(Original post from Career Contessa ):
Welcome to our special interview series, Women Who Lead. In partnership with White House Black Market, we’re celebrating five women teaching us to think differently, speak louder, and live better. No career is the same, and that’s just how we like it. These women are leading by example and living by their own rules.
Cynthia Samanian has led a few lives. When we interviewed her back in 2014, she’d already left a successful career as a financial analyst at GE, gone to business school, and then made a major career shift to work as a product manager at a growing startup, Path. So it didn’t surprise us when we heard that she’d decided to start fresh again, this time as an entrepreneur. That she’d focused her company on her passions —food and shared dining experiences—was just (to use a food cliché) icing on the cake. Confetti Kitchen aims to spark meaningful connections through cooking and eating well. It’s about people building relationships over shared tables—an act that’s far too uncommon in this era of texting and social media. Here’s Cynthia on how she got where she is and what’s she’s planning next:
“I like to say that Confetti Kitchen has been years in the making. Throughout my childhood, I loved starting businesses. Whether it was selling homemade potpourri sachets or beaded jewelry, I loved creating something valuable.
During my time at GE and Path, I always dabbled in food writing and photography. I spent weekends watching online tutorials on DSLR photography and food styling. While it was ‘just for fun,’ I knew that my personality was suited for work that was both professionally and personally fulfilling. I wanted to work in something I was passionate about, so it was only a matter of when I would make that leap.
Once Path was acquired, it was a natural time to think deeply about my career. I was 31 and single and knew that life wouldn’t get any ‘easier’ over time as responsibilities increased. Frankly, I had no desire to work at another company, and I couldn’t stop dreaming about Confetti Kitchen.
Specifically, I had a vision of creating a culinary brand that reflected why I liked to cook: to host my friends for dinner. I recognized that cooking was becoming more social, yet most of the food media out there was still focused on easy weeknight meals for families. [Before launch] I had spent the last six months working on a business plan, strategy, and even initial design for the site. I didn’t have it all figured out (and still don’t), but I knew that I would learn along the way. My perspective of risk was really different at that point because I knew that I had a solid education and career experience to fall back on should I need to re-enter the traditional workforce.
On What Launching A Business Is Really Like
I had spent so many years ‘getting ready’ for the moment I wanted to go out on my own, that by the time the opportunity presented itself, it was a no-brainer. Sure, there were risks to think about—financially, personally, etc. But, I was always afraid of not doing what I wanted, versus doing it and failing. I think this perspective comes from watching my parents work so hard in America as immigrants. If they can do it, then I have zero excuses. My worst-case scenario is still pretty darn good, and once I framed it in that way, I realized that this wasn’t a risk losing sleep over.
The hardest thing when I started is still the hardest thing today: focus. I firmly believe in the phrase,’If you’re everything to everyone, you’ll be nothing to no one.’ Easier said than done, but it’s always top of mind for me. Food is such crowded space, so you really need to go all-in on your unique point of view to make a splash. Over time, Confetti Kitchen’s vision has become refined and focused, but it still doesn’t feel 100% done. I don’t know if it’ll ever feel totally perfect—I think that’s impossible in an industry and age when things move so quickly.
The easiest part of launching Confetti Kitchen was the work. The actual day-to-day grind is something I truly love. The meetings, the brainstorming, the creative process—I love every bit of it because it’s always changing. From day one, I promised myself that if I didn’t enjoy most of the daily grind, then I needed to stop. I didn’t want to be a miserable person 90% of the time so that one day I might be happy. I want to live a relatively healthy and happy life while building a company that fulfills me.
On Sacrificing for the Startup Life
The financial side of entrepreneurship hasn’t been easy. I’ve had to say no to travel—something I used to do often and really enjoy. But because I love what I’m building, I haven’t viewed it as a serious sacrifice. I believe there’s a time and place for everything, and I’m in a different chapter of my life right now. I got to travel the world before, and I know I’ll do it again. I just have to hit pause right now.
On the Importance of Mentors
In every job, I’ve been able to connect with strong leaders who invested in my development. They weren’t necessarily formal mentor-mentee relationships, but nonetheless, they took me under their wing. Some of my best and most memorable mentors were tough on me even when I was technically doing a good job. They wanted me to be better and pushed me to be my very best self.
Since starting Confetti Kitchen, I’ve found that many of my peers have served as great mentors, especially other female entrepreneurs. Launching a business is tough and lonely, so having experienced founders on speed dial is priceless.”