Navigating the "Messy Middle" of Starting a Business

"Focus on whatever metric is getting you moving; that's the needle for your business, like in order to find out what you need, narrow in on where your results are coming from." - Adi Arezzini

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Adi Arezzini - Michelle Hagen

The female founder and CEO of TeamiBlends, Adi Arezzini, created Teami as a lifestyle brand that creates wellness and skincare products inspired by the health benefits of tea. After struggling with and solving her own digestive issues, she started Teami in 2013 to help other people live happier, healthier lifestyles, too! Today's episode is full of "golden nuggets of wisdom," as I like to call them, all about entrepreneurship and navigating the "messy middle" season of starting a business.


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Michelle Hagen 0:01

Hey, Adi, welcome to the podcast.


Adi Arezzini 0:03

Thanks for having me. I'm so excited.


Michelle Hagen 0:05

I am excited for what we're going to dive into today. And just talking about entrepreneurship and how you built your business, and what that looks like, and the messy middle. But first, tell the listeners, what's new with you what's been going on in your world since the New Year. Oh, wow. It's


Adi Arezzini 0:21

like, I don't know how this month went by so fast it like was like a blink. And now it's I haven't even really understood that it's February yet. But something that's going on in our world is that the teeny office and warehouse are actually moving into newer and bigger locations. So the the current place that we've been in, will have been here for four years. And so we're moving to a new warehouse location and the new office location that we're renovating. So that's kind of the newness going on, we should be in there by April 1. So we have two more months left to renovate and to get that place ready.


Michelle Hagen 1:00

Oh, that is exciting. And it's just cool to hearthe expansion and what's next? I've been kind of watching and i love the little pink fridge you guys just recently launched and I giggle to myself because my son got this little red fridge from like a school thing. And I had been trying to convince him like, could mommy use that for? Can mommy put that in the bathroom. And he's like, No, I don't even have anything to put in his fridge. Like, oh, look at this cute little pink fridge like that it could actually be mine instead of some little kid fridge that he got from school


Adi Arezzini 1:39

Exactly, where our skincare fridge is super fun, I can't live without mine. I like to organize all my skincare in there. Because what I noticed is that my skin here would be shoved in drawers. And out. There's so much product that would go for years unused, and, I hated that. So I love being able number one it chose it. But number two, to see all the skincare and then be able to like, invest even more in my skincare routine, because I can actually see the products that I have in front of me.


Michelle Hagen 2:08

Yeah, well, and I think it's interesting that a lot of people like the using the cold on your skin is kind of become the new thing. But people don't know that it actually preserves your skincare products by putting them in the fridge longer. Because I know one of the skincare products that I use, it's a Florida based company to and she's like, no, it's all cold kept. So like it's literally fresh to you and it how important it is to keep all that stuff in the fridge.


Adi Arezzini 2:32

It really is I mean, especially with natural skincare. We're not using chemical preservatives in order to maintain that the active ingredients. So it's huge first, specifically for natural skincare.


Michelle Hagen 2:46

Yeah. Okay, so I would love to dive in and kind of talk about you were talking about moving and creating, you know, doing the renovation. So what does an average day look like for you when you are working on your business?


Adi Arezzini 3:01

You know, this question is always interesting to me, because depending on the season, and depending on what's happening in the business, things change so much for me, when you're a CEO of a company, and if you're passionate about what you do, and you really care, your hand is kind of an everything. And it shouldn't be you should have be able to have people on specific jobs and specific specific positions in order to control the organization and to make things flow, right. And I have that to some degree. But as you're growing, you're always going to have new tasks that you almost have to then organize and create a job for. And until you do that. All these new tasks, all these new projects, they go on the CEO. So you like for example, you start a business and you're like packing your own products and sending them to the warehouse and sending them to the customers. So then you have a job, which is warehouse Packer. And then you're doing all the customer service. And then you are like, Okay, good. Let me train someone else to be a customer service rep. And you build out the functions based off of things that you're doing that you want to promote yourself out of. But what I found interesting is that I've been in business for seven years, and I'm still doing that I'm still, like, I do so much admin work that no one would know. Because I haven't, you know, figured out in a full on position that I'm paying somebody to do only that thing. So and I can have a situation where we have to fire somebody. So I go into HR or we need to hire people and I'm working with HR manager or we have a situation that needs to be handled, everything comes up to the CEO. It really shouldn't. And that is the building of an organization. And it takes time until you reach that level of like, Wow, you really have executives underneath you that can handle those things that isn't come up to you. But I haven't gotten there yet. So I'm still building that.


