Updated: Sep 6, 2019
As a founder, tennis pro, mother and wife, Alex Paunic seems to have a full schedule 8 days a week. What may seem to be overwhelming to some, is in fact just how she likes it. "I've always had the urge & need to be active, whether it's sports, business, or in my personal life, I'm always moving." She found time in her day to sit down with us, and the result was an inspiring story of determination, courage, and faith.
BMG: What was most intriguing to me about your story is that you're involved in so many various avenues. So you're originally from Serbia, what was it that drew you to the states ?
Alex Paunic: Absolutely, so I moved here primarily because of the tennis industry. I had just recently sold my bakery SoSo Sweet which was based out of Belgrade, Serbia. I still hold the rights to the SoSo Sweet brand which I still use and maintain.
BMG: Wonderful, that's great that you were able to hang on to the brand name. So, tell me a little bit about the bakery, what was it that triggered you to start your own business?
AP: Great question. Believe it or not , my love for cooking and baking actually came about during a pretty difficult time of my life. As a teenager I was dealing with a severe eating disorder. A simple remark about my weight had sent me down a dark place at the time. I was not eating, hardly at all. Additionally, by nature I am very competitive and I was always training extremely hard for tennis, to the point of complete exhaustion. So, coupling that with my disorder , it was very difficult.
Luckily, I was able to use cooking to help myself out of that situation. It began from liking the feeling that other people were getting to enjoy the food I was making. Now, I try everything I make, and even though I'm eating pizza and ice cream , I'm actually in much better shape than when I was so overly focused on losing weight. That's something I was not ready to talk about until a few years ago, but I think it's important as hopefully it will help girls to be comfortable in their own skin and in who they are, without making the same mistakes I made.
BMG: I'm so sorry you had to go through that difficult time, I think it's admirable that you're willing to share your experience . I agree I think it will serve to be incredibly inspirational. You mentioned your competitive drive, do think that has translated over to your work ethic in business ?
AP: Definitely, yes. I started competing at a very young age, and my personality all comes from those early years of playing tennis. When I started, I was actually noticeably bad compared to the others. I can remember crying after countless matches, yet I knew that was what I wanted to do. I woke up everyday ready to go, just trying to make steady progress was what kept me going . People would laugh at me, people would tell me to quit, and those moments, those moments have actually been helpful more than anything else to me.
BMG: So you were able to take those detracting words from the doubters and turn them into motivation?
AP: Exactly! Anyone doubting became part of my fuel and drive. Not just in tennis, but in various aspects of my life. I've been involved with a lot of things, and like so many of us, when I started I wasn't good at them. With baking too,
people would say, "Oh she can't do that, she's terrible" or "She's never going to make it doing, x, y and z" . I'd always keep working knowing in my heart I would succeed and come back with "Alright, still don't think I can? Not a problem, watch me go do it again."
BMG: Amazing. So that's where that persistence and self-belief comes in.
AP: You got it. Self belief is so key. I needed that faith in what I was doing because what's ironic about it all, was the negativity was coming from some of the people that were closest to me. It's ironic because some of the same people saying those things, are the same ones who ask me for advice now.
BMG: Isn't that a crazy phenomenon? What do you think that can be attributed to?
AP: It's very strange. I've found that doubt and hate usually come from people who are stuck somewhere in their life, and are not ready to step out and make it their own. It just came to a point where I stopped being so afraid of the opinion of others. I stopped caring about their thoughts of me, I just stepped out and trusted myself. That's what my husband and I try to instill in my kids, that belief that they truly can do ANYTHING they want to, whatever it is, it is attainable.
BMG: That's great for them to see at such a young age that the opportunities are endless.
AP: Right, you said it- the sky is the limit for them.
BMG: So for someone who wears so many hats, how are you able to manage all of your different priorities and allocate your time?
AP: That's a constant balancing act for me. I think the main thing has been trying my best not to postpone the difficult tasks. Making sure that the high priority stuff is not pushed off, but handled right away. Of course I have my days where I'm a mess, but you just have to keep going, no one is perfect.
BMG: On those inevitably difficult days , what do you do to overcome and push through? How do you maintain that drive without getting burnt out?
AP: So, I try to make sure to give myself breaks. I love reading and running those are always helpful to de-stress and clear my head. Oh, and coffee helps , I like coffee, a LOT. It definitely helps to keep my moving from task to task.
BMG: Coffee is definitely a must, multiple cups . It's really inspiring to see someone not constrained by thinking they need to operate in just one lane.
AP: Well thank you very much I appreciate you saying that. I like pushing myself to try things that aren't natural at first. Pushing to try the unknown has enabled so many doors to be opened.
BMG: It's amazing what becomes possible just by putting yourself out there and being willing to dive into new experiences. I want to thank you so much for taking the time out to chat, you've been an incredible guest. Is there anything else you'd like to say to perhaps any budding entrepreneurs, any advice you would offer.
AP: Just keep moving. You may think you're not making big strides but trust me, if you're progressing and learning every day, you absolutely are. Just keep moving.
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