Nicole Centeno on The Importance of Self Care for Personal and Professional Growth

Nicole Centeno, Founder & CEO of ready-to-eat plant-based food company Splendid Spoon, shares more about her journey as a female founder and how self care is a large part of her life and continued success.

Nicole Centeno on The Importance of Self Care for Personal and Professional Growth

Words by The Sill

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Nicole Centeno, Founder & CEO of ready-to-eat plant-based food company Splendid Spoon, shares more about her journey as a female founder and how self care is a large part of her life and continued success.
Tell us a little bit about yourself!

I am the founder and CEO of Splendid Spoon, a wellness business committed to making you healthier through plant-based meals during the busy 9-to-5 grind. I’m also the mom of two boys: Grover, 6 and Caleb, 5, and am expecting my third in March! Most of my life revolves around balancing the things that I love (work, being a mom) and taking good care of myself. I try to live by one of Splendid Spoon’s mantras that busy can be healthy.

What inspired Splendid Spoon?

I was pregnant with Grover and also pivoting my career out of media and into food; my to-do list was super long and I had a hard time making healthy habits a part of my daily life. Lots of croissants, lattes and takeout, and very few homemade meals. This was particularly painful for me given my training as a chef and my experience in academic research (I was a biology major in college, and my studies on diet therapies as a treatment for epilepsy were published in Nutrition and Metabolism).

Creating Splendid Spoon was my attempt to build healthier habits starting with just one plant-based meal a day. It changed my life! Replacing my low nutrient snacks and meals with pre-made plant-based meals allowed me to continue my busy schedule, become a mom and take care of my body without losing any time.

As a female founder, what would you say was your biggest challenge when starting up your business?

Doubt. One of the best qualities most founders have is outsized optimism and borderline obsession to go after something no one else sees. Doubt is the enemy to this quality, and it increases when you don’t see people like yourself in the position you want to someday hold. There are far fewer women than men raising venture dollars and building high-growth consumer businesses, so it has taken me time to find the right community of female leaders to lean on during those periods of doubt.

How do you measure success?

Success for me is rooted in the balance between motherhood, work and self-care. It’s important at the end of every day, I have challenged myself, I have been unafraid to ask critical questions and I have made decisions that are aligned with what I believe is right, and aligned with the unique skills I can offer the world.

For work, it’s getting to the end of the day and feeling confident that all of my business decisions and actions have been aligned with Splendid Spoon’s goal to help more Americans build plant-based eating habits. I’ll ask myself, did I stay focused? Did I lean into the skills that are unique to me and critical to the business?

With family, I want to make sure I’ve done everything I could to help my kids feel supported, loved and safe and that I’ve worked in partnership with my husband to get there.

On the personal side - did I treat my body and spirit like the precious things they are? That might sound a little dramatic, but it’s important to me so I stay committed to my daily self-care habits. The little things we do every day make the biggest impact on our lives.  I try to be self-reflective and objective in these moments without getting caught in self-criticism, which I think is a really important element to success and personal evolution.

What are some of your personal goals for success in 2020?

Becoming a mom for the third time, and evolving our family dynamic to include this new person is my #1 goal!

How do you define self care in your own life? 

I define self care as everyday rituals that keep my foundation for health and wellness super strong. For me, that is at least 2 plant-based meals (I aim for an 80/20 plant-based diet), a journal entry, and meditation every day. I definitely have some less frequent rituals like yoga, acupuncture, and reading for pleasure that I credit with staying balanced, but those everyday rituals are the most important.

Could you tell us about your plant parent journey? How many plants do you have?

I probably have 30 plants counting all the little babies we have in the office. I started keeping house plants when I moved to the city 14 years ago, and I killed everything that I brought home. Over time, I learned to really pay attention to the little cues that plants give so they can thrive.

I am always intrigued by new types of plants and their unique needs—a south-facing window, mist instead of watering, etc. Similar to my approach to self-care and my philosophy with Splendid Spoon, I think being a great plant parent means paying attention to the little things you do with your plants every day. Big changes will usually shock plants, so patience and daily love is super important.

What is the best piece of advice you've ever received?

Never be the smartest person in the room. Success is about the people you surround yourself with so I try to spend time with people who are smarter and who think differently than me.

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