Michelle Hagen 5:06

That's so refreshing to hear. Because even for people to understand that you have built a multi million dollar business, and yet your hands are still so much in it. And I think that that is kind of a facade that people think like, Oh, well, once I reach or we reach a certain number, I'll be able to step back more, or that's where you think like, Oh, I go, I'll go on vacations or, you know, sometimes I think that social media gives us this facade that people aren't working as hard as they are behind the scenes. And like you just described, your hands are still very much in the business.


Adi Arezzini 5:42

Absolutely. And I work 10 to 12 hour days, and I haven't taken a vacation in forever. And my husband and I are long distance. And we have been for six years, and I've sacrificed my own personal marriage, and not had children. And because of the business because I know that how much I needed and that the business wasn't ready and that I need to build it with people that I trust. And so coming up after we moved to the new location, I'm hoping by April 15th, I can then move to where my husband lives, which is Portland, Oregon, and then run Teami remotely and come back every few weeks and do that. But I've been working on that for six years. So it's not, it's not a short thing that I've been working on.


Michelle Hagen 6:30

Wow, that's, that's just amazing. And then I think it's a real, that's just another amazing insight to like, let people here. And we talked about talking about that messy middle of we all have these dreams of creating things, and we just have like that entrepreneurial spirit and you built like physical products. And there's people who are trying to, you know, create coaching or do online things. But there's this middle portion that nobody really talks about, we're all taught like how to start it, what you should be doing on Instagram, but then there's no one that talks about the middle. What advice do you have for someone who's living in that middle that's trying to reach like the next level of actually being like, I am known by more people than just being this tiny company?


Adi Arezzini 7:16

Well, I think that focusing on whatever metric is getting you is moving the needle for your business, like in order to find out what that is you need to narrow in on Where are your results coming from? And then focus on on how do you do more more of that type of marketing or promotion. And that might mean you need more employees. For us, it means we need more if we want to get to the next level, we need more employees. That's one of our strategies that we need. For someone else, it might be something else it might be that they need to put together a manual for the customer service rep or something that they need to work themselves out of. But that's the same advice that that I'm giving to myself that messy middle, it happens multiple times. Because you're in the beginning. And it's very exciting. In the beginning, it's almost my favorite part. Everyone's like, thinks that that part's the scariest, it's not. When you're in the beginning, you have no risk, you have no employees, it's not scary. If you fail, no one will know. But if Teami fails right now, that's scary to me. You know, like, I roll that I've promised two jobs, and that I've promised careers, and I can't let them down. And it's just a whole other level of responsibility. You're no longer just working for yourself and for your own needs, like and for your own vacations and things like that you're worried about how does the business make so much money, so that I can give people amazing careers and that they want to stay with me and be with me and grow this business with me together. So your mindset switches from you to others very quickly as your business if your business is growing. Now, some people don't want to have employees and their business model doesn't need it. And that's amazing. But I definitely wanted to create a space where where women could grow their careers and, and do something meaningful. But you know, the messy middle happens, as you level up, you're always going to be in the middle of that new level that you're at, you're going to love and then you're going to go through that I'm in the messy middle right now of the level that I'm at. And then you might plateau for a couple years and then you're like freaking out and then you might get might shoot up again. You know?


Michelle Hagen 9:43

Yeah. So how do you deal with you talked about you know, you have the people under you and you're now responsible for someone else's kind of like livelihood and them having careers underneath your company. And I think as entrepreneurs especially new ones when they're hiring on a team member, like sometimes those first few team members are the scariest ones. Because now you're like, Okay, I have to be able to pay for my business. And, you know, am this other person, like you had said? How do you deal with? How did you deal with the stress of some of that? Or is there ways that or tips or tricks you have that piece of the middle?


