TMF S3E4 Manuela Zoninsein
[00:00:00] Instead of saying like, okay, I need to be perfect at everything and everything needs to be perfect. Exactly. As you said before, like celebrating the wins, the small steps, the, the little things, because it’s not about having it be perfect every day.
Manuela Zoninsein: It’s about good that compounds. over and over and over again to build something bigger.
Monica Royer: Welcome to The Mentor Files. I’m your host, Monica Royer, founder and CEO of Monica Andy. Join me as I chat with leaders across the fields of entrepreneurship, parenthood, health, and lifestyle. This season we’re digging deeper than ever before to learn the story behind the story. Think of the show as one part Audible MBA and one part certification to be the confident CEO of your own life.
Here we go. Today, I’m thrilled to welcome Manuela Zonenstein, the [00:01:00] founder of KDEA, to The Mentor Files. Manuela’s company, KDEA, is a low waste hydration vending machine that was honored with Fast Company’s World Changing Idea Award this year. With KDEA and beyond, Manuela is on a mission to eliminate single use waste.
And, as her sister in law, I can attest that she practices exactly what she preaches. During this conversation, we spoke about Manuela’s experience in an immigrant family and about her early days in China, which opened her eyes to the pressing risks of single use plastics. Plus, Manuela shares how she came around to the idea of being an entrepreneur and explains more about Cadea and motherhood.
I know you will enjoy this conversation.
Manuela Zoninsein: Thank you so much. Thank you for that very flattering introduction. Great to be here.
Monica Royer: My gosh, well, flattering and true, Manuela. I’m so excited to, I mean, I feel like we sit down and talk. All the time because we see each other all the time, but as other people with big [00:02:00] families will know it’s on the go. There’s kids. There’s so many different things happening. And so it’s really exciting to actually be able to sit down and focus on a conversation today, which is something we don’t normally get a chance to do.
Manuela Zoninsein: It’s true. It is always in passing and we get to share little tidbits of what’s going on. Um, so fun to dig in
Monica Royer: it is very fun to dig in. So I First and foremost, I feel like there’s so much about this season’s podcast that’s about the story behind the story. But before we get to the story behind the story with you, I want to get to the story in front, which is Kadeah. So let’s start there, Manuela, and I want to say that Manuela is one of the most environmentally incredible people that I’ve ever met.
She practices what she preaches down to a tee. And so it was no surprise to me that Manuela’s startup was going to be rooted in making the world a better place to live. Manuela, tell everybody a little bit about Cadea.
Manuela Zoninsein: [00:03:00] Thank you so much for that intro. So Cadea eliminates the need for single use beverage containers forever for everyone. And the way we do that is we’ve designed a bottling plant. That is the size of a vending machine. And you interact with it just like a vending machine. So you go up to it, you choose what beverages you want.
We deliver it in a bottle, you grab it and go. Unlike a vending machine, though, you return the bottle to any station in the network. You know, we’re both in Chicago. So think of divvy bikes for bottles and then our patented unit itself will wash, sanitize, inspect and refill the bottle, which. It turns out, not only eliminates the pesky packaging people love to complain about, it also eliminates the carbon footprint of transporting beverages all over the world.
And I know that may not sound like the most important climate problem that we all need to solve right [00:04:00] away, but for context, we estimate that it’s about 1. 5 percent of global emissions, just the beverage distribution. Industry. And so while we wait for, you know, fusion to potentially happen sometime in our lifetimes or net zero cement or steel academia, we figure, let’s go after the low hanging fruit and allow everyone to start sipping sustainably right away.
Monica Royer: Incredible. And I’m thinking about schools and airports and all of the places where you need water. But to having a service like that is kind of beyond comprehension in such a good way. But no surprise that you thought of it. Manuela, tell us a little bit about what led you down the path to building CADEA and a little bit about your background.
