We’re excited to share the latest installment in our series, A Seat at the Table, where you’ll get the opportunity to hear from dynamic women who work together at the same company. Their specific roles may be varied, but their message is the same: It’s time for more women to join them in shaping today’s business world.
Grab your coffee and take a seat as we introduce two entrepreneurial minds from Tucson, Arizona based Bottle Breacher, which makes handcrafted 50 caliber bottle openers (many of which are made by military veterans). The company – which was founded by Jen Crane and her husband, Eli, a former Navy SEAL turned entrepreneur – began in a one-car garage while Eli was still Active Duty. A little over a year after launching the business, Jen and Eli pitched their business on Shark Tank and picked up investments from Kevin O’Leary and Mark Cuban.
The company now employs more than 30 individuals, including Nicole Mackey, an entrepreneur in her own right who once owned her own stationary business and now serves as Bottle Breacher’s operations manager. Read on to find out how these two vibrant women behind Bottle Breacher create a culture of work flexibility while still running a growing business.
Meet The Team (left to right):
+Nicole Mackey, Operations Manager
+Jen Crane, Co-Founder
We’re really down to earth. We operate with a startup mentality, regardless of Shark Tank.
What is the culture like at Bottle Breacher?
Jen: We’re really down to earth. We operate with a startup mentality, regardless of Shark Tank. Eli and I think of ourselves as low-key people. We have our admin team in the front of our office, and in the back we have people engraving and packaging our products. We have a really raw environment, and I don’t think people who visit our office expect that. We’re based in Arizona, and we’re not corporate or fancy. We buy used equipment when we can, because we want to save money. It doesn't matter how much you make, it matters how much you spend in your overhead. So, we try to keep that overhead low.
Nicole: It's also a very family atmosphere with flexibility, which is how I like to live my life. We’ve created a culture of hard work, so if you’re able to get your work done, then we’re fine with you leaving early to be with your family. If that’s what’s going to make you happiest, then that’s what we want at the end of the day.
How do you set and manage internal working relationships with your employees?
Nicole: As a manager you’ve got to think about friendships at work. Do you want to have a deep interest in an employee’s personal life and know their kids and pray for them and so forth? That’s great, but it’s also important for me to communicate up front that although we are friends and I love them and would do anything for them, when we’re at work I’m your boss, and there are certain things we have to do. It’s a fine line. If you’re up front in this way, then when situations do arise where you have to have a conversation, then it’s not taken personally and doesn’t put a stress on the friendship. There’s a clear expectation that this is work and this is business.
What are qualities you look for in potential employees when expanding your team?
Jen: I look for a good work ethic, a naturally happy person and a willingness to learn. Those three things really make someone strong. Whether you’ve gone to school for something or not, it doesn’t concern me. (Unless you’re my lawyer or accountant!) Almost everything we do here can be trained, so if I can find those three qualities naturally in someone, then I’m going to be able to get them on board and learning quickly.
What is a leadership lesson you’ve learned from the ultimate entrepreneurial mentors, your investors, Mark Cuban and Kevin O’Leary?
Jen: From Kevin, I’ve learned how to figure out my priorities in life and work, and then to work around them. He positively balances family and business. He has two children and a wife, and then he has his persona and all of his businesses. He told me that the most important thing you can do is be there at night, read the kids a few books, eat dinner with them and be present. Because of this I’ve tried to balance my work around my kids. I leave early on Tuesdays and Thursdays to pick the kids up from school and spend time with them. If that means I have to work on Saturday, or at night, it’s worth it to me, because it also means I get to eat dinner with my kids every evening.
I’ve also learned from Kevin how to measure a business, especially a startup, by cash. How much are you making? Are you missing any money? What is your net? He asks these questions on “Shark Tank” not to be rude, but it’s a basic fact. I love that and it’s up front. If you’re a business and you’re not making any money, time and time again, that just tells you it won’t work. Mark Cuban always says, “Follow the green, not the dream.” He’s not saying, “Give up your dream.” He’s saying that if after so long it’s not working out, then maybe you need to make a change and rethink your business.
