Today i had a privilege of chatting with a very inspiring person- Ali Hynek! Besides the fact that she founded a very successful business Nena&Co, she is a mom of beautiful triplets 😳 Penelope, Ethan & Alejandara. We talked about business, family and everything in between so I hope it will encourage and inspire You!
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
My name is Ali Hynek which is short for Consuelo Alejandra Hynek haha. When I was little, my mom was so worried that other kids couldn’t say my name that she shortened it to Ali. I’m married to Jeremy Hynek, and we just had our four year anniversary this past August! We live in Highland, Utah.
Anything specific from childhood or teenage years what shaped who you are today?
Two things that stand out right away is 1) I grew up in a big family. I have two younger brothers and two older sisters, but my parents took care our two of my cousins who lived with us through their high school years and my Abuelita or my mom’s mom also lived with us. 2) my parents are entrepreneurs! They have been my whole life, and that has given me a lot of confidence to become an entrepreneur myself. Growing up they had piniata factories in Mexico so we would spend our summers working with our Dad in Tijuana. Those were some long days but some of my best memories as a kid. It taught me so much to see my parents love the people who worked for them which was over 600 pinateros (pinata makers).
What is your family looks like today? How many kids you have? What ages?
We went from zero to sixty with our little family! My husband Jeremy and I have been married four years and starting trying for a family right away. To our surprise, it wasn’t as easy as we thought it would be. Long story short, after three years of infertility treatments we won the lottery with our triplets who are now six months old! Penelope, Ethan and Alejandra who we like to refer to as Sweet PEA. The two girls are identical, and Ethan is his own little man.
Let’s talk business! Did you have any business experience before nena&co?
I had been in the workforce for about eight years before I decided to start Nena & Co. but what really gave me the confidence to start a company was that I have seen my parents own their own businesses my whole life. I think I only remember them working for someone else 1 or 2 years but that’s it. I started “working” for my parents when I was a kid and worked for their different business throughout college. You learn a lot by watching!
How did you decide to start it and did you know it’s going to get as big as it is today?
Starting my company wasn’t so much that I wanted to start a business, it was motivated by the desire I had always had to work with the people in Guatemala. I interview for a job once, and they asked me what my dream job would be. I told them, I’d like to import furniture from Guatemala and be an interior decorator! That was my original idea since they have so many beautiful antiques there. PS I still got the job that had nothing to do with my answer haha! When I started Nena & Co. I remember commenting to my husband that if I could sell one bag a week that would be close to $1000 a month and wouldn’t that be amazing!?!?! We sell a lot more than that now so, no, I never thought it would get this big. 🙂
The quality, style, and colors of the products are great, but what, in your opinion, is the key to the company’s success? (cause aspect, strong social tribe, etc.)
I think the key to our success is staying true to the vision of what I wanted to Nena & Co. to be. 1) I want the product to be a true reflection of Guatemalan culture 2) I want the bag to be so beautiful that it grabs your attention without knowing the company of product background 3) I want always to be a fair and honest manufacturer to those that work for me and with me in Guatemala and here in the USA. If you stay true to who you are, have a good story, tell your story with transparency and tell it well, then you may have something that people are interested in.
What’s the size of the company right now? What role do you play and how do you balance work and family?
We are still a small company! We have 11 employees in our office in Utah and 16 in our warehouse in Guatemala, and we contract up to 100 weavers at a time depending on the projects we are working on. Life has changed a ton since our babies came into the picture and found a job and home balance is hard, but you just learn to figure it out. I and the Creative Director who manages product design and development, I manage our direct to customer sales, and I handle the company branding and collaborations. I have an excellent support team that helps me with all of that!
I love looking for teachable moments I can use throughout the day to teach my kids something about life. What can your children learn from watching you building not simply a business but a company that has a very human oriented focus?
If I’m still doing this when my kids are old enough to remember, I hope they learn what I learned from my parents; everyone matters in this world. We are not better than anyone else but may have been lucky enough be in a position to employ and help others and with that come great responsibility.
What’s one thing you wish you knew when you were just starting?
Making mistakes isn’t the end of the world. Worrying about things that are our of your control is a waste of your time and health! I used to do that a lot. Now I make it a practice to think of the worst case scenario and always end the thought with, well that’s not that bad 🙂
I’m sure somebody is reading this interview who want’s to start a company but is scared. Can you say few encouraging words or give some advice to them?
Putting your ideas out into the world can be scary. Sometimes we think it has to be perfect before we get started but the truth is you and your company will be ever evolving and getting better. If you wait until things are perfect, you’ll never get started. Make mistakes, learn from them and move on!