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Annette Zito – Entrepreneur

Making People Healthy and Happy…

Having grown up with my dad being a business-owner, I always thought I’d have my own business. When I entered university, I studied marketing and advertising, with the intent to go the corporate route, which is what I did for many years.

In the aftermath of the 2001 dot-com bubble bursting, I found myself laid off with limited prospects. My father was expanding his wholesale produce business about this time and asked me to come aboard. It was not the direction I thought I’d take but his affable “If you don’t like it, you can quit” offer was too good to pass up.

As we worked together and I learned his business, I started revisiting my long abandoned childhood entrepreneurial dreams.

What made you decide to finally realize your lifelong dream?

My dad had mused about opening a luncheonette. I good-naturedly suggested the name “KitchAnnette” – a little kitchen… my name… I was very amused. He was not – ha ha – and I knew I wanted to take that name as one for my own business. My initial idea was to have a lunch delivery business. I enlisted my good friend, Joe Becwar, to work with me, however there were logistics that kept us from moving it forward. We opted to blog and create “how to” videos. It became less of a business, more of a hobby.

In Spring of 2013, my “aha” moment came when my boyfriend, who had begun juicing, was discussing how expensive it was. I realized juicing kits – recipes of fresh produce for juicing – would be a great product. With access to my dad’s business and my marketing background, I created JUICE THIS® Perfectly Portioned Produce Packs!

With this, in 2014, I published a cookbook based on my annual Oscar® viewing events. Since 1995 I’d been creating menus based on the Best Picture nominations with accompanying parody posters. This has become “KitchAnnette™ Red Carpet Menus: Delicious Dishes Inspired by 20 Years of Oscar® Best Picture Nominations” with another volume in the works.

I really enjoy creating fun twists of a dish. I like sharing my tips and tricks. Giving people the tools and suggestions to live more healthful lives through my recipes is very rewarding.

What were the specific obstacles that you faced?

The first obstacle was thinking that my ideas were valid – my own self-doubts. And if I had what it takes to successfully get these endeavors accomplished. Having family and friends who have encouraged me was key.

Although Joe still contributes to KitchAnnette, his successful businesses in career coaching and real estate took precedence, so I’d be moving forward on my own. It was initially daunting but thanks to my dad and his staff, I started making sales and getting some buzz.

My age is considered an obstacle to start a business but I feel like a little kid at 50 trying to figure it all out. I don’t see the need for relaxing or retiring. I like to feel needed, productive and valued. When I have a good idea, I know it’s doable and I just need to figure out how it’s going to work.

So in the end, I don’t see obstacles. The goal is to work in a world where I don’t have to work for anyone. I never stop thinking and being inspired.

What helped you get through them?

Besides the people in my life, my drive keeps me going. I have a lot going on…it’s hard sometimes. I may feel exhausted by it all but I let myself have the moment of feeling overwhelmed, yet don’t let it stop me.

Were there people who tried to discourage you?

There were people who did not take what I was doing seriously and dismissed my efforts. I’ve encountered what seems to be jealously. It’s interesting to see who is really supportive and who is not. They judge you on what or who you were and what you are doing now. They look at you with the lens they know and what’s in their comfort zone.

How did you feel when you finally accomplished your lifelong dream?

Working with the Westchester Italian Cultural Center for the 1st Annual Pre-Oscar® Celebration in February 2015 featuring my custom menu and being so well received while signing my cookbook for attendees was the peak so far. I was very humbled and proud.

In general, I giggle about it and find it funny. My ideas are viable and have legs. I can do this! I never stop marveling at the positive response to my products. And there are many more in the works.

No matter how it all turns out, that no one can take away what I’ve accomplished. And I am not resting on my laurels – I’ve got a long way to go before I’m done. It’s all barely begun! I am very proud.

What advice would you give to others who are contemplating finally living their dream?

Have the courage. Your ideas are valid. Your passions are worth pursuing. Remember no one has the formula for success or knows what will work. In marketing we say, ‘Throw it at the wall and see what sticks’ – take a chance on you.

I am having fun. I treat it almost like a game. There’s always a corporate job I can get but I’d rather work for myself.

What are the limitations? Age? Money? Why should there even be limitations? It never made sense to me.

There is nothing you cannot do.

 

To read more about Annette, her book Red Carpet Menus and JUICE THIS® click here.

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