Why Entrepreneurs Should Question Everything And Everyone

By Nina Zipkin

So much of the work that goes into building relationships — friends, mentors, business partners — takes place around a dining table. Trying to make a first impression is stressful enough, but for many people with food allergies and sensitivities there is another layer of fear there: waiting to see if something wrong might land on their plate, even if they ask all the right questions. How can you truly be yourself if you’re worried about your health?


Shireen Yates understands these kinds of concerns firsthand as someone who deals with dietary restrictions and food sensitivities — and they drove her to launch Nima. The tech company, which she co-founded with MIT classmate Scott Sundvor in 2013, is the maker of a portable sensor that detects allergens in food. They have successfully brought a test for gluten to market and are currently at work on ones for peanut, tree nut and dairy allergens.

It required a lot of carefully calibrated science and experimentation to get to a safe and effective final product. Upon launching the business, while Yates knew how to reach potential customers thanks to her experience in online sales, having worked for big companies such as Google and Facebook — science wasn’t her area. But she didn’t let that prevent her from being involved in the development of the sensor from day one.

“I don’t have a background in chemical engineering or product development. I always found myself as a champion of the user and the voice of the user,” Yates says. “But even in that case, it was really giving all the range to our lead scientist. I said, ‘This is what the consumers need.’ And she just ran with it and was able to deliver on the product specs that we needed from the science side.”

Being a first-time CEO and founder is never easy, but for anyone who is about to become their own boss, she has just one piece of advice: don’t be afraid to question everything. “Just keep asking why until you’re satisfied, and [don’t be] easily satisfied,” Yates says. “There will be so many obstacles along the way. There are going to be people that you think are just the absolute experts in something. They might say, ‘No, it’s impossible,’ or ‘You can’t do it.’ But you just have to keep asking why until it makes sense to you.”

Entrepreneur spoke with Yates to get more insights about why experiencing your worst case scenario can actually give you more power on the other side and the importance of advocating on behalf of the people around you.

When you start out and launch a company, usually it’s yourself and your co-founder or a very small team. And then you grow your team, and suddenly those things that you were doing before, you [now] have fantastic people to do them. And it’s figuring out how to remove yourself and empower the people that are on your team, rather than you just doing everything.

That’s a tough transition and it was one of the challenges and growth areas for me as a leader. I grew by being able to set a direction but really empower the team to feel like they have full ownership in achieving the objectives and moving things forward.

Source: entrepreneur.com

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