Talking Women in Business With Nuflours Founder Phebe Rossi
Written by Alia Sinclair on
Nuflours founder Phebe Rossi grew up on a farm surrounded by fresh, wholesome food and home baked goods. When health concerns forced her to go gluten-free in 2007, she felt she lost a core part of who she was and how she connected to others.
Armed with resolve and creativity, Phebe began experimenting with gluten-free flours, creating recipes for all her favorite baked good classics from fudgy brownies and beautiful cakes to breakfast muffins and chocolate chip cookies.
She began selling her creations at a farmer’s market stand. The response from customers was so positive she opened a retail shop in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle.
Today, Nuflours’ baked goods ship nationwide and can be found in grocery stores throughout the Puget Sound.
As a tribute to Women’s History month, we wanted to shine a light on Phebe’s story and ask her some questions about being a woman in business, her journey as an entrepreneur, and her advice for other women in business.
Q: What did you want to be when you were a child?
Phebe: I don't recall wanting to "be" anything specific, it was more about what I wanted to do when I grew up. I wanted to travel. I grew up on a farm in eastern Washington, so I wanted to see the world beyond the U.S. I wanted to speak different languages. As it turns out I don’t have a talent for languages (laughs). But I understood that different languages would open me up to different possibilities that I couldn’t see in my own backyard.
Q: How has starting Nuflours changed your life?
Phebe: Starting Nuflours made me aware about how I was spending my time, and how I wanted to be spending my time. When you’re starting a business and it’s still new you have a lot of demands on your time. You get very clear and concise with your time usage. Experiencing that brought me to a whole new level of awareness.
Q: What is your favorite thing about what you do?
Phebe: Connecting with people. I’ve put together a very intentional team. It’s really great bringing together a team that really understands each other, appreciates each other, and works well together. They all step up and are self-motivated. They are all dedicated to building something bigger than who we all are as individuals. It thrills me every day to see that. I’ve built an incredible all-female team. The ways we’ve developed our business relationships is really positive.
Q: What is the biggest sacrifice you’ve made in starting or running your business?
Phebe: For the first several years I didn’t have a much of a personal life. I moved to Seattle to start Nuflours, and was clear with my partner that my business was first and our relationship was second. He understood what I was creating and now we’re married. We're both dedicated to creating something that is bigger than we are as individuals.
The Nuflours Team
Q: Who are some women in business that you look up to or admire?
Phebe: Women I admire, there are so many. Kathleen King, founder of Tate’s Cookies. She’s very frank about her successes and failures and the grind of it. She set her business up to grow with intention, to grow and scale a very large company and she succeeded. I have so much respect for that. She is honest about the challenges of the process. I hold to that, that it isn’t easy, but you can accomplish what you set out to create if you are dedicated.
Q: What does success mean to you?
Phebe: Success is relationships: the people I have brought together, the community I've found, and the people I have mentored along the way. I feel success when I see a team member move on from Nuflours and start their own business, or when a mentee launches. I’m a big believer in mentorship, and supporting budding entrepreneurs. Helping other women on their journey, becoming who they want to be, supporting the community and individuals.
Q: What’s a professional challenge that keeps you up at night?
Phebe: Growth challenges. The logistical challenges we need to solve to meet our objectives.
Q: If you were given $100 million, would you run your business any differently? How so?
Phebe: Yes. We have financial limitations and run lean as we scale in the marketplace. With a large investment we could invest in growing the brand by bringing on specific additional team members and developing marketing initiatives to launch broader, and move quicker than our current roadmap.
Q: Has learning from a mistake ever led you to success?
Phebe: Absolutely. Some of my best successes have stemmed from failure.
Q: In moments of self-doubt or adversity, how do you build yourself back up?
Phebe: I try to pause. If you are caught in an upsetting situation, you can get very emotionally involved. Pause in that moment and take a deep breath. I run a self-assessment. What am I upset about? Why am I upset? Why am I responding to it in this way? It can really help dig into the substance of it and remove some of the emotion. You can end up with surprising answers to your own self-interview. It may be a completely different reason than what triggered your response.
Q: What does the world need more of?
Phebe: Cake! (laughs) When I say “cake” I don’t mean a literal slice of cake, I mean what it embodies. Cake means celebrating, it is about joy. Celebrating delight with a friend or someone you care about. It’s what the word “cake” embodies.
Q: What is your personal or professional motto?
Phebe: Create the world you want to see.
Q: What advice would you give new women business owners?
Phebe: Give yourself more grace. Be patient with yourself.
Q: What advice would you give your past self when just starting out?
Phebe: Again, give yourself more grace. I have very high expectations, and I would get frustrated with myself about not meeting my own expectations. I'd like to tell younger me, “Phebe, you’re doing a great job!” Because I was.
Q: What challenges arose from being your own boss that you weren’t expecting?
Phebe: I really struggled with delegating. I had expectations around deliverables and I wasn’t always communicating expectations, timelines... I caught myself taking projects back. Learning that as a leader, delegating embodies trust.
Q: What’s something that really helped you when you were starting out?
Phebe: Finding my community. One of the things that helped me through the first few years was finding other women who were running food businesses in the Seattle area. We would just get together and talk about different challenges. My peer group has changed over time, but the sense of community continues.