Connect with your community. I don’t believe you can truly be stress-free or live a fulfilling life without a sense of community. Whether it’s your family, friends, or even your neighbors you always see at the local dog park, this time to unwind (outside of work), is beneficial for keeping your head in the right space.
With all that’s going on in our country, in our economy, in the world, and on social media, it feels like so many of us are under a great deal of stress. We know that chronic stress can be as unhealthy as smoking a quarter of a pack a day. For many of us, our work, our livelihood, is a particular cause of stress. Of course, a bit of stress is just fine, but what are stress management strategies that leaders use to become “Stress-Proof” at work? What are some great tweaks, hacks, and tips that help to reduce or even eliminate stress from work? As a part of this series, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Renaldo Webb.
Renaldo Webb is Founder and Chief Product Officer at PetPlate. He launched the 100% Human-Grade, gently-cooked dog food company as a nationwide subscription service in early 2017, following an appearance on the hit TV show Shark Tank, and has attracted a loyal following both online and at retail. Since then, PetPlate has delivered over 20 million healthy meals and organic treats to tens of thousands of dogs across America and continues to innovate and delight pet parents with its direct-to-consumer service and retail products.
Renaldo graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a degree in Physics and currently lives in Brooklyn, NY, with his wife Suzanne and their bernadoodle Cooper.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to know how you got from “there to here.” Inspire us with your backstory!
I grew up in New Orleans, LA with parents and a community that wasn’t necessarily primed for entrepreneurship or the “corporate world.” With a focus on education and advancing not only my life, but my family’s as well, I successfully graduated from MIT with a B.S. in Physics. After going on to work in consulting and private equity post-grad, I was assigned to many dog food manufacturing plants, and only realized the extent of their bad practices when I got a dog of my own, Winston.
With Winston’s IBS, I realized he needed fresh, whole, human-grade food and that’s exactly what I sought to create with PetPlate back in 2015! After countless bike deliveries with Winston faithfully riding on the back, hand-delivering meals across New York City, and a stint on Shark Tank, I was ready to scale my business.
Overall, the entire VC funding process in itself was difficult to navigate and was stressful. After connecting with VC funds like Pendulum, whose mission is to invest in minority businesses and founders with groundbreaking products and ideas, who otherwise would be ignored by the traditional VC community, we raised a successful $19M Series B in December 2021 which has led us to see tremendous growth and evolve the brand and our products even further.
What lessons would you share with yourself if you had the opportunity to meet your younger self?
I would tell my younger self to manage his time well. While it’s important to make sure all the work is getting done, setting aside time for you to take care of your mental and physical health pays dividends. You need to invest in yourself in order to perform at an optimal level whether that’s in sports, work, or school.
Avoid doing “busy work,” focus on the most important things that need to get done, and apply the 80–20 rule, also known as the Pareto Principle, to your life to help you prioritize your tasks.
Lastly, be consistent. Stress can ultimately come when you don’t have a regular schedule. Now, this doesn’t mean anyone should live a rigid lifestyle that’s not fit for them and their needs, but keeping a similar schedule for meetings, sleep, work, etc. can help keep you feeling balanced and not overwhelmed.
None of us are able to experience success without support along the way. Is there a particular person for whom you are grateful because of the support they gave you to grow you from “there to here?” Can you share that story and why you are grateful for them?
I’m most grateful for my wife, Suzanne. We met in New York, a year before starting PetPlate, and she’s helped improve my life in so many ways, especially my mental health journey. She’s helped me learn to take time for myself with meditation and breathing exercises, ultimately making sure I’m able to manage myself sufficiently. My dog Cooper helps too, of course!
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think it might help people?
I’m not only the founder of PetPlate, but I also wear another hat at the company, as Chief Product Officer. As head of product, we’re always looking for ways to advance and expand our treats, supplements, and entrées to better serve our customers (both the humans and the pups!) and address their top concerns related to pricing and availability which will hopefully ease some stress from our consumers, particularly in a turbulent economic market.
Ok, thank you for sharing your inspired life. Let’s now talk about stress. How would you define stress?
Stress, for me, is any event or incident that causes you to worry and leads to mental, physical, or emotional strain. Stress, especially when it’s severe, can be debilitating and you can feel it taking over your body and/or life.
In the Western world, humans typically have their shelter, food, and survival needs met. So what has led to this chronic stress? Why are so many of us always stressed out?
A huge mistake is anyone thinking that after food, clothing, and shelter you’ll be stress-free and happy — anyone who’s ever set foot inside a school, workplace, or even shopped in a department store — will understand this. People have different reactions to different events and situations, but it’s very common for one to have looming deadlines or important tasks that cause them to worry a bit more than normal.
Our society definitely prioritizes a “grind” mindset and teaches people to overwork themselves under this guise of working hard in order to be successful. There are many people who feel this is the only way to live which causes lack of sleep, trying to do multiple things at once, and leads to poor health overall which funny enough, oftentimes sets us back rather than propelling us forward.
What are some of the physical manifestations of being under a lot of stress? How does the human body react to stress?
Stress can cause tons of damage to our bodies, especially because most of us continue living normally while under these conditions, which can cause them to worsen. Stress can negatively affect your breathing, causing quick and shallow breathing or hyperventilation. If you’re someone with asthma or who struggles with anxiety, these symptoms can be even worse for you. Beyond breathing, stress can cause physical pain as well, in our muscles when they tense up and headaches. There are also effects things you can’t see like cravings for unhealthy food leading to weight gain and acne or on the opposite front, not eating at all which is unhealthy as well. The major pain point for me is truly a lack of concentration which makes my daily routine more challenging.
