Anchor Capital Q&A With Donna Letier

How did you get your start?

It all started with a simple idea: make gardening accessible to everyone regardless of location or occupation. I merged my passions for food, wellness, and gardening with my co-founder, Julie Eggers. Together, we have grown the brand into a pillar of strength in the health and wellness space. Gardenuity brings the proven wellness benefits of gardening to both companies and consumers across the country. Before starting Gardenuity, I grew up in Alaska, Singapore, London, and finally landed in Dallas to attend SMU. With a degree in business, and an early job at Neiman Marcus, I quickly learned the importance of mastering the customer experience and bringing data together with product and trends.

What was the catalyst for starting Gardenuity?

The initial idea for Gardenuity was “Garden Inspired Living”. The goal was to bring gardening into the wellness category, and make it accessible to the masses. We wanted to create a lifestyle brand that ventured into categories such as food and skincare. We bring the benefits of gardening together with well-being in an easy-to-understand, purposeful, and approachable way. Health and wellness have been passions of mine for a long time. I love cooking, being outside gardening, and finding mindful moments that encourage your own practice of gratitude. Gardening is a way to learn balance and understand how certain actions impact your mood.

With the current shift in markets, how are you approaching raising capital? What makes a good investor in your opinion?

With optimism, a sense of humor, resilience, tenacity, and partners who can help me traverse the fundraising landscape. Raising capital can be challenging, but if you find your ‘why’ and surround yourself with smart people and data it is possible. Persistence is key in raising capital. I am lucky, I get to witness persistence and tenacity every day through my daughter Jillian. She was born with severe special needs and doctors told us not to expect her to live past five. Seeing persistence daily is a constant reminder that “you can do this”. When raising capital you have to know what you want. All money is green, but all money is not the same. Know the kind of investors you want. You need to think of investors as partners because they will stick by you no matter what. Most importantly, I have learned that “no” does not necessarily mean no forever, it might just be no for today.

I am fortunate, my lead investors are all willing to roll up their sleeves, open doors, and get in the trenches with me and the Gardenuity team. Good investors understand the value of your time. Starting a business is a 24/7 commitment and your time is money. Another key aspect in a strong investor is having compatible work styles. Having a deep connection with the person you are partnering with allows for open communication and the ability to see each other’s perspective.

Why do you think the shift in companies to embrace the mental health of their employees has become more relevant in the last 2 years?

The connection between employee wellness, productivity, and the bottom line is real. Employee wellness is not a new concept, with 80% of large companies in the U.S. offering programs. Leaders globally are highlighting the connection between employee wellness and business performance. Companies that invest in programs that actively care for their employee well-being have reported 65% less staff turnover. 93% of employees say they are more likely to stay with an empathetic employer. Engaged employees perform as much as 3.5 times better.

A recent report by Capita found that over 20% of employees have taken time off work due to stress or mental illness. Yet only 37% of those employees felt comfortable telling their boss they were taking time off to address mental health issues. Companies today are working to make the mental health conversation comfortable and without judgment.

Prioritizing your employees creates a culture of trust for long-term resilience. Gardenuity is bringing a fresh solution to employee well-being and is fortunate to be working with some of the most extraordinary leaders in companies like Cigna, Salesforce, United Healthcare, Roots Food Group, Pfizer, Microsoft, and US Bank. The results are measurable and it reminds the employees that their employer cares about them physically and mentally.

Gardening is one of humanity’s great unifiers. No matter where we are in our lives, or where we are working, we all share a common need to nurture and be nurtured. But, in our fast-paced work environments are losing opportunities to nurture each other, ourselves, and our communities. Gardenuity is offering a unique way to bring these opportunities to the world

Do you have any advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?

Get started, don’t wait for everything to be perfect. Be daring, humble, flexible, and never stop learning. Very rarely does everything go exactly to plan. Being a founder doesn’t mean you need to be a master of everything. Surround yourself with experts in areas that are not your specialty. Most importantly keep the faith, don’t let naysayers get the best of you. I always recommend two books to entrepreneurs starting out- “The Lean Startup,” by Eric Ries, and “The Little Engine that Could” by Watty Piper. I also tell entrepreneurs to watch the movie General Magic. It is a story of how a great vision and epic failure changed the lives of billions of people. It is a documentary about a company that was decades ahead of its time and holds key lessons for every entrepreneur. It was recommended to me by Michael Mann and now I recommend it to every entrepreneur I visit with.