From Zero to Hero: Successful Westchester Entrepreneurs Share Their Biggest “Whoops” Moments

Success or failure can hinge on business owners’ ability to recover quickly and learn from major mishaps

In life, mistakes happen. But in business, success or failure can hinge on business owners’ ability to recover quickly and learn from major mishaps. We found three successful entrepreneurs who agreed to share the lessons they learned from their biggest “whoops” moments.


Mary Molina launched her Croton Falls-based wheat- and soy-free granola company, Lola Granola, in 2011. Targeting health-conscious foodies, she focused sales efforts on regional farmers’ markets, where she and her husband spent every weekend trying to build the business—to no avail. 

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“Too many people were selling granola,” Molina says. “Although my bars are free of fillers, granola was granola.” She asked herself, she says, “Why sit at one place for five hours selling to the same 100 people every week, when I could sell a much greater volume and differentiate my bar in stores?” 

Today, Lola Granola has distribution in more than 100 stores throughout the tri-state area and two grocery store chains. “Lesson learned—a good product needs the right distribution channels.


Ten years ago, Steven Polevoy, DMD, of Gentle Touch Dentistry in Harrison, decided to promote his new practice with a direct-mail campaign. “A lot of my startup capital went into this mailing,” says Dr. Polevoy. “The night before the brochures were supposed to be mailed, I was looking them over one last time, when a horrible realization hit: The phone number was wrong by one digit.” 

He acted immediately. “I called the number on the brochure, and, after what seemed like forever, someone named Joe answered. I was prepared to give the guy anything he wanted, but was able to convince him to let me have the phone number and redirect it to my actual number,” Polevoy relates.

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“No one was ever the wiser; I never missed a call. No matter how bad the situation, there’s always a solution. You just have to not give up until you find it. Now, my business is thriving and life is good.”  


Cosmetic company owner Meredith Hayman of Yorktown Heights says her biggest business blunder was up-selling clients. “When I first started out, working at makeup counters in high-end stores, I was so focused on meeting sales goals and impressing my boss that I often sold customers extra products they really didn’t need,” says Hayman, today the owner of Meredith Hayman Makeup Artist. 

Says Hayman: “I learned a lot over the years, and the number-one thing is to always focus on your clients’ specific needs and have their best interests at heart.”

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