Janet and Greta Podleski appeared in St. Thomas Friday afternoon to unveil their plaque on the St. Thomas Wall of Fame, sharing their trademark humour, sisterly banter, and good memories of growing up on Centennial Ave. They noted that on their travels people often assume they are American (where they have often made appearances) or from Ottawa (where they lived when writing their first cookbook) – however they emphasized that they are always quick to let people know they are proud Canadians from St. Thomas.
The award is a fitting acknowledgement of home-grown talent and, as it also celebrates the achievements of two women in business, great timing coming in the week leading up to International Woman’s Day on March 8th.
Photos by Catharine Spratley, St. Thomas Parks & Recreation.
On the occasion of the Wall of Fame recognition, Janet and Greta were kind enough to share their answers to a few questions related to entrepreneurship.
RE: I think so much can be learned about being an entrepreneur from your story. Looking back, what sticks out in your mind as something learned along the way that you would offer as advice to a young entrepreneur?
Janet & Greta: We learned that enthusiasm is contagious and that you need to believe in yourself and your idea 100% or no one else will. We were SO SURE that Looneyspoons would be a big success and, because of this, we were able to convince others to help us. (Like David Chilton, The Wealthy Barber, for example.) We weren't afraid to ask for help when we needed it. You can't be an expert at everything! And speaking of experts, we learned that they aren't always right! We were told by every publisher that our book would never sell and not to quit our day jobs. It was too late! We had already quit our day jobs by the time we sent book samples to the publishers. Instead of getting discouraged, we'd jokingly say to each other, "They have no idea what they're talking about!" When Looneyspoons became a big success, those same publishers who rejected us became very interested in publishing our next book. We politely turned them down.
RE: Do you think there were things in your background that helped make you successful business women?
Janet & Greta: We were raised by two parents who both had very strong work ethics. They never complained about working hard and they rarely took a day off. We both got jobs as soon as we were old enough to have Social Insurance Numbers. We are both also very independent so that suits entrepreneurship. Janet always loved to write and joke around while Greta loved to cook (she worked for 4 years in the kitchen at the St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital from age 16 to 19). When you think about the business that we ended up creating, it kinda makes sense!
RE: How much is being sister business partners a part of your success?
Janet & Greta: Being sisters has helped tremendously. We know what the other is thinking and we can finish each other's sentences. We can have our little work blow-ups but 10 minutes later everything is fine again. We fought like cats and dogs growing up so little disagreements now are really nothing! Ha ha! We each have our roles which has worked out well. Greta handles anything and everything to do with recipes and Janet is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist so she's responsible for all of the "nutrition nuggets," as we call them, in our books and TV show.
On being named to the St. Thomas Wall of Fame, Janet and Greta noted their pride in their hometown. “We are honoured to be presented with the award and we're proud to be from St. Thomas. We visit often and our mom still lives there (she just moved to Valleyview Home) and one of our sisters lives there, too. (There are 6 Podleski girls.)”
And, being from St. Thomas, they couldn’t help but continue with a reference to the biggest St. Thomas tribute ever given. “However, what we really want to know is this: Will we ever be turned into larger-than-life-size statues and placed beside Jumbo at the West end of town? You know you've made it when...”
Find out more at wwwjanetandgreata.com.
As a long-time admirer of the “Looneyspoons” story and the sisters’ approach to business, the announcement of their win led me to jot down just a few reasons I think their story is inspiring.
Passion. Janet and Greta set out to make healthy cooking delicious and fun. They have stayed true to that mission over almost twenty years and four cookbooks and against a background of ever-shifting food recommendations and advice from the experts. They discovered that their cookbooks got people cooking and the more they cooked, the better they ate.
A unique product. Now a cookbook isn’t a unique commodity, but the Podleski’s approach was definitely something new. The combination of great information and recipes presented in a fun, informative and wacky way by two sisters who truly cared about helping people eat better proved to be a unique combination people loved. That was borne out by soaring book sales and floods of reader mail.
Determination and hard work. The Podleski’s journey to success wasn’t a cake-walk. They remember mailing out the manuscript for their first cookbook, having it rejected by every publisher and being "$80,000 in debt, unemployed, and starting to get on each other's nerves."
Visualization of success. In the “Tale of Two Sisters" on their website” Janet & Greta looked back to the start of their adventure and remembered, “We clipped the national bestseller list from the newspaper, whited out the name at the top, and typed in ‘Loonespoons’ by Janet and Greta Podleski.”
Customer focus. Reader feedback has always been central to the Podleski’s focus and motivation. They get piles of emails and they answer all of them. It’s helped them to understand what keeps people from cooking and finding ways of motivating them to get back into their kitchens.
Sense of humour and fun. Before Janet and Greta started creating cookbooks, it is doubtful that anyone could have imagined that, along with recipes for delicious good eating and great information, so much entertainment value could be packed into a cookbook. However, all of their books have been witty and engaging good reading – a perfect complement to their goal of convincing people that cooking can be enjoyable.
Continuous improvement. In spite of the phenomenal success of their first three cookbooks, the sisters felt that they could do even better in motivating North Americans to get back into their kitchens. With “The Looneyspoons Collection” they incorporated what they had learned from reader feedback, included the most up to date nutrition and lifestyle information available in their trademark entertaining style, made their best recipes even better, incorporated new ones and made the book even more enjoyable to read and use.