Advice from 45 successful founders on embracing failure, self-trust, building culture and more. | Photo by Taylor Brandon, Unsplash

45 lessons from Utah founders

Advice from 45 successful founders on embracing failure, self-trust, building culture and more. | Photo by Taylor Brandon, Unsplash
Advice from 45 successful founders on embracing failure, self-trust, building culture and more. | Photo by Taylor Brandon, Unsplash

Every Friday for the past three years, Utah Business has published the stories of Utah’s founders. Here, we share the best tips from our 2023 Founder Series.


On embracing challenge and failure

“If you want to go down the same road we did, be prepared to fail. When you do fail, refuse to quit. There were times we felt this business was too much to handle. The stress of managing a business is heavy, and it can take a toll on you physically, mentally and emotionally. On the other side of that, if you love to reach the goals you set for yourself and see yourself grow, by all means, do it. Get after it. Start that company. Improve along the way because you want to and not because it’s based on any competition. Having fun can be a real driver, as it is for us. That’s the entrepreneurial spirit: to start something you like and continue to find reasons to like it even more.” 

Allison Hunt | Co-Founder | Baltic Born

“One of our values as a team is to ‘be scrappy and ingenious,’ and we really leaned into that during the pandemic. We cut our own salaries and cut back spending, but we never missed a committed payment, nor did we lay off any of our team. It was challenging and stressful, but we got through it and learned important lessons.”

Arian Lewis | Founder | Kiln

“Going into entrepreneurship, you need to realize you’re going to fail at some level. You might not ultimately fail at something, but you’ll always have a learning experience. If you’re going into it thinking you’re going to knock it out of the park the first time, that’s pretty rare. To a new entrepreneur, I would advise going into it knowing that you will probably see some really good success but that you’re also going to learn a lot from failing.”

James Jensen | Founder | JUMP by Limitless Flight

“People ask us for advice all the time, and I always tell them not to cheat the process. Don’t try to hack it. Don’t skip steps. They think there’s a way of getting past the mom-and-pop stage without saving money, but there’s no way around it. You gotta put your heart and soul into it. It’s easy to waste someone else’s money, but when you have skin in the game, you put in the work.”

Kimo Mack | Co-Founder | Mo’ Bettahs Hawaiian Style Food

“Through these tough times, I realized that with great challenges comes great growth.”

McKenzie Rockwood | Founder | Citrus Pear

“I have seen more fear, uncertainty and doubt disrupt good ideas than I’ve seen good ideas. My advice is, don’t listen to the people who say ‘no.’ Ego, jealousy and competitiveness are almost always at the root of criticism. Don’t let other people stop you from achieving your dreams. Have the courage to go do something and have the courage to fail. If you’re not failing, you’re not working hard enough, and failure is just part of innovation.”

Richard Linder | Founder | Xenter


On building culture

“One of my superpowers is recognizing the strengths of others, building a team to maximize those strengths, and then getting out of the way to let them do their thing.”

Becki Wright | Founder | Proximity

“Finding the right people who embrace change and can operate with this mindset takes work. When searching for new talent to join us, we look for people who approach problems with a first-principles mindset and seek fundamental truths. We attract a lot of big-picture thinkers who have a strong desire to grow and create a positive impact.”

Chris Gibson | Founder | Recursion Pharmaceuticals

“I looked to people who energized me and people who brought skills I did not have to the table. I brought on some of the most thoughtful, skilled, motivated and intelligent people I know.”

Emily Bell McCormick | Founder | The Policy Project

“In my opinion, living to your highest potential—where you break cultural and societal conditioning, find your authentic self, live life on your own terms and, most importantly, are a kind and compassionate human being—is not as hard as one might fear. I would love to create that culture in the corporate world and redefine what ‘success’ really means.”

Lavanya Mahate | Founder | Saffron Valley Restaurants

“I want everyone to realize how important it is to take care of yourself and your most important connections and how impactful it will be to companies, communities and the world as we put those things first.”

Marinne Pearson | Co-Founder | Campfire

“A great leader can empower others to thrive and grow by challenging their innovative and creative selves. Everyone is born with natural abilities and strengths. As leaders, our responsibility is to help them find those abilities as each individual walks their path of discovery and self-fulfillment.”

Mary Young | Co-Founder | Young Living Essential Oils

“The humanized brand experience is the biggest key differentiator, competitive advantage and distinguishing feature of a successful organization.”

Scott Porter | Founder | San Diablo Artisan Churros and Vitamin T


On purpose and passion

“To me, entrepreneurship was about making an impact.”

Anna Seear | Co-Founder | Ritual Chocolate

“By knowing what we want, believing it’s possible and being committed—usually for years, because the best things take time—even our deepest desires can become a reality.”

