Maya and Margaret – Stories of life, family and entrepreneurism

My title is indeed inspired by the movie Julie and Julia – such is my own relationship with Margaret Rudkin!

This past weekend, I stumbled upon the story of Margaret Rudkin – the lady who founded Pepperidge Farm. It was the right story that came along at a perfect time – one I needed to hear and one that I could relate to at multiple levels.

Thus was born, in my head, the story of “Maya and Margaret” – my effort to tie my own story of how my startup and my life today came about in with Margaret’s story of how she founded Pepperidge Farm from a little loaf of bread ….


It is better unplanned …

It is 2 years and 2 months since I formally quit my job at a big company and moved to Seattle. I had imagined nothing of what my life would be. A couple of months off with the kids in the summer and back into corporate life was my plan. What can I say? Plans change. A 3 month old and a 20 month old with a broken arm and an extreme case of stranger anxiety caused me to slow down a bit. As much as I dreaded being a mom 24*7 with no job that I can completely rely on to get that much needed break and distraction everyday, I decided to do it anyway. While I worked to help my daughter with her hand and get over her insanely acute stranger anxiety, my own need for a breather slowly sucked me into this online world.

Much like Margaret Rudkin, who started to bake bread because of her child’s allergy, I started this blog and  started writing the children’s stories I had always wanted to write … almost as a necessity. (well – not much else I could do between the kids’ naps ?) Margaret had no idea what she was getting into as she started baking bread for her allergic son, but soon enough, I think, she knew to accept the fact that she was on to something. Much like Margaret, a keen sense of deliberate entrepreneurship came about in me as I explored the space of children’s books – completely unexpected but not a surprise. A children’s book grew into a business startup idea and grew on to become my startup Memetales.


I wish I could have a little conversation with Margaret Rudkin over tea and some warm baked bread (oooh – I am having memories of the movie Julie and Julia). I am almost sure she would tell me she completely knew what she was up to and yet had no idea. To me, her every move seems like a deliberate experiment (an almost oxymoron) – the results of which surprised her as much as they reassured her – like the little bits of my life have been over the past year …..

The past year and a half have been the best in my life …learning and discovering more about the outside world every day. The best discoveries I have made have been about myself though. Learning that I could take a little spark of an idea, knead it in with a lot of hard work and determination and make it into something tangible – while I inspire myself and others along …. I could not have planned it better!

A need to succeed matters way more than the economy ….

Today I work harder than I ever have … while balancing little kids, a home and a million other responsibilities in an economy that does not seem to want to recover. In a lot of ways though, this has been the easiest hard work I have done in years. A fire and passion burn deep inside …

As I prepare my pitch deck and story for potential investors, I think of Margaret Rudkin. Surely, convincing the bakery to buy her bread at 25 cents (15 cents more than the average!) in 1937  could have been no less daunting than pitching to an investor, right?

No, I have no Pepperidge Farm to my name, but I have a story and proof to show that the best time to do anything is the time that YOU think is the best.  But I do have an desperate need to succeed. And a real sense of what I am worth. I am learning to gather my loaves of bread and walk out the door every day …..

It has been a joyous ride – not easy, yet incredibly satisfying.  The bad economy has been a positive driver and the penny pinching a creative force in disguise.

Did you say gender?

In the past few months, I have heard way to much talk about women, lack of women in techology, the few startups by women that are getting any investments, the lack of women investors and so on. Clay Shirky wrote about women not promoting themselves enough. And most recently, Allyson Kapin wrote about it as well, after she felt that a number of facts were left out from this storyCathy Brooks talked about it in her show too.

All this makes me wonder. What is it with women in the field? What is it with all these numbers? Really, is there discrimination here? Can we do better? What can we do?

I say we do nothing different. We keep on keeping ….

To me, as an entrepreneur, Margaret’s story is once again the answer. The gender issue swam in the back of my head as I read Margaret’s story –

The “fairy tale,” as Margaret liked to call Pepperidge Farm, became the passion of her life. Over the 26 years since she started Pepperidge Farm in her kitchen, the average annual growth rate for the Company was 53 percent! She had turned a single loaf of bread into a huge, multi-category enterprise. She was a bestselling author and renowned industry leader. She frequently lectured at Harvard and other business schools in the U.S. and Europe.

To my absolute surprise, as I read Margaret’s story, I even forgot she was a woman. And that was the best inspiration a woman can offer another woman…. Stories of women inspire me more when they do not make a fuss about the gender….Stories inspire me when women succeed because of who they are as individuals…

What do I have to offer then? The best I can do to inspire is to continue to keep a laser focus on what I am doing. If I continue to  pen my own story, my experiences and learning, perhaps I will inspire some men and women?

It is all hard work. Raising capital is hard. Executing on a plan is hard. But then what isn’t? What on earth does not require hard work and a crazy amount of determination? Gender should not be another thing we have to worry about. The best of people would have done it anyway – regardless of whether they were man or woman.

No way is my story one of resounding success but I am a part of a much bigger story. Stories that need to be told. A story of how I planned something small and the bigger emerged …I planned a book and a business idea emerged … I planned on sharing my passion and storyteller and a speaker emerged. . Mine is a story that aspires to grow up and be the story of Margaret Rudkin…

It takes guts to go out there and do anything – man or woman. It takes guts to dream big and take risks. The first step is to go get your hands dirty. Go knead your bread. Perfect it and come back to tell YOUR story. I will be right here, writing my own story  and waiting to read yours ….

“There isn’t a worthwhile thing in the world that can’t be accomplished with good hard work. You’ve got to want something first and then go after it with all your heart and soul” – Margaret Rudkin

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This post is sponsored by Blog Nosh Magazine as part of the Blog Nosh Magazine and Pepperidge Farm Celebrate the Heart and Art of Motherhood carnival.