Natalie Susi Teacher. Writer. Entrepreneur. Natalie Susi is a teacher by heart, a writer by trade, and an entrepreneur by choice. A former English and writing teacher, Natalie Susi founded Bare Organic Mixers after she was laid off in the CA budget cuts from her dream job at San Diego State University. In 2009, Natalie decided to explore the world of entrepreneurialism when she recognized a large gap in the marketplace for low-calorie, all-natural cocktails. Originally named SoCal LowCal and created in her San Diego kitchen, Natalie navigated the sourcing, bottling, manufacturing, and distribution process. With the intention of making it more appealing on a national level, she rebranded the product and name it, Bare Organic Mixers. In 2014, she sold the company to a leading natural foods company in Los Angeles. Natalie worked with the company as the face of the brand for a year and she and Bare were featured in some notable press outlets that include: Forbes.com (Top 10 Female Entrepreneurs to Watch in SD), Pacific Magazine (Top 30 Under 30) The LA Times, E! Online, People Magazine, and Bravo’s, The Millionaire Matchmaker. In 2015, Natalie exited the company, so she could return to education, but this time the content she wanted to teach was much different than English literature. She returned to education with a unique experience of how to build a business from nothing with no money, no team, and no previous business education. Like so many other first time entrepreneurs, she spent the last 8 years learning all of her life lessons the hard way through her biggest failures and mistakes. During this learning process, Natalie became fascinated with human behavior and psychology and concepts in the personal development space like how to recognize your blind spots, how to overcome limiting beliefs, and how to get out of what she coins, a “ditch moment.” In 2017, Natalie combined her educational background as a teacher and her experience as an entrepreneur to create, What Have I Learned, a company that provides individual coaching, business consulting, and online courses specializing in helping people overcome their limiting beliefs, so they can step into who they are meant to become and achieve the life and career they’ve always wanted. She also teaches a course called The Pursuit of Happiness at UCSD.
This Is How I Got Here
When people ask me what I do, I tell them I'm a teacher, a writer, and an entrepreneur. WHIL has been 34 years in the making, but most of the life experiences that make up the content on this website were created in the last 10. I'll start at the beginning though and break down the major highlights. I am a born teacher. I have been teaching since I was 5 years old. My favorite birthday gift was a big chalkboard that my mom found amongst a pile of old supplies at her work. I used a curtain rod as my pointer, and I taught my imaginary students before and after I came home from actual school. One year for my birthday, I asked my parents to take me the teacher store, not the toy store (true story). As I grew up, I developed my leadership skills as class president and vice president of my high school (titles my mom still proudly shares with people to this day). When I graduated, I gave all of my favorite teachers copies of my wallet size graduation photos, and I wrote on the back, “See you in 4 years as a faculty member.” 4 years later and 5 days after graduation, Concord High School called me up and asked me if I was ready to start teaching. Life Lesson #1: You can set goals and speak things into existence. Of course, I had no idea this is what I was doing at the time. I just thought I had gotten lucky. As with most things in life, as soon as I accomplished this goal, I was ready to move towards a new one. One day I had the urge to challenge myself with a move across the country. As soon as I realized I was scared to go, I packed up my car and started driving to San Diego. Life Lesson #2: The things you’re most scared to do are precisely the things you need to do. I got my MA at San Diego State University, and as soon as I graduated, I was hired to teach at another alma mater. I had my dream job teaching English Literature, and everything was great except I wasn’t really making any money. So, I started to consider building a business on the side. I naively and optimistically thought this would be an easy feat. It literally never occurred to me that my business wouldn’t be successful if I worked hard enough and I learned all of the things I needed to learn. This mentality had certainly worked for me so far with my other two professional goals, so I assumed this would be no different. Of course, this was not the outcome (I can imagine you saw that coming). I had no background, no education, and no experience in building a business. I did, however, have a good idea, plenty of optimism, and just the right amount of ignorance to blissfully walk into US Bank right before the market crashed in 2008 and ask for a loan. I was one of those people the bank gave lots of money too when they should have never given me a dime. I was 23, and I had an idea and no business plan. They handed me 40k and told me to go have fun. The market crashed shortly after. If I had walked into the bank a few months later, my life would probably look very different. Life Lesson #3: One moment can literally change the trajectory of your entire life. My first business was called Claudio’s Italian Ice, named after my father, an Italian guy right off the boat. Italian Ice is a big seller during the hot East Coast summers, and since it is warm here all of the time, I figured this was a no brainer. I couldn’t understand why no one had thought to bring it to sunny San Diego already, but I figured I had stepped into a lucky gold mine and that I would soon make lots of money and be able to teach “because I want to and not because I have to.” That was my real dream and my real motivation in starting a business. It all seemed like a great idea until I realized that no one on the West Coast knew what Italian ice was, and selling at farmers markets actually meant waking up before 6 AM to build up and tear down a store all in one day just to bring home $100.00 (if I was lucky). Just as I was about to close up this business and try to find my next teaching job, my friends asked me to bring my Italian ice to a party, and they started mixing it with alcohol to make low-calorie cocktails. This seemed like a much more profitable idea, so I rebranded Claudio’s Italian Ice into SoCal Lowcal (the premiere natural, low-calorie cocktail mixer for SoCal women who wanted to have all the fun without all of the guilt). I thought, “This time, I have definitely hit a