Manuela Zoninsein: So, as you know, um, I’m a three time entrepreneur. So, of course, um, when I. Was getting to know Andy and then got to meet you, uh, and your [00:05:00] family. Um, it was very exciting to me that you all were also entrepreneurs and you know, we’re living, I don’t know, is it the dream or the nightmare, but, um,
Monica Royer: A fine, a fine line.
Manuela Zoninsein: Yeah, but, you know, that you all understood what life as an entrepreneur is like, and that just felt so welcoming and, um, so, yeah, my first business, I started, uh, kind of accidentally. As sometimes the best businesses do. I was living in China at the time and we sold data around the market for agriculture technology in China.
I was living in China at that time and found this, stumbled upon this opportunity and, um. That’s really when I, you know, started meeting you. So I, I was coming back and forth between Beijing and New York where Andy was living. And we would kind of concoct ways as a family to all get together, you know, random places.
And, um, [00:06:00] we always were kind of like, You know, ships in the night. What are you doing? Oh, fundraising. How’s the product? How’s business? And, uh, ultimately that business, I decided to sell the assets, uh, to a local Chinese partner when kind of politically, it wasn’t the right time anymore for me as a foreigner to build that business in China.
And then I had gotten a grant from the Brazilian government and started my second business called Insta agro, which is now one of the largest online marketplaces in Brazil for smallholder farmers. And I was born in Brazil. Moved to the States when I was seven and that was another really, you know, it’s just funny how you kind of birds of a feather flock together.
Right. And we like your mother, you know, being an immigrant, my father being an immigrant and myself having immigrated to the U. S. There’s a lot of similarities, I think, in our families and Was building that business, but realized a, I wasn’t going to be the one to take that to the next level B I was, you know, in a relationship with Andy and wanted to move back [00:07:00] to the States and see that through and see simultaneously got a call from the one company I ever wanted to work for called Palantir technologies.
And it gave me the opportunity to go back to New York. So moved to New York and did, um, the kind of corporate day job for a couple of years. Settled back into life in the U S and Andy and I got married and, um, knew that I was going to go back into entrepreneurship and through my time at Palantir stumbled upon the, the new opportunity with Cadea, where I worked with the kitchen staff to launch a reusable water bottle program, just a, a side hustle at the company and ran that for three years and learned a ton about why.
Reusable bottles as we have them today, you know, whether it’s your Stanley cup or your swell or your yeti, whatever your brand of choice might be unfortunately, that is not the scalable silver bullet for single use that we all hope it will be and Decided to focus [00:08:00] my efforts on that went to business school to study the problem 2020 Launched Cadea and have been at it for the last almost three and a half years.
And, you know, then in that time, Andy and I moved back to Chicago, which has just been a blessing to be near you guys. And even though it’s still kind of like, you know, ships in the night passing, we still get these moments to catch up and share notes and get to, you know, be close to you guys. And of course have all the amazing family support that I think.
Entrepreneurs in general, but especially women, mom founders need in order to, you know, make it happen.
Monica Royer: Definitely. And if you can picture just giving a little bit of a peek behind the scenes of our lives, which is funny to think about in this more formal conversational setting, is when Andy and Manuela first moved back to, uh, Chicago, they actually, for a short time, we, uh, we were We live in this multigenerational family, kind of throughout [00:09:00] the city, but my parents literally live a single floor below us, um, in our condo building.
So my husband and I and Bella have a condo on the fourth floor and my parents are on the third floor. And we had just moved out of a different unit. We really like the building that we’re in. Uh, we had just moved out of a different unit on the fourth floor into our unit. And so Andy called me and he said, Hey.
We’ve just bought this new place in Chicago, but we may need a place to save for a short term. Can we stay in your old place? And we said, of course, absolutely. And so there was like a short, I don’t know if it was like seven, eight, nine, four months. I don’t remember how much time it was, but it was absolutely incredible.
It was sort of like we lived in this college dorm where you would come back and like, you never knew who was going to be in which unit or what was happening. But it was mainly like meals that we were congregating together. And I think it was just, it was so much fun. And Manuel and Andy had just more recently had a son at that time.