Is stress necessarily a bad thing? Can stress ever be good for us?
While too much stress is awful for your health, I sometimes think stress can be a bit of a motivator for me. When running a company and developing a team, you’re no longer just thinking about yourself. From family to employees and even stakeholders, there are many people looking to you for answers. Sometimes that bit of stress knowing there’s an upcoming deadline or timely goal to reach is the exact flame you needed to ignite the fire.
Is there a difference between being in a short term stressful situation versus an ongoing stress? Are there long term ramifications to living in a constant state of stress?
Short-term stress is definitely manageable and may not cause you any significant harm. Long-term stress on the other hand is where you need to be most careful. Beyond the health issues we’ve already discussed, it’s simply not a sustainable way of living. Many people think that a stressful “grind” mindset is the way to be successful, but both history and science have shown us that your body will stop for you, if you don’t take a break yourself. Stress is your body telling you that you may need to pause, and if you don’t and continue the same actions and behaviors, your body will eventually slow down on its own.
Is it even possible to eliminate stress?
This really depends on what’s causing the stress in the first place. If it’s work-related, you can try different methods based on the issue: meditation or yoga for example can help if you’re busy with meetings and can’t unwind. Another example could be establishing boundaries or blocking time on your calendar so you can sit quietly for a while without interruptions.
If something is completely out of your control, you’ll need to find a way to adjust. Whether it’s taking 30 minutes a week to speak to a therapist or making the active choice to switch careers, your long-term physical and emotional health will thank you.
In your opinion, is this something that we should be raising more awareness about, or is it a relatively small issue? Please explain what you mean.
100%. Especially now, where the entrepreneurial mindset of hustle and bustle is so popular on public platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter, some young (and older) people think the only way to be successful is to wake up at 4 am, complete a two-hour workout, not take a lunch break and work until midnight, only getting four hours of sleep. This is definitely untrue, and a myth that I believe is placing unnecessary stress and unrealistic expectations on to people. Success isn’t success if you’re not living a happy, healthy life and being consistently stressed does not help.
Let’s talk about stress at work. Numerous studies show that job stress is the major source of stress for American adults and that it has escalated progressively over the past few decades. For you personally, if you are feeling that overall, work is going well, do you feel calm and peaceful, or is there always an underlying feeling of stress? Can you explain what you mean?
I don’t think having no stress at all is ever the goal, it’s figuring out how stress works for you! Stress and our response to it, are directly built into our DNA, it’s natural. Whether work is going smoothly or is stressful, with the way I like to prepare with meditation and extra practice or review for what I’m doing, I actually always feel calm and peaceful while others may feel stressed.
Stress lets me get into the zone, it’s grounding and helps me realize what’s important; I don’t let it overwhelm me.A base level of stress is motivating and lets me know I’m working in the right direction for successful outcomes.
Okay, fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview: Can you share with our readers your “5 stress management strategies that busy leaders can use to become “Stress-Proof” at Work?” Please share a story or example for each.
- Meditation and breathing. As I mentioned, this one is huge for me. Whether it’s meditation with an app like Headspace or breathing exercises from YouTube, taking a minute to decompress and release stress from your brain and body will benefit you both short and long-term.
- Consistency. It’s hard for your body and mind to feel regulated without any structure. There have been busy work moments where I’m out fundraising or spending back-to-back long days at our manufacturers and those are the times when it would’ve been easiest for stress to take over. Waking up at 5am on one day and having to be energetic and at the top of your game until nightfall to do it again day after day can be tiring and add a level of stress onto an already busy time for you. Try to keep your schedule somewhat consistent or at least find little windows of time to relax and breathe.
- Taking time for yourself. Working 365 days a year, 7 days a week is a recipe for disaster unless you’re literally Superman. Contrary to what some people might think, it’s okay to take a day (or a week) off whether it’s to sleep and recharge, spend time with friends and family or go out and celebrate your past successes. Whatever is enjoyable for you, you should always take the time to do it!
- Exercising. I am very into fitness and it’s something I use to not just keep physically in shape, but mentally as well. I like to run with Cooper and work out at the gym and I’m even training for the CrossFit Open this year as well. I know working out can feel like a huge burden, especially when you’re not used to it, but it’s really important. Even if it’s taking a walk for 30 minutes a day, your body, mind (and stress levels) will thank you!
- Connect with your community. I don’t believe you can truly be stress-free or live a fulfilling life without a sense of community. Whether it’s your family, friends, or even your neighbors you always see at the local dog park, this time to unwind (outside of work), is beneficial for keeping your head in the right space.
Do you have any favorite books, podcasts, or resources that have inspired you to live with more joy in life?
The Headspace app is my main meditation tool. They have a number of coaches and sessions for different times of the day and different stress levels that make it easy to relax. I also really enjoy Angela Duckworth’s Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance for more inspiration.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Own a pet! My dog Cooper helps me reduce stress and releases endorphins when I pet him or give him belly rubs. I also am more physically active with Coop, he forces me to take walks which of course helps improve longevity!
What is the best way for our readers to continue to follow your work online?
You can find us on Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter @PetPlate and on PetPlate.com to get your furry friends 100% human-grade entrées.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent on this. We wish you only continued success.