With National Pickle Day coming up on Saturday, November 14th I thought this was the perfect time to introduce you to Aly Cullinane. Aly is the President of Mrs.Pickles™ Gourmet, formerly Lynnae’s Gourmet Pickles. Aly oversees all aspects of the business including sales, marketing, production, and distribution.
Aly graduated from Washington State University with a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education. While first year teaching in 2011, Aly partnered up with her sister-in-law to start the company. After just one year, she left teaching to pursue her passion for pickles. Aly learned the secret family recipe in 2010 when she married Toots’ great-grandson, DJ, and is now a part of the pickle legacy. She’s married with 2 children.
Mrs. Pickle Gourmet will host its 4th annual citywide pickle hunt on Saturday, November 14th from 9:30 AM – 4PM in celebration of National Pickle Day. A total of eight jars of pickles will be placed in local businesses throughout the city for fans and pickle-lovers to locate and win. Each jar will be worth $200-$500 worth of cash and prizes from local businesses in the area and a small prize will also be given to the second person to arrive at each location. Tacoma’s Mayor Marilyn Strickland will announce the first clue location clue that will be posted on the Mrs. Pickles’ Facebook and Twitter page. The following clues will be posted every 45 minutes until 2:45 PM.
But first, let’s learn more about Aly.
Rosie: What does a day in your shoes typically look like?
Aly: I run my business out of my home which has definite benefits and setbacks. I have a 6-week-old son and 18-month-old daughter, which also has a huge impact on my schedule. I get up before the kids to plan out the day and catch up on emails/East coast calls. Once they are up, we spend a few hours playing together or going to play dates until nap time. I try my best not to check my phone or emails until they are asleep. I consider my quality time with them a “meeting”, so that I don’t feel tempted to schedule anything else. Nap time is my work time, unless I have family able to help watch the kids. I use that time for sales calls, managing my brokers, catching up on accounting, and scheduling production and distribution. My husband gets home early in the afternoon, so when he gets home he takes the kids for a few hours while I lock myself in our room to continue working. I finish up what I am working on to spend time with the family and make dinner, eat, give baths and read stories. Once the kids are down, we catch up on housework and then it’s free time! My husband and I thrive on having a “show” we can watch together, especially after a long day! During crazy weeks (like this week, with National Pickle Day coming up), I generally spend an hour or so with hubby and then work up until bedtime. I am not a night owl, and am up half the night with a newborn, so getting my sleep is essential!
Rosie: What 2-3 things do you do in the mornings to prepare yourself before work and is there one thing you look to accomplish every day?
Aly: I try to get up an hour earlier than my kids to get decent (aka brush my hair, slap on mascara and brush my teeth), make myself some coffee and sit down to create my to-do list for the day in peace. On Monday mornings, I schedule out an hour for myself for what I call, “Motivational Mondays”, which includes watching a TED Talk or reading a leadership book. I try my best to take time for myself before the craziness of the day/week starts. If it is not in my iphone calendar, it will not get done! Each day, I try to make a list of 5 things I have to get done before bed. Usually 3 of these things are immediate (preparing sales info for a new store, accounts payable/receivable, etc), and 1-2 are proactive (planning strategy for promotions for next year, etc).
Rosie: What is your breakfast of choice?
Aly: Right now, it is steel-cut oatmeal with pumpkin puree and pumpkin spice!
Rosie: What is your favorite thing about being an entrepreneur?
Aly: My favorite thing about being an entrepreneur is being able to be at home with my kids, while still doing what I love. Being a manufacturer/wholesaler gives me the flexibility of making my own schedule. Luckily, customers can find Mrs. Pickles almost 24 hours a day at over 3,000 retailers
Aly: I manage our “info” emails, and receive at least 2-3 emails a week from customers from all over the country telling me how much they enjoy my product. This reminds me, as I am at home by myself managing the kids and the business, that I am making a difference. Mrs. Pickles is all about family, and the legacy that Great Grandma Toots’ recipe left. To be able to share that recipe, and to have such a great response from people is very inspiring!
Rosie: Do you have an outfit that always makes you feel good when you have
a big meeting or event?
Aly: Yes! Dark skinny jeans, black pumps, a silky colorful tank top and a black well-fitted blazer are my go-to for any event. In the grocery industry, and being an entrepreneur, I have a little more flexibility with what I wear. I choose to be comfortable, while still keeping it classy.
Rosie: What has been one of your biggest wins in your career? Your biggest mistake?
Aly: Biggest win: Appearing on Shark Tank. Not because it was National television, but because I was able to overcome my fear of public speaking. It was such a once in a lifetime experience, that I couldn’t say no to it! I challenged myself, and learned it is ok to be afraid, just not to let that fear lead you. We are a lot stronger than we think we are!
Biggest mistake: I wouldn’t say mistake since every decision has led me to where I am today, but the biggest learning curve was growing too fast after Shark Tank. We were anxious to grow and get into new stores, without thinking things through. Getting into new stores is expensive (slotting fees, placements, promotions). I’ve learned to think twice and to be strategic with growth. Right now I am focused on growing our sales and expanding distribution with Kroger and Costco.
Rosie: What advice would you give to women just starting their careers?
Aly: My best advice to women starting a business is to not be afraid to ask questions. As women, we often take on a lot and don’t ask for help. We are strong, yet have to be realistic in what we need help with. Getting advice from other women or other entrepreneurs has been essential to my growth, and I always try to return the favor to women just starting out.
Rosie: What is your favorite quote to live by?
Aly: As a busy mom and business owner, I often get overwhelmed by everything on my plate. On our family bulletin board I have this quote by Arthur Ashe:
“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”
Thank you for your time Aly, good luck to you and we are proud to have you as a Tacoma Working Mom!