Adi Arezzini 10:21

Well, the first thing I did before I hired someone is I wrote down what they needed to do, what is the job that I wanted them to accomplish, and what is the final, that final outcome of what they needed to do so if they were a warehouse Packer that the final outcome would be orders packed and shipped to the customer, right? And I had figured out through myself, okay, I can pack this many orders per hour, I need this person to be packing X amount of orders per day. So you're setting those expectations. And then you must work with the person to make sure that they're doing that no matter what job they have, across the board, whether they're working with influencers or working with customers, you have to have accountability for your employees. Because if they're not making your life easier, by taking away something that you're doing, then you didn't accomplish what you needed to accomplish with that person. A lot of times, you can hire an employee and almost assume that they're going to like figure it out, no, it's not up to them to figure it out. It's up to you, the employer to write down like a little, a little manual or an operating procedure, and then have things that you expect from them every day to do and get reports and have accountability. And and you have to train them and train them and train them. And it can take six months to have an employee really feel that they're in their own groove. And they don't need to be kept accountable as much, because now they've got it down. But it can really take three to six months, sometimes longer.


Michelle Hagen 11:57

I love that you mentioned like that timeframe, because sometimes I think we just want to like offload it because we just want to get rid of it to free up our time. But we forget that no, you have to foster them and continue to craft them. But to give that time in there, I think is a great thing that you touched on because and I also love that you touched on that if they can't replace you like to your capacity that you were doing, then it's not the right person. Or maybe you're not training correctly. And I love that piece. Because sometimes I think as entrepreneurs, I'm in enneagram three, so I'm like hit every goal until I go until like I hit the goal. And I have some friends that are super high capacity. And they say, Well, I could never find anyone to replace, because I can do it all so fast. But I love that what you just said, like gives those entrepreneur printers permission to say like, no, don't stop looking till you find the right person that can replace you and do it as fast as you can.


Adi Arezzini 12:53

Absolutely. Um, but I would like to say that you have to manage expectations, because as an entrepreneur, no one's gonna care as much as you do. So if I was packing orders, I might even do it a little bit nicer than they're doing it, you have to train them to do it the best that you can, the closest to you. But you have to be able to let things go a little bit. You know, I loved doing customer service, because I took care of each customer. And I made sure that each one was taken care of. And, you know, with our customer service, there's they're amazing because I train them and I have manuals written for them. But there's definitely still times that a customer is upset and they want to refund and what do we do? And I can't like let that get to me, because I'm there to support the girls and help them out. But you train them so that they can make their own decisions.


Michelle Hagen 13:52

That's great advice. Okay, so I know part of your messy middles, you grew a lot on Instagram and through influencers. And I feel like Instagram also has this messy middle place of like, where you're kind of getting in your groove of what you're wanting your business to look like even Instagram, Facebook, any social media platform. But then there's like a key of all the sudden it like, it seems like from me as as a sales strategist and looking at people all of a sudden that kind of like clicks, and then it's like it starts talking. So what is your advice for the people that are kind of right before that clicking part on social media, if that's kind of what they're trying to use to build their business.


Adi Arezzini 14:30

I would just say to be consistent and and I know that everybody says that, but it's like massively important. Whatever you're finding works. For example, if you're like I post once a day, you have to do that forever, like teeny posts to two to three times a day, and it has for the last seven years, never missing a day. And so you have to whatever it is that you're doing whatever you're committed to, let's say a business host a seminar or a webinar, once a week, on Fridays, you have to create that dependability and that and that, like consistency for the customer that they know, every Friday, they're doing a webinar. And so you have to just create that, whatever it is, and never, like, you can't have the viewpoint of like, Oh, I just missed the day, it's okay. Like, then what if we missed a day in our warehouse sending out orders, like, I missed a day of customer service emails, it's the same with the PR aspect or the marketing aspect, like, it's the same, whatever action you're doing, you have to actually keep doing it. And that will create that click that you're that you're talking about. I like to call it like when the when the scales tip into your favor. Or I like to say the snowball effect, like it just starts rolling down the hill and picking up speed. But it starts off as a tiny snowball. And then it just goes down the hill picks up speed. But it can take years for that. At the ample like we have our retail department and their job is to get our product into retail stores. And so that's not even our website that's like old to target. brick and mortar stores, boutiques, spas like Sally's spa that you would find in your local place in in Portland, getting our products into there as another channel of revenue. And it was really it's been, it was really hard. All you're doing is cold calling and emailing and trying to get your product places and can take years. And now we're we've we're picking up steam and people are contacting us where they're like I saw you on so and so I'd love to carry your product in the Philippines or in Russia or wherever they're from. So it's it's, it takes time years, most of the time.


