I had the pleasure of interviewing Sateria Venable, Founder and CEO of The Fibroid Foundation. Sateria turned a decades long health concern into a nonprofit with a global reach. She is a published author and patented inventor who is striving to make a difference.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us about your journey to becoming CEO?
My journey has been a long one. I have a degree in architecture, which is quite different from the responsibilities as the CEO/Founder of a women’s health nonprofit. I’m not one of those people who has always known what they wanted to do career-wise. I had to find my way. A health challenge put me on this career path. I was diagnosed with uterine fibroids in my 20s. After my second of four surgeries, I decided to put my problem-solving hat on, and try to find answers to this health concern that affects millions of women. Interestingly enough, becoming a patient advocate has allowed me to follow my true passion, which is social entrepreneurship.
What is your definition of success?
I’ve experienced success in moving the needle to make an impact on what was previously an ‘invisible’ reproductive health concern. By making a health issue that impacts 70% of American women visible means that there are greater opportunities to find solutions and remedies to end or significantly mitigate this concern.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
I left my job to focus on the Foundation, and the next morning, my mother had a heart attack. The next couple of months, we were in and out of the hospital and cardiac rehab. I would sit with Mom at cardiac rehab and work while she was in therapy. In retrospect, I was in a zone. I made a lot of decisions during that time that laid the foundation for a lot of the programming that we have done this year. She is doing much better now, thank God.
What failures have you had along the way?
I didn’t believe my own power, and I let my job get in the way of me following my natural interests. Starting this organization seemed like an insurmountable task. While I was working for someone else, I lost valuable time in implementing my ideas.
How have they led you to success?
I’ve become more confident in knowing when to act, and how. I feel much more comfortable in moving forward with a goal that has not previously been achieved. I get centered, and ignore the naysayers.
What do you think makes your company stand out?
I think our ability to use my own experience with fibroids to build a platform to effectively communicate the voice of the patient makes us stand out. Also, the Foundation’s transition into the medical arena, which is amazing, as I do not have a medical degree. Yet, through hard work and persistence, I’ve been able to carve out a unique space.
Can you share a story?
In 2012 and 2013 The Fibroid Foundation positioned itself to participate in a nationwide fibroids research effort. We were part of the winning grant team. As a result, I became a member of the registry steering committee for that grant effort. At our first in-person meeting, the attendees were fourteen physicians, and ME. It was a little overwhelming. I thought, ok, I worked hard to get here, so no point in getting scared now. Let’s go…
Are you working on any new or exciting projects now?
We launched an online interactive campaign in July, 2018 called the ‘FACE OF FIBROIDS’. It’s our effort to unite women from anywhere in the world to share their story of living with fibroids. I want the platform to show the magnitude of fibroids. The response has been tremendous. So many women want to share their stories and help one another. Fibroids is still under the radar, despite being a health concern that affects millions. ‘FACE of FIBROIDS’ allows us raise our voices collectively.
Is your company working to be more sustainable? If so, how?
Sustainability is always front of mind. As our organization grows, my vision is to have offices strategically located throughout the world. Sustainability is predicated on our ability to be a consistent resource in many geographic locations. I am also working on other entrepreneurial efforts as an outgrowth of my patient experience, namely a lingerie company based on an undergarment that I patented.
What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?
Be genuine. Create a work environment that you would want to work in. Also, be open to change and feedback from the team.
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?
There have been so many people whom I’m grateful to have met. One person who has been pivotal in helping me to grow our organization has been Dr. Elizabeth Stewart of Mayo Clinic. Dr. Stewart has consistently advocated for the fibroids community. She recognizes health disparities, and works hard to create meaningful change. She’s also one of the most compassionate and talented physicians who I know. We definitely would not be where we are without her support.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
The fact that women worldwide are now a part of The Fibroid Foundation Community is a success factor. No community of this size and reach existed before. Our community of women has an empathetic ear in me and those who support us in our work.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CEO” and why?
1. Have fun! I’m very grateful to do work that I’m incredibly passionate about. After many years of striving to achieve a level of professional success, I was accustomed to moving at warp speed, always working toward a goal. It’s important to let go of the rat race, take a deep breath, and enjoy the present moment. I’ve fortunately learned to do just that.
2. Delegate.When you’ve founded an organization, you’re used to doing everything yourself — which I was guilty of! Making a shift to strategically delegating doesn’t always come naturally, but is essential to the growth and health of the organization.
3. Interact with people outside of your office regularly. A lot of my work is managed remotely. At the moment, we primarily interact with our community via social media. I find that if I take time outside of the office to learn and interact with others, it’s energizing. An added bonus is that lots of creative ideas have come from these experiences.
4. Schedule wellness breaks. Managing a women’s health organization, you would think that scheduling time for fitness/wellness would be automatic for me. For a time, that was not true. I found that while I encourage others to practice self-care, I wasn’t doing the same. Getting rest, exercising and meditating are now part of my daily schedule.
5. Be open. Life reveals some amazing experiences, if you let it. I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the serendipitous occurences that I’ve had since starting this organization. I had an end game in mind, but the journey continues to unfold beautifully. I’m excited every day to see what unfolds.
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? You never know what your idea can trigger.
The movement that I would like to inspire is one where children in neighborhoods like I grew up in (Govans in Baltimore, Maryland) — with less access and resources — would be mentored and supported in following their career and family dreams.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“If you believe more in what you don’t see than in what you do see, what you do see, you won’t see, and what you don’t see, you will see.” ~Michael Bernard Beckwith. Whenever I feel overwhelmed, and am not quite sure how to accomplish my goal, I think of this quote from Rev. Michael. It removes the ‘how’, and fuels my idea with energy and clarity. Once I settle into this space, I can move forward.
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.
There are three people with whom I would love to converse — Melinda Gates, Richard Branson, and Oprah.
Melinda Gates, because I am, at heart, a social entrepreneur. I’m blown away by all that she has accomplished for women and girls.
Richad Branson because of his global perspective and experience. I know that I would gain such a rich perspective of the world by glimpsing it through his eyes. I also am quite intrigued by The Elders.
Oprah because I met her as a little girl in Baltimore. The conversation that I had with her at our church social left quite an impression on me. I’d love to get advice on remaining centered when you achieve big dreams on a global scale. Basically I’m doing the preparation beforehand 😉