I think he was maybe like one year old. And so there were so many days where I was like dashing [00:10:00] off to a meeting and he was like being pushed up the hallway and like his little blue car. And it was just like, it was absolutely magical to be able to do. And so huge kudos to both Manuela and my husband, Rob, who were brave enough to enter into this.
It’s like blended biracial Indian family in which we take family extremely literally as Manuela can attest to
Manuela Zoninsein: Yeah, that was so fun. It was like a dorm. Like we were padding around in our pajamas, like exchanging Tupperware and oatmeal
Monica Royer: Oh my gosh, totally. And my mom doesn’t keep like significant track of her Tupperware too, which we’ll give her credit for here. So it’s like, we made sure to return the Tupperware. We made sure to return the Tupperware exactly at the end of the day. Um, but in all seriousness to Manuela, I feel like you’ve had a son during that time.
I feel like you and I have been through a lot. Like, both separately and together over the time that we’ve known each other. I think there’s shared struggles in motherhood that we’ve both endured. I [00:11:00] think, you know, we’ve endured Andy’s significant mental health crisis that he’s gone through and knock on wood, has come out the other side of.
And I don’t think I’ve ever had a chance to tell you how much I appreciate your tenacity. And like, I think that just even seeing the way that you tackle motherhood. And entrepreneurship. And I think for the moms and the parents that are out there listening, tell us a little bit about how hard that is.
Because I think that it’s just a struggle to be able to do all of it as so many people that are listening now. And I think, you know, Manuela has done such an incredible job of it, but it just isn’t easy on a day to day basis to manage.
Manuela Zoninsein: Thank you so much. Honestly, that means so much, especially coming from you because you’ve been doing it, you know, you’ve been doing it for over a decade and for sure. When Andy and I were thinking about having kids or a kid and I was like, how are we going to do this? And, and I looked to you and, and as an example of how it can be done.
Yeah. I mean, I’ve super simplified my [00:12:00] life. I also am amazed, like all the things that you’re doing on top of the basics, like. You know, I’ve, I say to everyone, I do three things every day. I. Hang out with my son, Isaiah. I work on the business, Cadea, and I sleep. And anything above that is a bonus. If I get a coffee, if I eat something, if I’m drinking the right amount of water, you know, and I’m in the water business, that’s, that’s a bonus and, uh, you know, I don’t know how you do, like, you, you still cook and you exercise, like, those things are just totally beyond me.
So, uh, it’s, it’s about accepting that You can’t do it all and really simplifying. And I guess the flip side of it has been it’s really forced focus at the business. So we are really clear about a very specific go to market. And because we’re a hardware enabled business, also, we’re really clear about how [00:13:00] to task to come first all the time.
And it’s always a balancing act. It’s not like every day we hit that. You know, golden mean, but it’s about kind of zigging and zagging and tacking toward that ideal. So I think, for example, right now today is like. We’re killing it on sales. We’re killing it on marketing. And we’re now saying, okay, time to focus again on the product.
And so it’s not that you hit it right every single day. And the other thing, and you’ve talked a lot about this, you know, behind closed doors is forgiving yourself all the time. And at the end of the day, coming home and knowing, okay, I dropped the ball. That’s fine. Tomorrow I’ll adjust and maybe I’ll drop a different ball, but not beating myself up about that because that just undermines my ability to do better the next day.
So really letting go of any guilt that I maybe used to hold on to.
Monica Royer: Definitely. And I think it’s like, and you and I have talked about this too before as parents. It’s kind of celebrating [00:14:00] the small wins. Manuela did this incredible job of setting us up to go to this amazing play over the weekend. We had the kids and you know, and obviously with Isaiah, like what, like one of his first plays and oh my goodness, did he rock it out?
I was so impressed and we made it through to the intermission and I think we could have actually stayed for the whole thing because the kids were doing great, but we’re like, you know what? Yeah. Let’s chalk this up as a win, and let’s go get some snacks now. So I think sometimes it’s, it’s like knowing your limitations before you hit the limitation from a parenthood perspective, and I think so much of that could be taken into the business world, too.
