Annalea Krebs is the Founder and CEO of Social Nature, an influencer marketing company that inspires people to #trynatural products. She possesses all the characteristics and qualities somebody needs to succeed: a humble nature, self-motivation, and a team of mentors who want to see Annalea soar. Here’s more:
Do you know where you got your drive from?
I would have to say I got my drive from my parents and my upbringing. I’m first generation Canadian, my parents immigrated from Germany and Holland. I knew growing up that I didn’t have a soft landing pad here in terms of an established social network that my family could turn too. Our family culture was very much, you’re responsible for your own destiny. That’s what I think lead me pretty early on to have a self starter approach to life, and challenge myself to carve out my own path.
My dad inspired me to find something I was passionate about and make that my life’s work. He has a craftsman piano business, BC Pianocraft Ltd, where he tunes and restores pianos. He showed me the value of doing something that you love. How when you do something that you love, you can easily spend 12 hours a day on it and feel good about that time. He’s very passionate about his work and a very hard worker. He’s 72 years-old, and still to this day refuses to retire. He regularly puts in 10, 12 hour days. Willingingly works five days a week. His customers stay with him for life. That’s his drive. That’s who he is. It’s something that is clearly his life’s passion.
How do you stay self-motivated?
I would say by having “wins” almost every single day. It’s about setting a goal and achieving it. I like to win and I love to accomplish. Checking things off my to-do list is really satisfying to me.
We recently did a Clifton’s Strengths Finder test at our annual company retreat. The number one strength I got was “achiever,” which very much lines up with how I do things. The test defines it as:
“Your Achiever theme helps explain your drive. Achiever describes a constant need for
achievement. You feel as if every day starts at zero. By the end of the day you must achieve
something tangible in order to feel good about yourself.”
What would you say is your preferred way to network?
I’m a one-to-one or small group conversationalist and networker. I prefer a small intimate setting rather than being dropped into a massive sea of people and being expected to wade through, business cards in hand. I like smaller networking events where I have a sense of who is going to be there, so I can either learn something about my fellow attendees or know how I can contribute. The number one rule of networking in my mind, is having something to offer, and from there good will happen.
One of the things I don’t like about some networking events, especially large ones, is there seems to be a coldness to the way people interact and pitch themselves. Instead of walking up to people and saying “Hi. What do you do?” I like to ask questions like, “What inspired you to come to this event?” or “What’s really really working for you in life or work right now?” I much prefer to have quality conversations with a couple people that leads to meaningful relationships.
How would you describe your process for deepening relationships?
For me it’s about helping people through my network and connecting them to opportunities. I’m pretty thorough about following up. If I can’t help the person, I usually know someone who can. Recently I was at an event and a woman from a natural frozen food company came up to me. She was a potential client but instead of getting myself into pitch mode, I asked her what her challenges were. She described some inventory production and pricing issues she was having. I offered to connect her to a contact I had at a successful healthy frozen food company, as well as an incubator for growing natural food companies. I followed up the next day with an email and made the connection for her. Follow through and commit is one of my core values.
What are your preferred tools for keeping organized?
I’m old school. My notebook is my everyday tool for my to-do lists and for taking notes. I find that when I physically write something down it goes into my memory. I use my digital tools more for reminders than creative thinking and thought processing. One day my notebooks (I go through one a month) might become the basis for my memoir – haha!
I’m a big believer in open source software. As a company, we use tools like Google Docs. We are also using Slack as our team grows to share resources and reduce emails.
When it comes to strategy and planning, we break down the quarter into 13 weeks and together we map out each week and the deliverables to make sure we are on track to hit our quarterly goals. We break everything out into weekly sprints. It’s been very helpful for keeping each team on track and encourages each team member to do the planning.
I also use a goal setting matrix. It includes long term goals, short term goals, need to haves, nice to haves. One of the categories is even “delegate,” which is a nice reminder for me.
I’ve also been doing time blocking on my calendar. Designating time every week for specific tasks. An example would be for sales, one-on-one meetings with team members and afternoons for project-based work. In my personal life I also time block in a way. I have designated days for activities and planning. Saturday is my unplug day, Sunday is brunch with a friend, Wednesday is Wine Wedding Wednesday (I’m in the midst of wedding planning with my fiance). I find having those things scheduled helps keep movement in my life outside of work.
What is your favourite way to market your product or services?
Telling stories. I love doing case studies and spotlights on our brand partners and everyday influencers. We specialize in working with natural brands, so their stories are quite inspiring to share and I know their words will always be more powerful than mine.
Recently we started interviewing members of our community. It’s interesting to learn why they signed up, how they use Social Nature, and what they love about being an Everyday Influencer. Ultimately, our community of Everyday Influencers help us market, by spreading the word about the products they’ve tried and loved on Social Nature. If you can get your community involved in marketing your product, that’s the most powerful.
Who has been your mentor in helping you find success?
So many people! The first people that come to mind is my peer network. Other entrepreneurs who are doing what I do, but in another space. These are people who know what I’m going through, and we support each other through thick and thin. Having peers who are going through whatever you are going through can very much be everyday mentors.
Secondly, the entrepreneurs turned angel investors in my life. I was really lucky with the group of people that decided to invest in me. Since they’ve been successful entrepreneurs themselves, I can learn so much from them. Recently at an event I attended, Scott Lake (co-founder of Shopify and one of my investors) was giving a speech on stage and noticed I was in the audience. In the midst of his talk he said, “I see Annalea sitting out there. She is someone I believed in and supported with some capital when she was first starting her business. You’re really just investing in the person at that stage. My angel investing approach is investing in people. Even if they don’t succeed today, I would be willing to take another bet on them because really I’m not betting on their business, I’m betting on them.” I know Scott has my back and that means a lot.
