Women's History Month Feature: Carmel Hagen
Carmel is the Founder and CEO of Supernatural, a natural baking ingredients company known for dye-free sprinkles, plant-based food colors and other imaginative pantry staples. Her products have been featured in Food & Wine, Vegnews and The Today Show.
Why did you start your business?
I was a kid who loved to decorate cakes (I was in a Pillsbury bakeoff when I was eight) but I didn't pursue it professionally. After a decade in tech startups I was feeling burnt out on the internet, and I started to bake again -- and found it pretty shocking that the ingredients I used in third grade were still the only game in town. I knew I wasn't the only baker who preferred to work without stuff like artificial dyes and corn syrup, so I decided to try to change that!
What has been the best part of your entrepreneurial journey?
Besides literally having my dream job, I never feel like I'm bored or not challenged. I had trouble staying in my own lane in other jobs, so it's been super satisfying to roll up my sleeves in all areas of the business. Every problem is mine to fix, which is a lot of responsibility, but I enjoy that.
How has working from home impacted the way you work and live? What does balance mean to you in this new normal?
Working from home has always been my secret weapon for multitasking through new momhood, but it's extremely challenging without boundaries. For example, switching gears all day between mom-ing and working is doable, but pursuing balance amidst all that role switching is a pipe dream. I still need to be "at work" for dedicated, dependable segments of each day. Just like working in an office, that strategy is fully dependent on childcare. So in a way, the new normal has just re-iterated how critical great and affordable childcare is for women.
How do you stay motivated and overcome challenges?
I'm a big believer in "active procrastination." On days where motivation is really hard to come by, I let myself prioritize to-dos that are most enjoyable or easiest first. There's always little things to get done that are kind of brainless, and as long as SOMETHING is getting done, you're moving the ball forward. That said, grit and determination are as important in a startup as the actual product itself, so if it's not just a motivation issue -- say, for example, there's an intimidation block there, too -- you just gotta look that monster in the eye, acknowledge what's really slowing you down, then give it the finger and move on.
What are some rituals you’ve adopted to practice self-care around the home?
Workaholic types can get really hopped up on adrenaline and too obsessive about their job, which feels good in the moment but has all kinds of implications on your health and relationships. I've been part of a few startups now, and I have a better barometer for when the struggle actually merits the stress. That's the most meaningful form of self-care I bring to my life right now.
Who is a female founder you admire and why?
Women who built companies and careers in more challenging eras for ambitious women really have my respect. Martha Stewart is and will forever be my North Star.
What’s one thing in your home you can’t live without during quarantine?
I can't live without natural light!
What advice do you have for female entrepreneurs or working women during this time?
When it comes to working women, teamwork makes the dream work. We still live in a world where the "privilege" of making an income, let alone starting our own business, primarily lands on women who can afford it. We have to make affordable childcare a right for every American, because without it, millions of women won't even have the choice to work. We need to be vocal about this, vote in support of it, and build policies that support it into our own businesses.