Rachel Soper Sanders of Rootine: “A clear vision”

A clear vision. We founded Rootine with the clear mission to empower millions to leverage their personal data to achieve optimal health. As a part of our series about “Why We Need More Women Founders”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Rachel Soper Sanders. Rachel Soper Sanders is the CEO and co-founder of Rootine, a […]

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A clear vision. We founded Rootine with the clear mission to empower millions to leverage their personal data to achieve optimal health.

As a part of our series about “Why We Need More Women Founders”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Rachel Soper Sanders.

Rachel Soper Sanders is the CEO and co-founder of Rootine, a precision nutrition startup optimizing health and human performance. With 10 years’ experience at the intersection of health and technology, she is disrupting the market as a female founder in the male dominated personalized health tech space. In addition to being a founder, Rachel is a startup advisor, angel investor, new mom, and has been featured across Forbes, Entrepreneur, Thrive Global, Business Insider, and more.

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?

When I started my career in the health sector a decade ago, I saw so much opportunity to use technology and data to improve how people experience health in ways that help prevent disease rather than simply treating the symptoms.

I was inspired to make a positive impact through next generation health solutions, but wasn’t sure exactly what that looked like. I knew going into my MBA my path would be unique. My goal for my time there was to further understand the market and develop a thesis on how to make the biggest impact. I started my first company in the musculoskeletal space, given the opportunity to improve upon the 400B dollars drain on the healthcare system.

During that time, I had personally been struggling with stress and fatigue for a number of years, so I started looking for ways to optimize my health and daily performance. It was then that I met biotechnician and nutrigenetic expert, Dr. Daniel Wallerstorfer, PhD. After both searching for better solutions to improve performance and both falling short, we launched Rootine to fill a gap in the market and empower people to leverage their data to optimize health through precision nutrition.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

A few months back I was attending my first IRL event in a long time where I knew few people. An opportunity came up to pitch Rootine and what we are building. With little prep, I raised my hand and stood in front of 1000s, both live and in-person. I relied on the lessons learned over the prior three years building and fundraising to share a compelling pitch with no practice that ended up landing a number of new contacts and potential future investors.

The successes I shared in the short <1 min pitch could not have happened without the whole Rootine team and the hard work we have all had to put in to make it happen. It’s been difficult at times when we were behind on milestones, but we are all driven by a common mission to help people optimize their health with data. I am so proud that now we are helping 1000s of members improve in areas like energy, stress, focus, mood, and more.

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?

In the early days of Rootine, I was personally handling a lot of our logistics, packaging, orders, etc. That meant part of my week was spent on the floor of our 900 square foot home cutting out stickers and handwriting notes to customers. From those early tasks, I learned a number of lessons. First, nothing replaces really digging in during those early days, doing things that don’t scale, and learning the processes that work and ones that don’t. The second, is that once you learn the processes that do, find someone great to do them — quickly.

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?

I am fortunate to have had many teachers and mentors from early on in my career. Amongst the many, there are two that standout related to my success as a founder today. The first is Julia Austin, a former professor of mine at Harvard Business School. Julia encouraged my early efforts in company building, taught through example, and continues her support today through an incredible female founder community she leads. Julia also introduced me to the second person on the list: Alex Iskold, current MD at 2048 Ventures and former MD at Techstars NYC. Being a 4x founder turned VC, he has been instrumental in all things strategy and fundraising (and someone I highly recommend to have as an investor to any early stage founder).

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. According to this EY report, only about 20 percent of funded companies have women founders. This reflects great historical progress, but it also shows that more work still has to be done to empower women to create companies. In your opinion and experience what is currently holding back women from founding companies?

There is a lot at play in these statistics, from the smaller numbers of women founding companies to less dollars being allocated towards woman-founded businesses making it more difficult to succeed. History, education, opportunity, and support also all play a role here. From early days, research has shown girls as young as 5 stop believing they can be CEOs, scientists, and leaders. Family support is another opportunity — when partners share equally in household work and childcare this opens up more opportunity for all partners to lead outside of the household.

