Few people are as passionate about small business as Gail Becker. The broadcast journalist and political staffer turned corporate America superstar said it was the confluence of three events that made her decide to again change lanes in her career and become an entrepreneur.
First, while reaching the top of the corporate ladder as an executive for high-powered PR firm Edelman, she said she became disillusioned with what the big-business corporate world had to offer.
“Once I got there, I realized I really didn’t like the view,” Becker said.
Near the end of her tenure at Edelman, Becker’s father died. He was a Holocaust survivor who came to the United States with nothing, fought in the Korean War, and went on to build a successful store and life in San Francisco.
“Something inside me really changed (when my father died), and I realized I wanted to do something that would make a positive impact,” Becker said. “And, quite frankly, I knew I wanted to follow in his entrepreneurial footsteps.”
The final influencing factor that led Becker to start Caulipower — which makes frozen foods that Becker says are great-tasting and just happen to be gluten-free — was that her two sons have Celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder that leaves the body unable to process gluten.
At the time, she was frustrated with the lack of quality and convenience of gluten-free frozen foods.
“I can’t be the only one who thinks 90 minutes is way too long to make a pizza crust,” Becker said.
Thus, in 2016, Caulipower was born, and it’s grown into a globally recognized business.
Becker says she learned most of what she knows about business from working in her dad’s shop, which she did every Saturday as a girl for $20 per day and a free lunch.
“I remember sitting on that stoop, and as people would come into the store, whether they were regular customers or new customers, my dad would build a relationship with every single one of them — there was a familiarity to it,” Becker said. “And you know, today, I think that connection is so priceless.”
As she sees it, small businesses are built to foster those relationships that drive customer loyalty and revenue, and serve as the backbones of communities. As brick-and-mortar stores have mostly lacked in-person shoppers for the better part of the past year, Becker says customers are craving those kinds of connections.
“I find that when I do venture out now, people are so starved for human interaction, that they’re actually being much nicer,” Becker said. “I find that people are smiling more, even though it’s hard to see behind the mask, or they’re sort of nodding more, or they’re saying please and thank you more. It’s so true in life that you don’t realize how precious something is until you risk losing it.”
The small business edge
While small businesses across the world lost revenue from in-person patronage due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses, quite successfully, added digital tools to their offerings that they will benefit from for years to come.
“Necessity is the mother of invention,” Becker said. “The pandemic has forced a lot of small businesses to become digitally savvy very quickly, and it’s worked.”
Because their size makes it easy to adjust and hyperfocus on customers’ individual needs, small businesses hold an advantage over large corporations right now; as Becker puts it, small businesses solve problems, and there’s plenty of problems to solve.
“Most of the innovation in this country has actually come from small businesses, from the startups, in really every space,” she said. “Innovation is not coming from the big companies, from the large multinational conglomerates — it’s coming from startups.”
For people who want to start a business but have hesitated for any number of reasons, Becker says that this, the twilight of the pandemic, is an ideal time to become an entrepreneur.
“This is a wonderful time to put your energy into your idea,” Becker said. “Ideas are really a dime a dozen — everybody’s got a good idea. The difference between a good idea and a small business is execution.”