Something I don't share too much of online is that for the past 11 months, I've been continuing to push my education forward by enrolling in Juniata College's MBA Program. My mission is to continue learning to be a more effective leader as AssureTech's CEO. Along this journey, I took a course called Entrepreneurial Management, where the final project involved connecting with an entrepreneur that I felt I could learn from and interviewing them. I chose Betsy Craig, the founder and CEO of MenuTrinfo, because we had just formed our partnership to bring the EpiCenter App to college campuses.
I wanted to share my conversation with Betsy, captured in my final paper, as part of AssureTech's month-long celebration of founders in our community with you below. I believe she's got an incredible story that other aspiring founders in our community can learn from.
INTERVIEW WITH AN ENTREPRENEURIAL MANAGER: BETSY CRAIG
International MBA Program
This paper aims to address how successful entrepreneurs can simultaneously balance the defining traits of both startups and larger companies. Entrepreneurial managers, the term we used in class and that will be seen throughout the paper, describes a manager that is effective in keeping his or her organization flexible like a startup, but in a strong position for continued, sustainable growth. I interviewed Betsy Craig, the entrepreneurial manager behind MenuTrinfo. Her company continuously innovates while delivering consistent performance for clients in the food/food allergy industry. I will begin by introducing the importance of being an entrepreneurial manager, share Craig’s personal philosophies, and come full circle by explaining why aspiring CEOs should observe the practices discussed in this paper.
Introduction to Entrepreneurial Managers
One significant challenge a growing a company faces is striking the right balance between the energy and maneuverability of a startup with the structure and discipline of a full-fledged enterprise. Legendary companies, like General Electric, Apple, or Amazon, are prominent examples of how harnessing this duality can lead to success. The companies mentioned above carry a distinct level of prestige – even when compared against other industry giants – not only because of their success in the marketplace, but also for their fascinating ability to remain innovative in spite of their size and increasing quality standards.
What does this mean for an aspiring entrepreneur? If you are starting out or considering your own venture in the future, observing certain principles used by both well-known large companies and leaders of smaller-yet-successful organizations can help you create an enduring business. The leaders in these organizations can be described as entrepreneurial managers, or managers that find a way to keep the startup spirit alive and well as they develop the company.
One such leader is Betsy Craig, the founder of MenuTrinfo, whom I had the chance to interview. She shared the ups and downs she has experienced along her entrepreneurial journey and offered some of the kernels of knowledge she has picked up along the way.
Betsy Craig: An Entrepreneurial Manager in the Food Allergy Industry
Craig’s entrepreneurial journey is one of both professional and personal resilience – a critical element to building a company which she made abundantly clear in our discussions. I believe her approach to entrepreneurship could be summarized in the following three core ideologies: learn from your mistakes; keep the passion for what you do alive; and focus on the long-term. A single quote from Craig that encapsulates these three principles came from when I asked her for her definition of an entrepreneur, to which she responded:
"[An entrepreneur is] a stubborn, brilliant, [and] inspired, person who won’t take ‘no’ for an answer – with a solution to a problem, need, or want that exists or is about to exist in the world."
Learn from Your Mistakes
Entrepreneurs inevitably make mistakes. The best ones find ways to learn from shortcomings or disappointments so the experience can have a net positive impact on them as a professional and on the enterprise at large.
I asked Craig about some of the disappointments she has encountered throughout her entrepreneurial journey, and whether or not she would have done things differently.
“Actually, hindsight is truly 20/20,” she explained to me. “But I am not at all sure what I would do different – as each move and action lead me to right here, right now.".
Her outlook on mistakes is more like a student that has paid for tuition in exchange for a quality education. “Mistakes, or seeming mistakes, have taught me some of the most important lessons to date,” she said.
I believe her approach to coming to terms with mistakes helps entrepreneurs stay resilient through the hardships associated with building a business.
This naturally led to my follow up question: with competitors popping up, what makes your business unique? For Craig, innovation and creating a truly unique service proposition help set the barrier to entry high.
“[It comes down to] what we do and how we do it. We are the only ones in the country that do a lot of the offerings we do,” she explained. “[We’re] leading the industry and driving the mission. MenuTrinfo exists to inform people of what is in their food so they can eat without worry.” This answer also touches on Craig’s belief that passion for what your company stands for is a key factor to being a successful entrepreneur. I will break down her thoughts on this more in the next section.
Keep the Passion for what you do Alive
Something that was apparent in every answer Craig shared with me was that she is
incredibly passionate for what she does – and that is something to which she attributes much of her success!
She started by explaining that “100%” of her decision to start MenuTrinfo was a leap of faith. She advised me, and any other aspiring entrepreneur to, “Make sure you love what you are doing – as that is what keeps you going when nothing else can.”