Kara Cissell-Roell

Entrepreneurs are massively optimistic, doggedly determined people.

Kara tells us about her kids, her love of the Midwest, and the tireless (and sometimes tiring) pursuit of having it all.

A mind of their own

I feel very lucky to have complicated, headstrong, opinionated kids. That makes parenting tough but also incredibly joyful.

Heart for the Heartland

My favorite people are Midwest transplants (including my husband whom I’ve known since we were 10). There’s a kind of no nonsense transparency about them.

Having it all

My mom used to say you can have it all, just not all at the same time. It ebbs and flows. Women need to trust that it’s possible even when it’s hard. And it’s definitely not always pretty!

They have the genius (and courage) to often go where no one has gone. The trick for them is long-term survival. That’s where we can help.

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You’re the daughter of a police officer. That’s a powerful role model!

My dad loved his profession but it didn’t pay much. He worked several jobs to put his daughters through parochial school. That definitely influenced my work ethic and how much I value learning.

This was in Indianapolis. You’re a Midwesterner at heart?

My favorite people are Midwest transplants (including my husband whom I’ve known since we were 10). There’s a kind of no nonsense transparency about them. Friendly candid conversation is a part of our ‘culture.’

Did you hold a job in high school?

My parents didn’t have a lot of money. But I wanted to buy a cool pair of jeans and go out to eat with friends... so I got a job as a checkout girl at a grocery store. This was no Whole Foods. The produce and packaged goods were so grimy I got physically sick at the end of my first three days.

Which led to your investments in better-for-you brands?

Maybe! I fully support the paradigm shift towards healthier, affordable choices in the products we, and our children, consume every day.

Speaking of kids, what have you learned from parenting that might apply to your work?

I feel very lucky to have complicated, headstrong, opinionated kids. That makes parenting tough but also incredibly joyful. I’ve learned to pick my battles and focus on the big picture. My job is to keep my kids within the guardrails while they explore, fail and succeed on their path to their own great place- maybe one they wouldn’t have had the confidence to shoot for alone. We’re just there to help them find their best selves along the way.

Is that how you see your investor-entrepreneur relationships?

Entrepreneurs can also be complicated, headstrong and opinionated. They’re massively optimistic, doggedly determined people who have the genius (and courage) to often go where no one has gone. The trick for them is long-term survival. That’s where we can help. Our culture is collaborative and mentoring—both within VMG and with our partners in each brand. We’re not operators (and we don’t try to be) but we’ve travelled this journey with other founders and managers and helped them build amazing brands. We share our VMG toolbox and, importantly, we share our lessons learned and our best practices.

You’re also very interested in bringing more women into the field (both PE and entrepreneurship).

The world needs more strong, articulate women in leadership positions for sure. We need women who deeply understand what these consumer brands mean to families and we need the kind of communication and collaboration skills that women uniquely bring to the table.

What about the idea of “having it all”?

My mom used to say you can have it all, just not all at the same time. It ebbs and flows. Women need to trust that it’s possible even when it’s hard. It’s definitely not always pretty: when we started VMG, I was pregnant with twins, then put on bed rest, then temporarily paralyzed from childbirth and then my active-duty-military husband was deployed twice to the Middle East! It seems crazy now but you just don’t give up and you make it work.

Sounds like you’re both pretty heroic.

My husband served 20 years in the Armed Forces. Let’s save the hero title for him.

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