Women’s History Month Q&A
with Lisa Marsh
Lisa Marsh, CEO of Ms. P’s Gluten Free and Inspire11’s M2M recipient, shares the story of how she started her business, ways we can create more opportunities for female entrepreneurs, and insights on how to stay motivated and inspired during Women’s History month and beyond.
Can you share the story of how you started your business?
Absolutely. I started Ms. P’s Gluten Free in 2009, and I started baking because I had been told that I needed to be gluten-free. And when I started looking for good gluten-free products, there were very few on the shelf. What was on the shelf tasted like sawdust and since my mom, the original Ms. P. cooked for us on the South Side of Chicago, I was used to having food that had taste. So, I started baking. I would take it to work, and I worked at the federal prison at the time, and people were in awe. They were like, “this is gluten-free? We don’t know what gluten-free is, but this is good. So, it should be in stores.” I was like, oh, okay, well let’s make that happen. So, I took an accelerator class from Sunshine Enterprises on 61st and Eberhart. My first one and I finished that in 2014. Certified the business in December 2015 and was on the shelf at our first Whole Foods by September 2016. And that started the whole thing. The whole thing.
What challenges have you faced as a female entrepreneur and how have you overcome them?
Oh, so many challenges. One, understanding what you’re doing. Two, getting over that imposter syndrome that a lot of us females seem to go through all the time, and really learning the craft to keep moving forward. For me, it truly has been a labor of love. I think if I had gotten into the business for any other reason than changing our family dynamics, I would’ve quit because it is challenging to learn the craft, understand retail, understand margins, and continue to scale the business. It’s just a lot. And then being a female founder, sometimes it’s just like some of the guys who’ve been in it for a very long time don’t take you seriously. And even my husband is like, show me the money. I’m like, the money’s coming. It’s coming. So, you have to really be in it for the long haul.
What advice would you give to other women who are interested in starting their own business?
Go for it, ladies! If you really have a dream, and it is a burning desire to have a business, go for it. Because when I started this, I had limited knowledge about retail and products. During my first accelerator class, I raised my hand and asked, “when should we get insurance?” and they were like, “Before you sell anything.” Oh, let me go take care of that. But you learn along the way and as long as you have that learning desire and you discover your why, anything is possible. So go for it! Happy Women’s History Month!
What role do you think women play in shaping the future of entrepreneurship and how can we create more opportunity?
For them in this field, the future is female. I will tell you that we ladies are growing and starting businesses so rapidly nowadays and we have so many resources that are available to us. And then, you know, you get your certifications like your WeBank certification, Women Business Enterprise (WBE), National Commission of Entrepreneurship, and then they have Women-Owned Small Businesses (WOSB), just the available resources. It’s like a sisterhood. And you get to know so many other female entrepreneurs who are on that same path and you help each other. And that’s what it’s all about. What I might know, somebody else may not, and I’m always willing to share. It has to be like that cause we’ve got to help each other. I’d say absolutely the future is female. Love that. Not to mention my nine-year-old granddaughter, she going to run Ms. P’s.
Learn more about Lisa’s story.
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