My spotlight guest is Paula Lambert, stellar cheesemaker, iconic entrepreneur and founder of Mozzarella Company. She is known for her friendly, infectious smile; luminous white hair; signature red glasses; and warm, slow voice.
At 73, she continues to run her companies, write a column for the Prime Women website, teach and participate in community events as well as sell her cheeses at a local farmers market. Paula Lambert is a legend in her own lifetime, pouring her genuine love of entertaining and her graciousness into everything she does.
Marcia Zidle: Tell me about your business and why you started it.
Paula Lambert: “I lived in Italy when I was in my twenties and loved it. I came back to the US, married, and visited Italy a couple of times. But, I wanted to go back there more often. But how? With a flash of insight, I decided to start a business. But what? What about cheese? Restaurants in Dallas would fly in Mozzarella cheese, but by the time it got here, it was not ‘fresh’. It should be eaten on the same day it’s made. So, I decided to learn how to make it.”
Marcia Zidle: In 1982, the concept of a local creamery making small batch, fresh cheese daily by hand did not exist in the region. But that didn’t deter her. First, she made a single cheese, fresh mozzarella then grew production to more than 30 specialty cheeses. She was selling her cheeses locally and nationally before “handcrafted” and “artisanal” were trends.
Marcia Zidle: What are some of the challenges and satisfactions?
Paula Lambert: “It was tough in the beginning. There was no place around here to learn how to make cheese like they have in Europe. That’s what I did! I went to factories in Italy that made the cheese by hand, and I learned from them. In France, I got the palate of their cheese. In Oaxaca Mexico, I talked to the women selling cheese at the markets and then visited their houses to learn from them. Another challenge when you’re starting a business is you have to do many things – make the cheeses, watch the bottom line, develop new markets, and keep employees happy.”
“My biggest satisfaction is that I love what I do from the day I started. My greatest joy is to see my women employees, who come from humble backgrounds, succeed. They make a living, grow families, and contribute to society. I’m so very proud of them.”
Marcia Zidle: What are some lessons learned so far in your journey building a business?
Paula Lambert: “The things I learned were patience, being adaptable, and willingness to learn. One of my big lessons was to delegate and let people do things their own way – you can’t ride them too hard. Also, I’ve learned to understand that it’s ok if they don’t do it exactly the way you want as long as it gets the same results. It’s so important to give them space to be creative and improve.”
Marcia Zidle: In second half of life, how has that been a benefit in your business journey?
Paula Lambert: “We’re very wise. We’ve experienced so many things and saw what worked and what didn’t. Some people say I wish I was 30 again. I feel 30 all the time because I’m learning. If you’re smart, you learn from the past and from every single experience. I haven’t had hallmark moments. I just keep the ball rolling, accumulating more wisdom.”
Marcia Zidle: What business and life advice would you give to women who are moving into their prime?
Paula Lambert: “Realize life is short. As you get older, you lose people and family. So, make sure you’re leading a life you want and living your life to the fullest. I’m a perfectly happy person. Also, have gratitude and be humble. Do not rest on your laurels. Be successful every day. Have a strong work ethic. Move forward every day, and enjoy what you’re doing. Finally, have resiliency. I never know what’s around the corner.”