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Sara Azadi : “Customer Service can make or break your business”

Customer Service can make or break your business. I knew this going in but making it the cornerstone of your business will help address issues in a way that are always customer-centric. We discovered why this mattered a few months into the success of our business. We saw many copycat products come out of China. […]


Customer Service can make or break your business. I knew this going in but making it the cornerstone of your business will help address issues in a way that are always customer-centric. We discovered why this mattered a few months into the success of our business. We saw many copycat products come out of China. The products were cheap and unsafe. Many times our images and marketing materials were stolen so as to trick the consumer into thinking they were buying a TushBaby. It took time and money to get our copyright materials back but what saved us was our customers. They started commenting on the fakes and answered potential buyers questions on social media. They often talked about how comfortable our product was or how convenient and durable it was built. However, 9 out of 10 times the reason they gave not to go with the cheap knockoffs was our customer service, stating that if there was ever a problem, we’d solve it and that was worth the price of the product alone.


As a part of our series about entrepreneurs who transformed something they did for fun into a full-time career, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sara Azadi.

Sara is the Chief Marketing Officer and Co-founder of TushBaby. Sara is a digital Strategist with a fondness for ill-behaved dogs. Sara digs deep to untangle complex business problems and unearth relatable human truths. She also digs beaches — whether she’s building castles in the sand with her native California fam, or winning 4 Cannes Lions in France.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?

I grew up in Modesto, California. My father immigrated to the US in the 60s from Iran and my mom was from a working-class Irish-American family. In my family, we celebrated hard work, tenacity and diversity. Being a Persian-Irish American was certainly an oddity but it also shaped me to be empathetic and compassionate for all different types of American experiences. Everyone has a story and my fascination with the human experience — the idea that who one was or could be — drove my creativity. So to fuel that fascination, I became an avid writer and photographer. I captured stories and their images. I loved movies, reading, and history. This all drove me to become an advertising professional. I loved the idea of creating small snippets of culture. I spent 20 years in that industry before co-foundingTushBaby.

What was the catalyst from transforming your hobby or something you love into a business? Can you share the story of your “ah-ha” moment with us?

I realized that my creativity, empathy, and ability to connect with others gave me the ability to take the ideas I had about solving certain issues into stories that others would relate to and share. With TushBaby, I had a baby that loved to be held but didn’t like traditional baby carriers or being confined to a stroller. So I carried her on my hip. She loved it and I loved having her so close. However, my body later paid the price. I ended up having shoulder surgery after lifting her repeatedly with one arm and throwing her on my hip. Eight years later, I still suffer from sciatica. I was a healthy, young, active mom, and if I had this issue, others must be having a similar experience. This also led me to wonder about what grandparents, different body-abled caretakers, and parents with special needs children were doing to cope. What were they doing to comfortably carry their babies? So when my business partner had an idea of how to solve this, I knew we could do something extraordinary. Through the power of storytelling, I knew I could find a way to connect with other parents and introduce something novel but truly game-changing into their routine.

There are no shortage of good ideas out there, but people seem to struggle in taking a good idea and translating it into an actual business. How did you overcome this challenge?

My business partner, Tammy Rant had a similar childhood experience. She is a child of immigrants and was taught that tenacity is the only resolve to a challenge that seems unresolvable. She went through building many different prototypes of TushBaby. In the end, what we built had to resolve one major concern: did it make parents’ lives easier? We built the winning prototype with only that mantra in mind which translated to it being easy to get on and off by yourself, it provided much-needed relief to your back and body, it stored all your stuff so you didn’t need to carry a heavy bag on your shoulder and, added bonus, it was cute. I then took that very same mantra and applied it to all our marketing. Any story we told had to be about making parents’ lives easier. Simple is what makes a good idea relatable and marketable. Simple in the end is what performs.

What advice would you give someone who has a hobby or pastime that they absolutely love but is reluctant to do it for a living?

You can’t do it by yourself. Find a business partner that believes in you but also has completely different skills than you. For example, I’m creative but also highly analytical. I brought art and science to our process. I would pick our fabrics but also analyze what would perform. Tammy is relentless and incredibly humble. She worked hard to find the right manufacturers that were trustworthy and she sought advice from many others to make sure we were doing it right. Together, we are successful and powerful. We balance each other out.

It’s said that the quickest way to take the fun out of doing something is to do it for a living. How do you keep from changing something you love into something you dread? How do you keep it fresh and enjoyable?

