2022 so far: advice from business leaders for growth,

Photo of Yesoon Lee of Mandu from LeadingDC

Business success is in the eye of the leader. Industry, location, customer needs, and personal values shape what success means for everyone. While the journeys are numerous and diverse, the knowledge gained during times of difficulty and triumph can be valuable to anyone running a business.

In this article, we spotlight what we’ve learned so far in the first half of 2022 from entrepreneurs and executives whose mission is to create value for their businesses, customers, and communities while prioritizing mental health.

January

“Fundamentally, Bird Bird is built on this question: ‘How can we use our time on earth wisely to become the best we can be?’ This question provides deep purpose and meaning behind things that could seem trivial or small. It makes every day a learning experience in the most meaningful of ways. This gives rise to an atmosphere of motivation and enthusiasm, and out of that, anything is possible.”
—Brian Batch, Bird Bird Biscuit
A convo with Yelp’s Top 100 Places to Eat winner Bird Bird Biscuit

“We as a business hope to lead 2022 with more intention, appreciation, and vulnerability. I know those words may not sound like a typical way to describe a business; however, we’re human, and we want people’s time here in our little botánica to be the experience they desire, giving them the space they need. We were never in this for the transactions. We’re in this for the opportunity to make good things happen, the relationships, and the creative energy we all hope to share and celebrate.”
—Jackelyn and Monica Madrigal, Color Me Chula
Small business leaders share their New Year’s resolutions

“[Our team includes] young kids that have never had a job before and [we have to] be willing to put the time in with them and show them, ‘Hey, this is what our expectation is. This is how we do things.’ And we work around their schedules too. We know that this isn’t their forever job, but I tell everyone I hire, ‘This is my forever job.’”
—Joey Carioti, Cranky Al’s
How Cranky Al’s remains a community staple


In order to be creative, you need to be comfortable. To be comfortable, you need to enjoy where you work and the environment. So I created a vibe where people can be very comfortable sharing their knowledge. We’re constantly educating.

Lana Kurayeva, Shear Bliss NYC Salon
Being intentional in practice and presence


“Every year we set out to exceed the previous year’s revenue—it’s why beginning a new year invigorates me. Particularly in light of the past two pandemic-ridden years, our company has focused on our values, which include delivering quality work with efficiency and transparency, but also treating our staff with empathy and kindness and prioritizing their safety.”
—Richard Narins, Power Wash Seal
Small business leaders share their New Year’s resolutions

February

“Burnout red flags can consist of you starting to dislike the very thing that you love. In my personal experience, I started to resent my own business—the business that I built with blood, sweat and tears. As resentment sets in, you look at things differently. You’re not putting your best foot forward.”
—Chantay Golson, burnout recovery consultant 
How to spot small business burnout and find the right remedy for you


At the end of the day, [branding] is just trying to be helpful to your consumer. That’s the ultimate measuring stick to any decision that business owners make: ‘How helpful is this thing for your consumer? How helpful are you as a brand?’

Ultimately, if you help someone enough times, over and over and over again, that’s the feeling they’re getting from you. That’s the brand.

Wesley The Keeper, Akron Honey
Branding and storytelling tips from Akron Honey owner Wesley The Keeper


“When I try to change my menu, I don’t think of what’s going to be more economically productive for me, but what is the customer going to like? What am I going to bring to the table that’s authentic and that’s going to keep our roots alive? I always think about what’s better for the customer, not for the business, and it turns out that way it always is better for the business.”
—Nancy Andrade, Islas Canarias Restaurant
‘You pull in your people:’ uniting 3 generations of Cuban-American cooking

“Now that we’ve gotten further into having a shop, we really see the power that Plantiitas has as a platform to bring awareness to more than just plants: mental health, racial justice, and social justice, which is a passion of ours as well. We’re lucky to be able to have that—to elevate new businesses like us, without putting up barriers. We know how expensive and how hard it is to start up a business. We’ve started to pave a path, and then we can welcome other folks on that path.”
—Anthony Diaz and Kevin Alcaraz, Plantiitas
Lessons on business growth with thriving plant shop, Plantiitas

“One of my favorite things is promoting from within. We’ve had some of our best servers—Diego—start off as a dishwasher, and he ended up being number two in sales, until recently. And then he bought himself a boat, and now he’s chartering people, which was his dream since he came from Cuba five years ago. Those things are the things that I love to see.”
—Eileen Andrade, Amelia’s 1931 and Finka’s
‘You pull in your people:’ uniting 3 generations of Cuban-American cooking

March

“[Media coverage is] not you saying you’re great. It’s someone else saying you’re great. Your credibility is instant when a known, liked, and trusted source features you.”
—Christina Nicholson, Media Maven PR firm
3 steps to getting media coverage for your business

“We remind our staff that we get to live here and [adventure] on a daily basis. When someone walks through our door and wants to share in that, that’s a great honor for us. We think of ourselves as educators and facilitators, not salespeople.”
—Brendan Madigan, Alpenglow Sports
Prioritizing customer needs, not just the sale


Your employees are the lifeblood of your business, the messengers of your company’s mission, ethics, and worldview. They are the conduit between customer and product, not only ensuring a successful transaction but eliciting a level of satisfaction that keeps them coming back.