Where, you know, you do have to, and, you know, Bella literally does this, where if she does something well, it’s great, she literally will, like, in school, like, give themselves a little pat on the back. And sometimes I have to remember, like, such a great thing to do. Like, how often do you reach your hand to the back of your shoulder and say, you know what?
Job well done. And I think sometimes as moms and parents, we need to do a little bit more of that for ourselves because to your point you [00:15:00] at the end of the day a lot of times you zero in on the things that you could have Done better or the things that could have gone better And I think sometimes if you’ve just literally survived the day like people are fed They’re asleep like everybody’s healthy and okay That is a big part of that Survival through entrepreneurship and parenthood.
And sometimes, like, I think it’s so special to be able to go home and to be able to snuggle your kid on a bad day, too, because, you know, just trying to be thankful for what’s actually there. Because I think the work can take you down paths often where I have to remind myself all the time, you know, as much as I enjoyed it, I enjoy it.
I asked for this level of stress with all of the things that come along with it. And so constantly reminding myself that Nobody forced me on this journey, but I have chosen to be on it. It’s something that, like, I have to continue to tell myself again and again.
Manuela Zoninsein: Absolutely. And you’ve also talked about [00:16:00] this and this, a big reason why Andy and I did move to Chicago is, you know, we have a network here, like you guys have been amazing, so it’s not at all, just me or just Andy, right. We have an incredible nanny, first of all. And we’re lucky to be able to afford her help.
And then, you come over once or twice a week with Bella to like, hang out with Isaiah, give him food, help put him to bed. Your mom and dad do the same. We take Isaiah over to you guys like, almost all day Sunday. It’s just amazing that I have a Sunday that I can sit there and just like, plod through emails.
I don’t know how Honestly, without you guys, it would just not, it would not be possible. So that’s the other piece. It’s not like I have like a, a magic wand. It’s a, it’s, I have amazing in laws, you know, who make it possible.
Monica Royer: Of course, and for the record, too, we do [00:17:00] come over, and Belle and I are terrible at actually getting Isaiah to go to sleep, just so everyone knows. So, like, we put him to bed, but to sleep he will not go if we’re there. I mean, these kids, and everybody knows that’s listening to it, they are so darn smart.
Like, can I have another Cheerio? Can I have a sip of water? And, like, It’s different too. It’s so interesting to be an aunt. So he calls me Bua, which in Punjabi is really your. Your dad’s sister. So in you know, there’s there’s different like names for like for everybody in like a big Indian family And I had really had so many mossy.
So boo ah at first I was like, you know, I have some boo ahs But and the way that he said it he is just like made it for me. We’re like now I like love it, but when he’s like Bua, you can’t leave the room. I love you too much to go to sleep. It’s so different when it’s like one step removed, where on your own kid, you’d be like, Oh, yeah, I’m not buying that.
Like, you’re going straight to sleep. But when you’re [00:18:00] just like a little bit removed, you’re like, you know what? I am buying that. And you do love me so much that I just can’t leave the room. And that’s fine if you don’t go to sleep. But it’s a little different when you’re not the one that ultimately died.
Poor Andy and Manuela come home, and we’re like… Oh, well, he’s actually still up. But I guess that’s the benefits of being an aunt is you get to enjoy a little bit more of like a fast and loose system with things because they really do wrap you around their little finger.
Manuela Zoninsein: Yes, and I’m happy for him to have a boa like that. Kind of blurs the lines a little bit. He knows, like, some people have certain rules. Boa has other rules. He feels special,
Monica Royer: Yes, definitely. Boo has fast and loose rules for sure are a little bit lighter than, uh, than what the parents are putting out there. But to your more universal point, Manuel, I think for for moms and women that are out there that are thinking about entrepreneurship and this can extend well beyond it.