Mark taught me how to delegate. For the longest time I was doing way too much on my own. I’ve learned over the past year how to not put everything on my plate, because when I did, I think I was on the verge of having a panic attack. I've tried to give up some things, train people and be a teacher and not a hoarder.
Both Kevin and Mark have taught me to focus on the goal. When I go into the office, the way I prioritize is by focusing first on the things that will make us the most profit. I work to cross those off my to-do list first. It helps, because at the end of the day, that’s my job. Eli makes the product, and I sell the product.
What career advice would you share with fellow women, or anyone for that matter?
Nicole: This piece of advice is for moms, especially. I would tell them, “Don’t be afraid to have a career while you’re a mom. There are going to be days where you know that everything is going to go wrong, and it’s not going to go smoothly. You’re going to have disappointed yourself, your children and your spouse. But, in the larger picture, you’re investing in a career. Know that with that comes good and bad. Don’t have mom guilt. Remember, no mom guilt!”
Jen: Nicole and I work great together because we're both moms, and we help each other out with the mom guilt. One day she forgot to pick up her kids, and then I forgot to pick up my kids right after her. I was like, “How did we both do that on the same day?!”
But, I was raised with a divorced family, and my mom worked full time while she was getting her master’s degree. I have never looked back and said, “Wow, Mom, you were never there.” I know my mom was there as much as she could be, and she taught me to go for it, to do what you want. Life is limitless!
You don’t have to be the Pinterest-perfect mom or woman. For example, if you had to go to Walgreens to buy Valentine's Day gifts instead of making a handmade gift, then that is okay. And just because you’re a working woman and you do that, it doesn’t make you any less of a mom or any less of a woman.
Another piece of advice is simple: be genuine. Be who you are. You don't need to put on a show, no matter what position you hold within the company. Just be genuine, show who you truly are, have passion for what you do and let that show. It reminds me of the new Annie movie I watched with my daughter. One of the songs in the movie is, “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without A Smile.”
In the morning before you leave your house, make sure you have a smile on your face, because anywhere you walk into – whether it's the grocery store, to work or a meeting – if you have a smile on your face, you bring instant joy and light up a room. You make everyone's day, whether you know it or not. If you're having the worst day but you still put a smile on your face, then you can conquer any mountain.
What's next for Bottle Breacher?
Jen: It's hard for me to answer. I'm such a day-to-day person, whereas Eli is the visionary. He would be able to rattle off a list, and I'm like, I don't even know what's for dinner tonight! Eli is constantly coming up with new products, patents and ideas. He's so creative, and so I feel like as long as I have him on my side, we're going to be just fine. He wants to do licensing, retail, trademarks and maybe even wholesale. So, I would say constant growth is a fair answer. That's the hope. But in the midst of it, we want to be able to give back.
Connect: Follow Bottle Breacher on Facebook, Twitter or order the ultimate Father’s Day gift on their website.
I’d love to grab coffee with: My sister
You’ll find these three things in my purse: Kid toys, hand sanitizer, makeup
My go-to outfit is: Leggings – and anything that matches with leggings!
My favorite place to eat is: Anywhere that has steak
I can’t live without: My family, my kids and my husband, Eli
My favorite way to unwind is: By getting a massage
I feel my best when: I have my hair done
I’d love to grab coffee with: I actually don’t drink coffee!
You’ll find these three things in my purse: Children’s underwear, glasses, my phone
My go-to outfit is: Jeans, my Birkenstock sandals and a nice t-shirt
My favorite place to eat is: Anywhere that has good, fried pickles
I can’t live without: My family
My favorite way to unwind is: By reading a book or taking a bubble bath
I feel my best when: I’m surrounded by my kids and my husband