Margarita Womack PhD, MBA is a business executive and science professional. She holds a bachelor of science from Tulane University, a PhD from Princeton University in biology, and an EMBA from Georgetown University. Currently, she is dedicated to developing her own start up, M’panadas, a company bringing fusion South American street foods to fuel people on the go. Previously, Dr. Womack was involved in science education and research through teaching K-12, leading the development of a non-profit to foster science in her home country, Colombia, and carrying out primary research at Princeton University.
What do you consider your top 3 core values and how do they affect how you lead your business?
1. Grit: I heard recently one of the founders of Sweetgreen say that at the beginning: “everyday you are both on the edge of bankruptcy and world domination.” I thought it is the perfect description of what it feels like to run a start up. Grit and determination help to cope with this completely chaotic MO - you can never give up, and you have to be ready to adapt to an ever changing landscape.
2. Curiosity: I am an insatiable learner and problem solver. I wake up in the morning looking forward to what is the next challenge to tackle in my business, and what i need to understand to do so efficiently.
3. gratitude: Success in business (and life!) does not occur in the void - it is largely the interface of others around you. I keep this in mind everyday, and always look to pay it forward and be fair to others.
Can you share a time you either thought you failed, or actually did fail? How did you react and move past it, and what impact did it have on business decisions?
The biggest mistake that I have made so far was to block a large portion of my capital into packaging materials, thus restricting my flexibility. Purchasing a large volume of lowered the price per unit. I wanted those savings, so I placed an orders as large as I could afford, and kept them in the finished basement of my home. It became physically impossible to walk between the wobbly towers of pizza-like boxes for the catering side of the business. And more were on the way… thousands more corrugated cardboard boxes for food service. Then trays and outer sleeves for the frozen line. They also filled the playroom and then the guest room. Made for unhappy husband, and an amazing maze for the kids to play hide and seek. We finally had to move them out. It took a whole day of work and hiring a crew to move everything to a storage facility next to the kitchen. Not only had I spent a good fraction of my capital on these boxes, but I also had incurred the cost of the move and the recurring cost of the storage. Then, of course, I realized that updates to my original box designs needed a number of tweaks. But for now, I am stuck with the boxes I have!
I learned a lot from this misstep. Even though I saved some money on the front end, I lost it on the back-end. Also, in start up mode, everything is a prototype. Locking myself into a high number of boxes kept me “locked” from making changes as I learned more about what works and what doesn’t with my packaging.
What types of projects do you have coming up that we can look forward to seeing in the future?
New flavors, new packaging and new product! Launching in the Fall meat and chicken m’panadas, moving to a more sustainable and better value packaging, and also by popular demand our chimi sauce will sold on it own in a squeeze bottle.