The customer stories of how we’ve changed their lives, especially from those parents with special needs children, make it all worth it. We have a large following from the Cerebral Palsy community. TushBaby can hold up to 44lbs, so, many children that can’t walk or have trouble walking are no longer confined to strollers and for the first time get to be eye-to-eye with their caretakers, seeing the world from a new perspective. Also, customer feedback fuels new ideas and passion to create new products. Last and very practically, a good business partner will take on the tasks best suited to their skills and vice versa.

What is it that you enjoy most about running your own business? What are the downsides of running your own business? Can you share what you did to overcome these drawbacks?

What I enjoy most about running my own business is real-time, hands-on learning. I read all the customer reviews and many times, personally respond to thousands of social media comments. I do not see this as tedious work but rather research and insight into the most vital portion of our business. I feel like I’ve learned more in the last 2 years than I could have at a corporate job. The downside is that you never really have a day off. The first two years are intense. You make the most mistakes and you also learn the most. If you aren’t hands-on and in it every day, you won’t succeed. The only way to overcome this downside is to set how you’ll engage. For example, I like working very early in the morning before the kids are up or need to get to school and then around 9 am when most people are just getting started, I do a hard workout and prep myself mentally for the rest of the day. I set my hours and how I work. I think if more corporations were open to flexible work hours, they’d have a lot more happy and successful workers.

Can you share what was the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?

The most striking difference in what I thought my job would mostly be and what I do so much of is the finances and operations. It used to give me anxiety but now I find joy in seeing our success on a balance sheet and understanding the complexities of supply chain management. I’m better at my own personal finances now too.

Has there ever been a moment when you thought to yourself “I can’t take it anymore, I’m going to get a “real” job? If so, how did you overcome it?

I’ve had those moments of thinking this is too hard and scary. The uncertainty gives me anxiety and I worry a lot more now than I did when I worked for a big corporation. But what always overcomes those feelings of doubt and fear is the fact that I have visibility into everything. I know what’s true and what’s not. This calms me down yet also drives me. I work for me. I work for my success and the security of my family. I no longer have a career path but rather an “accountability path.” I see success through a new lens and that lens is, “what crazy thing am I going to succeed at next.” Success for me is no longer something you put on a resume.

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?

We joked about making a TushBaby for dogs called “TushPuppy.” We discovered after putting my dog on one and posting it to social media that there were animal parents already out there using TushBaby for their dogs and cats. So sometimes a funny and wild idea or something that feels like a potential mistake may have a place in the market. We now celebrate those customers who post their fur babies using a TushBaby on social media — and everyone loves it whether they have human or fur babies.

Who has inspired or continues to inspire you to be a great leader? Why?

My 8-year old daughter is my inspiration. She is always watching me. She hears me on conference calls. I never raise my voice and I am always calm. I want to show her you can be in charge without having to remind everyone you are the boss. The other day she told me she wants to be a singer, a business owner and a home remodeler. I told her when you create your own business, you can be all those things at once.

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

It was very important for me to create a business that solves real challenges but also gives back. We donate TushBabies to a Cerebral Palsy foundation that gives them to any family that needs them for free. We also provide a direct discount of 35% to any family with special needs.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. Talk to a CFA and CPA. I made a few mistakes in the way I set up my company. A small mistake can lead to financial pain and lots of paperwork later. Rely on the professionals to do that and make sure they understand where you want to go with the business so they are not just thinking about today but the future too. Also, hire a bookkeeper but always stay close to the books. You should understand your finances and be in charge of the bigger decision making.
  2. Customer Service can make or break your business. I knew this going in but making it the cornerstone of your business will help address issues in a way that are always customer-centric. We discovered why this mattered a few months into the success of our business. We saw many copycat products come out of China. The products were cheap and unsafe. Many times our images and marketing materials were stolen so as to trick the consumer into thinking they were buying a TushBaby. It took time and money to get our copyright materials back but what saved us was our customers. They started commenting on the fakes and answered potential buyers questions on social media. They often talked about how comfortable our product was or how convenient and durable it was built. However, 9 out of 10 times the reason they gave not to go with the cheap knockoffs was our customer service, stating that if there was ever a problem, we’d solve it and that was worth the price of the product alone.
  3. Ignore the Charlatans and listen to your gut. Our business saw almost overnight success and with it, a large influx of people knocking on our door trying to scare us into using their services. At first, we’d answer every single one. We almost signed with one but decided to listen to our guts instead. We realized we were wasting our time and potentially putting our business into jeopardy. We stopped answering calls and taking meetings when it didn’t feel right. If something seemed scary, we asked our lawyer to vet. Sadly, there are individuals out there who are looking to take advantage of young, successful companies.
  4. Diversify your manufacturing. You should never rely on a single-source supply chain. A change in tariffs due to a trade war or a localized epidemic can potentially bring your business to a halt.
  5. Understand your fundraising options. Giving up large amounts of equity, in the beginning, isn’t your only option and in fact, you should max out all other options before considering venture dollars; including doing the following stages of fundraising first: 1) self-fund, 2) friends and family 3) crowdfunding (we did KickStarter), 4) government loans, 5) angel investors.