Crystalee Beck | Founder | Comma Copywriters

“The greatest rewards come from building something you truly believe in. When your work is driven by a deeper purpose, you are able to tap into your full potential and be more innovative, understanding and resilient. As you pursue your vision, you will also attract like-minded individuals who are equally committed to making a positive impact. Remember: the most meaningful endeavors are often the most challenging, but they are also the most fulfilling.”

Edgar Carreon | Co-Founder | Dree

“I want every person, no matter where they are starting, to climb as high as they can dream.”

Emily Wright | Co-Founder | dōTERRA

“I never thought of this as a business, but rather as my purpose.”

Jacki Zehner | Co-Founder | ShePlace and SheMoney

“The hard truth is that if you don’t sacrifice for your dream, your dream will become your sacrifice.”

Joon Beh | Founder | Hallo

“If your sole focus is on making money, it’s not a motivating reason to get out of bed. Discovering your purpose carries substantial power. It becomes invaluable during the tough times businesses inevitably face, whether you’re curled up on your living room floor, worried about meeting payroll, surviving a pandemic or losing a key employee you believed would never depart. It serves as your guiding star.”

Ryan Sanders | Co-Founder | BambooHR

“If I could pass anything along, I’d say, if God has given you an idea that won’t let you go, just go for it! The timing is never right. The stars are never fully aligned. You have to remember your why and then jump. Just jump! So many people are cheering you on, and you will feel so happy knowing you tried. Even failing helps us become more interesting people—there is no regret in trying.”

Satu Kujanpää | Founder | Preloved Thrift Store


On perseverance and tenacity

“My personal philosophy in sales was relentless perseverance. Even if a door was shut—figuratively or literally—I’d knock again. My pitch was simple yet persuasive: ‘Offer me just one opportunity. If I fall short, you’ll never hear from me again. But until you provide that one chance, expect to see my number on your caller ID.’ This directness seemed to resonate with the Utah hiring community. Being an outsider unfamiliar with local networks, I embraced consistency.”

Emily Rushton | Founder | Hire Integrated

“As an entrepreneur, you’re constantly learning something new. You have to be so resilient. You also have to be vulnerable because you are going to mess up every single day. I think being really vulnerable, being OK with it and learning to love that process is super important to entrepreneurship.”

Hayden Wadsworth | Co-Founder | HydroJug

“Striking a balance between what is familiar and how our particular service can do what others services also do—and then pushing the envelope and enhancing their vision to see the potential our service unlocks in their schools and individual students—is paramount.”

Iuri Melo | Co-Founder | SchoolPulse and CoPilot

“From aspiring to be the best ski jumper in the world, I learned a lot about perseverance. I also learned many lessons that directly apply to business. I learned the importance of trying to be the best at what you do and not settling for mediocrity. I learned that there’s always a better way.”

Jim Holland | Co-Founder | Backcountry

“Don’t quit. Never giving up is the reason why my businesses exist today. Business is complicated, and the journey is full of ups and downs.”

Lacy Gadegaard West | Founder | Laced Hair Extensions


On strategy

“1. Identify a compelling mission people will want to get behind. What are you solving? How will you change the world? How will you go about solving it?

2. Focus on revenue. A little bit of revenue will overcome a lot of other mistakes. Product-market fit is everything.

3. Surround yourself with people smarter than you. When you have a talented team that has bought into your mission, is pointed in the right direction and has been given ownership to make an impact, you will be successful.”

Brock Blake | Co-Founder | Lendio

“We have a laser-sharp vision and a disruptive execution plan. We knock it out of the park because we understand brand equity, how to create a culture around a vision, where to find the people, and how to get people to take action and support our cause.”

Derral Eves | Founder | VidSummit and the TV series “The Chosen”

“Franchising was instrumental in our global outreach. … The exhilarating phase came with a sense of responsibility—ensuring our brand’s success was vital.”

Jason McGowan | Co-Founder | Crumbl Cookies

“Making sure we are connecting with people who have influence, whether they have 500 or 5 million followers, is still part of our strategy today.”

McKenzie Bauer | Co-Founder | Thread Wallets


On authenticity and self-trust

“My advice to other entrepreneurs is to believe wholeheartedly in yourself, identify capable business partners who are aligned with your vision—because you can achieve more with other people than you can alone—and when you think you are working hard, work even harder. In the United States of America, a successful entrepreneur doesn’t have to be the smartest person, the most well-networked person or the person who has inherited wealth. Successful entrepreneurs are the ones who persist when hearing the word ‘no’ and drive forward to make their dream become a reality.”

Devon Gethers | Co-Founder | Meridian Ventures

“Ordinary people succeed at extraordinarily hard things. While never having felt ‘good enough,’ to my knowledge, I am the youngest person ever to receive the Thiel Fellowship, the youngest CEO to receive a multi-million dollar DoD contract and now one of the youngest C-level executives of a public company. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”

George Matus | Founder | Teal Drones

“As an entrepreneur, I have learned that all good relationships are give-and-take. You’re both giving, and you’re both taking, but it can’t be both taking.”

