Founder Spotlight: Roman Gonzalez
Meet Roman Gonzalez , our DivInc alumnus featured in this month’s Founder Spotlight series.
Roman is the founder and CEO of Gardenio, a socially conscious company making it easier to grow your own organic food. He’s been an entrepreneur since he was 18, starting as a community journalist and video producer. He has worked with Austin companies since 2011 in many colors: media consultant, brand strategist, marketing director, event planner, and product designer. He cares deeply about food and drink, social justice, and building companies that shift cultural attitudes.
Below, he’s been kind enough to answer a few questions about his path to becoming an entrepreneur and CEO.
Tell us about your company, what it offers, and how it’s unique.
Gardenio is reconnecting people to their food by sharing the joy of growing it. We personalize and deliver everything you need to start growing your own organic food at home in your area the old fashioned way: with a container, soil, a live organic plant, and a care guide. We're also developing a mobile app that connects you to the best location-aware advice, eco-friendly supplies you'll need along the way, and a community of other gardeners in your area for support and celebration on and offline. On its face, what we do is pretty simple – get you the plant, help you grow it, and really is the relationship between you and the plant that makes the magic happen. That's by design. In truth, behind the scenes, we're making sure you grow the right varieties for your setup, that you get the right sized container, that we organize all the world's best growing data in a single, approachable source. And I've gotta say that's the most unique thing we do. We are laser focused on the new gardener, so we make sure everything is casual, approachable, and fun. We meet you where we are. We'll be releasing some new business models this year that the industry just hasn't seen yet, and we're very excited about it.
What was your experience like with DivInc?
Divinc did this amazing thing where it got me out of my home office kinda noodling around on my mobile app designs and introduced me to damn near everyone I needed to know in this scene. It set the foundation for my reputation as an entrepreneur in town. It structured my time and my thinking. At times it felt like too much, but it was absolutely necessary, and I just would not be where I am without it. It made me serious.
What advice would you give to someone thinking about starting their own business?
My advice to people starting would be to open up a google doc. Title it "MY BUSINESS" and start writing everything down. Think about the story you're trying to tell, in one page. You have to write it down, all of it, clarify you're thinking. Then, show it to people, and get feedback. So much feedback. Revise and revise. After a month, cool, that's enough, now, what can you do to prove out your assumptions? Start the habit of running experiments to figure out what will and won't work. And there you go, now you're doing the work of an entrepreneur. Don't quit. Keep iterating, keep trying. You'll land on something.
What are your goals looking forward?
This year Gardenio has spent Q1 assembling a core team and interviewing potential advisors. In Q2 and Q3, we're gonna focus on getting regular sales and growth, getting the first version of our app, and validating our new business model. In Q4 we're going to keep the engine running and divert efforts to a round of fundraising.
Founding and running a business is amazing, though exhausting work. What do you do to stay motivated and for self-care?
I'm so deep into the entrepreneur lifestyle now, I earnestly can't imagine doing anything else, and I don't see a day when I'll stop. This is just so who I am, and I spent way too much time letting people tell me that maybe I wasn't. I have founderbrain and founderblood, so that's what keeps me going. For self care, I'm able to spend some time with my partner watching a lot of Netflix. She's not in tech, and that's helped. I also got really into bath bombs. I'm back into running, but need to be doing it more. Exercise is so important. I meal prep every Sunday, always healthy meals. Eat right, exercise, sleep as much as you can, and take baths. On top of all that, set clear goals for yourself during the week. Make them measurable and attainable. Then, when you hit those goals, you can feel better about "turning off" for an evening.