Women in Business Q&A: Cristina DeVito, CEO of Mudderella
The Huffington Post
July 12, 2014
Hailing from the sunny shores of New Jersey, Cristina brings a diverse background to the Mudderella team. From her days studying mechanical engineering at Dartmouth College to her time as a management consultant with Bain & Company, Cristina has never shied away from a new opportunity or challenge. It is this drive, determination and desire to take on new challenges that Cristina inspires the Mudderella team with on a daily basis.
When an opportunity in her hometown with Tough Mudder, as the Chief Strategy Officer presented itself, Cristina knew she had no choice but to pack up and head back across the country. The entrepreneurial spirit and culture of Tough Mudder presented Cristina with an opportunity to create an obstacle challenge series for women. She and her team created Mudderella to empower women across the country to celebrate their strength and to have fun, and well as they say, the rest is history.
How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I am the only daughter of two Italian parents. And like many first generation children, I have seen first-hand how valuable hard work and determination can be in achieving seemingly impossible goals. My parents came from humble beginnings and didn't speak English when they arrived in the U.S.; they are each strong individuals who are not only confident and determined, but also know when to ask for help and when to give it.
I have been so fortunate to work with some incredibly strong, rising talent. The Mudderella team is smart, passionate and dedicated. They help each other, they believe in our product and they cheer for our customers. Importantly, they are not afraid to tell me when they think I'm wrong and provide alternative solutions. They make me a better leader because they are active members of the team, and find opportunities to coach me in their own ways.
How has your previous employment experience aided your position at Mudderella?
I am a strong believer that every experience prepares you for the next in life. I'm lucky to have worked in finance and management consulting prior to Mudderella, as it gave me a solid base of hard skills. It also taught me how to communicate across different groups of people, and ways to align these individuals around a common, greater goal.
At some point I realized that I had spent much of my career being an adviser, and there came a point where I said to myself "it's time that I'm the one that pushes the button instead of telling other people to push the button." I had always enjoyed working with small, growing companies and brands, so making the switch to starting a new brand from scratch was an incredible opportunity for me.
Mudderella is a brand that encourages women (and men) to define what being strong means to you and to own it - to believe that "can't" doesn't exist. I myself have run in many obstacle mud runs over the past few years and saw first-hand how motivating and inspirational it can be to set a goal and achieve something that you didn't think was possible. Having untimed events that you can do with friends (even if you just only met them on the course that day!), adds an element of fun to the challenge. My team and I wanted to create a true athletic challenge for women that was also a fun, full day experience.
What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Mudderella?
100% the highlight is seeing the women on course interacting with the experience and the event. Being at our NY/NJ event with 10,000 women around you and hearing their stories of strength and how Mudderella means something--often something different to each one of them--that is the highlight and why I founded the brand. It's also been amazing to see the event grow from our first test event in 2013 to eight events in 2014 (including our first event in the UK this summer!).
While our growth has been a major highlight, planning for the growth has been a challenge. It's amazing but sometimes unexpected, and planning for the unknown is always a challenge. As a team we have to be nimble and quickly in the moment. And importantly, when the event is all said and done it's also so important to take a step back and really evaluate how it went. We constantly make refinements to ensure we are giving the consumer the best experience possible.