I started Miso Tasty when I was 26 years old, full of energy and hope, but incredibly naive. Like most people when they look back at their 20s, I cringe and don’t fancy living through that again!
If you had asked me 10 years ago what I thought I would be doing now, I probably would have said, “working in a restaurant, with dreams to start my own.” I had no idea about the journey I would take to establish Miso Tasty.
It took 3 years to develop the products before we could launch, and now with 7 years trading, I can look back at the last decade with awe. Hard work, building the right team, and a load of luck have played their part in taking us to where we are today.
A friend recently said to me that “we often overestimate what we can achieve in a year, underestimate what we can achieve in 5, and really really underestimate what is possible in 10 years.” and I really agree. It makes me so excited about the next decade.
Now, with a ninja team of 8 and 10 products in major retailers, our star is ascending, but like all “overnight successes”, it has never been plain sailing.
Here are 7 pieces of advice I wish I could have given my younger self
at the start of Miso Tasty, at the age of 26.
1) Fail quickly and learn fast – This is a bit of a cliche but it is true! When I first started Miso Tasty, it was all about making the product; I was obsessed by this endeavour. It took 3 years to develop the first products, so when they were finally launched I was stubborn about making changes to them, even when they weren’t working. We didn’t want to try new things until we could get the first ones working; this sentimentality about our first products held us back from trying new things and narrowed our vision. In tech, you have beta versions of products that are tested thoroughly before launching the refined version, but we had one product with no backup plan!
In reality our later products chimed more strongly with our customers but by the time we developed those, we were so close to collapsing, that we almost didn’t make it. I wish I could have told myself to learn to let go sooner what is not working. My younger self couldn’t tell the difference between knowing when to accept defeat and when to keep going and I was very good at sticking my head in the sand!
2) Stay calm and positive- it affects everyone around you. Lead by example and look after each other. I had not realised how important my attitude was to building a strong culture for the business. Staying optimistic, finding the funny side, never placing blame is key to cultivating a team spirit that is resilient. Everyday, things do not go to plan. I used to be fantastic at panicking, worrying over things I couldn’t control and taking it a bit too seriously. I could see how that would rub off on the mood of the team ever so quickly.
If I was panicking, those around me would panic, there is a domino effect. Over the years, I have developed a stronger mental resilience to take on the daily challenges with a smile, and even relish them sometimes! As the team grew, I had to learn to stay calm in emergencies, lead by example, and take responsibility for the culture at Miso Tasty by behaving in a way that I want my team to behave. I would tell my younger self to stay calm and stay positive and be mindful of how my behaviour and attitude can affect others.
3) Dream Big! When I first started Miso Tasty, I had a tiny plan of making the best miso soups and having them sold on supermarket shelves. That was it!!!! To grow big, you have to dream big. I was too scared to dream too big in case I failed. In fact, in this industry limiting yourself can actually become your downfall.
4) You can’t please everybody. Back yourself. Some of my darkest hours at Miso Tasty was when I would tie myself up in knots if I felt I was letting someone down who did not agree with my thinking or decision. I would beat myself up for creating dissonance. I have been blessed with a number of excellent advisors over the years, and unsurprisingly, they sometimes have different views.
Learning how to weigh the advice up, and backing my own decision has taken years and years of practice, without me feeling guilty about not following some other person’s view. I would tell my younger self to own your decisions and accept that sometimes you might make the wrong call too, but you really can’t please everyone.
5) Hire people who are better than you and sometimes, they are very different to you. I am a classic jack of all trades, and love to nose in on all departments because I want to see everything working in unison. This only works if you hire people who can bring what you cannot bring. I know my limitations, and over the years I have learnt to hire better, by that I mean to hire people better than me in my weak areas, and to do so, you sometimes need to look beyond what is familiar. It is very easy to hire people that sound like you and are similar to you, but you are not choosing your friends!
Luckily, I feel that our team are not only absolute ninjas in their areas, but who I would also consider my friends; we look out for each other. Lockdown has taught me to appreciate the small things more; having the team in the office eating and laughing together is what I miss the most.
6) Take a break if you can’t take a holiday. I probably didn’t take a holiday in the first 5 years of the business. Every waking moment was focussed on Miso Tasty. I didn’t complain as I loved it, but my health was rubbish and stress frequently got the better of me. I ignored the signs and I regret that my health has suffered over the years. In the last 2 years I have started to take holidays, and if I cannot, I have learnt to take breaks throughout the day and throughout the week to keep balance.
I can now nap on demand, exercise regularly, and not work after hours unless it’s an emergency. I used to think that if i took a break or holiday everything would fall apart, and this is simply not the case! It was fed by a paranoia that I wasn’t doing enough, and wasn’t good enough to grow Miso Tasty. I would tell my younger self to look after my body and mind more, because that’s the only way to bring your best self to your business everyday.
7) This is going to be your dream job. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was about to create my dream job. Before Miso Tasty, I jumped from project to project and was constantly starting new ventures; get bored and then move onto something else. When I look back, I certainly wouldn’t hire me! I was lost and trying to work out what I wanted from my career; little did I know that my role at Miso Tasty really is my dream role; every day is different and challenging. I still feel giddy at the sight of someone putting our products into their basket and can’t resist a shelf shuffle to neaten up our display. Instead of cooking a meal for a customer in a restaurant, I have created products that are being enjoyed around the world, even when I am asleep! For me, it doesn’t get better than that!
I want to thank all the people who have supported me and Miso Tasty in the last decade; from the early days of development where I didn’t even have a product to sell, to the team today who continue to build on the foundations laid. Every customer, every supplier, every mentor, every investor, every team member who has helped us; there are so many of you, Thank you.
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