It really is like Building that support network for yourself and how you do it. Because I mean, I think you guys made a significant life [00:19:00] change, um, moving from, uh, New York City to Chicago to be part of this, like, sort of, like, integrated familial ecosystem. And I’ll say, like, to the credit of my parents, and you and Andy, Um, I definitely couldn’t have had my entrepreneurial journey without that extra support.
So I think that knowing that you’re going to need that support and that there’s going to be all of these things that are unplanned and you need that flexibility to lean on people, I think is incredibly important for women to realize as they’re entering that journey. So it’s possible to be able to do so many different things, but it’s hard to do them in complete isolation and having an opportunity.
To raise families in this way, I think has been so beneficial for both of us, and I’ll say one other thing, too, because I definitely want you to comment on it as well is I read something that said that it’s really nice for parents to be able to see intergenerational families as well, because even, you know, as you know, my dad’s dealt with, like certain health crisis, and I think that kids when [00:20:00] they’re able and again, we’re fortunate.
There’s people that’s That’s parents are no longer alive and they’re, you know, no, no longer with him. And I, and I know that you’ve experienced that on, on one side of your family as well. But I think children being able to appreciate the life cycle and see where, you know, that like what aging looks like and all of that, I think helps, I hope to ground them later in life.
And I know that’s not something that like, that everybody is, just has the luxury of being able to have, but it’s been really nice to be able to see. Mhm.
Manuela Zoninsein: point or counter example to that. Like we moved to the States when I was a kid and, um, didn’t have extended family around us. And so I always felt a little bit unmoored for, like, I didn’t have like roots, so to speak. And that comes from being an immigrant as well, but like, not having older people and younger people around me to remind me, like, [00:21:00] oh, this is all just a.
A phase in life, right? And it’s all part of a bigger picture. Absolutely. I always felt like I lacked that. And so I’m so happy for Isaiah to be able to have that and feel like he’s part of like this, like You know, broader tree, you know, and network and can feel like he’s really grounded so that whatever else he decides to do later on.
Right. He, he knows like, okay, this is my background. This is who I am. So completely agree with you. And, and you actually mentioned something else. Um, and this goes back to a little bit earlier in our conversation that I wanted to mention, especially for like, Yeah. The moms are the parents out there. Um, a quote that has helped me a lot is, um, I don’t remember how I came across this and I’m not like into cars.
Whereas Isaiah, obviously, and Andy are very into cars, a very boy thing, but, um, a quote from a race, a former race car driver, um, Mario Andretti. I have no idea who he is, but I love the quote. He says, um, if [00:22:00] everything seems under control, you’re not going fast enough. And I like to remember that, like, Whereas as girls and women raised being raised, I think we were taught more to be like perfectionist and have like, whatever we share out with the world should already have like perfect punctuation and the color coordination and everything needs to look nice.
And I love thinking instead how to be an entrepreneur. Perfect is the enemy of good and Instead, you want to get good at just being good, not get, get good at being perfect, right? Because the job of an entrepreneur changes so rapidly and so constantly that your job is not to be perfect at every stage, but it’s to be good enough at every stage so that when you bring in people who are better than you, you, you can at least keep up and have an eye of it.
What are the missing pieces in your puzzle? And so I, that’s been helpful as well to kind [00:23:00] of lower the bar a little bit for yourself in a way. Don’t take that quote out of context, you know, but instead of saying like, okay, I need to be perfect at everything and everything needs to be perfect. Exactly. As you said before, like celebrating the wins, the small steps, the, the little things, because it’s not about having it be perfect every day.
It’s about good that compounds. over and over and over again to build something bigger.
Monica Royer: Definitely. And Manuela, thinking about your journey to motherhood, you’ve, you’re, Isaiah just turned three. So, like, four years, sort of, into the journey. Is it what you, you know, it’s fresher for you. So as people that are listening to this, or thinking about having, uh, kids, or maybe just did, is motherhood what you expected?
Manuela Zoninsein: It’s better than what I expected. I had very low expectations though. I did not think I would, I mean, I never thought I would get married or, and I never thought I’d have a kid. I, it’s not like, it’s not that I [00:24:00] was against either of those things. I just never, Had imagined it. I think a lot of people have a very clear idea.
