Take a breath and provide air for those around you.
Russell Barnett is a creative marketing executive with deep experience in category-creating food and beverage items. He specializes in providing vision, direction and leadership to entrepreneurially spirited brands. Currently Russell serves as CMO for My/Mo Mochi Ice Cream, a line of poppable and delicious snacks which is transforming the supermarket frozen aisle one mochi ice cream ball at a time.
Where did the idea for My/Mo Mochi Ice Cream come from?
We have a 108-year old history. In the 90s, the original family owners were the first to create mochi ice cream in the U.S. When the owners decided to exit, we took it over in 2015 with the belief that the Mochi Ice Cream Category was full of untapped potential. We spent time retooling and creating the My/Mo Mochi Ice Cream brand. We hit the shelves in March of 2017 and in under 18 months, My/Mo Mochi Ice Cream has dominated the frozen novelties category!
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I play with my (mochi) balls every day. Really. In our facility, we make the mochi, produce the ice cream and hand craft hundreds of thousands of big, beautiful, pillowy mochi ice cream balls, that I taste test, each and every day. We also have more fun than anyone else – it’s our mantra and not an option.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Bravery. We believe in doing things that no one else has the gumption to do. We embrace our quirks and celebrate the weird that is chewing your ice cream. Bringing that to life means being comfortable with the uncomfortable and makes the work exciting, relevant and memorable.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Environmental conservation and awareness. Businesses need to understand how to connect environmental responsibility with their business model. I love what groups like the Environmental Media Association are doing. They ensure content is created and distributed through media we consume, to enlighten us on the environmental effects of consumables. It’s important that people have even a base knowledge of how to protect the environment through everyday behavior, including the items we use and the food we eat to reduce our impact and preserve the earth.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Surrounding myself with great people that are so much smarter than I could ever be. I could not do any of this without an amazing team that inspire, teach, adjust thinking and push me every day.
What advice would you give your younger self?
To take a breath and provide air for those around you. Sounds simple, but when you are in the middle of building businesses and are responsible for your family, your employees, and your customers, sometimes it’s very easy to forget that you are allowed to take a moment, step back and provide people the space they need to be their best.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
I’m not that smart. I’m bright, I can come up with ideas and figure things out. However, I’m not the smartest guy in the room.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Get really comfortable being uncomfortable. Challenge yourself to push creative boundaries and constantly ask if there is more to be done. The moment you believe things are going well is the precise moment it’s inherently begun to fall apart.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Don’t just market to the lowest common denominator and start thinking about how your business can appeal to consumers and their aspirations – how they perceive themselves is as important as their exact target demographic. Also, this seems like an easy one, but don’t disappoint the consumers. Always deliver and exceed their expectations in places they would never imagine the business would care about.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I lost everything on a company I created where we made alcohol infused popsicles and, while everyone who tried them, loved them, you can’t change distribution and the idea of inputting a freezer at a liquor store disrupted the status quo. I stayed with the company too long because I really believed in it, but ultimately it was a failure and I lost everything monetarily.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
We have someone who is close to our family who was having a hard time affording something for her daughter. Frankly, nothing significant, but important for them. Simply stepping up and being a little generous means more than a single $100 item I could buy myself.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
Instagram. My/Mo Mochi Ice Cream’s Instagram @mymomochiicecream was an overnight success and now has over 30,000 followers and is growing every day. Our mochi ice cream is so Instagramable by nature and our flavors and packaging are colorful and exciting. I always turn to Instagram to scroll through the conversations between influencers, tastemakers and everyday consumers sharing incredible content and their love for our product – these convos are one of the ways I help gauge our success as a brand!
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Admittedly I don’t read as much as I’d like. My favorite book is Candide by Voltaire – immense optimism in the face of dire situations. A tremendous reflection of the human spirit.
What is your favorite quote?
“This too shall pass.” If you are going through a hard time with your business, it will pass. On the flip side, if you are experiencing a great quarter, year or beyond, it will eventually pass and challenges will happen. Never take success for granted and manage it with a healthy dose of fear.