People have to have both successes and failures for me to trust them in a mentorship role. It’s important to talk about the failures as much as we do the successes. I actually gave a talk a few months ago on “My worst day as a successful entrepreneur.” The feedback I received from the talk was overwhelmingly positive.
There are also the mentors I haven’t even met, but whose journey I follow like Christine Day. Christine is a female executive who has performed well in lots of different industries from Starbucks, to Lululemon to a healthy frozen food start-up called Luvo, demonstrating that good leadership is not industry specific.
What social issue does your organization raise funds and/or awareness for?
We have a tree planting initiative with Carbon Farmer dating back to my first startup ethicalDeal. For every customer, client, supplier (really anyone we work with) every year instead of giving them a Christmas present we plant a tree for them. I’m not even sure how many trees we’ve planted, but with ethicalDeal we had several thousand clients, and now with Social Nature growing, we’re going to have quite the forest!
We regularly donate natural products to our local food bank and encourage our clients to do so as well, as retailers generally don’t sell product with less than a 6 month expiry. As a female founder with over 70% women on our team, advocating for more women in leadership in the naturals industry is a social issue that’s important to me. I co-host a bi-annual Women in Naturals event in Canada that connects women in the industry.
We’re also looking into becoming a BCORP – it’s not just a certification, but a guideline on how you run your whole business. They do an audit of your business and look at what you’re doing for your business, employees, and the environment. You get re-audited every other year and get rated. All the information is published online which forces you to be accountable and transparent. Currently there’s only 2,140 BCorps in the world; I hope to see more companies making this type of commitment to sustainability.
How and where do you continue to learn?
My interests span several industries so it can be hard to choose what events to participate in, but I try to go to at least one social impact / tech / natural product / marketing innovation event a year. This past year I did a deep dive on the naturals / social impact space attending the Natural Product Expo, CHFA, Esca Bona Food Sustainability Conference, Social Venture Network Conference, and the Nutrition Business Journal Summit. Getting to meet with other mission-based entrepreneurs and hearing how they’re scaling their companies is inspiring.
I also started doing a little bit of work with a business coach around corporate road mapping, goal setting etc. There’s no shortage of opportunities so the discipline of focus is important to achieving goals.
Do you have a fitness ritual that you live by?
I would say if anything is a constant in my life that yoga is it. We have a number of yogis in the office too which makes it fun. I’ve also gotten into running lately. I like to get up early and go for a run around the lake near my house.
On Saturday I unplug and enjoy the natural beauty of British Columbia. Depending on the weather you can find me hiking in the mountains, kayaking, paddle boarding, biking or skiing.
How do you feed your soul?
Being outside, being quiet, or doing something creative. I enjoy alone time or time with my fiance or family. I like doing things that require me to be still and quiet, like reading a book, walking in the woods or gardening. I also enjoy creative exercises like sketching, playing the Ukulele, and baking.
How would you describe the eating ritual that makes you feel most powerful?
I think a lot of people consider eating out a treat, but for me eating at home is a special treat. There are too many nights that I grab some sushi or a burrito or something else that’s quick and easy. Eating at home makes me feel balanced and healthy plus it’s a great way to spend time with my fiance. I also have a big sweet tooth, so I love making my own desserts and having family/friends over to enjoy them with me.
Who is your favourite personality to follow on YouTube?
I have to say it’s Awaken with JP. He does this series and kinda pokes fun at the naturals industry. You have to be able to laugh at yourself. He’s coming from a good place, but he plays off of trends. It’s good to keep things lite sometimes.
What type of content do you find most compelling on Instagram?
I’m a sucker for foodie photos. It relaxes me (I’ve been known to read recipe books before bed) and gives me ideas for when I have time to cook. The other day I learned about sweet potato toast and different avocado toast variations. Did you know there is a whole avocado toast Instagram feed?!
What lifestyle brand would you say shares your values most?
I have a ton of stuff from Saje – mostly because I love their products, and the wellness values they stand for. This extends to their employees and their customer experience. For instance they’ll take their employees to practice meditation as a team event (we recently did the same thing!). Also, Nicole Bridger, she’s an eco friendly, local designer. I literally have 15 of her dresses, I love her stuff. She’s making greener choices more accessible, which I really believe in. I love that I can meet her in the store and connect with her as a friend on Facebook. She’s a very authentic person. She’ll post on her page about challenges she’s having. She lives her values. She’s a single mom and brings her little boy with her to the fair trade factory in India and has pictures of that. She supports other women entrepreneurs. She shows up at local events. She is her brand. I love that.
Who is your favourite artist?
When I was in Europe recently I was gravitating towards a lot of street art. Lots of Banksy. We did a street art tour in London and saw a bunch of his stuff and then we went to Amsterdam and saw one of his exhibitions. I’m also digging slam poetry right now. I was in Philadelphia and a local youth group brought me to tears with their powerful words. You don’t need to be famous to be great, most people just haven’t been discovered.
What is your favourite meal?
I’m a pescetarian so I eat mostly a plant based diet with some seafood. For breakfast, I love avocado and toast with a poached egg. For lunch, something quick and nutritious like sushi. For dinner, grilled salmon and vegetables. For dessert, Pavlova.
What is your favourite sport to watch?
I was never really a big TV sports watcher growing up. My dad is a musician and we would go to concerts as a family (versus going to a sports event). It was a very music/arts heavy upbringing. With that being said though, on a nice summer day at the beach in Vancouver I’ll enjoy watching beach volleyball.
Where is your favourite place to unwind?
It’s definitely a combination of water and trees. I love splashing my face with river water when I’m out hiking in the woods. I find the roar of the river and the smell of the ocean really comforting. I also love the smell the salt water and associate it with a lot of happy memories growing up and spending time on Hornby Island. My dream is having a house on the ocean.