Like, yes, I will get married one day and I want to have a family. I had none of those visions. So I kind of went into it blind and. I remember I was pregnant and you, you remember it was like COVID and you guys came out and visited us. We had rented a house on Long Island and I remember, I mean, I was like, I don’t know, a month or two shy of giving birth and you were like, so this is how it’s going to happen.
And I was like, Oh, okay. Like I was just like, kind of was taking it day by day. And that’s kind of how I’m doing it as well. So It’s been amazing. Yeah. I don’t know. I, I tell a lot of women, especially women entrepreneurs or women in STEM and people who are really ambitious, I think they have their hesitations and they feel like it’s a trade off and yeah, I have less energy and I can do less work each day.
On the other hand, I feel that I have a, [00:25:00] I’m more grounded. And I, as you said, have that reward every day coming home and, and feeling like I’m building something beyond Cadea. And also allows me to just be more strategic and efficient with my time, um, from a business perspective. But I also, I tell those girls or those women are like.
You know, it’s, it’s been a great experience for me and I’m so grateful. So you don’t have to sacrifice career to be a mom, but it is hard.
Monica Royer: It is, and I think that my biggest takeaway after sort of 12 years of being at it is, and this is just my personal feeling. So I, not to extrapolate this, like other people could have different thoughts. I feel like you can have it all at once. All but you can’t necessarily have it all at once. And so I think when you’re an entrepreneur and a mother, you can definitely have like motherhood in a career at the same time.
And then for me, sometimes I look at like, I don’t necessarily [00:26:00] really fortunate to have you and Andy to spend time with Rob and I. And like you said, family is such a big central component of like what we do. Sometimes I wish I had more time to spend with friends or like more time to go out and do other things.
And I realized that like Maybe in the short term like that’s the sacrifice and it doesn’t have to be. There’s other people that have a career and motherhood and friendship and all of that But I think sometimes you have to look at what’s the bigger picture of all the things that you could be doing and you realize that like you’re in this season of life and I constantly have to remind myself that there will be other seasons where I won’t be as busy as a mom and I think it’s interesting seeing the stage that Isaiah is at where You’re so hands on busy at that stage because literally you have to be like, where are you going?
What are you doing? Don’t fall off that. Don’t jump over the sofa. Don’t fall off the, you know. But then you get to this other stage of parenthood where it’s kind of like bigger kids, bigger problems. And we’re not really into the big kid, big problem stage yet. But now it’s interesting where when I go to pick Bella up, before I used to be able to kind of like drop her off with my parents and [00:27:00] like get right back to it.
And now sometimes I have to, I’m working until much later. In the evening because she needs like a few more minutes when she gets home to tell me about her day and like unpack what happened and like, how do we triage what’s going on? And then like, what’s the work that needs to be done? So I think sometimes you have to take a step back and be like, here is the list of like the 10 things for me in that.
In in the order in which they’re important. And I’ve never formally done that and be like, Hey, I could definitely hit eight. These are the two that like, maybe I’m waiting another five years to like, dive back into. And so to me, that’s been a little bit of like what those trade offs have looked like. And maybe there’s other people and it’d be a good conversation to start to say, Are there people that feel like they could do all of it at once and have every single thing that they want to be able to do?
And maybe it’s it’s just Me that isn’t able to do some of that, but I think it’s interesting to think about how sometimes having a child can, like, crystallize what’s really important, and even though they fill your life with so much more to do, [00:28:00] it’s like they also help to point you, strangely enough, in, like, the direction that you need to go, because it just helps to kind of crystallize your, you know, sort of, like, what you want to go after, because to your point, you just have, like, less time to be able to go after it, so you have to be more directed.
Manuela Zoninsein: I completely agree with everything you said.
Monica Royer: Is there any advice, Manuela, as we’re thinking about this that you have for moms or parents or like anybody that’s thinking about also starting their own company?
