Thank you team — If you are a bulldog about your mission, remember that many people on your team have the characteristics you need and may be passionate, but do not have the same level of fear-based skin in the game. They need to feel appreciated. Its not always “why did you mess up my plan” — its “how can I help you succeed?”
The COVID19 pandemic has disrupted all of our lives. But sometimes disruptions can be times of opportunity. Many people’s livelihoods have been hurt by the pandemic. But some saw this as an opportune time to take their lives in a new direction.
As a part of this series called “How I Was Able To Pivot To A New Exciting Opportunity Because Of The Pandemic”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Eva Sadej.
Eva Sadej, named to the 2020 Forbes 30-under-30 List as a health entrepreneur, immigrated with her family from a small town in Poland to the mean streets of Brooklyn when she was a child. After graduating from Harvard in 2012, Eva worked for Bridgewater Associates, the largest hedge fund in the world and dreamed up Floss Bar when she noticed how complicated it was to get basic dental care without taking 3 hours off of work. In 2018, Eva put her Wharton MBA on hold to build Floss Bar into a household name. During the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, Eva pivoted Flossbar into Medbar, a mobile health service focusing on Covid testing and other health services including vision and hearing.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
I was born in Poland and immigrated to Brooklyn with my family in 1992 when I was 2 years old. I am the youngest of four kids. I studied hard and ran fast so I could get into Harvard. (I was the fastest mile runner in NYC at one time. In high school, I ran a 4:49 Olympic mile)
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Number 1 — Trust No One. Number 2 — Don’t Panic.” This quote was passed down to me from my sister, who had a boss who ran a large FQHC and said this to her staff so that they check each other often and keep composure in front of patients. It applies more broadly because if I trusted what other thought was possible and impossible and did not do my own research at the beginning, I would have never started Floss Bar. People in authoritative positions in dentistry said that hygienists working with remote oversight by dentists is illegal. It’s not in 15 states and growing! Don’t trust the experts — read!
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
I would love to meet the CEO of DryBar. I saw her on “How I built this” and was impressed. I was inspired by her business of taking the basic and most frequent piece of an industry and making it into a large enterprise. She also started her business with family and close friends, which is similar to my story. I’d like to understand how that was perceived by others.
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before the Pandemic began?
I went to Harvard undergrad and was pre-med but then changed to Economics. I worked at Bridgewater Associates for 4 years in technology, investment and management. I left in 2017 to start a Wharton MBA and launch Floss Bar, a mobile dentistry service, at the same time. Once Floss Bar had a successful pilot phase, I dropped out of Wharton to go in full time. At the height of our success, we were valued at 40 million dollars before the perfect storm of the pandemic and then dropped to dollars revenue when dental services shut down.
What did you do to pivot as a result of the Pandemic?
The resp pandemic drove our dental revenue to dollars in April. We quickly researched all of the red tape needed and all supply lines to get access to Covid-19 tests immediately. Then we repurposed our assets for the new initiative of MedBar and worked 14 hours a day to spin it up. MedBar is a mobile COVID-19 testing service born out of the pandemic that’s growing at a rate of 5x itself monthly with more than 175 corporate and government clients nationwide, including universities, Fortune500 companies, major media corporations + more.
While Covid tests are the primary focus, MedBar also performs Antibody testing, On-site temperature checks, OSHA-grade workplace sanitation and more at offices for employees.
Can you tell us about the specific “Aha moment” that gave you the idea to start this new path?
We could use the same pillars we used for dental on medical. We have people, supplies, compliance and technology — which means we don’t need to just sell dental. We can sell vision, hearing, Covid testing, biometrics, flu shots and so on. Even ice cream parties if we wanted to. It doesn’t matter as long as these four factors intersect.
How are things going with this new initiative?
Great — grew tremendously in 2020 and surpassed all our financial expectations and turned a profit 3-years ahead of schedule. Right now we are focused on transitioning our new covid clients to our other service lines.
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?
I am grateful for two people — Stuart, my now fiancé, and Albi, my sister. These two individuals have stuck with me through thick and thin and continue to do so. They had left better paying work opportunities and have spent sleepless nights working with me. Albi put nursing on hold after spending so much time on education and Stuart put finance on hold to work on the mission with us.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?
I’ll be writing a book about the struggles I went through during our founding and the degree to which the people you most trust can hurt you the most. I may call it “Tooth and Bail” — Stay tuned!
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- Contracts — Get everything in writing. If a partner is unwilling to sign a contract which defined your relationship and plans for the rainy day, they are not as committed to the job, project or business relationship to put skin in the game. These are business norms. Entrepreneurs get awkward about asking for contractual relationships because defining the rainy day action plan seems accusatory of someone, which it isn’t. If they wiggle out, run. I have experienced this many times with project-based contractors renegotiating their rates after the fact or when they become key-man-risk and had to pay to make it go away.
- Complexity — Do not be afraid to run a complex business. The perception is that VCs want you to do one thing that is simple to explain over and over again. But you learn as you go and experimenting with new ideas lateral to your business but in line with your mission is key. If we only did preventative dental care, we would have gone under in the Covid pandemic. But we pivoted quickly from cleaning teeth to swabbing noses, and that produced massive growth.
- Set Expectations with Family — Do not put yourself in a state where you are constantly apologizing to your family. When you are an entrepreneur its work-work balance not work-life balance. This is a period of time where you need their support and understanding, so ensure they have that mindset ahead of time.
- Be choosy about mentors — Do not allow a mentorship relationship with someone with whom you may do a future business transaction. Being in a learner role means they will expect you will defer to them on what’s best and you will not have the upper hand in a negotiation.
- Thank you team — If you are a bulldog about your mission, remember that many people on your team have the characteristics you need and may be passionate, but do not have the same level of fear-based skin in the game. They need to feel appreciated. Its not always “why did you mess up my plan” — its “how can I help you succeed?”
So many of us have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. Can you share the strategies that you have used to optimize your mental wellness during this stressful period?
Every piece of bad news is a solution waiting to be found. When listening to dramatic jolts, I recommend people listen through the lens of “how can I help?” or “what opportunity does this produce” versus “how does this affect me and what do I do with my life?”
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
I believe business should be in the STEM category of education. Only 5% of entrepreneurship is creativity and the rest is hard work, systemic thinking and detail orientation. Lean operations management is fundamentally a quantitative skill. Even marketing has become data-driven and scientific. I believe more women would be in business if the STEM movement and STEM funding were applied to business education. We won’t break the glass ceiling by having ‘people skills’ or ‘more intuitive leadership’ — we will win by confidently crushing fundamental skills for how to run large enterprises successfully.
Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!
I would love to meet the CEO of DryBar. I was inspired by her business of taking the basic and most frequent piece of an industry and making it into a large enterprise. She also started her business with family and close friends, which is similar to my story. I’d like to understand how that was perceived by others.
How can our readers follow you online?
company instagram: @medbarhealth
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!