VENTEUR chatted with Leonardo De Aguiar, founder of INTUEAT, about his entrepreneurial journey. Born and raised in Brazil, De Aguiar spent the early part of his childhood growing up on his father’s cattle farm, which was several hours from the nearest town with any kind of infrastructure. Most of his early childhood was spent outdoors with no access to TV or technology, learning from his father on the farm. Now residing in Denver and building INTUEAT from the ground up, he hopes to disrupt the food and beverage industry one meal at a time.
The entrepreneurial journey is one of self-discovery. What have you learned about yourself while building your business?
Through my entrepreneurial journey, I have learned quite a bit about myself, building INTUEAT from the ground up and continuing to navigate the space.
Ultimately, the entrepreneurial journey has taught me never to feel comfortable being the biggest fish in the room. If you are the biggest fish, you are in the wrong room.
I have learned about resting, being mindful of burnout, and communicating effectively with others. The biggest lessons I have learned so far are how to stay true to myself and be confident in my decisions to get to where I need to be.
Most importantly, I learned how to be a good leader through servant leadership.
The entrepreneurial journey is often lonely. Have you experienced loneliness as an entrepreneur? If yes, what was that experience like, and how did you overcome it? If not, why do you think this is the case?
The entrepreneurial journey is almost always lonely.
Although I’ve experienced this as a younger entrepreneur, loneliness becomes even more significant with time.
I have seen people not take me as seriously because of my age. I’ve had to assert myself in the ability to connect with older stakeholders and newer generations. As an entrepreneur, you also experience a lot of loneliness because while you can congratulate and acknowledge your team's success, no one is doing that for you. Overcoming loneliness is a personal journey for every entrepreneur to discover, and everyone’s journey will be different.
It has taken me a long time to fathom how to overcome the loneliness that comes with the entrepreneurial journey. It comes down to fostering your connections and never losing sight of your personal life.
Be open and honest with your friends and family. Never be scared to reach out. We often underestimate people’s ability to empathize and connect with us as entrepreneurs.
The Psychological Warfare
Entrepreneurs generally sleep less, work more, and let their health slip. This combination, combined with loneliness, often results in insecurity, self-esteem issues, and low self-worth. Have you experienced any of these issues as an entrepreneur?
I 100% agree that almost every entrepreneur faces these problems during their journey. I left my 9-5 jobI because I didn’t like working those hours for somebody else.
Now, as an entrepreneur, I have found myself working 24/7 for the success of my own company. You find yourself experiencing these things because you focus on producing, providing, and growing your business to achieve success. When I started my journey, I thought of my company and myself as two different entities, but that is not the case at the end of the day. I realized very quickly that I needed to take care of myself. Sleep is essential, and combining those long days with little to no sleep and validating your efforts can take a toll on your self-worth.
A lot of the insecurities that do come up are around self-esteem and self-worth. It can get heavy when you constantly question your self-worth and what you've accomplished. I struggle to celebrate small victories, but it is essential to do so because these victories will keep you going and remind you to be compassionate to yourself.
At the end of the day, whether you’ve got everything you wanted to get done or not, you need to tell yourself you’ve done your best and need to be okay with that. You have to be truthful to yourself.
Newer entrepreneurs often equate their personal success with the success and value of their business. If their business fails, they are a failure. If their business succeeds, they are a success. Have you experienced this warped perception of reality?
I think this is very real.
As an entrepreneur, a lot of the time, you see it as either sink or swim. You either prove yourself against incredible odds for years or burn out and fail.
Entrepreneurs tend to be very passionate and involved in what they do. What adds to this warped perception is that the outside world only sees success.
In reality, you’re constantly learning lessons.
Failure and success have different definitions for each entrepreneur.
You must accept that you will learn a million lessons before you get to that golden moment.
As entrepreneurs, we have to understand that there will be losses and lessons and that they don’t 100% define us, and I am still learning to understand this and continue to grow in this aspect.
What are your three biggest fears as an entrepreneur, and how do you manage those fears?
1. Burning Out and Giving Up
It can be hard to know when you have crossed the finish line, so I have learned when to rest and give myself time to replenish so I can come back stronger and continue to run this marathon.
I am also keenly aware of my team members' health and mental status because they are just as crucial to the company, and sometimes it’s important to tell them they can rest.
2. Sustaining My Teammates
I often find myself terrified of what is to happen if the company fails.
Additionally, I think about what will happen to the team members who are passionate about INTUEAT’s concept or have put their trust in me and the company. It is difficult to overcome this fear, but I have found it helpful to be truthful with myself and the team.
At the end of the day, we are a startup, and while I am doing my best to sustain the company and make it well into the future, I must stay honest with my team and myself at every step.
3. Keeping the Lights On
It is scary to think that if my business were to fail, how would that failure impact my self-esteem and worth as a person, not just as an entrepreneur and stakeholder.
I find this thought extremely difficult to deal with as I am still working on separating my self-worth and self-esteem from relying only on the business' success.
