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How She Got There: Lily Brynes, Founder & CEO of SPOTS

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Name: Lily Brynes
Age: 23
Job Title and Description: Founder & CEO of SPOTS
College/Major: The George Washington University School of Business/Sport, Event and Hospitality Management
Website: www.spotsnyc.com 
Twitter Handle: @spotsnyc 

What does your current job entail? Is there such a thing as a typical day?

Lily Brynes: There is definitely no such thing as a typical day! My current job entails a little bit everything: client relations, sales, business development, marketing and managing. There are constant obstacles that arise when starting a new business, and a large portion of my job is trying to eliminate those obstacles or planning for them in advance. There is definitely never a dull moment!

What is the best part of your job?

LB: The best part of my job is being able to deliver people a memorable experience through food. When people order SPOTS, they are expecting a certain product (how it should look, how it should taste, the works); if we can deliver SPOTS that surpass their expectations, that's when we are the most satisfied.
 
What was your first entry-level job in your field and how did you get it?

LB: My first entry-level job was for Danny Meyer's Union Square Hospitality Group as an assistant venue operations manager. I had interned for USHG for three summers and following my last summer as an intern, they offered me a full-time job upon graduating. Getting the job, however, was not easy. I did whatever it took to return back to the company (I even sat on the floor for an entire summer because they didn't have desk space).

What is one thing you wish you knew about your industry when you first started out that you know now?

LB: What is one thing I knew about my industry when I first started out that I wish I [had known then]? That is a nearly impossible question! I learn new things every day that I wish I knew when I first started. I must say, however, that making mistakes is the best learning tool for me!

Who is one person who changed your professional life for the better?

LB: The person who changed my professional life for the better is my older sister, Elana. Elana graduated from Boston University in 2009 and shortly after started her own company, Kings of Cole. I watched Elana take the plunge into the entrepreneurial world and immediately wanted to follow in her footsteps. Elana's ambition and bravery inspired me to start SPOTS. I wouldn't have been able to do it without having her as a constant source of support and advice.

What words of wisdom (well-known quotes, an anecdote from your boss) do you find most valuable?

LB: "People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel." - Maya Angelou

What is one mistake you made along the way and what did you learn from it?

LB: Like most startup food companies, I started SPOTS out of my Manhattan apartment's kitchen. However, we were growing every day, and I quickly learned that that business model would not suffice. I spoke with and interviewed many bakers but finally fell in love with the group I work with now.

However, like any new recipe, there was definitely a learning curve...I received my first batch from the kitchen and sent them out for deliveries. Once they were out the door I decided to sit down at my desk in my office and indulge in one for myself. As soon as I tasted it, I knew something was wrong. By accident, my bakers had mixed up salt and sugar! It was terrible.

Nonetheless, it was a great lesson learned for two major reasons: first, I learned that nothing goes out the door without me tasting it first  (tough job, right?), and second, I learned how to turn a mistake into an opportunity with a few unhappy customers!

What has been the most surreal moment of your career thus far?

LB: The most surreal moment of my career, thus far, was when I turned on FOX 5 News one evening and coincidentally saw Dari Alexander speaking about and holding up SPOTS (she was gifted an order from a PR company). She loved her custom batch of SPOTS so much that she wanted to share them with her viewers. It was amazing exposure and made me so proud.
 
What do you look for when considering hiring someone?

LB: When I am looking to hire someone I'm looking for someone who isn't afraid to hustle. I am the type of person who is willing to get my hands dirty in every situation and I expect that from anyone who comes to work for me. I don't believe in not being able to do something; where there is a will, there is a way.
 
What advice would you give to a 20-something with similar aspirations?

LB: The advice I would give to someone with similar aspirations is don't be afraid to take the plunge. If you believe in yourself and your idea then you should go for it. Also, talk to anyone who is willing to listen - you never know what can come out of a conversation.

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