In 2018 Lezlie created a functional chocolate bar, perfect afternoon pick-me-up, mainly to stop her husband Nick from eating “crap” (she said it, not us!). Over time, this afternoon bar now called Mid-Day Square became an innovative product that is vegan, soy free, gluten free, dairy free, zero preservative and a fair-trade chocolate bar.
With the help of her husband and brother Jake, Lezlie founded a brand but also a community by sharing their journey without censoring anything. They are willing to share the good, the bad and the ugly. For this amazing trio, creating a human connection is the most important thing and has been the key to growing their business.
In January 2022, Mid-Day Squares sold over 400,000 chocolate bars which is more than their entire first year of sales. The brand continues to grow exponentially as they are currently conquering the US market one retailer at a time.
The journey to becoming an entrepreneur is hard and demanding. You are doing something that no one has done before. What drove you to start this business?
We [Lezlie and her husband Nick] were already thinking about many different types of businesses that could potentially work and I’ve been making Nick a version of the squares for quite some time but that wasn’t the obvious thing to us that this was something that we could take to market. One day Nick stumbled upon really important information about categories growing pretty quickly that were plant-based protein and the real chocolate market and so he had this Ah-ha moment in the shower thinking ‘’Lez has been making me a baby of these two categories, so let’s try to commercialize this product and take it to market.’’
For us it was a problem that we solved for Nick that we really didn’t think about until a couple of years later when we got the data and realized that there was an opening space.
You don’t know much when you start a business. You have an idea; you have a product that is not ready for the market yet but you know there is an opening space. You have to figure out how to take this thing from your kitchen to the market shelves.
From marketing and social media, customer support, web design, packaging and fulfillment, entrepreneurs wear many hats, especially in the early years of the company. What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs to help manage their time and this type of stress?
Time management is a very important thing to focus on because we can get lost in doing a thing for an excess amount of time and/or we can get analysis- paralysis. Don’t focus on a big goal and everything that needs to get done. What I do is that I focus on quick periods. Let’s take a hockey analogy: in a game there are 3 periods and people on the ice for 35 seconds at a time. They are not thinking about the entire game neither the entire period. They are thinking about the 35 seconds that they are on that ice, and what they need to do to get through that time. My advice would be to focus on 1 big task a day and 3 little tasks and really just focus on that. If I can accomplish that, I know that I had an excellent day and at the end of the week you realize that you accomplished quite a lot.
Going on a path that is unique and creating something from nothing presents big challenges. Before succeeding, most entrepreneurs will face rejection. How do you learn to face rejection or criticism?
I’ve been facing rejection or criticism my entire life. I was not really accepted in the community that I lived in. You’ve got to find the validation in yourself, believe in yourself, and you need to find the confidence in what you are doing. Block out the noise, everyone’s going to have an opinion, everyone’s going to mirror their insecurity onto you. Go out there launch or try to launch anything that you want. If you fail, yes people are going to tell you ‘’ you failed’’ but yeah, there is nothing wrong with failing. You started something, you’ve put yourself out there and that’s the most important thing. People are going to tell you ‘’I told you so’’ but don’t listen to them… what have THEY been doing during this time, what did THEY learn?
My advice here is: Block out the noise, don’t look for everyone’s validation. Work on your confidence. Be the consumer of your own product and know when something has to be put to sleep because not all ideas are good ideas.
Do you have a mentor or someone who inspired you on your entrepreneurial journey?
My mentor is my business and therapist coach, Jim Gavin. He has pushed me in so many ways in my life. Supported me, challenged me and allowed me to grow into the leader and entrepreneur that I am today. Starting with Jim 11 years ago was the best thing that I could have ever done. He has help me tremendously through my journey coping with the ups, the downs, the challenges, the highs, the lows, the road blocks, the personal imposturous syndrome that I face sometimes and all the other really challenging emotions and things that I had to face to become the person that I am today.