Together everyone accomplishes more: Interview with Gayle Martz, founder of Sherpa Pet Trading Company

Gayle and her doggieI recently went one on one with Gayle Martz. Gayle is the founder and former CEO of Sherpa Pet Trading Company, maker of The SHERPA Bag®, the first soft-sided pet carrier officially approved by major airlines.

Adam: Thanks again for taking the time to share your advice. First things first, though, I am sure readers would love to learn more about you. How did you get here? What experiences, failures, setbacks or challenges have been most instrumental to your growth?

Gayle: My journey began as flight attendant with TWA. I have always loved to travel and experience different foods, cultures, and places. The job also allowed me to pursue my other passion, photography. I was a freelance fashion photographer for high-end brands in the handbag and fashion industry. I photographed Lanvin in Paris, Valentino in Rome, and Adolfo in Milan. Life was good until my flight attendant career came to an abrupt halt on the heels of a corporate raider who took over TWA. His first order of business was to get rid of all flight attendants and hire a new work force. I remember wondering, how am I, and others, going to make it? I was living in Manhattan, the most expensive borough in the most expensive city in the country, and just lost both my revenue streams. And then shortly thereafter, the unthinkable happened. My finance died of a heart attack. All these events left me with no money, no home, and no job. But as they say, the good thing about hitting rock bottom is there’s only one way left to go and that’s UP.  The knowledge I gained from being a flight attendant and my experience as a photographer coupled with the love I had for my dog, SHERPA, who I never wanted to go anywhere without, helped me create a vision for what became the first soft-sided pet carrier, The SHERPA Bag. My signature design was the first of its kind, as the soft-sided pet carrier category did not exist in the world. This bag allowed me to create my multi-million-dollar business, the SHERPA Pet Trading Company, where I served as the CEO until 2016.

How did you come up with your business Idea? What advice do you have for others on how to come up with great ideas?

Gayle: The idea for the SHERPA Bag came to me when I wanted to fly with my dog, SHERPA, from New York to California but she was not allowed in the cabin, so I had no choice but to make the cross-country trip in a car. I started experimenting with dimensions and designs for a new type of pet carrier that would fit a pet comfortably and safely under the seat of an airplane. Was it a good idea? Yes. But what most people don’t realize is an idea means very little without a strong foundation and execution. When thinking of an idea, search for a void in the global marketplace. If there is a void in the marketplace, do research to see if your idea would be beneficial and attractive to consumers. The only good ideas are the ones that have a lot of hard work that goes into them.

Adam: How did you know your business idea was worth pursuing? What advice do you have on how to best test a business idea?

Gayle: I had the confirmation of others (again this is where market research comes in) and a gut feeling that my idea was worth pursuing. Necessity is the mother of invention, and I knew that The SHERPA Bag was needed by pet owners globally. To test a business idea, find out if it fits a need. If there is a need, start small and see if you are right. My first purchase order was for 1,200 SHERPA Bags; I immediately started testing out the market by going store to store in NYC to show them there was an alternative to the hard plastic carrier that was safe, comfortable, and stylish and then persuade them to carry them in their store. The first high-end pet store that signed on was American Kennels on Lexington Avenue and they ended up becoming my best customer!

Adam: What are the key steps you have taken to grow your business? What advice do you have for others on how to take their businesses to the next level?

Gayle: Key steps to grow a business are:

Make a business plan; Know and fully understand the financials of your company and then hire an accountant you trust; Hire employees who share and believe in your vision; and, Create a strong marketing and media strategy.

The only way to take a business to the next level is with total commitment and perseverance. You must build in a community of like-minded people that believe in the benefits of what you are doing. Get involved in organizations and associations that are related to your business. This helped to grow my community.

Adam: What are your best sales and marketing tips? 

Gayle: Sales and marketing strategies are constantly evolving. If this is not in your wheelhouse, hire professionals to help you with the process. However, I strongly believe if you have a unique solution to filling a marketplace void, then marketing and sales efforts will be easier because your solution will have a direct benefit to others.

Adam: In your experience, what are the defining qualities of an effective leader? How can leaders and aspiring leaders take their leadership skills to the next level? 

Gayle: In my experience, setting a positive example and giving others the opportunity to learn, grow, and take on responsibilities are what defines an effective leader.  A leader must ensure the team is aware of your vision and the goals you want to achieve. You must make your vision and goals something they want to achieve, too. I worked with professionals that knew so much more than me and helped me to learn the skills to take my leadership to the next level.

Adam: What is your best advice, leading, and managing teams?

Gayle: As the saying goes, team means “together everyone accomplishes more.” I absolutely believe that and think it is important for every person on the team to know that their roles are important, and they are critical to the company’s success. Encourage people to work hard and make sure you praise them for their accomplishments. It is a beautiful thing when you have a team that is working hard to make your vision, which has become theirs too, a reality!

Adam: What are your three best tips applicable to entrepreneurs, executives, and civic leaders? 

Gayle:

  1. Always consult a reputable attorney before you sign anything!

  2. Failure helps drive success.

  3. Take care of yourself (mentally and physically).

Adam: What is the single best piece of advice you have ever received? 

Gayle: I was advised to do what only I could do and delegate the rest.

Adam: Is there anything else you would like to share? 

Gayle: Yes, my philosophy is do what you love, in the places you love, with the people and pets you love. Enlarge your community to help make the world a better place.

Adam Mendler is the CEO of The Veloz Group, where he co-founded and oversees ventures across a wide variety of industries. Adam is also the creator and host of the business and leadership podcast Thirty Minute Mentors, where he goes one on one with America’s most successful people – Fortune 500 CEOs, founders of household name companies, Hall of Fame and Olympic gold medal winning athletes, political and military leaders – for intimate half-hour conversations each week. Adam has written extensively on leadership, management, entrepreneurship, marketing and sales, having authored over 70 articles published in major media outlets including Forbes, Inc. and HuffPost, and has conducted more than 500 one on one interviews with America’s top leaders through his collective media projects. A top leadership speaker, Adam draws upon his insights building and leading businesses and interviewing hundreds of America’s top leaders as a top keynote speaker to businesses, universities and non-profit organizations.

Follow Adam on Instagram and Twitter at @adammendler and listen and subscribe to Thirty Minute Mentors on your favorite podcasting app.

Read on Adam’s website

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.