Ali Cerda, Founder and CEO of Inspiralized, is helping families get excited to eat vegetables, one recipe at a time.
After growing up with an entrepreneurial spirit and working in a variety of events and hotel management roles, Ali finally stumbled upon a passion that would launch her entire company—spiralizing vegetables. She quit her corporate job and began writing a blog that has since transformed into an empire. Her brand, Inspiralized, now consists of New York Times best-selling cookbooks, a mobile recipe app, and a food blog updated with new recipes and content.
We asked Ali about the inspiration behind her company, her greatest achievements, and the most important lessons learned from transforming a blog into a community of hundreds of thousands.
Q: Tell us the story behind your company’s founding: How and why did you start your business?
A: In 2013, I discovered spiralizing through my mother, who stumbled upon zucchini noodles at a restaurant. After a couple of months of spiralizing and feeling inspired, I knew I wanted to build a resource around spiralizing to help people cook vegetables in a way that would help them eat healthier and love veggies. I quit my job and the next day and bought inspiralized.com. I started my brand with plans to write a cookbook, launch my own proprietary spiralizer product, and collaborate with brands to integrate spiralizing into the mainstream. Luckily, it worked out!
Q: What problem does your business solve?
Q: In what ways has your upbringing or past experiences contributed to how you operate as an entrepreneur?
A: I’ve been surrounded by entrepreneurs my whole life and I’ve always been drawn to entrepreneurial endeavors. My father was an entrepreneur (he owns a residential landscaping company) and both grandfathers were entrepreneurs (one owned an injection molding business and the other owned a B2B product business). Furthermore, my husband is an entrepreneur (he owns an outdoor advertising company). And so when I met him, I knew it was a sign that I was meant to be an entrepreneur.
Q: Did you always know that you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
A: Yes! I’ve always gravitated towards entrepreneurial ideas. When I was little, I loved “selling” things, whether it was friendship bracelets or lemonade to neighbors. I learned early HTML to code websites and I created websites for family friends’ businesses to earn money. I used early trading and selling websites like eBay to create my own businesses. There was nothing I felt exceptionally passionate about, until I discovered spiralizing.
Q: Have you ever felt like you’re “different”? If yes, in what ways has this contributed to your journey as an entrepreneur?
A: While I don’t necessarily feel “different,” I’ve always felt like I couldn’t understand people who were fearful of failure or giving up corporate mobility. When people would tell me that they were too scared or the logistics were too overwhelming to start a business, I never understood it because I simply believed that the possibility of owning your own brand far outweighed the risks.
Q: What’s one thing you wish you had known before starting your company?
A: I think at the very beginning of my business, I didn’t have much money to work with (I started the company with about $4,000 in savings). I was so money-conscious that I didn’t invest in things that would grow my business. For example, I wish I had invested in a better website and branding early on. I wish I had spent money on the things that would grow my business and lead to more financial success, rather than shy away from it in fear of not having enough money. Later on, when I invested more of the money I made into the business, the brand took off!
Q: What’s been the hardest and most rewarding part of your entrepreneurial journey?
A: The most rewarding part of the entrepreneurial journey is hearing feedback from customers, readers, and followers on how my recipes and the Inspiralizer changed the way their family eats. The hardest part of the entrepreneurial journey is losing friends who don’t understand the lack of time you have to spend on friendships in the building stages and then later, as a mother. It’s isolating and the business I’m in can be very lonely, since it’s all online.
Q: Have you struggled with self doubt as an entrepreneur? How do you navigate this?
A: Yes, all the time. My business recently has gone through an existential crisis, as I’ve grown and evolved personally. Since my brand has always been so strongly tied to my personal identity, I’ve found it hard to stay authentic at times, because I’m constantly ebbing between what people have always expected of me content-wise and what I want to create now. From this, my growth has really stalled. And when I compare myself to other, faster-growing platforms, I feel self doubt. To navigate this, I constantly tell myself that this is who I am and it won’t be for everyone, but what’s not for anyone is being inauthentic. As long as I stay true to who I am, that’s all I can do. Knowing that gives me peace when I’m self-doubting.
Q: We dare you to brag: What achievements are you most proud of?
A: Becoming a New York Times best-selling author—twice!
Ali’s collection of cookbooks, including two that are New York Times Best-Sellers
Q: How do you celebrate successes along the way?
A: By sharing them with my audience! I think taking a moment to celebrate success is so important and the only reason I have any success is due to the people who share my brand and support its growth. When something monumental happens, from a little local newspaper feature to a major feature on national television, I love to share about it with my audience.
Q: What’s next for you and your company?
A: I’m focusing on a rebrand that is more reflective of what this brand has become, which is a place for easy, creative, veggie-forward recipes for your whole family, with a little bit of motherhood realness sprinkled in. Aside from that, I’m writing another cookbook. This cookbook will be written in collaboration with the team at Feeding Littles and will be published by Avery of Penguin Random House. I’m really excited for this next step!