True Life: Laena's Integrated Hustle

Laena, 39, Founder & CEO of Anarchy in a Jar

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Laena is Founder and CEO of Anarchy in a Jar, a jam and mustard company based in Brooklyn. She's an Entrepreneur, Educator, Wellness Maven, Birth Coach, Small Business Consultant, and Side Hustle Coach. Living and working the ethos of resilience and food as medicine, she helps empower people through work, life, childbirth, and transformation. In her private practice, she coaches women who crave financial freedom and an integrated work/life/cycle balance.

Laena launched her startup, Anarchy in a Jar, in 2009. It has been featured in The New York Times, The New York Times T Style Magazine, The Martha Stewart Show, New York Magazine, Bust, Elle Japan, Tasting Table, Food & Wine, and Saveur. Laena's cookbook, Jam On: The Craft of Canning Fruit, was published with Penguin Random House in 2012. 

Getting Started

  • What is your primary source of income and what other revenue streams do you have? My primary source of income is my food company, Anarchy in a Jar. I supplement this with my side hustles: I founded The Integrated Hustle with Ami, I write cookbooks, I teach classes, I do consulting for startups, and I'm a doula and reproductive health coach. Funny thing? Anarchy in a Jar was initially my side hustle, then it became my main hustle, and now I have a bunch of side hustles to supplement that business, and further enrich my life. Shocking admission? I crave the challenge of new things. And yes, I like to live a diversified life. My biggest hurdle? I've had to learn how to be a multi-tasker.

  • What preparations, if any, did you take before you launched your first passion project/business/entrepreneurial pursuit(s)? (i.e., Trainings, Fundraising, Research, etc.) I had no preparation, research, or experience when I started my business. I had no idea what I was doing, and I learned everything by necessity as I went along. It helped that for the first few months, I had a business partner and she had connections in the food/beverage world. So that helped us get our first few customers and leads. I had acquaintances who were food writers, so that helped us get our first publicity. But we were lucky, and we started Anarchy at an opportune time when there was a demand for our product. So we rode that wave. Probably the best move I made that first year was to cultivate a network of colleagues who were in the same boat, and we helped each other. For example, if I needed an accountant, I asked my food peeps. If I had gone the traditional business development route, where you research, have a business plan, get an MBA, and hire lots of people to do things for you, I would not have lasted a year, let alone a month.

Generating Revenue

  • Has it become a business that generates steady revenue? I’ve started Anarchy 9 years ago, so it does generate revenue. But I had a 9 to 5 “main” hustle the first three years. I was a single city woman who had to pay rent, student loans, and support my fun lifestyle, so I waited until I had enough steady revenue and guaranteed networks to ensure a living wage. But it wasn’t easy. I worked 7-days, 90-hours a week those first 6 years.

  • How long did it take you make your first $1,000.00? I made 1K by the 3rd month in business. This came from food markets (RIP, Greenpoint Food Market!), retail stores (thanks, Greene Grape!), and selling bulk to restaurants (thanks, No.7!). BUT, I did not make 100K until the 3rd year.

  • What was the biggest surprise about what it takes to generate revenue?With a business like Anarchy, generating revenue is a complicated dance of cash-on-hand and finding that sweet spot of enough steady growth, but not so much that you oversell or get mega-screwed by big distributors. I advise anyone starting out to try and grow steadily. Find a balance so that you don’t burn out. And while it’s great to be in demand, don’t sell what you can’t deliver. Then people stop trusting you.

Work, Life, and Spirit Balance

  • Have you achieved your version of work/life balance? If yes - what does that look like? If not - what do you need to do to get there? In order to achieve work/life balance, I’ve had to find a way to grow my business so that it works for me, and that was my biggest ah-ha moment. As the culture, market demand, and food scene changed over time, I had to find my place in that and a way to make my business work for me. 7-day, 90-hour work weeks are not sustainable over time for me personally now that I have small children, and that was both a hard and great transition for me to make. The driving factor was “my why”: why am I doing this? What was my main motivation behind my business? And that led me to make better, more sustainable choices.

  • What do you do to reduce stress, take care of your body and clear your mind? To reduce stress, take care of your body, and clear your mind, I meditate daily, I exercise, and I try to spend some time in nature every day. I’m an introvert who craves social intimacy, and my friendships are vital for clearing my mind and bringing me joy.

Final Wisdom

  • If you could go back in time, what 3 pieces of advice would you give to yourself when you first began? I would really shake the shit out of 30-year old Laena and say: "please, 1) have the confidence to demand what you are worth, 2) trust in your own innate strengths, and please, girl, do not be such a stubborn, hard-headed workhorse, and 3) listen more than gab." If I look at my #1 current personal and professional goal, it is to cultivate the true art of listening well. It’s easy to glorify the Donald Trump style of business, where you talk, brag, and cultivate ego and servitude in a “whose dick is bigger” power and dominance mode of interaction. And for a woman in a male dominated field, it was really hard for me to navigate and circumvent that paradigm. I am still trying. Mindfulness, meditation, listening more and better, are all ways I counteract the ego-master.

Laena McCarthy