We had the good fortune of connecting with Leeanna Gantt and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Leeanna, what role has risk played in your life or career?

This is really a great question! I don’t really consider myself a risk-taker at all, but I have been called one several times. I don’t take physical risks. No jumping out of airplanes or doing dangerous sports, but I guess some of the choices I have made in life could be considered by some as risky.
When my daughter was younger I opened up a community art studio called Tinker. It was a place for families to come to so that they could be creative and make a mess and not have it in their own homes.
When I started that business, people would say, “You’re so daring.”, because I wasn’t returning to my career as a creative director in advertising. But it didn’t feel daring at all. It seemed like a good idea and something that made sense to do after looking at the numbers. More than anything, it seemed like something that I would really enjoy. I knew I would like it and I figured that other people would like it too. It seemed like more of a risk to me to try to go back to a job that I knew I didn’t want to go back to. It went pretty well and when we did decide to close Tinker, 3 years later, I felt proud of what I had created.
When my daughter was in elementary school, we decided to change schools between kindergarten and first grade and then again between 3rd and 4th grade and one more time halfway through 10th grade. At that time people didn’t say we were making a risky choice, they were a bit more vocal and said it was a bad choice. Every. Single. Time.
But we believed that we and our daughter knew what she needed to be the person she wanted to be and do what was important to her. We did our research and made educated choices that worked for our family.
Partway through the 10th grade we had decided that we wanted to make a change, but I started to let other people’s thoughts rattle me, it suddenly felt like a risky decision. So, I called a college admissions counselor at a very rigorous university and told him what we were thinking of doing. He asked me what I was looking for from him. I said, “To know I’m not leaving one school and switching to one that will hurt her chances of doing what she wants to do in the future”. His response was brilliant — he said, “ You don’t know that keeping her where she is won’t hurt her chances. No one can know for sure. They are both good choices, just different”. Then, I didn’t feel it was a risk.
Now I have started tooktake. Some people continue to think it is risky to start a new business. But I didn’t, and still don’t. I had an idea for a product when I was in treatment for breast cancer and when I was done with treatment I needed to do something for work. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do at the time, but I really thought that tooktake was a good idea. So I did some research, then got a patent, and then went into business. I’m still really happy with my decision. Which isn’t to say it’s all gone smoothly, but there is much more good than bad.
Everything has some risk to it. For me, I see more risk in not doing something that I feel will help others and help my family at the same time. It’s all in how you choose to look at it. Would you rather have the regret of not even trying something that you think is a good idea or the experience of having tried it, learned something, and maybe not having it go as expected? On that note, I’ve also learned that NOTHING will go as expected! But if you aren’t rigid with your expectations, things will still generally go in the right direction, just not exactly like you pictured. Or at least that’s been my experience.
So back to the original question. I think that risk is really just a label that other people place on certain things that they wouldn’t do. Which might mean that it would be a risk for them, because of their circumstances or current responsibilities, but it doesn’t mean it is a risk or wrong for you.

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?