homerun.” Soon, I decided to rebrand the product again and named it Bare Mixers to increase its national appeal. I was excited to work with a new concept, but once again, I had no idea what I had just signed up for. Once again, I had gotten involved in a business venture that I was unprepared for, but this time around, I knew just a little more than I knew the last time. I went back to the drawing board, I read a lot of books, and I learned how to build a brand. Then, I found some incredible mentors (shout out to Cheryl, Max, Pat, and Steven!) who helped me put my lessons into action. I was determined to succeed, and at my core, I was still an optimistic teacher who had faith that with a good idea and enough research; I could make something out of nothing. So, I learned how to bottle, label, and source ingredients for a retail shelf product, and I started to implement guerrilla tactics to market and sell Bare Mixes to local bars and restaurants. I made my first big sale to the first restaurant I had ever eaten in when I moved to San Diego. Life Lesson #4: In business and in life, it’s our failures, our f**k ups, and our mistakes that lead to our biggest life lessons and our biggest successes. Life Lesson #5: Mentors help you get through this failure phase a little faster since they’ve already f**ked up quite a bit too and can offer you some short cuts. In the midst of all of this business building, I also fell in love with one of my best friends from back East. It was a surprise to both of us, but it was real, and we wanted to start a life together back home. We both agreed that the plan was for me to stay in CA a little longer to grow Bare Mixers with the intention of selling the whole company to the highest buyer. As soon I sold, I would then move back East and we would get married and start a family. We both planned to do this within two years and before I turned 30. Life Lesson #6: Plans don’t always turn out like you plan (you’d think I would have learned this by now…). My boyfriend and I happily weathered a long distance relationship for 2 years, then 3, then 4 and still no buyer came. By the end of the 4th year, my relationship had deteriorated and 10 days before my 30th birthday, I was going through a break up instead of planning a wedding, or as I used to jokingly say– I got the boot instead of the ring.This story later turned into numerous blogs and a screenplay, and it officially launched my trek down the personal development rabbit hole. You can find more of that story here. In July, 2013, I lost my boyfriend, all three of the jobs I was doing to stay afloat, and my business was tanking. Life had officially brought me to my knees, and all I could do was pray and meditate. I was painfully aware though that the universe/God was trying to send me a message. Nothing was working and everything had fallen apart, so I needed to take a moment to stop, reassess, and rebuild. I went from working 24/7 to having zero jobs, so I meditated like my life depended on it. And, in some ways it did. I envisioned what I wanted to create and how I wanted to sell the company, and 6 months later, with the help of two of my mentors, I sold my company to a leading health foods company who loved the concept behind my homegrown brand. In 2014, I officially sold what I playfully called my “Bare baby.” I created it, I birthed it, and I nurtured it. I spent many sleepless nights worrying about it. At times, I sacrificed my bank account, my relationships, and my sanity, and I even braved a stint on a reality TV show for my bare baby. Life Lesson #7: Sometimes it’s not about working hard, it’s about setting intentions and letting the universe do the work for you. The company that bought Bare Mixers hired me to be the face of the brand, and I went from being Founder and CEO to an employee with the title, Brand Manager. I worked with the company for 15 months until I realized that it was time for me to move onto my next venture. Life Lesson #8: How to accept when it’s time to leave something behind even if it feels like it’s a part of you. Bare was no longer mine. We had outgrown each other. And in the midst of my time as a corporate employee, I had actually started to like a new man who flew into my life just as quickly as he left. His disappearing act or “ghosting” triggered another trip down the personal development rabbit hole. This time, instead of learning about meditation and positive thinking, I learned about what motivates people to do what they do, and the differences between men and women and how to communicate with the opposite sex in the most effective way. My lay off and my newfound personal development knowledge prompted me to pick up and move again. This time, I chose L.A. While I was living in West Hollywood, I took a year off to learn, grown, and get back to writing. I call LA the “land of deliberate dreamers” because it is full of people who are deliberately pounding the pavement every single day to accomplish their dreams, and in many cases, they are doing it even though becoming successful is a one in a million shot. It’s incredibly inspiring to witness. Hollywood has a way of making you believe in magic if you experience it with the right people. Thankfully, I did. I moved in with my best friend in the middle of West Hollywood. And then, of course, I started to date. Dating in LA was a whole new ballgame, and I was well equipped to play. With my newfound knowledge on men and my easy breezy unemployment schedule, I could go on 3 dates a day, and, I did. It was fun and exciting, and there were handsome, successful everywhere. I started testing out all of the things I had last learned in my post-ghoster personal development hole, and all of the lessons that I had learned about how to communicate with men worked. I was attracting great guys who all wanted to commit, but I wasn’t really interested in any of them until one came along that I couldn’t say no to. As you may have guessed, 2 years after my awful breakup and 6 months after ghosted guy, I fell in love with a talented creative who was just as beautiful on the outside as he was on the inside. He was loving and supportive, and he wanted to be my boyfriend. There was just one problem. While he was grounded and committed in all areas of his life, I wasn’t grounded or committed in any area of mine. I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I didn’t know where I wanted to live, and I didn’t know who I was anymore. I was no longer the bare mixers girl. I didn’t have a classroom to call my own. I didn’t even have a closet to call my own. I didn’t have a story. I didn’t know who I was, and I didn’t know what I was supposed to be doing. Life Lesson #9: Timing is everything.