Manuela Zoninsein: That’s funny to think that I can give advice. Well, one thing that I’m proud of at Kidea is our team, which is going to be six people full time. Soon it draws from a huge variety of [00:29:00] age ranges and backgrounds and. A lot of them are coming from having been in larger corporate environments. They also all have entrepreneurial background and experience.
So they know the hustle, they knew what they were getting into, and they’ve chosen to come back into entrepreneurship, in large part because they were sick of the, the kind of corporate grind and the politics. And that’s what… I hear consistently as to why they chose to come over to Kidea is they love the people.
They love the culture and part of that culture that we’re building is one where it’s based on trust and. Believing that each person is an adult and is capable. That’s why you’re joining the company. Cause we believe in your judgment and your, your skills. And that means that if you have to go to a doctor’s appointment [00:30:00] one morning, you know, you can just let everyone know, Hey, I’m going to be out doctor’s appointment, or I don’t need to tell you why I’m going to be out.
I’m going to be out. I have something I have to do. And I think that. Is in part, thanks to, you know, me setting that example and that standard and, and everybody knows, okay, Isaiah had a, a, an ear infection last week. So I didn’t sleep a lot. So I’m gonna be a little slow in meetings or we have to go to the doctor and, uh, you know, I didn’t get to send that email or I didn’t get to finish that PowerPoint because I, Thank you.
Was up really late or didn’t have the break. I thought I was going to have all Isaiah normally maps. So I don’t know if that’s exactly advice, but. You know, a lot of the, like, self help feel good business language that people are starting to talk about is, you know, bringing your whole self to work and [00:31:00] being yourself. And so maybe that’s the advice or the learning is, you know, it starts with you as the founder and the leader and. Setting that example of being vulnerable and being yourself allows others as well to be themselves and I think bring their best selves to work right if you create that culture where it’s okay to make a mistake occasionally drop the ball understanding and taking responsibility when that does happen and how to make sure it doesn’t happen all the time right it’s it’s not about like Making the mistake and then having the mistake repeatedly happen, but it’s allowing for those mistakes and then figuring out how to solve for them or, you know, being yourself and bringing your real opinion.
So it allows people, especially at the earliest stages of a company to throw out crazy ideas. Hey, I’ve got this crazy idea. I know I’m kind of outside of my wheelhouse. What do you all think? And some of the best ideas that we’ve come across have been people who are Weighing [00:32:00] in outside of their area of expertise.
And even if you look at Cadea, we’re, we’re doing something that no one else in the industry in the beverage industry has done before. It’s not that we are inventing anything. We’re not putting a man on the moon. It’s not rocket science, literally, but we are innovating because. We’re doing things in ways that have been done that we questioned the way things were being done and that’s in part because We brought people together who are bit of outsiders to the industry So kind of the same thing and I’m sure that’s true for what you you’ve done at Monica and Andy, right?
Where you look at the industry, you know, like why didn’t anyone ever do it this way? Well Because it was all the same people sitting around the same table asking the same questions over and over. So I think allowing that space in your company culture to, you know, trip a little bit and fall and then admit that and then think about how do you make it better going forward is a strength for Kodea at least.
Monica Royer: I love that, Manuela, and I think that’s so universal, too, [00:33:00] because I think while work has definitely creeped into life as we’re tethered to our phone and like many times, whether it’s in the evening or on the weekend, like anybody with a job can say that like they’ve been stopped in their tracks by something that’s happened outside of those hours.
I think it only serves correctly to let life creep into work. On the opposite side and say, Hey, there’s now flexibility on both sides. And I couldn’t agree more. Our chief people officer often says, like, we’re living life together in this, like Covid and post Covid world in a way that we like we were literally in each other’s living rooms for so long.
Right? And so that opens up like a new portal into what happens behind the scenes in people’s lives. And I hopefully that vulnerability of leadership, Manuela, that you exhibit is something that a lot more a lot of other people can do as well.