What are three mistakes you made early on as an entrepreneur, what did you learn from them, and how can others avoid these mistakes?
1. I Spent Too Much Time Overthinking, Over-planning, and Over-Designing
As an entrepreneur, we think everything has to be perfect and well thought out, but it doesn’t always need to be. If you have the idea and how you will do it, believe in yourself and be realistic.
2. Believing in the “Field of Dreams”
Just because you build something does not mean people will immediately invest in it and buy into it, so you have to remind yourself that there is much more to building a business.
3. Not Being Strategic Enough Short Term
Often, entrepreneurs see the big picture, but it is also essential to see and be strategic with short-term goals and action plans. Focus on an overall plan and how to incorporate smaller goals into the overall strategy.
What are three things you see that are often overlooked by entrepreneurs you encounter, and how can other entrepreneurs be aware of these things from the beginning?
First, many entrepreneurs overlook the overall journey and investment cost of being an entrepreneur and how that will impact you as a person, so it is important to take it into account when beginning your journey.
Second, many entrepreneurs overlook placing their admin team as a stakeholder in the business. The admin team is also brought into the company's vision and should not be overlooked. In the same way you value outside stakeholders and clients, you must value the ones who make up your company and yourself.
Third, many entrepreneurs overlook reaching out to people willing to contribute their time and expertise to your learning cycle. It is important not to overlook outside resources and people willing to dedicate their time and knowledge to you because it will resurface in a way you didn’t expect.
What are three seemingly insurmountable obstacles you’ve faced as an entrepreneur, and how have you overcome them?
1. Coming Into the Industry and Getting Into the Market
This was a big obstacle for me because it is difficult to gain respect when there is an old-school kitchen mentality. It has been difficult, but it is essential to make the right connections, surround yourself with those people and foster those relationships.
2. Questioning How I Would Bring INTUEAT to People
We are a service that focuses on the human connection to the modern world and create a model around this human element by celebrating it. I overcame it by building the business from the ground up. It was difficult at first, but being able to start this journey as a bunch of college kids who did not know much has allowed me to grow and learn, from working in every position in the business to altogether growing the company from the ground up. This is how we modernized this aspect of our business to make it achievable.
3. Making Tough Decisions
What these decisions come with is the question of who you are impacting. These complex decisions are scary and will be challenging, but they need to be made to succeed. You must be truthful with yourself and the team and not let these hard decisions along the way come between the company’s end goal.
How can newer entrepreneurs develop a healthy work-life balance even when it seems like an impossible task?
It is tough.
A quote says, “the only type of person worse to marry than a celebrity is an entrepreneur.”
There are times when entrepreneurs are so focused that they have tunnel vision, which can come across as selfish.
So, you must be cognizant of this and realize when you are letting your work-life balance slip.
Additionally, it is essential always to remember that you are the company and must take care of yourself and the company and its development.
Set boundaries for yourself and understand that your company relies on you to succeed, so you must make time to take care of yourself, connect and enjoy time with those around you.
What three key pieces of advice would have made your entrepreneurial journey easier, and why?
- The “Field of Dreams” idea does not work. Be realistic with yourself and the company.
- Don’t overthink everything. Just do it.
- Be strategic with who you surround yourself with, be sure that they align with you and the company culture, and have a desire to grow.
What do you think the most significant difference is between how an entrepreneur sees their career path versus how an employee at a company sees their career path, and why?
The priorities of an entrepreneur and a company’s employees are very different.
As an entrepreneur, you have chosen to take this journey of building a business from the ground up. Your priority becomes your passion, which is your business. Making sure it succeeds is the entrepreneurial mindset.
An employee at a company puts themselves and their growth as a priority rather than the company's growth as a whole.
An entrepreneur is working and growing their concept while an employee is working and developing themselves.
What role has intuition played in your success as an entrepreneur, and why do you think this is the case?
Being an entrepreneur is all about intuition and trusting yourself.
As an entrepreneur, you must trust that you always make the correct decisions. At the end of the day, no one will tell you that you are doing a good job.
You have to trust yourself.
Understanding something and thinking strategically is important, but it won’t take you very far. You must be able to rely on yourself, especially regarding the big picture.
The only person you can truly rely on is yourself.
Nobody else will be there to reassure you that you are making the right decision, so trusting and listening to yourself is important in being a successful entrepreneur.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
I think this article highlights an essential part of the entrepreneurial journey: the mental health of entrepreneurs and founders.
We often wear our burnout as a badge of honor to show how hard we are working, but it isn't healthy and, a lot of the time, can run us into an early grave.
So, entrepreneurs need to realize that they are not alone.
Other entrepreneurs and founders are going through these hardships and obstacles, which can be overcome with support.
There is a community, and being more open about these things will help us.
Once entrepreneurs and people realize that there is this support system of other people who can relate to your journey, I believe there will be a new influx of entrepreneurs.
Questions based in part on topics and comments provided by:
- Alicia Nagel, Founder at Alicia Nagel Creative
- Rob Volpe, Chief Executive Officer at Ignite 360