Michelle Hagen 17:00

Yeah, and that's one thing. It's people forget that it's a long game. And it's not a sprint, even though like we feel like sometimes we just have to sprint to get to one goal. That really we have to think about the long game. And I loved how you touched on the posting in the dependability. Because even as a solo entrepreneur, I am the perfect example of January I got really sick and guess what I do a batch work anything and it literally when the ball was rolling because clubhouse was rolling love, like how we've all met. And it was like I hit a wall and boom, and it stopped. And that's like I think a great thing, even as solo entrepreneurs of hearing that the batch working and being dependable. And what happens if you get taken out of your business? How does the business keep going? Yep. So I would love to touch on you have grown with influencers and so many people I there are a lot of even bomb influencers. Now there's so many more that are coming up. What does it look like to get to be featured as an influencer? Or what are your tips for influencers when they're trying to reach out to companies to work together?


Adi Arezzini 18:15

I'm usually giving advice. On the other hand, I'm giving advice usually to brands, but influencers, all the kind of tips and tricks that that make your account look better or bigger than it is. brands that know what they're doing can see through it. brands that don't know what they're doing, they probably will work with you. But bloggers or influencers that are part of their blogger pods, and they all comment on each other's stuff. That's, that's great for your account. And that's great for what you see. But when we are we're looking for influencers, we're actually looking for people that are actually influencing someone's buying decisions. We're looking through people's comments. And if there's just a bunch of heart emojis or a girl saying that they're dresses, pretty, that doesn't tell us that this person is actually helping their audience. So we personally go through and make sure that the people that we're working with our real, genuine, authentic people, they're not robots to some degree. Yeah. They're not just you know, getting hundreds of comments from random people. So my tip is to, for influencers working with brands is to make sure that you're cultivating your own audience, and having one on one personal communications and really building your own community of some sort. When you come to a brand, you can say, Hey, I have this community. This is what I have. And if I were the influencer, I would track as much all the campaigns of all the collaborations that are doing it would track it so that I could tell a new brand like hey, I worked with this brand. I made them this amount of money. Boost influencers. They don't know how much money, they've made that brand. So, okay, if they worked with that brand, it doesn't mean anything to me because I don't know if it was successful or not. So what are your numbers so that you can come to a brand? say like, yeah, I drove $1,000 of purchases, or even 100 $100 of purchases to this brand store, I charge $50 to do this kind of campaign, and usually I'll get $100 in purchases, then you can go to the brand would be like, Wow, that's great, I would get a good 2x ROI.


Michelle Hagen 20:36

That is, so one thing I want to like if listeners didn't catch in there, like the importance that you said of brand, and community, which is one thing that we we always talk about, or we've talked about here on the podcast, quite a bit of how important that is. And knowing your numbers is one thing that I think that business owners because I work with a lot of creators creatives, and I'm like, Okay, well, how much came in this month? And how much went out there? Like I don't know. And I'm like, no. So like, I think that that of like what you kind of said in there of the knowing your numbers and the tracking your numbers, and how important it is in a business. Because even being on clubhouse and just kind of listening in some of those rooms, of people giving advice. And people like you were asking like, well, what are the numbers? And people have no clue. Like, you know, and I feel like, as you're starting new, it's hard to kind of understand and then you're in that messy middle where it feels like everything's on fire. If you were to say like, what can you kind of tell people which numbers are youth do you think are like the key things that people should always be looking at when looking for their business to take forward?


Adi Arezzini 21:48

Yeah, it's hard to say because I don't know what type of business each person has. It's different between services and, and product. But for my business, we look at revenue, we look look at cost of goods, we look at the expenses, the the like rent, and employees and payroll and health insurance and all the expenses that are recurring, combined with cost of goods. And you, you look at that in comparison to the revenue in order to see what your profit margin is. And we have a lot, a lot of costs, teaming a lot of costs. But at the end of the day, it's income versus versus expenses. At the end of the day, it's pretty simple. It's what is your income, and what is your expenses. And you know, as first of all entrepreneur, you can do that on a spreadsheet, and just look at the money coming in, and the money going out.


