Women-Owned Small Business Entrepreneur Series // Stephanie Lowe of Turn it Teal for Food Allergies

This week we are featuring a non-profit business in our Women-Owned Small Business Entrepreneur Series,  Turn it Teal for Food Allergies.  Turn it Teal raises food allergy awareness by lighting sites in teal around the world to highlight food allergies.
 
Stephanie started this mission in 2014 and has come a long way over the years.  As a food allergy Mom I want to thank Stephanie for all she is doing for our community.  Have you seen any buildings lit up teal?   You can check out the website to see the confirmed lightings for 2018. 
 
You can connect with Turn it Team on social media to keep up with those locations that will be turning teal, Turn it Teal can be found on:  Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
 
Please tell us a little bit about yourself?
I spent the first part of my adult life working in a retail pharmacy while going to school in the healthcare field. I have since transitioned into advocacy work for those with life threatening food allergies.
 
What does your business do?
The goal of Turn It Teal is to raise food allergy awareness by lighting sites around the world to highlight food allergies. We are here as a beacon to the cause and direct people to the organizations who advocate, educate and push research.
 
 
Who is your target audience or market?
Our goal is reach those outside the food allergy community. Those of us who live the life as allergy patients, parents, family members or caregiver know a lot about allergies. We are trying to raise awareness beyond the walls of our community, those who aren’t as aware of food allergies, the signs of anaphylaxis and treatment of an allergic reaction.
 
What year did you start your business?
We started in 2014.
 
What were you doing before starting your business?
I have been an at home Mom since the birth of my oldest child.
 
Where is your business located? Do you have a dedicated workspace?
We are located in the Cleveland, Ohio area.
 
What would you say your biggest success has been? What was the key action that led to this success?
I feel that growing the project as quickly as it has is the biggest success. When I started with just one building in Cleveland, I never imagined that in less that 5 years we would be international! One highlight was being able to meet Chef Ming Tsai who generously gave of his time to come to our lighting in Boston in December. His passion for the food allergy community is something I have admired for a long time and I never dreamed I would get to meet him let alone have him at one of our events. I firmly believe the success of the project is because of the involvement of the community. We need them to help with suggestions and reaching out in their communities to help spread the word. I don’t know what buildings in California may be worth contacting but the community does. Without them, we would not have the growth we’ve had.
 
What would you say your biggest failure has been?
There have been so many I’m not sure I could pick. The entire genesis of the project has been trial by fire I say. I went to school to work in a hospital. I have no formal training in industrial lighting or marketing.
 
What did you learn from this failure and how have you changed things to prevent this from happening again?
Things are not personal in business. When people say no it doesn’t impact me as a person nor is a reflection on the project. There are many reasons for rejection and I had to get over it feeling personal very early on.
 
What has been your biggest challenge as a small business owner?
Getting the word out is the hardest part. We are self funded. When there are sites that need signs, it comes from my pocket. We do have some sites that are very generously paid for by allergy agencies for which we are very grateful. That said, we do not have a marketing budget or someone dedicated to doing that.
 
Was there ever a point where you wanted to give up? If so, why?
I have had moment when I question why I am doing this. They are usually after some set backs. I don’t think I’ve ever wanted to give up because I get pictures from all over the world of kids and families gathering to celebrate lightings and spreading the message of allergy awareness but there are days when I ask myself “Is this email or call worth making?” There is a lot more rejection than people saying yes.
 
What do you love MOST about being an entrepreneur?
I love the interaction I have with the people who are touched by the project. People who didn’t know about food allergies who learn more. Families who meet other families while meeting up at a lighting and connecting with others in their communities.
 
What do you love LEAST about being an entrepreneur?
Sometimes I’m so worried about getting everything done that I don’t have time to enjoy the success the project has had.
 
 
Did you always see yourself owning a business? If so, is this the business that you thought you would be owning? If not, what did you think you’d be doing?
I never would have seen myself heading up a project like this. I know more about industrial lighting than I ever though I would.
 
Where do you see your business in the next 3 to 5 years?
I hope to continue to grow especially internationally and spread the message of food allergy awareness.
 
What advice would you give to other women that are interested in starting their own business?
It must be your passion. There is so much rejection even when money isn’t involved. If you don’t have the grit to stick with it, the passion to keep going in spite of the naysayers, you won’t get very far.
 
What is one program, tool or app that you can’t live without for your business? (If you have more than one, please feel free to share more!)
I wouldn’t have know 20 years ago that my choice of a partner would have benefits beyond that of a spouse. My husband is a programmer by day. I have the bonus of personally made software for what I need to do and if I need anything added, it’s easy to put in a work order for it.
 
What does your day to day in your business look like?
Most of my work is done vie emails and calls. I get it done while the kids are at school or after bed time.
 
As a business owner it can often be hard to find time for ourselves. What are your favorite hobbies and what do you like to do when you are not working?
One of my other passions has always been cooking. If I’m not sending emails or answering calls I’m usually in the kitchen. I have considered going back to school for culinary arts because I truly love being in the kitchen. I also make time to work out and read daily.
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Thank you so much to Stephanie for taking the time to share their story and more about Turn it Teal for Food Allergies.  As a food allergy Mom I want to thank Stephanie for all she is doing for our community.  Remember to check out the Turn it Teal and connect with them on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
 
Are you a small business owner?  Do you have a story to share?  Help others discover, learn, and support your business too!  Contact Katie at: kate (at) busybeekate.com for details or through our contact page.
 
Be sure to stop back next week for another interview and don’t forget to check out our past interviews here.
 
 
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