What person wouldn’t want to work doing something they absolutely love. You are an incredible inspiration to a great many people. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

I want to start a movement where women openly talk about finances with each other and share their successes and failures with one another. Men have done it for centuries and we should too. I wholeheartedly believe that women have to help each other out like our male counterparts have done. If we want to continue thriving as individuals, it’s our collective responsibility to talk to other women about finances. This improves our financial literacy, helps prepare us in making wiser financial choices, and may lead us to the financial advisors we want to work with. I wrote this article about how and why we should.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

As a kid, my dad would constantly quote the core teaching of Zoroastrianism: Good Thoughts, Good Words, Good Deeds. He used to say, “I don’t care what you become or who you worship as long as you always do those three things.” It really shaped my approach to life both professionally and personally. When you think positively, you speak positively which inspires others to do the same. And, when you do something good, it not only improves someone else’s life but yours as well. Sometimes it takes years to see the benefits but when I started my own business the amount of support and advice I received from my network, one that took 20 years to build, truly propelled me forward in a way that would be unimaginable if I didn’t take the time to do good years before.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest 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.

I’m in awe of Melinda Gates. She has dedicated her time and fortune to make the world more equitable and just. Her focus on how empowering women of all backgrounds will ultimately uplift humanity absolutely rings true for me. This isn’t just an anecdotal belief of hers but one backed by data. It’s a call to action we all need to take seriously. Empowering women not only increases GDP but saves lives. It’s a win-win.



Sara Azadi of TushBaby: “From Avocation To Vocation; How I Turned My Hobby Into A Career”

An interview with Phil La Duke

Customer Service can make or break your business. I knew this going in but making it the cornerstone of your business will help address issues in a way that are always customer-centric. We discovered why this mattered a few months into the success of our business. We saw many copycat products come out of China. The products were cheap and unsafe. Many times our images and marketing materials were stolen so as to trick the consumer into thinking they were buying a TushBaby. It took time and money to get our copyright materials back but what saved us was our customers. They started commenting on the fakes and answered potential buyers questions on social media. They often talked about how comfortable our product was or how convenient and durable it was built. However, 9 out of 10 times the reason they gave not to go with the cheap knockoffs was our customer service, stating that if there was ever a problem, we’d solve it and that was worth the price of the product alone.


As a part of our series about entrepreneurs who transformed something they did for fun into a full-time career, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sara Azadi.

Sara is the Chief Marketing Officer and Co-founder of TushBaby. Sara is a digital Strategist with a fondness for ill-behaved dogs. Sara digs deep to untangle complex business problems and unearth relatable human truths. She also digs beaches — whether she’s building castles in the sand with her native California fam, or winning 4 Cannes Lions in France.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?

I grew up in Modesto, California. My father immigrated to the US in the 60s from Iran and my mom was from a working-class Irish-American family. In my family, we celebrated hard work, tenacity and diversity. Being a Persian-Irish American was certainly an oddity but it also shaped me to be empathetic and compassionate for all different types of American experiences. Everyone has a story and my fascination with the human experience — the idea that who one was or could be — drove my creativity. So to fuel that fascination, I became an avid writer and photographer. I captured stories and their images. I loved movies, reading, and history. This all drove me to become an advertising professional. I loved the idea of creating small snippets of culture. I spent 20 years in that industry before co-foundingTushBaby.

What was the catalyst from transforming your hobby or something you love into a business? Can you share the story of your “ah-ha” moment with us?