It can also be intimidating to get started in a space that’s predominantly male. Some women may not feel welcome or supported as a founder, but there are individuals and organizations, like All Raise, who are closing this gap. As the space starts to change and female founders get more attention and more investment dollars, more women will feel comfortable taking the leap to create their own companies.

Can you help articulate a few things that can be done as individuals, as a society, or by the government, to help overcome those obstacles?

We should encourage women to take a seat at the table and voice their opinions early on. We should reward innovative thinking and leadership from an early age and raise the next generation of female leaders to believe they are capable of anything. Voting with dollars is also important. Adding diversity to cap tables and investing more dollars into underrepresented founders will do a lot for the whole ecosystem.

This might be intuitive to you as a woman founder but I think it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you share a few reasons why more women should become founders?

More women should become founders because they can solve problems that matter with a unique insight and viewpoint. Looking at healthcare, women have >80% of the decision-making power between themselves and their households. Diverse perspectives also create better outcomes, a fact that has been proven a number of times.

Further, women have been shown to be more compassionate leaders, creating better work environments for employees and connecting deeply with the customers they are solving problems for. It is also important to be a role model to future generations who will look to the founders of today for inspiration.

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a founder? Can you explain what you mean?

The biggest myth about being a founder is that it consumes your life in a way that you have to give up family values or your health to be successful. Prioritizing my health and wellbeing, as well as spending time with my family, makes me a better founder and helps me reset to prevent burnout and fatigue. Rootine is a company founded on helping people achieve their best, and I find it important to encourage my team, and remind myself, that feeling good mentally and physically will always lead to a better team and a better product.

Is everyone cut out to be a founder? In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful founder and what type of person should perhaps seek a “regular job” as an employee? Can you explain what you mean?

Founders are firefighters, need to be flexible, wear many hats, and be willing to dig into even the most tedious of tasks. Being a founder is hard — both mentally and physically.

The best founders are the ones that are deeply connected to the problem they are solving and the customers they are solving for. They are also people who find a way to mentally level out the extreme ups and downs of the founder journey. Learning to live and thrive in ambiguity is also key. You have to make split second decisions with little to no data and zero playbook for what should be done. This is very hard for the average person.

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your opinion and experience, What are the “Five Things You Need To Thrive and Succeed as a Woman Founder?” (Please share a story or example for each.)

  • A clear vision. We founded Rootine with the clear mission to empower millions to leverage their personal data to achieve optimal health.
  • A deep connection to the problem. I founded Rootine after personally struggling with fatigue and stress, and my mission was always to help others optimize health through precision nutrition.
  • A world class team. A collaborative diverse team that exchanges ideas and feedback is key to a thriving company. This doesn’t just mean employees — this is everyone in your network from advisors to partners who are supporting your journey.
  • Data is everything. Use data to assess what works and what doesn’t, and make sure you are learning at every stage and in every area of your business.
  • Self-care. You can’t be a good leader if you aren’t working on your own health and wellbeing.

How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

Our company’s whole mission is rooted in empowering people to feel and perform their best through precision nutrition. We want to make health data more accessible and more easily leveraged to make important health decisions on an individual level. We want to help people with fatigue, stress, mood, and focus.

We are already making an impact. Based on member reported data, 85% of our members are improving in areas like energy, stress, focus, sleep and more after taking Rootine for three months.

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.

Nutrition is a core component of maintaining health and preventing and treating many chronic diseases. Yet, even in one of the wealthiest nations, the nutrition in the U.S. is declining. We have better technology and knowledge access than ever before, and we are building Rootine to leverage those advances along with the latest in nutrition science to help reverse the problem of nutritional deficiencies.

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.

Katrina Lake, the founder of Stitch Fix. She used data to revolutionize a stagnant industry, quickly scaled, and took the company public all while being a mom. There are parallels in what she built and the data-driven approach we are taking at Rootine and there would certainly be some invaluable lessons learned in that conversation.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.

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