In an interview with Insights Success, the Founder and CEO of Mealz—Sofia Fominova emphasizes on her impeccable journey of being a technology entrepreneur and paving her own path of success. Her unique ideas and methodologies helped her company to achieve many milestones en route to success.
As an experienced technology entrepreneur, her passion for, and about, the food industry has never taken a leap back. She is building an open recipe publishing platform that helps people discover recipes and enables food brands to excel at recipe marketing.
Insights Success admire such leaders and takes pride in featuring Sofia in its special edition, “The 10 Most Influential Businesswomen to Follow in 2020”.
Below are the highlights of the interview: Give a brief overview of your background and your role in Mealz.
Mealz is a technology company with a mission to help people eat more healthily. We are building software products that enable efficient content creation and distribution; all focused on making it easier for people to access and consume healthy eating content. Our portfolio of products today includes the following:
- An online recipe platform, mealz.com, with thousands of recipes and meal plans from professional chefs and bloggers;
- An online membership community that helps people save up thousands of pounds on healthy products – Mealz Club, and;
- A B2B software product that allows our partner food brands to create their own smart recipe hubs and build digital communities around their brands.
What people, what books, what life factors have influenced and impacted you?
Travelling around the world taught me a lot about appreciating diversity, respecting different cultures, and looking for opportunities to make people’s life better, especially when it comes to basic needs, like nutrition, clean water, education and human rights. When I was little my father took me travelling around Africa, South Asia and India for months and since then I always remember that the world is big and there are many diverse people.
Some of my favorite books are The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand, Maximum Achievement by Brian Tracy, The Moment of Lift by Melinda Gates, Becoming by Michele Obama and Origins by Adam Grant and Sheryl Sandberg. I am also currently doing a Speak and Inspire course with Lisa Nichols, who has become one of the women who constantly motivates me to come out of my comfort zone and always strive to be the best version of myself. Amongst other women are the war reporter Martha Gellhorn (second wife of Ernest Hemingway) and a well-known TV journalist Oprah Winfrey and her “Vision 2020” series.
What is your vision for Mealz for the coming years?
Our vision is to rapidly become the #1 content platform focused on healthy eating. To achieve this vision, we will continue building state-of-the-art software products that make healthy eating content available to billions of people worldwide – across multiple devices, languages, and geographies.
The journey to healthy eating starts from inspiration, continues with practical learning, and culminates in shifting the habits in food consumption. Mealz is helping to positively influence all stages in this chain through technology. Over the next few years, our goal is to reach 10 million active users, making us a go-to platform for healthy eating.
What are some of the vital attributes, in your opinion, that every leader should possess?
One of the most important attributes is to be able to think strategically and make mindful decisions whether they are business or team related, technical or creative. Good communication skills is another quality I value in leaders and team members.
Having great listening skills, a talent to be concise and the ability to communicate your ideas and vision in a clear manner helps a true leader to build a strong team, inspire and empower people to work towards the same goal.
Focusing on results rather than on the process is more effective in my opinion. Other attributes would include being curious and eager to learn, being innovative and always ready to challenge the existing approaches to problems and solutions and being confident and patient.
How do you maintain balance between your professional & personal life?
Building a successful business that allows me to spend good quality time with my family has been a priority for me for a long time. I started to develop Mealz on my own, but now that we work on Mealz together with my husband, maintaining the balance became much easier.
Overall, I see my professional and personal life not as separate concepts but something as deeply connected and intertwined on the daily basis. My husband and I are working hard to build a great business and through that experience we grow together, we learn a lot from each other and we have fun. Having a long-term vision of where we are going and that we are building a business for our future family also helps me see my work as an essential part of my life, that isn’t separate from my personal or family life.
Building equal partnership both at home and at work with responsibilities shared on a 50/50 basis also makes it easy to maintain the balance between professional and personal life. As a few habits, though, we always go for a walk to the park everyday where we talk about other ideas, what is happening in the world and just dreaming about our future and we try not to work on weekends, where possible. We also love travelling and always find time to switch off from work when exploring other countries.
As a Director and leader, describe a challenge you overcame.
Getting to product market fit is harder than many people would assume. It took us a while to understand what our customers want in terms of functionality, and define the best business model to go with it.
This entrepreneurial challenge of testing various business models and approaches is exciting for some, but created a managerial challenge. When the direction is changing so rapidly, many skills become obsolete quickly, and it was a struggle to empower the team to be at their best whilst changing the direction of their work.
That experience taught me to hire people with the right mindset for the company’s stage, and not just with the right skills. The best team members for the launch phase of the product, in my opinion, are those who can adapt quickly and proactively evolve their skillset to match the company’s needs.
What one thing, more than anything else, do you want to accomplish in your career?
My ambition is to build a number of sustainable, scalable technology businesses across different industries. I would love to do it together with my husband, and run some businesses together and some of them separately, depending on how we choose to build and manage our teams. My aspiration is to be a successful entrepreneur, a loving wife and a caring mother at the same time. Although I am sure it is challenging, I believe that I have a great foundation to achieve my goals and make my dreams come true.
How do you sustain your entrepreneurial/leadership spirit in this changing technological era?
Being an entrepreneur is a roller coaster. One day you have a positive spirit and you are full of ideas and energy to implement them, and another day you feel like giving up. I just try to remember that. Every time I feel demotivated or I face a challenge that I am not sure how to overcome, I remind myself that it happens from time to time, and that I always find a way to find a solution and carry on building my business. I also surround myself with inspirational people, mentors and other entrepreneurs who help me stay positive and remind me of why I have started Mealz.
What advice would you like to give to the emerging business leaders?
Be patient and make sure you are prepared to do everything to make your business fly. To build a sustainable business takes a lot of time and effort and it is very easy to give up if you are not patient enough. I would advise to keep believing in yourself, patiently working on the idea and constantly improving the product, on building a strong team and never give up because there will be dozens of reasons every-day.