Before COVID, I had been running flat out for more than nine years. At the end of last year, I knew I needed to make the decision to leave work at 2:00 pm so I could spend time with my three little boys (all under the age of 10 years.) Cutting my work days a little shorter was an idea that I had been thinking about for three years, but could never pull the trigger on. So finally in January, I went to my board to ask permission to leave work early. They were all fully supportive, yet for some reason, I still couldn’t really make it happen. There was always someone to email, something to get done. I definitely tried a few times, said no to a few trips, but I am type A + personality and I had been trained to work. All. The. Time. I couldn’t stop.
While on a plane the last week of February, coming back from visiting a retailer, I remember looking out my window and asking myself, what would happen if all this could stop. Slow down. What would happen if we could hit pause? This world that continues to buzz every day, the cars, the trains, the planes, the people…. we do not stop. We just keep going, on autopilot, through our daily actions. I realize that we were born to evolve, but my gosh, the go, go go; this is not living. I remember looking outside at the clouds, the clear blue sky, the peace and quiet. Wondering why we couldn’t just go at the fraction of the speed we were used to…and then simply knowing this could never be the case, I too, just kept going…
But it was the case. Three weeks later we were forced to stay-at-home, forced to slow down, to stop. To load up on gas, groceries, medicine, essentials and press the pause button. It’s an odd thing. Knowing so many are suffering, schools closing down, many losing their jobs, many on the front lines fighting this virus day in and day out. Mothers giving birth in hospitals without their husbands, the elderly in nursing homes where family cannot visit. This virus has drastically impacted many lives, and for the worse, but yet, humanity has come together in ways that I, in my life time, have never seen. We are all in this for the common good. Our planet, our world, stands as ONE. It seems that the universe was telling us to stop. Can that be?
I started my company, Quinn Foods, wanting to reinvent microwave popcorn. Yes, the classic americana snack that I grew up loving in the 80’s, needed a do-over. Seemed simple, yet I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I graduated from The New School in New York City. Working by day, going to school at night, I studied everything from Music Theory, Art History, Journalism, Acting… anything BUT business. EBIDTA say what? I didn’t know how to read a P&L, but what I did know is that I had to take a stance on what big CPG was doing. I wanted to create a food company that led with transparency, ethics, and pushed for REAL FOOD in the grocery aisle. So three days after my first son Quinn was born, I set out to clean up the snack category, starting with Microwave Popcorn.
Nine and a half years later, (the half year is critical) we are leaders in the food industry. We are pure bred innovators, visionaries with an activist’s spirit. We push for transparency in food, we push to always Be Better and Do Better, for our families, our friends, and our consumers. In almost a decade, I have built a company from nothing to something. We are not self sustaining just yet, but I helped turn an idea into something. The sacrifice to this something was having three babies with zero maternity leave, endless amounts of capital raises, product launches, hitting rock bottom, soaring to the moon……. hitting rock bottom again, and then finally hitting our stride in 2020. (knock on wood.) The sacrifice to this something was that I had not been able to stop. I had let everything, but the business, get pushed into the background. That is, until now. The universe has forced me to slow down. It has forced me to stop.
Let me just preface that food is deemed essential right now. Our manufacturers continue to make our product. Yes, we have production challenges, and yes, we have distribution challenges, and yes, we are out of stock in many retailers, but we are among the lucky ones, and I am grateful. I have healthy children, healthy parents, a house with a backyard. I live in Colorado. I have access to outdoor space. I am not on the frontlines. I am making food, I am not saving lives. There is a big difference here. Maybe this is why I always have something to do, to accomplish, to achieve. Knowing that I can always do more…
After years of non-stop, years of working like my life depended on it, years of trying to prove myself, my ideas, my worth, at the sacrifice of my family, and my health, this virus has made me hit the pause button. To stop, and wonder, Is this what life is supposed to be like? For us to have enough time and capacity to stop and say hi to our neighbors, from a distance of course, to take time to go grocery shopping for those who can’t, to facetime your best friend in the middle of the morning, just after a conference call. To make time to cook dinner, to eat dinner as a family, hell, to eat breakfast as a family? I have time to walk our 16 year old dog, to play a game of UNO with my 4 year old. I have time to help with homework, to watch a movie, to read books to my boys on the porch. I actually look at my husband and say hi, who by the way is also running a company that he is building. (Sunday) I have time to breathe, without a paper bag over my mouth, to listen to the birds chirping, to remember to take the trash out. I have time to be in the moment. I can actually get work done, and have time to actually be alive. This is the life we all deserve.
For the first time in a decade, I have been given permission to take a conference call, or have an investor meeting, with a kiddo in the background screaming, crying, or laughing. Before I used to take calls in my car, or be at work before school drop off, so I could pretend I was this “business woman”. Now, our society, and our world, has blessed me with the grace to be a mom, a founder, and a CEO. We are all giving each other the permission to do the best that we can. Running flat out has been forced to disappear. “Do the best that you can” is the new normal. For the first time in a decade, it seems, I am not constantly in a rush to get something done, and at times, just for the sake of getting it done so I can just check it off my to do list. I am not constantly trying to prove myself, my worth, my work ethic. My anxiety? Poof! It simply went away; vanished. I am not dashing to the airport trying to catch a plane, or racing into the office for a meeting, or running home to make dinner, read stories, put my kids to bed, then to work until midnight. I am not forced to wear multiple faces, a mask maybe, but I have been able to morph the mom, wife, CEO, faces into one. I have finally been given the permission to just be ME.
There are definitely new responsibilities since COVID. We have to help homeschool our children, learn 4th grade math again, what a Simile is. Yet, with all the juggling, we have time to write a thank you to our mailman/woman, to know the name of our FedEx driver, to talk to the folks at the grocery checkout counters. We have made time to check in on our neighbor, our child’s teacher, our co-workers, our families, our children. We have made time to honor medical workers, to ring bells and hoot and holler during shift changes. (or to howl at 8pm in the state of Colorado) We are not running, not moving at Mach 1. We have slowed everything WAY down and for the first time we can show up. We have the ability to be active participants in our society.
Yes we still need to navigate uncharted waters, and there is the unknown, so much unknown. But with all that, what I do know is that our culture has drastically shifted. We are kinder, we are patient, we are compassionate, we have become vulnerable, we have expressed humility, and have shown and received grace. There is so much to learn from COVID, and I hope that our society is great enough that we will walk away from this time in history knowing that humanity, as a whole, is good. That we are resilient and hopeful, and most of all, we have proven we can all come together in time of need. That we can stay at home and relish in the small things, and feel more alive than we have ever known life to be. My hope is that we will not go back to what it once was. That our history books will carry the message that our society was at its greatest in the year 2020 and that mankind learned to stop racing and start living.