Jamie Kantrowitz and Nicole Rice founded Countertop with the goal of helping people focus on wellness through simple and delicious home cooking. Today, the duo sells a variety of products from seasonings to honey, all meant to enhance both the flavor and nutritiousness of your food.
Before all this, both women had very different career paths. Rice worked in fashion PR and marketing before becoming a doula and Ayurvedic health expert, while Kantrowitz spent her 20s working in politics and digital media. She gained experience working at a digital media agency, as a campaign fundraiser, as a pioneer in online voter registration at Rock the Vote, and as a marketing executive at a little company called MySpace. It wasn't until after Kantrowitz had her first child that she and Rice met and cooked up the idea for Countertop.
"Even though I've jumped industries, there are common threads that go through it," Kantrowitz tells Hillary Kerr on Episode 42 of Second Life. Tune into the podcast to hear Kantrowitz's full story of career swapping and keep reading for more on Rice's journey from the fashion industry to wellness.
Tell us about your first career path
I had my first job at 12 years old at the local corner store! Packing shelves and serving customers—I have no idea why I wanted to start working so early. When I was 16, my mother and stepfather ran a film production company in Sydney. I used to work there on my school holidays, and my mother offered me a job when their receptionist left. I worked there for two years, assisting and working on TV commercial productions.
How did you make the transition from your first career to what you do now?
After working for my mother, I went to advertising agency J Walter Thompson, working as an account coordinator, then moved to Spin Communication, a strategic marketing agency specializing in fashion and lifestyle brands as an account manager. This took me to the NYC office to work with Australian fashion labels launching into the U.S. I did this kind of marketing for 20 years before studying to be a birth and postpartum doula in 2007 and studying Ayurveda in 2013.
Tell us about your current career path
Countertop is a cooking brand with a wellness focus—combining the ancient wisdom of Ayurveda and the healing power of spices with everyday cooking pantry staples. We hope to help people get more spices into their diet and with that, all of their benefits. Launching the company is a culmination of studying Ayurveda, being a doula, and working in marketing, and focusing my own personal wellness journey alongside these careers.
What have been the biggest challenges in your many careers, and why?
Probably the attitude that life is a journey—one that’s not all about work. I’ve spent some time over the years working really hard and then taking long moments out of the career world. I went to Nepal to further my Ayurveda studies after studying Ayurveda full-time for nine months. Then I ended up volunteering for a women’s workshop in Kathmandu for three months. In 2003, I spent three months in India doing yoga and studying reiki and teaching English to Tibetans. I’m up for the life journey and life experience.
What triggered your need to change this time around?
Age and life experience. I also really wanted to put my own product out rather than working on someone else’s.
Why is your current path suitable for your personality?
Because I can wear a lot of hats and have a lot of varied work experience, so you can put me in the room to order raw supplies and make product. Or I can produce a photo shoot and make that happen. As a co-founder at a startup, you need to be able to jump around a lot of parts of the business to make it happen, and I’m happy to do that.
What's the most important thing you have learned in making a bit change in your career?
That it will always work out in the end anyway. You can take risks, and it will be worth it. It’s hard to have that knowledge at the beginning of your career, but you really gain some perspective as you age and have worked at a few places.
How did you move past the fear of change to pursue your passion?
I don’t think I have moved past it. It’s a daily process of putting your trust in a higher power, leaning in, and making fear the tailwind instead of fighting against it.
What are some mistakes you made along the way that ended up helping your success?
There are no real mistakes; it’s all just things that happen. If it’s happened in the past, it’s meant to be and it’s where you are.
What do you love most about your current role and why?
I get to make products that help people. It’s a wonderful feeling.
When you look back and reflect on your previous career, do you have any regrets? Or are you still really happy with your decision?
Of course you have to be happy with the decision. You can’t have any regrets. Life is always moving, and you can’t look backward. You just grow every day.
What change do you want to see—or pave the way for—in your industry?
That you don’t always have to be part of a big corporation to make things happen.
What advice do you have for other women who want to take a leap but fear change?
If you’ve got the drive and the focus and the product innovation, have the confidence to stand behind your product, and your message and get it out there. Let the customer decide what you can do, not you.
What is the best piece of career or life advice you've ever received?
Show up every day. Sometimes you won't always have a smile on your face, but if you show up for your business every day, you are showing up for you.
For more inspiring stories from successful women who’ve made major career changes, tune into MyDomaine’s Second Life podcast.