Right now I am an entrepreneur, which has taken me a while to get used to saying. For a while, I just said I didn’t have a job because I felt like something that I put this much time into and was essentially losing money wasn’t something to brag about. But I did get over that. I really love my product, tooktake, and the longer it has been on the market and more people try it and really, really like it, the more I know that this is what I am meant to be doing right now.
I invented tooktake when I was in treatment for breast cancer. It started out as a way to help take some stress out of things for me and my family because I kept trying to keep track of when I took or used the many medications that I had to manage the side effects from chemo, but I did a terrible job! I had NO memory at all, so a few even a few minutes after I took or used something I couldn’t remember! This made things very difficult when the doctors asked if I had taken or used something. Since I was in treatment for a year, this system got pretty refined. We had tested it on all different forms of medication, on vitamins and supplements, liquids and lotions, and even on our dog’s ear meds.
So, when I was done with treatment and wondering what to do now, it seemed like the answer was staring me right in the face. I was still using my tooktake labels for the one medication that I needed to take and I couldn’t find anything that was as easy to use as what I had come up with!
I have to admit that I really had no idea at all what I was getting into with starting a product-based business. In my head it was super simple. Get the patent. Make the product. Send the product to stores. People buy the product.
I didn’t know:
-How long it takes to get a patent or how expensive it is
-How difficult a simple label can be to make and how many manufacturers would say no
-That even getting to speak to a buyer is really, really difficult
-That most large stores only add products once a year!
-That even when someone is super nice and says all the right things they might be in it just for the money
The list of things I didn’t know goes on and on, and there are probably even more things that I still don’t know and am going to learn.
Just so this whole answer doesn’t seem like I have no idea what I am doing, I will share some simple mistakes I’ve made so that maybe someone else will avoid them,
Don’t order huge quantities of anything at the beginning. It’s so easy to get excited and start ordering all kinds of custom things like cards and envelopes and packaging materials when you are starting. So many of the things cost only a little bit more to get two to three times what you need right now, so it seems like a deal. But things change quickly when you are learning and if you have thousands of items with the wrong info or you need to change the package size, you end up having a bunch of very nice and expensive trash.
Always get more than one estimate for anything that you need to have made or any service you need performed. Not just to get the best price, but I have found that sometimes the questions that one company asks will bring to your attention something another one may not have included in their estimate! For example, is shipping included? Is there an onboarding fee, for printing? Is there a plate fee?
Lastly, ask questions. If you don’t know the answer to something or how to do it or even what to ask. Reach out to someone who has done this before. I have found that most founders of small businesses are very excited to be helpful and keep someone from making the same mistake they made. I know I am!
The biggest obstacle for me with tooktake was that at the beginning when I would talk about tooktake I tried to talk around the founding story. I didn’t want to tell people that I had breast cancer and that I was recently out of treatment. I had decided that it was manipulative and asking for sympathy. I was concerned that people would just say nice things because I told them a sad story. But after a little while, I realized that I could tell the story any way I wanted to. I didn’t have to do more than tell the facts and be excited about what I had created and why. My founder’s story is the story that I have and not telling it wasn’t helping anyone and honestly, made it sound like I just felt like making something and didn’t know why. Once I became comfortable with my story, everything became much more clear and decisions were easier to make for tooktake as a company. It gave me something to focus on and a consistent voice with which to express it.

Even with all the little stumbles along the way, I would definitely make this journey again. In the two years I have been running tooktake I have been able to watch it grow from a little website with a few visits (and no purchases) a day to a product that is sold on multiple e-commerce sites, pharmacies around the country, and soon, in Walmart, CVS, and other major retailers.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?

Lucky for me my best friend does live here in LA! But we do like to still take adventures around the city. Here are some of my favorite things to do if people come to visit. The first thing is breakfast at Back on the Beach in Santa Monica. It’s such a classic LA thing to do and you can sit there for a while, they never rush you, eat good food and enjoy the beach.
Another thing that’s fun to do on that side of town is to pick up sandwiches at Bay Cities Deli and then spend the rest of the day at the beach. We usually go to Will Rodgers, but you can go anywhere along the coast and it’s a great way to spend the day.
Then I like to show people something that’s not too far out of the city but completely different, so it’s great to take a day trip up to Ojai. Bart’s Books is a great used book store up there and it’s all outside! And I haven’t had a bad meal yet at any of the restaurants up in Ojai, so I say just eat whatever sounds good to you when you are there and it will probably be great.
There are so many great museums in LA I always try to include at least one when people come to visit. There are all the big ones like LACMA and both Getty locations but lately, the Skirball Center has had some really great exhibits so that’s one that I usually check out. The Skirball is also a good size so you can usually see the exhibit, grab a bite to eat, and still have part of your day to do something else. But where I choose to take someone also varies depending on who is in town and what kind of things they really like. Being in LA means we have a museum for just about every taste.
I find that when people from out of town come to visit one of the things they are most amazed by is the variety of different kinds of food we have here. One place to really get to see and taste some of that is Grand Central Market downtown. When you are done eating there, it’s just a short trip over to the Arts District or the Last Book Store for some fun shopping and photo opps.
Depending on what’s going on with COVID restrictions, it’s always fun to go see a live show at the Hollywood Bowl, The Greek theater or the Pantages. I’m sure there are tons of other things that I do with people that I am forgetting, but those are some of my favorite things.

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?

There are so many people who have been helping me with this new business journey. I read an amazing book by Jaime Schmidt called Super Maker, I recommend that to anyone who asks me for a book to read about starting a new CPG business.
There are literally a dozen people who I have never met in real life, but who I talk with through social media that have been so helpful. Especially when things get overwhelming, they are there to say, “Keep going, you can do this!” I try to be there for them too. I mention this because overall, I don’t really like social media, but it has been a real surprise for me to learn so much from people on social platforms.
I also have an amazing business mentor who I started working with during an accelerator program I did when I was first starting. I’m not going to mention her name here, because when I do, people try to reach out to her. I know she’s already super busy and I am greedy and want her to myself! Haha!

Website: www.tooktake.com

Instagram: @tooktake

Facebook: @hellotooktake

Youtube: tooktake

Image Credits
All images owned by Leeanna Gantt and/or tooktake

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