Women Of The C-Suite: Sandy Connery & Jennifer Barcelos of Namastream On The Five Things You Need To Succeed As A Senior Executive
Sandy: When we think about the future, we feel it’s imperative to discuss the concept of a new economy: the way we are used to living, earning, and spending as humans will never be the same. By founding Namastream, we’ve helped women achieve financial freedom by giving them the tools they need to jump start their online business and adapt to the current ‘virtual’ world. Making online business accessible and helping others make their mark in this new economy is something that we take pride in.
As a part of our series about strong women leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jennifer Barcelos and Sandy Connery.
Jennifer Barcelos is the Co-Founder and CEO of Namastream and Co-Host of the And She Spoke podcast. An avid believer that success is found in being more than one thing, Jennifer brings her passion for creating and educating to her roles as an entrepreneur, attorney, parent, and changemaker.
Never one to shy away from a challenge, Jennifer jumped at the opportunity to disrupt the wellness and technology industries by building the Namastream platform in 2015, making it easier for independent instructors to build and scale their businesses on the Internet. Today, Jennifer leads the Namastream team with the goal of empowering women to find financial freedom through online entrepreneurship.
Jennifer currently lives on a remote, forested island in Washington State with her husband and young daughter.
Sandy Connery is the Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer of Namastream, Soulful MBA, and Connectable.Biz Software. A multidimensional businesswoman and mother, Sandy has made the transition from a successful clinician and retail owner to a savvy tech entrepreneur.
In 2014, while looking for a career change that would allow her the freedom to work from home while challenging her professional acumen, Sandy took a leap into the technology industry studying software development, and ultimately teaming up with Jennifer on Namastream. Today, Sandy brings her business know-how to the Namastream team, where she plays a key role in creating community, teaching and inspiring other healers to find the freedom and impact they desire.
Sandy lives in Calgary, Alberta, Canada with her husband, teenage son and border collie.
How Jennifer & Sandy Met
Sandy and Jennifer met in 2014 in an online tech entrepreneurship course, where they bonded over their shared passion for building innovative businesses and organizations from scratch.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
Sandy: Growing up with a single mom taught me about hard work and owing money. We experienced financial strain that has left a lasting impact on me. My beliefs about money shaped my decision to transition from the para-medical field to business and entrepreneurship. The common problem of women not having their own money (and therefore little agency) is something I grew up with firsthand.
Jeni: Money has been a touchpoint for me my entire life. My father was a musician with a brilliant mind and a drug problem that shaped our family in so many ways. I put myself through college, working multiple jobs, to try to conquer my fears around money. I left home at 16 and applied for financial emancipation from my parents. My experience of money was that it was something you couldn’t control and I did everything in my power to surmount those beliefs.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
Sandy: In a word: Covid! We experienced rapid growth and were forced to expand extremely quickly. In a matter of weeks, we had to quadruple our team, deal with a 100X influx of requests in our inbox, and teach our entire business to a new team. It was intense and exhausting but we are so proud to have survived it. And the messages we received from our clients about how our platform saved their business when all the brick and mortar gyms and studios were shutting down made it all worthwhile
Jeni: I echo what Sandy said above. The pandemic transformed our business in a matter of days into something unrecognizable. All of our planning and metrics went out the window and we were forced to pivot to meet the demands of a rapidly growing market.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Sandy: Once, I did a live demo and was adjusting my necklace and getting myself camera ready but I was already live and didn’t know it. No one said anything as I was primping and straightening myself “before” going live. I died laughing after it was over and it just reminded me that our clients are amazing, kind and always up for a good show.
Jeni: During one of my first demos of our software, my daughter (a toddler at the time) woke up from a nap unexpectedly early. I spent the entire demo feeding her lollipops under the table (her first few doses of refined sugar from her woowoo mama).
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Sandy: My first boss, after graduating university, pushed me beyond my level of confidence at that time. There would be speaking opportunities and I would not think I was capable or experienced enough to take them on and he always talked me into them. Having a mentor that believed in me more than I did myself at that early age was transformative.
Jeni: Former Vice President, Al Gore, influenced my career from the moment I read Earth in the Balance as a child. He led me onto a path of pragmatic activism, which has defined my life. After spending a decade focusing my career on fighting the climate crisis, motherhood led me to pivot my activism more towards feminism, responsible tech, and economic justice issues.
In my work, I often talk about how to release and relieve stress. As a busy leader, what do you do to prepare your mind and body before a stressful or high stakes meeting, talk, or decision? Can you share a story or some examples?
Sandy: Every time I coach, present or need to “perform,” I do a complete thought download. I write down all my current thoughts about the task at hand and examine each one and ask myself which thoughts are serving me and which are holding me back. This process allows me to always work with a clean mind and not get distracted with less than optimal thinking. (Oh… and bulletproof coffee in the morning.)
Jeni: For me, I cannot perform without spending some time in nature every day. No matter what is happening in my day, I need to leave it all behind for at least an hour and recharge my mind and my soul in the woods that surround my home.
As you know, the United States is currently facing a very important self-reckoning about race, diversity, equality and inclusion. This may be obvious to you, but it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you articulate to our readers a few reasons why it is so important for a business or organization to have a diverse executive team?
Sandy: There isn’t a tried-and-true formula for starting or running a business — each business owner brings a unique set of experiences that inform their business decisions and entrepreneurial journey. Jeni and I surround ourselves with a diverse group of people to expand our view of business, reach new markets and ensure our product is inclusive to a wide range of members.
Jeni: Namastream’s clientele is very diverse, something that Sandy and I take great pride in. To continue reaching and catering to our diverse customer base, as well as open our eyes to different worldviews and perspectives, it’s important for us to seek out and include an equally diverse team.