Lisa Barlow | Co-Founder | Vida Tequila and LUXE Marketing

“What we need to do is stop counting other people’s money and stop looking up to other people’s fame, because underneath, they’re just like you and me. Everything goes wrong for them at any given moment in every situation, but we don’t necessarily see it. There’s nothing special about these other companies; anyone can do it. You just have to have faith in yourself and your team and the perseverance to see it through.”

Mark Newman | Founder | Nomi Health

Attendees of Utah Business' Founder Friday Series listen to a presentation by Fernanda Böhme. | Photo by Marielle Scott, Deseret News
Attendees of Utah Business' Founder Friday Series listen to a presentation by Fernanda Böhme. | Photo by Marielle Scott, Deseret News

On learning and growing

“You can learn so much from those smarter than you. Find those who are strong in the areas you’re weak. Seek their help. Most are happy to give you advice for free and want to see you succeed. Most will help you out of the goodness of their heart. No one does it on their own.”

Amelia Wilcox | Founder | Nivati

“Moving forward means heightening our awareness. For me, that means getting up to read at 4 a.m. every morning. I’m constantly trying to expand the way I think about what I do personally and what we do as a company. It’s how I’ve been able to look back on and push the envelope so often. I’ve started multiple companies and projects because of one major reason: I’m constantly trying to learn and add new approaches to all I’ve gained in knowledge already.”

David J. Bearss | Co-Founder | Halia Therapeutics

“I learned really quickly that I couldn’t swallow that whole elephant. I didn’t even know the size of the elephant I had outlined. I had to break it down to a bite.”

Isaac Barlow | Founder | busybusy

“Scaling a company is a lot of hard work, and luck also plays a role. Without raising capital in late 2019, we would not have survived COVID-19 as a business. That capital enabled us to survive, test, iterate and grow.”

Jill Koziol | Co-Founder | Motherly

“1. The fastest way to level up is to make your boss’s or customers’ lives easier.

2. Anticipating the needs of others and showing up for them is a catapult for growth.

3. Every bit of experience in your past life is relevant, no matter how big or small, may it be personal or professional—your history is a tool for your future, and empathy is a superpower.

4. Those who stay consistent and reliable through the hard times will come to mind first when growth opportunities arrive.

5. Vulnerability is not a weakness.

6. You are going to make mistakes, but that doesn’t mean you are a failure.

7. Acknowledge when you mess up; own up to it and choose to grow from it (I’m still learning this one).

8. Rock bottom is the ultimate opportunity. Keep going. You got this!”

Madeline Hamilton | Co-Founder | Ivy City Co.

“It’s what I’d call an early mistake. We said yes to everything that came our way, and it wasn’t long before I realized we’d grown so large that the studio demanded almost more work than I could handle.”

Scott Wiley | Founder | June Audio Recording Studios

“… Take advantage of mentorship from those who are smart and have been in your shoes before. Our business thrives primarily because of the help we’ve received and the help we do our best to give back. That’s the beauty of community: being a part of something bigger.”

Tessa Arneson | Co-Founder | Maven District


On just starting

“If you have the inkling to start a business, don’t wait. The longer you do, the more you justify. It doesn’t mean you can’t do it later, but if you have a desire to do something on your own, do it.”

Alex Burdge | Co-Founder | Shyft

“Just as every entrepreneur will tell you, there is no crystal ball or road map to successfully starting and scaling a business. No matter how diligently you futureproof your business model, there will be unexpected twists and turns along the way. That has been true in every business I’ve started, and it’s been true in designing the state’s startup initiative. But I do know one thing: Utah is the place to be.”

Brad Bonham | Co-Founder | Walker Edison

“When you have an easy life, you don’t learn a lot. When life is super hard and discouraging, you can let it turn you into a badass if you want it to. If your mission is about serving others and doing more for people than you could ever do for yourself, you’re going to be successful. Don’t worry about the how. Just say, ‘I’m going to do it,’ and it magically unfolds.”

Linzie Clawson | Founder | Fed Up Kitchen

“Get off the couch! Trust your instincts and just keep going. That life-changing moment could be right around the corner, and the last thing you want to do is turn back just before you arrive.”

Shawn Nelson | Founder | Lovesac

Melanie is the editor-in-chief of Utah Business. She worked as a curator and speaking coach at TEDxSaltLakeCity for five seasons, collaborating with some of Utah’s brightest minds. She also spent over 25 years in the medical device manufacturing industry and has specialized in various areas including international account management, product training, digital marketing and project management. Melanie is a frequent emcee, panelist and podcast guest, and produced her own dental products podcast starting in 2006, before podcasting was cool.