Who are you, and what do you do?
Jen Gurecki, serial entrepreneur: CEO and co-founder of Coalition Snow, a women’s ski and snowboard company; Editor of Sisu Magazine, a quarterly publication whose mission is to uncover the untold stories of the outdoors; and Founder of Zawadisha, a social enterprise whose mission is to improve women’s lives one loan at a time.
What has been one insight or lesson that has been most helpful in your career?
Know what it is your willingness to suffer for because none of this is easy.
What has been your favorite mistake? A mistake that in retrospect led to a great lesson and progress.
I don’t know if I’d call it favorite, but it’s one that I’ve learned the most from. I made poor hiring decisions, believing that as a start-up I didn’t deserve people with experience because I couldn’t pay well. And because we couldn’t pay well, when we raised a bit of investment funds, I wanted to do good by the current team. The minute the cash hit the bank, I had this gut feeling that the hustle mentality turned into one of kick-the-feet-up-we-got-this. I should have acted swiftly to get the right people on the team. Ultimately I did end up letting people go, but until after we missed some key KPIs. Now I’m much more careful about who I bring on the team and I don’t wait to make changes when necessary.
Project forward ten years. How will your industry or field be fundamentally different then? What opportunities do you see?
The Outdoor Industry will be less white and less male, which means it actually stands a chance to welcome new participants and consumers into the fold. Ultimately we’ll be stronger economically and more inclusive.
What are some bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?
I’ve only received good advice from people specific to my industry (snowsports), but perhaps because I’ve asked very targeted questions. I have, however, received poor advice from people in a general business sense, and for my company, the worst advice we’ve received has been around branding. People get nervous about our bold brand voice. They fear that we will alienate people. But branding experts have commented on how targeted we are, how we know exactly who we are trying to reach and why, and it’s what differentiates us from our competition.
In the last two years, what have you become better at saying no to?
People who don’t understand my worth and the value of what I’ve created. Just recently the owner of a local outdoor shop asked for our help to promote their film competition to women because they were struggling to reach them. I asked them for their budget for consultants, and never heard back. Years ago I might have helped them “for the good of women.” Now I realize that they want to tap into my expertise so that they can make more money, but have no intention of compensating me. To which I say, f*ck you, pay me.
What is the one book you recommend most often and why?
Lean Startup because it teaches you that perfect is the enemy of good. You refine while you’re in the market, actively seeking feedback from your customers. You just need to start.
What advice would you give a smart and ambitious recent college graduate? What advice should they ignore?
My piece of advice is to embrace the fact that you need to work hard and earn your shit. Nothing is going to be handed to you. Ignore people who force you into fearing a life of uncertainty. You don’t have to have all of the answers right now. Enjoy yourself, and remember if you choose to cast away what society tells you to do (own a home, multiple cars, etc.) you don’t have to settle for the mundane 9-5.
What is your favorite quote, one you aim to live by?
“Man is not the enemy here, but the fellow victim.” ~ Betty Friedan
Find me on Instagram at @yogurecki.