Ali Maffucci was in her mid-twenties, working in business development for the airline industry, when she experienced an actual, legit aha moment. Her mom, a Type 1 diabetic who was experimenting with raw veganism, made Ali an Asian-inspired “noodle” dish made with spiralized zucchini. She was blown away—an Italian-American pasta purist, Ali couldn’t believe how close the zucchini noodles tasted to the real deal. She took her mom’s spiralizer home that night to test it out on her then-boyfriend (now-fiancé). After a few months of sharing recipes with her friends and posting about her newfound passion on Instagram, she quit her day job. The next day, she went to a coffee shop, pulled out her laptop and bought the domain for inspiralized.com for next-to-nothing. (Pretty badass, right?) In the nearly two years since she fearlessly launched her site, Ali has published a cookbook and developed her own spiralizer. It’s safe to say she’s picked up more than her fair share of wisdom for a new kind of (digitally savvy, millennial) entrepreneur.
My fiancé calls me the most resourceful person he’s ever met. I taught myself how to use the Adobe Creative Suite just using Google and YouTube. With the help of the internet, you can figure almost anything out as long as you do the research, spend the time and stick to it. If you’re willing to work, you can do anything.
Many entrepreneurs will tell you that there’s a lot of rejection, but it’s how you interpret rejection that’s important. When I first started, spiralizing wasn’t very popular. People didn’t get it yet, and they rejected me, but that was okay. I made a mental note to check back in six months, and my resilience and persistence have paid off.
Keep pounding on doors
When I started thinking about developing my own spiralizer, I cold-called the company that made the spiralizer I was using. I thought, maybe I can talk to the company about improving the product and making an Inspiralized brand version. It didn’t work out, but it was a first step in the process of creating my own product.
Do it yourself
I was getting to a point where the blog wasn’t earning enough on its own, so I decided to self-publish a cookbook for the holiday season. Fans of my site had been asking for it, so I did it myself through an online service, and it sold out right away. A publisher took notice and offered me a book deal—they wanted to republish it. Then, that book piqued the interest of a larger publishing house. I got an agent, we went to meetings and now I have a cookbook published by Clarkson & Potter. None of that would have happened had I not taken it upon myself to self-publish my first cookbook.
Ask for help
When I started developing my own spiralizer, I wanted to collaborate with the company that made the spiralizer I was already using, but I got a bad vibe from that company. I approached a family friend, “Uncle” Steve, who has experience with creating products and navigating the trademarks and intellectual properties process. I pitched him my spiralizer idea and, because of the recent success of my blog and cookbook, he agreed to become my business partner. He’s been guiding me through the product development and production process—I was so fortunate to have him as a personal connection and I’m glad I was brave enough to ask him for help.
Engagement is everything
Social media is my number one priority—I probably invest 70% of my workday posting on my channels and engaging with my followers. The more you engage with people, the more loyal they become and the more likely they are to spread the word. I interact with almost every single person that comments on my blog and social media posts. It takes me 18 hours a day, but I respond to every single email within 24 hours. It’s my own personal rule. People are always surprised I write them back, which blows my mind.
Being an entrepreneur requires some lifestyle changes. I was 26 when I started Inspiralized, and I had to stop going out with my friends all the time—I had quit my job, so I didn’t have the money, not to mention the fact that starting a business made free time almost non-existent. But, it was worth it! If you want something enough, you make it work.
Images courtesy of Inspiralized.com.