I realized that my creativity, empathy, and ability to connect with others gave me the ability to take the ideas I had about solving certain issues into stories that others would relate to and share. With TushBaby, I had a baby that loved to be held but didn’t like traditional baby carriers or being confined to a stroller. So I carried her on my hip. She loved it and I loved having her so close. However, my body later paid the price. I ended up having shoulder surgery after lifting her repeatedly with one arm and throwing her on my hip. Eight years later, I still suffer from sciatica. I was a healthy, young, active mom, and if I had this issue, others must be having a similar experience. This also led me to wonder about what grandparents, different body-abled caretakers, and parents with special needs children were doing to cope. What were they doing to comfortably carry their babies? So when my business partner had an idea of how to solve this, I knew we could do something extraordinary. Through the power of storytelling, I knew I could find a way to connect with other parents and introduce something novel but truly game-changing into their routine.

There are no shortage of good ideas out there, but people seem to struggle in taking a good idea and translating it into an actual business. How did you overcome this challenge?

My business partner, Tammy Rant had a similar childhood experience. She is a child of immigrants and was taught that tenacity is the only resolve to a challenge that seems unresolvable. She went through building many different prototypes of TushBaby. In the end, what we built had to resolve one major concern: did it make parents’ lives easier? We built the winning prototype with only that mantra in mind which translated to it being easy to get on and off by yourself, it provided much-needed relief to your back and body, it stored all your stuff so you didn’t need to carry a heavy bag on your shoulder and, added bonus, it was cute. I then took that very same mantra and applied it to all our marketing. Any story we told had to be about making parents’ lives easier. Simple is what makes a good idea relatable and marketable. Simple in the end is what performs.

What advice would you give someone who has a hobby or pastime that they absolutely love but is reluctant to do it for a living?

You can’t do it by yourself. Find a business partner that believes in you but also has completely different skills than you. For example, I’m creative but also highly analytical. I brought art and science to our process. I would pick our fabrics but also analyze what would perform. Tammy is relentless and incredibly humble. She worked hard to find the right manufacturers that were trustworthy and she sought advice from many others to make sure we were doing it right. Together, we are successful and powerful. We balance each other out.

It’s said that the quickest way to take the fun out of doing something is to do it for a living. How do you keep from changing something you love into something you dread? How do you keep it fresh and enjoyable?

The customer stories of how we’ve changed their lives, especially from those parents with special needs children, make it all worth it. We have a large following from the Cerebral Palsy community. TushBaby can hold up to 44lbs, so, many children that can’t walk or have trouble walking are no longer confined to strollers and for the first time get to be eye-to-eye with their caretakers, seeing the world from a new perspective. Also, customer feedback fuels new ideas and passion to create new products. Last and very practically, a good business partner will take on the tasks best suited to their skills and vice versa.

What is it that you enjoy most about running your own business? What are the downsides of running your own business? Can you share what you did to overcome these drawbacks?

What I enjoy most about running my own business is real-time, hands-on learning. I read all the customer reviews and many times, personally respond to thousands of social media comments. I do not see this as tedious work but rather research and insight into the most vital portion of our business. I feel like I’ve learned more in the last 2 years than I could have at a corporate job. The downside is that you never really have a day off. The first two years are intense. You make the most mistakes and you also learn the most. If you aren’t hands-on and in it every day, you won’t succeed. The only way to overcome this downside is to set how you’ll engage. For example, I like working very early in the morning before the kids are up or need to get to school and then around 9 am when most people are just getting started, I do a hard workout and prep myself mentally for the rest of the day. I set my hours and how I work. I think if more corporations were open to flexible work hours, they’d have a lot more happy and successful workers.

Can you share what was the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?

The most striking difference in what I thought my job would mostly be and what I do so much of is the finances and operations. It used to give me anxiety but now I find joy in seeing our success on a balance sheet and understanding the complexities of supply chain management. I’m better at my own personal finances now too.

Has there ever been a moment when you thought to yourself “I can’t take it anymore, I’m going to get a “real” job? If so, how did you overcome it?

I’ve had those moments of thinking this is too hard and scary. The uncertainty gives me anxiety and I worry a lot more now than I did when I worked for a big corporation. But what always overcomes those feelings of doubt and fear is the fact that I have visibility into everything. I know what’s true and what’s not. This calms me down yet also drives me. I work for me. I work for my success and the security of my family. I no longer have a career path but rather an “accountability path.” I see success through a new lens and that lens is, “what crazy thing am I going to succeed at next.” Success for me is no longer something you put on a resume.