As a business leader, can you please share a few steps we must take to truly create an inclusive, representative, and equitable society? Kindly share a story or example for each.
Sandy: To create a truly inclusive and equitable society, we need to make space for and amplify a diverse set of voices. Our goal is to make Namastream a platform that gives equal opportunity to wellness practitioners of varying backgrounds and niches.
Jeni: Wellness is a massive $5 trillion+ industry and a huge part of this market is made up of apparel brands and large corporations. We are very intentional about wanting to democratize this industry and to position healers, coaches, and trainers to build wealth and create living-wage jobs within their communities.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. Most of our readers — in fact, most people — think they have a pretty good idea of what a CEO or executive does. But in just a few words can you explain what an executive does that is different from the responsibilities of the other leaders?
Sandy: Being part of your C-suite does not mean you have it all figured out! I think we often look at business owners and think she’s confident, capable and knows exactly what to do. But the truth is that the fear and self-doubt are always there. But at this point, we are practiced and dealing with them!
Jeni: being a CEO or leader within an organization means defining the vision and ensuring that the right team is in place to execute on that vision. Being CEO is less about being a good “manager” and much more about being a visionary who has one foot firmly planted in the operations of the company and another foot stepping into a future that has not yet been created.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women executives that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?
Sandy: Data shows female executives receive less funding than their male counterparts, which is just one of the reasons Jeni and I have chosen to eschew outside investment. Despite all the progress women have made professionally, we’re still struggling to be heard and taken seriously — we want Namastream to be an open and supportive space for female entrepreneurs to grow their business without the approval or support of men.
Jeni: Many women are forced to choose between motherhood and entrepreneurship, which is a choice most men almost never have to make. One of our goals in starting Namastream was to create a business model that allows people to have both.
What is the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?
Sandy: I don’t know that there is a difference! I have run a number of businesses before so felt quite equipped to be COO of this company. It’s busy, challenging and I love that every day is different.
Jeni: Success takes LONGER and follows a totally different path than what I could have predicted prior to starting the company. Your outcome will be a result of your planning, plus a host of events that you cannot predict.
Certainly, not everyone is cut out to be an executive. In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful executive and what type of person should avoid aspiring to be an executive? Can you explain what you mean?
Sandy: I think the most successful executives think beyond the bottom line and support their team through the ups and downs of business. Being someone who challenges, encourages and lifts up both yourself and your team will bring long-term success to the company as a whole. I would also say that persistence is a key to success — but also the willingness to ask for help when you need it.
Jeni: Being a successful executive and entrepreneur is also being a lifelong learner. The key to success in this position is balancing listening and seeking advice with your gut instincts. Be open to continuing your growth because you don’t achieve perfection once you gain an executive title — that’s really when the work begins.
What advice would you give to other women leaders to help their team to thrive?
Sandy: I always tell people that it’s okay to be imperfect — give yourself permission as a creator, leader, and executive to make mistakes and learn from them. There is no final version of an online product or business, and you will always be iterating.
Jeni: There are many highs and lows to navigate while running your own business. Make financial literacy your foundation and pay attention to numbers, but trust that they are not the only factor or indicator to your worth or success as a business owner and leader.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
Sandy: When we think about the future, we feel it’s imperative to discuss the concept of a new economy: the way we are used to living, earning, and spending as humans will never be the same. By founding Namastream, we’ve helped women achieve financial freedom by giving them the tools they need to jump-start their online business and adapt to the current ‘virtual’ world. Making online business accessible and helping others make their mark in this new economy is something that we take pride in.
Jeni: As entrepreneurs, it’s our responsibility to examine the long term impact our company can have on the world this year, next year, and ten years from now. We believe in building a business that aligns with our values and adds something meaningful to the world. We know we’re helping businesses build stronger and more resilient infrastructures in order to sustain the next wave of upheaval and uncertainty, whatever that may be.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Making fast decisions will be your superpower.
- You’ll think you need to know more than all the staff, but you don’t.
- Adopt your daily two hour focus time asap.
- You’ll make lots of mistakes on live video and no one will care.
- It’s OK not to know “how” to reach a goal. Just set it and the how will reveal itself.
- It’s a long game. Those who find success will be those who optimize to stay in the game.
- Business is a mental game as much as a strategic game.
- You can build an artisanal tech company. It can be beautiful and fulfilling.
- You will achieve more than you ever dreamed possible.
- Perfectionism will only hurt you and hold you back.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
Sandy: We’re excited to see a movement around the conversation about the meaning of entrepreneurship; the way we built the company with no outside investment is unique within the tech and wellness industry. We love to help other business owners replicate our model and envision a world where thriving as a female entrepreneur is more supported.
Jeni: When we think about the future, we love to imagine the concept of a new economy. The way we are used to living, earning, and spending as humans will never be the same and that’s exciting.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Sandy: “Your inherent worth is not tied to your financials.” Navigating the highs and lows of life and finances — as an entrepreneur, a mother, a woman — is incredibly challenging. Remember when times get tough that you are not tied to a number. Your value is so much more.
Jeni: “We are not the victim of our businesses.” This quote might sound a bit “tough love,” but it urges business owners to hold agency for your outcomes and become responsible for both failures AND successes. While it’s something learned over time, we find it really empowering to take responsibility for ourselves, our business and our financial outcomes.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them
Sandy: Seth Godin’s impact as a thinker, especially among entrepreneurs, is unmatched. His core values and creativity are at the core of our company’s values. And if
Jeni: If Shonda Rhimes called for a lunch date, I’d be there in a heartbeat. I have great admiration for her as a writer, producer and a social justice advocate. She has created some of the best television series of our time and, of course, some of the most famous female protagonists. If I could meet with Olivia Pope, I would.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.