and requires specific expertise.
Stacie Czech: That’s an interesting question — I guess I don’t think in those terms. But I wish I could tell my younger self that everyone experiences failure and that’s okay. Learn to be comfortable with it and understand that failure is just a message. A message that what you’re doing isn’t being received and it’s time to change something, tweak your message, etc. Failure doesn’t define you; in fact, it will help you become better. Failure paves the road to your success.
How have you managed to stay grounded this year?
Kristi Kelley: I try to focus on what I’m grateful for. Although the pandemic has had a devastating impact on our community, there have been many silver linings along the way. Some changes that businesses were forced to make have become some of the best innovations that wouldn’t otherwise have been discovered.
Stacie Czech: I have an unwavering belief in myself and what we have to offer at Thryv Organics. When I feel scared or overwhelmed, I focus on the task at hand: helping people. As long as we focus on that goal, everything else usually falls into place.
Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?
Absolutely! Work/life balance is critical to have a successful business with longevity. We highly recommend having a weekly or monthly calendar to help you plan for the future. Spend one or two full days at the end of each month to plan out your goals and action items for the following month. Sure, things will come along that will force you to tweak some items, but having a plan will help your business run smoothly.
It’s also important to realize that you can’t do it all and do it well. Don’t be afraid to outsource when you can. For example, we hired a store manager to manage the day-to-day store operations so we can focus on growing the business. And it’s been critical for our work/life balances.
What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?
Stacie Czech: I love to build furniture. I built the tables and benches for the craft beer bars that my husband and I own. I also love to build barn doors (random, I know). I actually built the barn door at the Thryv Organics store. Building just relaxes me.
Kristi Kelley: When I was a child (around 6-7 years old), my family lived without running water. We had to haul water from my grandparents’ well in 10 gallon jugs. My mother would heat the water on the stove for our baths and to wash dishes.
What are your top 3 tips to stay productive each day?
Step 1: Do a brain dump on paper every morning. This can include your to-do list, any ideas/strategies that came to your mind, notes, etc.
Step 2: Make a list of the most pressing things from your brain dump. Determine how long each task will take to accomplish.
Step 3: Put those tasks in your calendar and stick to the calendar religiously.
This 3-step system has helped us immensely and keeps us on track.
What does being an Entreprenista mean to you?
It means having the freedom to create a business and a life that you are passionate about on your own terms. An Entreprenista is a badass woman.