Founding, running, and growing your own business is not for everyone. The challenges of building a company out of nothing are all-consuming.
"The first nine years, where I was scraping for every dollar, was nothing short of grueling," Hirshberg says. "We burned through tons of capital and I wound up with 297 investors. The cash burned due to lots of errors was huge. I can't tell you I smiled my way through. It was very stressful."
Stonyfield gained traction during those years by painstakingly educating consumers on what organic food is and why they should pay more money for it, and fighting for a few inches of shelf space in grocery stores. Eventually the company started making a profit, but things didn't get much easier.
"Even after we got past it to break even, you think the Holy Grail is to get into the black. But the challenges of growth are every bit as difficult as grinding, as the challenges of not yet [being] at break even. You're taxing the capacity of your company, your employees, your capital, and frankly your body," Hirshberg tells Inc. "If you think that it stops then this is not the direction for you. You signed up for the wrong career."
To hear more about Hirshberg's trials, tribulations, and eventual success in creating a market for organic food, watch the video below.
WILL YAKOWICZ | Staff Writer | Reporter, Inc.com
Will Yakowicz is a staff writer for Inc. magazine. He has covered business, crime, and local politics for The Brooklyn Paper and was the editor of Park Slope Patch. He has also reported on the West Bank and Moscow for Tablet Magazine. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.