Manuela Zoninsein: I hope so. It’s, it’s certainly a balancing act, right? As you know, because I think as women especially, [00:34:00] or um, people of color, minorities, underrepresented Founders I think were held to higher standards and so it can feel like we have to show up and be perfect all the time, but at the end of the day, what I’ve learned, I learned this early on in high school, no matter how well I did on tests or what college I went to or what my project turned out. Even if I quote unquote performed better than others, I was still behind the scenes like docked socially for, oh, it’s only because she’s a girl or because she’s attractive or, um, you know, she didn’t really earn. That outcome and I, I just learned no matter how well I perform, I won’t get the [00:35:00] credit and I will be dinged as different and so that kind of liberated me where I was like, oh.
I’m damned if I do, and I’m damned if I don’t. So I might as well just do it the way I want to do it, you know, because no matter what, I’m never going to match, or at least not for a long time. I’m not going to match that mold of what’s expected from an entrepreneur. And that really. alleviated a lot of pressure to show up as though I am, you know, a white man.
I, I don’t have to behave like them. I can’t, I never will be able to, even if I do everything to a T. And so that, I think is, um, uh, I don’t know if that feels like a relief to anybody else. It felt, it’s felt like, uh, A relief and a liberation to me. And so that means like, I don’t need to be buttoned up at every meeting.
I don’t have to have the right answer all the time. I don’t have [00:36:00] to perform, you know, you know, some sort of like predetermined fashion that a CEO should behave. And instead I get to focus on like the meat and potatoes. Of building a business. It’s not that I’m throwing away the metrics and the standards.
I’m saying, let’s only focus on those and let’s stop worrying about appearances as much and about the veneer of what like a CEO is supposed to do or look like.
Monica Royer: Absolutely. And you know what? I’ll leave you with one thought too that was interesting is like taking that same attitude into motherhood. I was, um, supposed to go to a big event in New York at almost the start of the school year that I had agreed to go to before and was like one of the co hosts of. And then as it got closer, Uh, there was something at my daughter Bella’s school that like wasn’t on the calendar as the when I when I made that plan over the summer, but came onto the calendar and she literally was like, Mom, I can’t do this without you.
Like, I really want you to be able to be there. So my team and [00:37:00] I talked about it and I was like, should I say I’m sick? Like, what should I do? Like, here I am, like pulling out of this at the last minute. And then it came to me. I’m just going to say the truth. I’m just going to be like, something came up. for my daughter and it’s not life or death, but she says she needs me.
And so that’s going to have to be prioritized over this. And so I think it’s living exactly what you’re saying and bringing that to motherhood to where it’s okay as moms, like we don’t necessarily have to hide the decisions that we’re making. If we’re reaching a stress point, it’s okay to be like, Hey, maybe no one else understands this.
But this is a stress point for our family, and I need to be able to be here to manage through X, Y, Z, and it was amazing. There was such an outpouring of love and support from the group that I was when I did say that in conversations that were started and all of that. And so I think you’re 100 percent right.
I think living our best truth and not worrying about the expectations of what other people have, but doing what we feel is right for it. team and our family. And to consider as you run do [00:38:00] think that’s how at the e can at least feel regardl that you did it in the wa be proud of doing it no m
Manuela Zoninsein: Yeah, absolutely. It’s kind of basic stuff, right? You, you have to wake up every day and look in the mirror at yourself.
Monica Royer: Exactly. So, oh my was an absolute delight t this time. Um, I’m so exc You came on and we were able to talk through this and really excited to follow the journey of Kidea forward.
Manuela Zoninsein: Thank you for having me. Such an honor and a pleasure. Great to be here.
Monica Royer: Thank you so much for tuning into this episode. I am continually inspired by Manuela and her mission with Cadea. You can find out more about the future of bottled water by visiting Cadea. com. We’ll also have a link at our website, MonicaNandy. com. If you have a moment today, please subscribe to The Mentor Files wherever you listen to podcasts.
Your subscriptions and reviews mean so much. I’m your host, Monica Royer. See you [00:39:00] next time.