Tia Agnew, The Joy Pilot
7 secrets to happy and successful employees


“You really have to model… how you want [your team] to be and how you want them to interact with your customers. You’ll find myself and [others] helping people find hotels. We’ll give them ideas about what to do while they’re in town. We want to create an atmosphere where we feel like people are getting a lot of personalized attention and care.”
—Ashley Tedesco, Paluca Trattoria
Setting the tone of your business through your actions

“We try to source locally as much as we can for what makes business sense. For the neighborhood that we’re in, we want to make sure things are affordable as possible for decently healthy food and good portion sizes. It’s a balancing act.”
—Jordan Robarge, Revival Chili
How 3 restaurants are using food rescue to reduce waste and fight hunger

April

“I strongly recommend you actually take the time to do all of that research to really understand your unique value proposition. How are you so different from what’s out there that you can create this community of people that will become your ambassadors and will ride for you, no matter what?”
—Cora Miller, Young King Haircare
Three beauty founders on representation, finding community, and launching their businesses

“On every platform, I comment back on every review—good, bad, or ugly—because I think it’s very important. Why would you only respond to the negative? You have to reach out to the people that took their time to give you a positive review and let them know that you appreciate them.”
—Vadim Nayman, Bagel Master
4 steps to a successful review response strategy

“What we have found has worked well for Golde is really leaning into telling our authentic story. That’s where the magic is. If someone comes to you and says, ‘I love your brand,’ ask them why. If you could name one thing, what is the thing that makes you love this company? And you’ll start to hear themes, and you’ll start to find that pattern of where you need to lean in.”
—Trinity Mouzon Wofford, Golde
Three beauty founders on representation, finding community, and launching their businesses


I’ll listen to [critical feedback from customers] and I’ll be like… Thank you for the 1-star review. This is how I grow. Without you bringing these mistakes to my attention, I would never know they were occurring. You’re a layer of accountability for me to build a better business.

Josh Campbell, Rescue Air Heating and Cooling
4 steps to a successful review response strategy


Photo of Rescue Air on Yelp

“I think [grind culture] is the only culture I have ever known, but it is not a culture we want at Whiskey Bird, so I actively fight against it. I don’t work for the sake of working, and I know when it’s time to take a break.”
—Anthony Vipond, Whiskey Bird
Top 100 winner Whiskey Bird on the reality of entrepreneurship and finding balance

May

“A restaurant is truly a team effort. Not one person is more important than another. A restaurant operates smoothly only when every individual involved is working in harmony together as one unit. This happens through routine open conversations with every one of our team members, so that any issues can be identified and resolved in a healthy manner. Most importantly, we listen to our team. If you do not take the time to listen to your team, and to learn and adapt to what they are saying, then you will be lost as a leader.”
—Danny Lee, Anju
Changing the narrative around Korean cuisine in D.C.


The culture really starts with a strong management team. I’m not in that building every minute, right? So I think we all have to share the same value of caring about people and caring about your service and just being genuinely good at what you do.

Rob Meir, CALA
The 360 customer experience starts at the hiring process


“Be gentle with yourself. Running a business is really difficult, and there are many market forces working against you. It can be hard to withstand all the problems that get thrown your way—whether it’s employees moving on, crimes that happen in your store, or just trying to stay profitable. It’s hard to maintain your mental health.”
—Joanne Kwong, Pearl River Mart
Evolving the first-ever Chinese American department store for the next generation

Photo of Joanne Kwong from Pearl River Mart

“We have a practice of sharing positive reviews internally. It’s kind of like ringing the bell digitally. And it’s a great way to keep that internal education focused on the importance of reviews. For us, it builds a culture of team appreciation. Getting props, knowing you’re doing a good job, is motivation to continue to do a good job—maybe an even better job.”
—Elizabeth Sexton, Aligned Modern Health
The top 3 things you should do with your customer reviews

“Having a team in place, I started delegating everything that I possibly could. And recognizing that I should only be utilizing my resources on the things where I’m adding the highest value and really contributing. I trust my managers to respond to things appropriately… We all have very limited time in the day, and [you have to make] sure that you’re spending your time on the most high value things.”
—Alyssa Bayer, milk + honey spa
Prioritizing mental health to boost your business: advice from business owners

June

“It’s important to promote from within when possible. It’s not always possible, but I’d rather develop my people and my teams. Even if that means someone leaves us eventually, it’s more important to me that they were developed.”
—Susie Cooper, Elk Rapids Marina and Dam Shop
How a small-town Michigan marina is changing the role of business in the community

“We value the feedback we get from our customers. If they do give us negative feedback, we thank them. We’re very appreciative that they took the time to share that with us, because if they don’t, it doesn’t give us an opportunity to learn from it.”
—Brian Streeter, Cakebread Cellars
4 customer service tips to surpass expectations

“I started to really be able to learn and become friends with some of the very best people in my field from all across the country [by joining professional trade associations]. That was eye opening to me because before that, I didn’t know any other painters. I had just been doing my own thing. So I was able to learn the fundamentals and learn about industry standards I need to uphold.”
—Nichole Lovett, Harmony Haus
Painting the town green: how a local business balances its values with growth and evolution


If you are always only looking for the right person, you’re going to pass up a lot of people who could be that right person in the future. We take people who might not have been given a chance somewhere else, we give them that chance, and we let them blossom into the people who they can be rather than the person that they are right now.

Chris Fisher, Farm Ale Brewing Co.
3 tips on hiring, marketing, and making history from a Texas brewpub


Photo from Farm Ale Brewing Co.

“We have found, especially just over time, more and more people want to book and communicate online. They want an easy and quick experience. We love our online booking system. It is so easy to use, simple, and fast. They can book at two in the morning in their pajamas, which actually a lot of people do. And it is very user-friendly.”
—Sara Albie, Nola Bliss Massage
3 tips for putting comfort into the customer experience

Editorial contributions by Emily Moon