Born in a small fishing town in New Brunswick, Canada, Wendy Abony Polland grew up creating. She began her career as an artist crayon-sketching the wonders of the naturally beautiful scenes around her. In the process, she discovered her passion—indeed, her gift—for expressing emotions through art. Completely self-taught, Wendy's instructor has always been her own curiosity.
Today, her art lives in the homes of celebrities, billionaires, and discerning collectors throughout the world.
In addition to her reputation as a celebrated artist, Wendy has also received notoriety as an international fashion and print model for the acclaimed Ford Agency in New York. You've seen her on the covers of magazines, as well as in television commercials and on product packaging for some of your favorite household brands.
Wendy's latest and proudest pursuit is as an entrepreneur, and owner of The Art of Pecan, the world's leading producer of pecan oil. The Art of Pecan began when Wendy moved to Texas some years ago and instantly fell in love with the beautiful native pecan trees growing across her property. "I merely admired them, at first, not knowing anything about the extraordinarily healthy food they produced."
After conversations with a family cardiologist, and more research on her own, she realized: pecans are among the healthiest natural foods in the world, yet everyone's just putting them on pies. She also learned that pecans are about 70% comprised of oil. If pecans are a superfood, she concluded, then pecan oil is their lifeblood.
So she bought a press and went to work, and today produces award-winning pecan oil pressed from native Texas pecans. The Art of Pecan now operates out of the world's first pecan oil mill, located in Dripping Springs, Texas, and produces pecan oil for culinary, cosmetic, and other specialty health and wellness industries.
Q: What is the biggest challenge you have met in your career?
Wendy: My biggest challenge has been patience. When you start a business it's very exciting, and you want everything to be instant. You see the vision, but this vision needs to be created in stages and is reliant on so many other components that you have no control over. I've learned that great things take time and if you are willing to wait it's worth it in the end.
Q: How you would describe your company culture, and what are the superpowers of your team?
Wendy: Our company culture is very free. We like to explore new ideas, we are innovators, creators. We're not afraid to go outside of the box. We listen to signals and pivot when we need to. Our superpower is our quality aesthetic. We pay attention to very, very small details. Few notice those details, but the ones who do are worth making the extra effort for.
Q: What are some challenges or trends you see in hiring today?
Wendy: It's a challenge finding people with the right work ethic. The younger ones are concerned with titles, and having more responsibility than they're ready for (so they can have a better title). They believe they deserve, instead of understanding they have to earn. Their passions are also misaligned; it's nice to pursue a greater good, but there's a bottom line to the business. Good intentions, virtue signaling, and platitudes don't help get the job done. It's also nice to find someone who anticipates, rather than merely reacts. You can be a very good reactionary employee; most are, in fact. But the really great ones anticipate.
Q: Who inspires you and why?
Wendy: My parents are my biggest inspiration. My father being an orphan with no parents for guidance as a child, made an amazing father, family, and career for himself. His being an entrepreneur gave me the inspiration that I could also follow that path, and that anything is possible with some hard work.
My mother coming from a family of 11 and very poor, never gave up or complained about what she didn't have, and instead appreciated what she did have.
They're both fighters, always by each other's side— even suffering from cancer together at the same time and getting through it together. That made me realize how lucky I am to have them and the support and strength that they have instilled in me, to never give up no matter how hard it seems.
Q: How would you describe your leadership style?
Wendy: I am not an authoritarian by any means, I'm very soft spoken non-confrontational. I believe in the people I hire and those people have mine and my company's best interest at heart. I want people to enjoy their work place and feel good about what they are doing. Respect for each other goes a long way.
Q: Have you ever had an hourly job? If yes, please share with us your experience.
Wendy: I've worked several. The most memorable was working for the small fishing village of Saint George in New Brunswick, where I grew up. I rode my bike there and back seven miles each day to do a variety of humbling and honest duties: watering plants, road signing, picking up garbage, cleaning outhouses.
It's the kind of work that helps you understand what hard work is, and who hard workers are, and the meaning of sacrifice.
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