Michelle Hagen 22:46

Yeah. And like and it's just amazing to hear you say someone who and and I want the listeners to also realize that you literally just had spreadsheet, when that's like what it's so simple like with people that are in the beginning, like it's not like some rocket science where you are like you need all of these extra add on things to your business. But if you can just run a spreadsheet, like just keep the numbers and how important that is. And I love how a lot of the things that you've talked about it literally, as we think that like it has to get hard, or it has to be some complicated formula, that it's really not. It's literally taking the things that you probably were using at the beginning, and you've just continued to refine and grow them.


Adi Arezzini 23:31

Yes, exactly.


Michelle Hagen 23:34

So I would just kind of love to wrap up our conversation of what other advice if there was just one piece of advice that you could give in a business that's in those middle in that middle season? What What advice do you have for them? Or if it's someone who's that struggling? And you know, the feeling of before? Like, is this going to work? Should I give up? What's your advice to them?


Adi Arezzini 24:01

Well, that's a two answers right there. Because if you're feeling like, is this gonna work? And should I give up? You're not in the messy middle, you're at the beginning, like having those thoughts like, is this going to work, then you're not in the middle, because you haven't proven financially that what you're doing is is workable. The messy middle, to me is when you've been doing it for a while to some level of success, and you're stuck and you're looking to get to the next level. So anyone that's thinking like, should I give up on this? Then my advice to those people in the beginning stages would be what?


What is it that would happen if you didn't do this anymore? Like, would it impact you very much or what the person might answer? Yeah, it's giving up on my dream and that would totally crushed me. Okay, so keep going. You You know, they say, you know what, it doesn't really bother me if I kind of gave up on this idea for me with with Teami, I've multiple times gotten to the point where I'm like, just want to give up, you know, I just want to stop doing too much too much. It's too much responsibility. And when I looked at what would happen, like, really what would happen, if I stopped, I mean, all these people would be out of jobs, all our customers would not be able to have our products anymore. All the things I've been able to do support my mom do all these things would would come to an end. So when I look at that, I'm like, Okay, well, I guess I can't stop. I have to keep going. You know, and, and later stages, you know, you might think that if a company is making millions of dollars, that maybe the owners are making millions of dollars, and that's just the furthest from the truth. You're getting fences, and you're investing into the business as its own entity, not for yourself. So actually, as the business has grown, I personally have made less and less money as the business has grown. And that's something that a lot of people don't consider. I say, Are you okay with that? Are you okay, that that that might happen. And I'm hoping, of course, to always increase my finances, but things change in business cost of business changes, I kind of went on a tangent there.


Michelle Hagen 26:26

That's a great, but I think it was great, though, that you had mentioned how your business has grown and your income has gone down. Because I think that there is kind of like this facade, that we hear these numbers a lot like you've built a multi million dollar business. So you make millions of dollars. And that is not the truth. And that's what I think a lot of people sometimes use or have these numbers, or think like, I will never be at the level of that person because of the numbers attached. But really, probably you maybe are, it's just the difference. It's really just the numbers and how you look at it and what you're trying to get out of your numbers.


Adi Arezzini 27:06

Totally, there's a lot of people out there that their businesses are much smaller than mine. And they personally are making much more than me. And that's totally okay. That's their business model. And I have a different business model. You can't compare apples to oranges, I have a friend that owns and Amazon company that does so much more than than TV ever does. And he has no desire to have to build a lifestyle brand and to engage with his customers and to change people's lives. He just sells some product on Amazon and and that's all he cares about. He doesn't really care about anything else. And that's okay. If I had come if that was my idea, that's probably where I would be right now. But I wanted to make a movement and to create a community. And lo and behold, that's way harder than selling a product on Amazon. Apparently, and I would never have known that. But like when you're in your dreaming stage of like, what is it that I want to do? I didn't want to sell like iPhone cases on Amazon that that's not what came to me. And I took the road of building a brand. And that's a tough road. And that's what happened. And that was my dream. And then you have to come down to reality like okay, well, this dream is different than the Amazon dream that someone else.


