Denise M Henderson & J&G Farms,LLC/Square One
Doing it Right

"Breathe! It will be alright…look at all the other parents…they seem fine…inhale…exhale. You can do this."

Recently, I brought my 7 year old son to hockey camp…all day camp with kids he didn't know and coaches I didn't know. I was a complete wreck. I watched all the parents drop off their kids and happily drive away while I suffered sweaty palms, heart palpitations and difficulty breathing as I slowly willed myself to the exit. What if something went wrong and I wasn't there to fix it? How could I leave something so important in someone else's hands? My name is Denise and I am a perfectionist. I'm also an insatiable information gatherer, and someone who has a need to suck the marrow out of every situation. I am married, have 8 year old twins, a dog AND a cat not to mention I own and run my own organic baby food business. I work from home so that I can bring my kids to school and generally be "around." My challenge both personally and professionally lies in the need to do it all and do it right. Delegating is very new to vocabulary. As you can imagine with a husband, second grade boy/girl twins and a start-up business each day is a wild ride!

Background -- "aha" moment

I inherited this "do it all, but do it right" point of view from my mother. I recall a particularly eventful trip to our local grocery store when I was a young girl during which my mom went toe to toe with a man who stole our parking spot. I was nervous yet struck by her absolute calmness and confidence as we made our way into the store bee-lining for the culprit. Sensing my apprehension as everyone stared at us, my mom said "oh let them look - we're right!" It was the late 60's- early 70's and it wasn't all that common for women to confront men in front of a large audience, but my mother firm in her convictions and confident that she could do anything wouldn't let that stop her. She told the spot stealer exactly what she thought of him and he had some choice words for her too (once he realized that this beautiful woman was not there to admire him). All eyes were upon us as we left the store, yet my mother was not affected by it. Smiling to herself, she was either unaware or unconcerned about the boat she had just rocked. She had mentally moved on to the next task for the day. I remember thinking how fearless she was, how proud I was that she was my mom and how I wanted to grow up and be just like her. Nothing and I mean nothing was or is impossible to her and no part of life was or is to be missed. "Do it all" – she would say, "but Denise for God's sake, if you're going to do something, do it right – or what's the point?"

"Doing it all and doing it right" became my mantra. In high school I was a national honor student -- despite having dyslexia. I held a varsity letter for tennis, was the captain of the cheerleading squad and was selected to participate in the Physical Education Leaders Program. In 1987 I graduated from the University of Illinois and began working at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange as a card runner. This entry level position didn't pay much. Severely in debt with student loans, I started a book keeping business utilizing the accounting skills I had learned at my summer job. Six years later I was an order filler in the Euro Dollar pit, had 75 brokers using my bookkeeping business, a woman to run it for me, and was completely out of debt. I was one of only 10 women working inside that commodity pit full of men.

In 1999, a trip with friends found me reading the book "Who Moved my Cheese." Much to my chagrin, apparently my cheese had been moved and could no longer be found at The Merc. I felt there was more to life and was looking for a new career challenge.

In 2001 my husband and I were blessed with twins –they arrived a little early and one of them had food allergies. When life gives you premature twins, one with food allergies, what's a mom to do? I went on the attack… I gathered information on immune boosting foods, cooked, pureed and froze them, created daily journals for each child and color-coded the whole thing to ensure they were each getting the nutrition they needed. As I watched my children thrive and grow, I realized other moms could benefit from what I had created and an idea was born. I went to work. I hired a product development team and worked with a Pediatric Nutritionist and Allergist to make sure everything was done right. Six years later Square One Organic Frozen Super Foods for Babies came to market.

Professional Challenge

Bringing Square One from my kitchen to market has been a wild ride and my do it all and do it right approach has kept me busy. Since its inception, I have organized every aspect of Square One and done tons of research. I have created all of the invoices, PO's and inventory sheets. I have personally overseen manufacturing. My husband and I bought a frozen delivery truck which he uses to deliver our products. I made the sales kits and went on sales calls. I was able to get our products into 15 retail locations and a major internet grocer. I personally booked and facilitated all of the sampling events. My husband also wrote and recorded a children's CD about healthy nutrition using the research I had accumulated. I made most of it up as I went along and sweated every decision. All the while my mom's words have been ringing in my ears.

Since coming to market, Square One has continued to grow and evolve. I recently spent some time with a venture capital group. They were asked to evaluate my work thus far and comment on what we need to do to make Square One an interesting investment opportunity. They gave Square One 4 objectives: (1) perfect the brand position, (2) establish an additional distribution channel (3) raise our price and (4) show a scalable marketing strategy. We are well on our way to accomplishing 3 of our 4 goals. We have done quite a bit of this work to date.

Square One is off to an amazing start, but we still need to spread the word. We need to increase brand understanding and recognition, sales and buzz. At this stage of growth, it is no longer possible for me do everything personally and oversee every detail of the operation and still do it right. I need to find a way to get information about Square One out there on a broader scale while leaving myself time to run the day to day aspects of the company.

Personal Challenge

Having five years of your work scrutinized by experts is not that fun especially for perfectionist. At the end of the session with the venture capital group, I was asked, "Denise, are you having fun doing this?" I had been so busy doing the next thing that needed to be done, it hadn't occurred to me to have fun. Both my family and my business are incredibly important to me. I have never been willing to sacrifice time with my husband and kids for work, but I haven't been willing to sacrifice my business either. Instead I've been going a hundred miles an hour every day so I can do it all. Robert Herrick wrote "Gather Ye Rose Buds While Ye May", I have been so busy gathering the rose buds, it didn't dawn on me to smell the roses I have gathered.

I would like to find a way to increase Square One's growth and success while still having at least a little time to sit back and truly enjoy my fabulous family and all that we have accomplished so far. While I'm proud to be passing the lessons learned from my mom on to my kids I also want them to learn the importance of enjoying the ride.