Executive Insider

Lessons Learned from the Snack Food World, As They Apply to Entrepreneurs Across All Industries

Business People

I’m often asked to share important moments that helped to shape my career – of course, there are those that have made me proud, as well as those that have come with hard lessons. For CEO’s with an undying passion for their work, their companies and the people under their leadership, there’s always a curiosity about the path others took to get where they are.

This curiosity has led me to consistently engage with other industry leaders and has given me a desire to share my own lessons-learned. What did we do at That’s How We Roll, LLC. that you could (or maybe did) avoid? What steps have we taken that can inspire you to press forward more courageously? In a community of people with an entrepreneurial spirit, these kinds of conversation are critical.

I believe the true magic of any challenge is the growth and the learning curve that comes with it. Here, you’ll read a couple of the most prevalent lessons from my early career as an entrepreneur.

Lesson one: Truly use each challenge as a way to propel yourself forward

My entrepreneurial spirit was sparked long before I began any concerted entrepreneurial efforts. In fact, with a grandfather who was the CEO of Pathmark and a father who owned his own jewelry store, I grew up with clear examples of businessmen who were both diligent and focused. With a CEO mentality embedded in my way of thinking, the first 10 years of my professional career were spent in Sales and Marketing at Hain Celestial Group. I discovered a passion for the food world when I took on a role as the Director of Sensible Portions Veggie Straws. At the time I was the youngest director at Hain and helped to grow the brand significantly – an endeavor I was proud of.

In light of that growth and success, however, I took a leap of faith. My entrepreneurial spirit drove me to leave a fairly safe position for a riskier one: as founder and CEO. I had the opportunity to start a company with brilliant industry leaders, including Jason Cohen and Aldo Zuppichini. At the same time, I had my first daughter and was starting a family – all of this in the course of three short months. Our company, That’s How We Roll, LLC, was born, and we launched our first disruptive product, Dippin Chips, shortly thereafter.

Aside from building a team dedicated to paving a path forward, the best thing about being an entrepreneur is the creativity I get to use every day. Creating jobs, creating products, creating value, creating solutions and creating inspiration that may, in-turn, foster the next generation of entrepreneurs. That’s really what being an entrepreneur is all about. Innovation and operational excellence have allowed us to continue to grow, discover the next hidden opportunity, and build our reputation as a company that introduces new solutions to the marketplace.

When I left my position at Hain Celestial, however, none of the joys of entrepreneurship or those that have come from building That’s How We Roll were guaranteed. The risk was unimaginable, yet still one we knew we needed to take. We used that initial push to propel ourselves to where we are today.

Lesson two: Embrace your scrappiness

Our first major challenge at That’s How We Roll hit when our initial Costco shipment arrived with the pallets collapsed on one-another. At that point, I had changed the course of my entire life, and in a moment, I had to watch in horror as it all, quite literally, crumbled before my eyes. Knowing that wasn’t part of our business plan meant we had to think quickly and act nimbly to salvage our relationship with this very important retailer. That’s when we rolled up our sleeves and rebuilt the dozens of pallets, one by one, ourselves.

That lesson came with a reminder: with scrappiness and a mentality that there is always a solution, we’ll always be able to deliver. And, we did. We were proud to deliver Costco that on-time shipment. In those moments, I remembered the kindest, most heartfelt compliment I ever received while part of the Hain Celestial team. The CEO told me, “that’s what I like about you, you’re a worker.” As an entrepreneur, you need to be a worker. You need to be ready to bounce back quickly and get to work when things collapse. Because sometimes, they will collapse.

Lesson three: Leaving behind a legacy

Great CEO’s must be forward-thinkers and visionaries, but those that want to leave a lasting legacy must consistently reflect on their lessons, considering their mentors and those who have inspired them. In my tenure as a CEO at That’s How We Roll, LLC., I’ve learned about the importance of resilience, the complex art of managing people and the value of true innovation. Like most entrepreneurs, I’ve learned that the barriers we’ve hurdled as a team have only made us stronger. Nimbler. More impactful. It’s these challenges that I’m grateful for – nearly as grateful as I am for the mentors I’ve had along the way.

As a young entrepreneur, I had to learn that work ethic does not only apply to tedious paperwork, long hours and incremental growth. It also applies to the work that goes into building business relationships, as well as a mindset to openness to new ideas. It is my goal as a CEO, a manager and a team-player to build a diverse team that consistently and boldly shares varying perspectives. Today, our current management team at ParmCrisps offers critical feedback from varied ages, genders, abilities, ethnicities and religious affiliations. It’s important to me to value the opinions and rationale of my peers, mentors and teammates. I value their expertise and I empower them to take ownership in their respective disciplines. We’re all in this together.

Through my career thus far I’ve found success in hard work, fearless diligence, diverse team insight, a drive for innovation and trust in the people with whom I surround myself. And I eagerly look forward my next lesson.

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Sam Kestenbaum
Sam Kestenbaum, co-founder and CEO, ParmCrisps and THINSTERS. Sam co-founded That’s How We Roll, LLC, parent company of ParmCrisps and THINSTERS in 2013 and has been the driving force with the company since. Sam has earned a B.S in Business Finance from Florida Atlantic University and currently resides in New Jersey with his wife and two young children. Sam Kestenbaum is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. Follow Sam on LinkedIn.