“Focus Groups Can Be Misleading. Actual Data is King” 5 Startup Tips With Sabrina Peterson
I had the pleasure of interviewing Sabrina Peterson, Co-founder of Pure Growth Organic.
What is your “backstory”?
I’m the daughter of two immigrants who’ve always said to me “Why not you, Sabby? You can do anything you put your mind to. Think positive.” And so I’ve always believed that to be true — anything is possible. I was born in a small town called Paris, Texas; and yes, there’s an Eiffel Tower there wearing a red cowboy hat and you may hear a “Bonjour Y’all” every now and again. After graduating from Princeton, I went on to work at two bulge bracket banks, Citigroup and Credit Suisse. My bosses at Credit Suisse were some of the best mentors and most decent people I’ve ever had the privilege of working with.
While in my 20s, I knew the path at the big bank wasn’t a sustainable one unless it absolutely runs in your veins because you end up sacrificing a disproportionate amount of your time to the work. Back then, and perhaps even now, very few women made it to the most senior levels, and those that had often sacrificed kids, marriage or both. In college, I was very aware of the issue of a woman having to choose between work and family, so much so that I wrote my college thesis about it. If you’re lucky enough to have access to education, I believe there’s an obligation to yourself and the world around you to apply said education in some form. I also knew at a young age that I loved to work; I didn’t love summer because I missed being in school everyday which I only told my parents at the time, so I started working every summer starting at age 14.
I love to work and can’t imagine not working until I’m 90 years old; I also come from a very strong and loving family. Work and family are like oxygen to me; and I believe people need both in order to be a fully realized individual. The love for work, family and having more control on how I spend my time and how and when I work is what led me down the path of entrepreneurship. Most of my girlfriends are also self employed artists or entrepreneurs who have started their own companies.
And after my first son was born, I noticed that while there were great organic options for babies, there seemed to be a lack of organic snacks for toddlers and the years beyond. Along with the help of an equally passionate team, we set out to change the organic food landscape by launching Pure Growth Organic as a solution to this problem. We’re trying to make organic accessible at mass retail and cater to the 91% of Americans who don’t buy organic regularly but would like to if it were more accessible. We wanted our snacks to take the chaos out of feeding your child. My son definitely bosses me around a lot at mealtime, and these better for you snacks are something we can both agree upon.
Which person or which company do you admire and why?
I admire single parents; they are true heroes. Today’s system marginalizes single parents. I admire the brave women who are speaking up today and saying that things have to change. Thank you Donald Trump for being the accidental feminist, for being the straw that broke the camel’s back and getting women from Silicon Valley to Hollywood to corporate America to stand up and say “that’s enough.” My friend Ramin made the great point that if Hillary had won, sure women’s empowerment would have progressed modestly, but a jarring jolt was very much needed to make the great headway required and Hillary would not have been it.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I hope that over time I’m able to drive change in the workplace, where people feel that they can choose their choices, and not that the workplace or cost of childcare is driving their choices for them. After the birth of my first son, I wasn’t ready to leave him at home, so I brought him with me. Drake snoozed on my desk, in meetings, had 20 people talking to him each day and had Kevin the office dog nipping at his heels which made him giggle. It was a modern day version of “it takes a village..” and the office is an extension of said village, especially given my husband Adam and I don’t have any family nearby. In my case, I was the first employee at the office to have a baby and so we created a nursery. More and more entrepreneurial companies are doing things like this; my hope is that the big established workplaces who have the biggest balance sheets lead much more in this area — be it onsite daycare, subsidized childcare, flexible work hours. I think the issue hasn’t progressed as much as it should because America still sees this as a gender issue — it’s much greater than that.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Started” and why? Please share a brief story or example for each.
Fight harder for the things you really believe in: I’ve assumed people have known better because they’ve been louder and more blindly confident in their visoin or have had more tangential experience than I do — — turns out stupidity can also be loud, blindly confident and experienced.
Experience. It’s both over and under rated at times. When people keep telling you how much experience they have, I find that often it means they have a single paradigm they are reliant upon because it has yielded past success. Past success isn’t a guarantee of future success.
Focus Groups Can Be Misleading. Actual Data is King. In focus groups, I find that people say things that aren’t actually true to what they do or what their habits are; they often are trying to project a better version of themselves when asked about their decision making. I think that its just an incredible part of being human; it’s like when your doctor asks how many glasses of wine you have each week — most people say less than what’s true because saying the truth out loud isn’t comfortable. Point is, make sure to balance the focus group feedback with what the actual data story is.
Time . The greatest asset a single person has in their lifetime is their time. Decide wisely how you want to spend it, who you want to spend it with, and how you want to wake up and feel each day. Check-in with yourself regularly.
Everyone is Replaceable at the Office. I’m replaceable. Absolutely everyone is replaceable in their professional roles — -Apple is still functioning without Steve Jobs. But no one other than me can be the mother, wife, friend, and daughter that I am to those I love. Keep perspective of what matters, and don’t buy into any sort of hype.