NEW YORK: Gail Becker left a 16-year career at Edelman to make an entrepreneurial bet on a cauliflower-crust pizza business -- and that bet paid off in no small part because of her time in PR.
"I realized all [the success] came down to two little words," said Becker, founder and CEO of Caulipower and keynote speaker at PRWeek’s Hall of Femme. "Thank you. Thank you to the profession that gave me the skills to build the Caulipower brand and also thank you to all the women in this room who empowered me with their examples."
Becker was president of strategic partnerships and global integration at Edelman when she decided to start her own business using recipes she developed to feed her family, some of whom are gluten intolerant. Though she had a distinguished career in PR, Becker said, she reached a point where she "wasn’t happy and realized I needed to be the author of my own story. I was stuck in one chapter for far too long."
Armed with the example of her entrepreneurial father and recipes she wrote for the family dinner table, Becker created a cauliflower pizza crust that quickly got the attention of the food industry.
After two years in business, Caulipower is reportedly on track for $100 million in revenue this year with an expanding product line. It has also ranked in the top 10 in frozen pizza brands.
However, Becker said she knew that simply creating a great-tasting product and getting it on the market wouldn’t be enough. Though she had left the agency world, she knew the communications skills she developed would push her business forward.
"[I knew] it wouldn’t grow fast or survive the competition without a great brand, and I also knew, because of my time with all of you, I had to make Caulipower a brand," she said. "So the power of the brand was built through power of PR."
Lessons on leadership
In the first panel discussion at PRWeek’s Hall of Femme, three accomplished executives shared their advice
Towanna Burrous, president, CoachDiversity Institute
"Inclusive leadership for me is the ability to ask better questions. To improve your listening skills means leaning in and making sure you’re hearing what is said."
"When you ask questions, make sure they are open-ended and require dialogue and curiosity. You can ask when, how, where and really dig in. They can be anything as long as they are questions of curiosity asked with a tone of invitation."
Cat Colella-Graham, founder and managing partner, Cheer Partners
"As leaders, when it comes to inclusion, we have to create a sense of belonging for everyone, and that always means rotating meetings and making sure everyone has the opportunity to share their voice so we are looking at things through different lenses."
Stephanie Smirnov, EVP of corp communications, Scholastic
"For me, it is this constant continual act as a leader to consciously be creating opportunity for people no matter what their professional style, background, way of communicating or way of processing information is."
An empowering conversation
Maureen Lippe, CEO of Lippe Taylor, spoke with Shaolin Barid, a freshman at St. John’s University and 2018 summer intern at Ketchum, about her experience at Step Up.
Maureen Lippe, CEO, Lippe Taylor
"Through her experience at Step Up, Shaolin Barid came home and was able to communicate more intimately with her family, which I found very profound."
"The bottom line is [success] for me was not about guts or courage, it was about doing something to make sure I had the life I wanted."
"Never depend on anyone for your happiness or your financial security."
"I’m one of the women who is not ashamed to say I’m in business to make money. I discovered what I wanted to have as a young woman and how you don’t need to be afraid to say, ‘I have joy but I’m going to follow the money trail.’"
Shaolin Barid, St. John’s University
"Step Up was the catalyst for creating new bonds and ventures. Throughout the years, Step Up has always been there for me."
"I think the problem with reaching Gen Z doesn’t really lie with vocalizing what we want to say. It’s more having the support and confidence to say it out loud and to help find the solutions to what we actually care about."