Michelle Hagen 28:28

Yeah. And I loved how you also just to kind of like back up and circle around how you had touched on like, if you had to give this up? Would it matter tomorrow? If you said I'm done? And would it affect you tomorrow? I think that that's a great thing. Because I always think about when I wake up in the morning, and my feet hit the ground, do I want to keep doing this. And that's like kind of what like even when I'm coaching other people to say, doesn't matter enough like that you wake up and you want to do this every day. And like, that's what truly matters. Because at the end of your life, you woke up every day to build this thing that you have to truly deep in your heart really want to do.


Adi Arezzini 29:10

Yeah, exactly, you know, but to be honest, there's been many, many times I've woken up and been like, I don't want to do this right now. When things are really hard. So the idea of if you're passionate about something, you have to be happy all the time. And you You know, I've been lost on my own purpose before many times. And I just have a very high responsibility level and I have people that are counting on me. So I had no choice whether I wanted to or I didn't want to. But given when thinking about giving up is different than like waking up and being grateful every day. There was a month's period of time where things were really tough and it it sucked and you have to make it through and get to the other side. And you just have to own it. Do it even when it's not lessened. Entrepreneurship is not pleasant.


Michelle Hagen 30:06

And I like how, and thank you for touching on insane how like you were lost in your own self, even while still building the business and like, knowing that you have that responsibility to keep going, because I think that that's one thing that, and I, I know, I have thought it I'm like, well, they just, you know, and this is the facade of social media as well, like, we would never know that. Some entrepreneurs are really, truly lost in themselves, and they might hate what they're putting out. But they know like, you have the team. So we're gonna keep putting out this content, right? And yet, finding yourself in the background of still pushing your business forward. Exactly. Well, thank you so much for sharing all of this amazing wisdom today. And I feel like we covered so many topics that this podcast is going to be stuffed full of all these like amazing nugget, golden nuggets of wisdom. I always like to ask people, if you could go back to the beginning, or maybe even if there was a time in your life that you could be like, Hey, I just really if my past self could go back and tell or my future self, if you're now I might have to go on edit. If you could go back in time, and give yourself advice, what time would you go back to give yourself some advice from the, the you now


Adi Arezzini 31:30

You know, I would go back multiple, multiple different occasions, and to my current self, my future future self telling my current self, to celebrate more, I don't celebrate enough, my wins my accomplishments, I get to whatever I'm doing, I check it off, and I move on to the next problem. And I don't mark the occasion with some sort of celebration. It feels like a never ending loop that way. chasing it chasing it chasing it because there's always stuff to do. So figuring out and I'm saying this to my current self, like figure out how to, like, acknowledge and validate milestones, so that I will remember that I actually reached a milestone, because if not, it's just you know, it just feels like you're never achieving your goals. And what are self motivated, you achieve that thing, and you go on to the next thing, and I am the most guilty of that, you know, my husband asked me asked me the other day, he was like, like, at what point will you be satisfied? Like, at what point Really? And I had to think about it like, I don't know, I don't know. And then we started listing off, okay, well, if all my kids colleges are paid for, and I had this, this house and TV was at this level, and you know, I'm setting up like really big goals. And I'm like, when I have all of those things, I will be satisfied. And my husband said to me, Well, are you not going to be happy until you get that? And I was like like I need to. I need to figure out how to enjoy the show and enjoy the journey. And that's, that's my own advice to myself is figure that out. Like enjoy the struggle, you know,


Michelle Hagen 33:24

I can relate to that so much because I'm the exact same way like it's always like, Alright, we hit this goal or we hit this milestone. What's next? What's the next like? I'm always What's next? And what do we turn to and this last year has taught me to like slow down and just kind of try to enjoy but there's just something in a in that it's hard, but I like how you said like, what is the goal? Or what's going to make me happy like in this season, and then enjoy that we hit that goal. Right?


Adi Arezzini 33:53

Exactly.


Michelle Hagen 33:54

Oh, thank you so much for sharing with us today. If anyone wants to reach out to you after the podcast where can they find you?


Adi Arezzini 34:03

Anyone can DM me at a D ursini. I answer all my DMS so you can DM me there that's the best way to get in contact.


Michelle Hagen 34:12

Thank you so much for being on the show today.


Adi Arezzini 34:14

You're very welcome.