Asa part of my series about strong female leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sarah Battersby. Sarah Battersby is a purpose-driven Canadian entrepreneur who has been working in the cannabis sector for the last five years. Sarah is gearing up to launch an all-natural CBD wellness brand, State of Kind, in the US early this spring. Starting with CBD skincare products, State of Kind encourages women to achieve confidence through kindness.
Sarah was raised in Brampton, Ontario. After completing university, she was one of the first employees to join one of the largest cannabis companies, Aphria. She held various leadership roles within the company’s medical cannabis division before deciding to build her own CBD wellness brand early last year.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
A few years ago, while I was working in the Canadian medical cannabis industry, I was having the worst skin year of my life. Some serious adult hormonal acne.
As a result of my career at the time, I was fortunate to interact with some of the brightest minds in medical cannabis. At a medical cannabis conference, a couple of doctors noticed my skin struggle and suggested I try CBD. After lots of research, I was disappointed when I couldn’t find a CBD skincare brand that used natural ingredients, had tested their products or could answer the technical questions I had about the CBD they were using. This prompted me to quit my job and start a wellness brand that offered nourishing CBD skincare products, backed by real science.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
During my journey building State of Kind, all my most interesting stories illustrate the power of networking. I think so many of us undervalue networking events and the importance of making connections. I met two of the strongest, most influential members of my team (my product formulator and external legal counsel) completely randomly at networking events I originally hesitated about attending.
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?
One mistake I made in the early days was not having a plan B, C, and D. I learned that when you’re launching a product line, you need to build in contingencies to ensure you stay on track. Sometimes vendors you thought were your match made in heaven, simply don’t work out. A good business plan includes back up plans.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
One of the reasons State of Kind stands out is because the brand is deeply rooted in being kind to yourself — inside and out.
When our skin isn’t at its best, most of us get so down on ourselves and often apply harsh, unnatural products to battle our imperfections. State of Kind uses effective ingredients, including CBD, but our formulas are gentle on your skin. We believe being kind to yourself and your skin is extremely powerful.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Yes, we have another lineup of exciting products to follow up on our kind skin product launch. These products will be geared towards addressing the root cause of common skin concerns.
What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?
Show them you believe in them and ensure your team is constantly learning and improving. Sometimes acts that seem small, like sending staff to an industry conference or including them in an important meeting, do wonders for building their confidence and motivation.
What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?
Actively listen to your team. You selected each of these individuals for a reason — likely because they bring a specific skill, type of experience, or knowledge you don’t possess. Listen to them.
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?
My mom has had a huge impact on shaping me into the type of entrepreneur I am today. She taught me the importance of having grit. For those of you who haven’t heard this term too often, grit is an internal driver of achievement, an ability to consistently motivate yourself and do whatever is necessary to achieve a goal, especially when it’s hard and there are setbacks.
When my mom was a little girl, she immigrated with her family to Toronto, Canada from Portugal. Grateful for her life in Canada and determined to succeed, she worked every day to improve her situation.
She started a consulting business when she raising me and my siblings. I witnessed how much joy it brought her to experience the kind of stimulation a career can provide. When it was time for her to go back to work full-time, she taught herself computer skills that allowed her to advance in her career and provide a better life for our family.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I make a big effort to instill confidence in young women who have just entered the workforce. Research shows that women drastically underestimate themselves in the workplace.
I encourage women to take big steps towards improving their confidence, such as speaking up in meetings. But I also recommend small acts to improve confidence, including changing the tone of their emails. Emails don’t need to sound apologetic or agreeable to be polite.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
- As an entrepreneur, no one cares as much as you do. Motivating vendors to ensure your project is on track is so important. When it makes sense, try to align your interests.
- Just start. Your first version won’t be your best and that’s okay. I had to become comfortable with the iterative process of building a brand and creating products.
- Learn from others. I cannot stress enough the importance of mentors and reading books authored by entrepreneurs I admire. One of my favourite books, “Do Cool Shit” by Miki Agrawal, is packed with practical advice, painful and triumphant personal experiences, and links to useful resources.
- Decide what aspects of your business you can learn and what you need to outsource.
- Make time to nurture the positive relationships in your life. These people are genuine and will be your biggest source of support.
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. 🙂
One of the biggest myths I would love to help bust is the notion that to be successful, you need to be ruthless and cruel. Kindness in the workplace is too often associated with being agreeable or passive. You can exhibit kindness in the workplace and still be self-assured, deliver constructive feedback, and communicate your points with conviction. In fact, research actually shows the more employees feel devalued at work, the less energy they spend on creating value for the company. So, being unkind and bullish is just a great way to lose top performers and decrease productivity.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Don’t ever make decisions based on fear. Make decisions based on hope and possibility.” — Michelle Obama
In my experience, fear stifles growth and also has terrible impacts on decision-making in business. When I feel like I’m making a decision based on fear, I make a conscious effort to ask myself, “What am I really afraid of? Why am I trying to rationalize the safer choice is the better one?” Then, I’m able to make the decision based on the exciting possible outcomes. I’m not always successful at using this technique every time, but I’m getting better at it.
We are 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 🙂
Sarah Blakely (inventor of Spanx). I am so inspired by Sara Blakely’s story. I recently watched her MasterClass series on self-made entrepreneurship and I loved every minute. Sara’s Instagram account is also one of my favourites to follow, because she’s so real — and hilarious.