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?

We joked about making a TushBaby for dogs called “TushPuppy.” We discovered after putting my dog on one and posting it to social media that there were animal parents already out there using TushBaby for their dogs and cats. So sometimes a funny and wild idea or something that feels like a potential mistake may have a place in the market. We now celebrate those customers who post their fur babies using a TushBaby on social media — and everyone loves it whether they have human or fur babies.

Who has inspired or continues to inspire you to be a great leader? Why?

My 8-year old daughter is my inspiration. She is always watching me. She hears me on conference calls. I never raise my voice and I am always calm. I want to show her you can be in charge without having to remind everyone you are the boss. The other day she told me she wants to be a singer, a business owner and a home remodeler. I told her when you create your own business, you can be all those things at once.

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

It was very important for me to create a business that solves real challenges but also gives back. We donate TushBabies to a Cerebral Palsy foundation that gives them to any family that needs them for free. We also provide a direct discount of 35% to any family with special needs.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. Talk to a CFA and CPA. I made a few mistakes in the way I set up my company. A small mistake can lead to financial pain and lots of paperwork later. Rely on the professionals to do that and make sure they understand where you want to go with the business so they are not just thinking about today but the future too. Also, hire a bookkeeper but always stay close to the books. You should understand your finances and be in charge of the bigger decision making.
  2. Customer Service can make or break your business. I knew this going in but making it the cornerstone of your business will help address issues in a way that are always customer-centric. We discovered why this mattered a few months into the success of our business. We saw many copycat products come out of China. The products were cheap and unsafe. Many times our images and marketing materials were stolen so as to trick the consumer into thinking they were buying a TushBaby. It took time and money to get our copyright materials back but what saved us was our customers. They started commenting on the fakes and answered potential buyers questions on social media. They often talked about how comfortable our product was or how convenient and durable it was built. However, 9 out of 10 times the reason they gave not to go with the cheap knockoffs was our customer service, stating that if there was ever a problem, we’d solve it and that was worth the price of the product alone.
  3. Ignore the Charlatans and listen to your gut. Our business saw almost overnight success and with it, a large influx of people knocking on our door trying to scare us into using their services. At first, we’d answer every single one. We almost signed with one but decided to listen to our guts instead. We realized we were wasting our time and potentially putting our business into jeopardy. We stopped answering calls and taking meetings when it didn’t feel right. If something seemed scary, we asked our lawyer to vet. Sadly, there are individuals out there who are looking to take advantage of young, successful companies.
  4. Diversify your manufacturing. You should never rely on a single-source supply chain. A change in tariffs due to a trade war or a localized epidemic can potentially bring your business to a halt.
  5. Understand your fundraising options. Giving up large amounts of equity, in the beginning, isn’t your only option and in fact, you should max out all other options before considering venture dollars; including doing the following stages of fundraising first: 1) self-fund, 2) friends and family 3) crowdfunding (we did KickStarter), 4) government loans, 5) angel investors.

What person wouldn’t want to work doing something they absolutely love. You are an incredible inspiration to a great many people. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

I want to start a movement where women openly talk about finances with each other and share their successes and failures with one another. Men have done it for centuries and we should too. I wholeheartedly believe that women have to help each other out like our male counterparts have done. If we want to continue thriving as individuals, it’s our collective responsibility to talk to other women about finances. This improves our financial literacy, helps prepare us in making wiser financial choices, and may lead us to the financial advisors we want to work with. I wrote this article about how and why we should.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

As a kid, my dad would constantly quote the core teaching of Zoroastrianism: Good Thoughts, Good Words, Good Deeds. He used to say, “I don’t care what you become or who you worship as long as you always do those three things.” It really shaped my approach to life both professionally and personally. When you think positively, you speak positively which inspires others to do the same. And, when you do something good, it not only improves someone else’s life but yours as well. Sometimes it takes years to see the benefits but when I started my own business the amount of support and advice I received from my network, one that took 20 years to build, truly propelled me forward in a way that would be unimaginable if I didn’t take the time to do good years before.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest 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.

I’m in awe of Melinda Gates. She has dedicated her time and fortune to make the world more equitable and just. Her focus on how empowering women of all backgrounds will ultimately uplift humanity absolutely rings true for me. This isn’t just an anecdotal belief of hers but one backed by data. It’s a call to action we all need to take seriously. Empowering women not only increases GDP but saves lives. It’s a win-win.


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