I got the chance to spend a day with Jennifer Carlson, Founder of Baby Gourmet. Jennifer donated her time as part of Women of Influence’s annual Future Women of Influence Auction. With Jennifer based out of Calgary we arranged to meet up on a day when she was in Toronto to shoot a local TV appearance. As a media and public relations graduate, I was excited to see the behind the scenes experience of shooting a television segment.
Our day started with an early call time of 9 am; though Jennifer and her PR representative Shauna had been up since 6 am baking for the segment. After introductions, it was time to setup and this is where I saw Jennifer’s multitasking skills going into play. Answering my questions about how she started Baby Gourmet and arranging a photo shoot for the following week, all while making the crumble topping for the cooking segment. After that, it was a quick stop in at makeup and she made sure to steal a quick minute to call her daughter before being briefed by the show’s producer.
“As a recent graduate confused with the career options before me, the opportunity to sit down with someone at a top level to just fire away questions at was awesome.”
After a final check over her set up, it was time to air. I got to watch in studio as she acted as her brand’s spokesperson encouraging healthy eating habits for children. Incorporating one of her new Kids Gourmet products Squoosh, Jennifer made a healthy snack option, walking the fine line between promoting her product and sounding like an infomercial. Jennifer is very clear on what her brand’s message is and after missing one of her key messages in the segment, she and Shauna spoke about how to make her next appearance better.
We had a quick clean up and then left the studio to head over to a nearby coffee shop to talk over drinks. We found a table and Jennifer checked some emails on her phone. I used this time to think of what I wanted to ask her and what topics I wanted to cover. As a recent graduate confused with the career options before me, the opportunity to sit down with someone at a top level to just fire away questions at was awesome. I asked questions about personal goals, entrepreneurship, gender relations and company specific obstacles, anything that came to mind really. Jennifer answered them all, and then some. She was refreshingly honest and I could tell that she really wanted me to get something from each response. I’ve met with other industry professionals over coffees who have given me textbook answers but Jennifer was much more candid than that.
“Most people would think that the Donate-a-Day experience is just about making a new contact but I found it so much more useful than that.”
When asked about the difficulties in starting a business as a woman she explained being duped by men in the beginning and the continued battle to prove herself to her male counterparts. I asked about goals and she explained how she started the company because of her children and wanting to get the company to a place where she can enjoy being there for her children when they need her the most. Possibly the best story was her describing seeing her product on shelves at a major grocery chain for the first time and crying, then having the moment ruined by the store’s marketing execs being telling her she could not take pictures. One of the many stories about running a business that you just cannot script.
The best part of our conversation for me was when Jennifer encouraged me to contact her afterwards. She let me know that any time I had a question or just wanted to run something past her to send her an email. She made it clear that I could, and should, use her as a resource moving forward in my career. Most people would think that the Donate-a-Day experience is just about making a new contact but I found it so much more useful than that. This experience not only connected me with a very successful business woman, it made me excited about my career again and that is truly invaluable.