An Interview with IdeaMensch: On Entrepreneurship and What I Would Tell my Younger Self

I recently did an interview with IdeaMensch, a crowdsourced interview platform for entrepreneurs, makers and doers whose purpose is to help entrepreneurs bring their ideas to life by sharing their stories. 

Here is the interview, which you can also find here.

Where did the idea for your company come from?

I was born and raised in Toronto, but moved to Israel at the age of 25 after meeting my (now) husband on a humanitarian aid mission in India. Two years later, I moved to Israel and found work in the non-profit sector doing resource development, strategic fundraising and grant writing. In the summer of 2014, a ware broke out in Israel and my husband was called to reserve duty. He was gone for 40 days, leaving me to think about my life, future, purpose and goals. One day, I received an email from a Canadian Jewish organization that encouraged its readers to “go to their local retailer and buy Israeli products”, listing several large and well-known companies. When I read this, I realized that the only Israeli products readily available in the Diaspora are manufactured by large companies and that consumers do not have access to the multitude of excellent, high quality products made by local artisans. Having lived in Israel for a few years, I knew that the country was full of SMEs that could significantly benefit from this type of transaction. Given the opportunity, Israel’s supporters around the world would opt to buy Israeli products and support Israeli SMEs, but they have no way to do so. There are tens of businesses that cannot reach this eager and sizeable market. Using the popular “subscription box” model, I launched Matana to bridge this gap and connect consumers around the world with Israeli SMEs.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

I wake up at 5:30am – or rather, my 15-month-old daughter wakes me up at 5:30am. We play and eat breakfast and my husband walks her down the street to daycare, giving me some peace and quiet to begin my morning routine. I meditate for 10 minutes using the Calm App and then I do my “3x3x3 exercise: I write down 3 goals, 3 things I am grateful for and 3 positive affirmations. Doing this helps me stay focused and present, allowing me to check in with myself on a daily basis. I am out the door by 8:00am and sitting at my neighbourhood cafe by 8:15. I order a strong coffee and get to work checking my emails and creating my task list for the day. At some point, I will either head back to my home office or to various meetings with suppliers and clients. Sometimes, I will pay a visit our warehouse, which is just outside of the city limits; and once in a while, I will hop in my car and drive for hours to visit farms, kibbutzim or factories in rural parts of the country to meet with suppliers or explore new products that we can include in our boxes. On those long drives, I will listen to podcasts or call my mom. At 4PM, I pick up my daughter from daycare and we go to the park or to the beach. Once she is asleep, I will usually have calls with clients and customers in North America before closing my computer for the day.

How do you bring ideas to life?

Once I have an idea, I make it happen pretty quickly. Usually, an idea for a new product or offering will come to me at a random time — like during a yoga class, a bike ride or a long walk. I will mull over the idea and turn it around in my mind until the picture becomes clear and a bit more “cooked.” I will then share the idea with my husband, my father and/or my business partner and listen to their feedback. I like to pilot everything – I do not believe that a finished product needs to be 100% perfect before being brought to market, and I think that it can always be improved by getting customer feedback and seeing how it is received in the real world.

What’s one trend that excites you?

As both a young mom and someone who calls two countries home, I am very excited about the idea that we can really work anywhere these days. Not having to clock in to an office every day gives me the flexibility and freedom I need. All you need is a laptop, an iPhone and some internet to run a business.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

Every year, I do a goal-setting exercise that keeps me on track, both personally and professionally. I have 3 month, 1 year, 5 year, 10 year and lifetime goals.

What advice would you give your younger self?

I used to think that the business world was only occupied by men with a certain background or education. I thought it was about numbers, charts, math, accounting, reports – and these subjects either bored or intimidated me. Today, I would tell my younger self that there is not one archetypal entrepreneur and that business is actually about problem solving and creativity. It is about recognizing holes or gaps and creating solutions. I would definitely tell my younger self to find young women role models and mentors to guide, educate and support me.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

People think that being busy means you are being productive; that running around like a crazy person means that you are successful, but it’s just not true. I am a big believer in de-cluttering in all aspects of life.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Imposter syndrome is real. I still can’t believe that thousands of smart people give me their hard earned money. But they do and they do it out of their own free will. Sometimes, I have to literally remind myself of this and read positive customer reviews to believe that I have created something valuable. I would tell every entrepreneur to understand that there are good days and bad days – and that bad customer reviews are not the end of the world. Not everyone will love you.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Get to know your customers by calling them directly and asking specific questions to understand their needs and motivations. You really cannot guess and the answers are always different than you thought they would be.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

Early on, I spent a lot of money to attend a conference that I thought would get me great exposure and a lot of customers. But the placement of my booth was terrible and there was almost no foot traffic for the first day and a half (out of three). The conference organizer did not agree to relocate my booth, so I took my products and some brochures and set-up a makeshift table in a busier part of the building. At first, I felt embarrassed but then I decided that embarrassment, shame and pride were not helpful emotions. I needed to hustle and make the best of a bad situation.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

In most Israeli hospitals, there is a 4-star hotel attached to the maternity ward where new families can go for a few nights after the birth. There are three meals a day, a nursery, lactation consultants and everything that you need for the first few days. I would love to bring this model to other hospitals around the world.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

Whenever I have a “win” in business, I treat myself. Someone once told me that rewards increase the probability of repeating a certain behavior. I recently gifted myself with a massage.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

I have tried several project management apps, including Asana and Todoist) but I actually find that Google Drive works best for me. t helps me keep track of everything in one place, share documents between my clients, suppliers and staff. Everything is in one place and easily accessible.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Start with Why, Simon Sinek

What is your favorite quote?

“Don’t be upset at the results you didn’t get form the work you didn’t do”

Key Learnings:

  • Practice mindfulness (i.e.: meditation and regular goal-setting) in your day-to-day life

  • Ego and pride are not your friend: don’t be afraid to get messy, to put yourself out there, and to hustle

  • Know your “why” and stick to your core values

Emily Berg