In this third post of the Women in Tech Blog Series, we are featuring Sara Naab, Co-Founder of Sandstone Diagnostics.
It’s only 15 days left until the Women in Tech Festival 2017 on March 24th-25th! We took the opportunity to invite our female founders that will be pitching at the festival to share their unique stories in building their startups – what stereotypes have they come up against when building their startup and what is their one top advice for female entrepreneurs?
What inspired you to start your company?
At Sandstone, we are developing some incredible innovations that are aimed at helping people take control of their health. Our first product, Trak is a complete system that allows men to measure and improve sperm count health from the comfort and privacy of home.
When I was 23, my Ob-Gyn told me that I was likely to have a hard time getting pregnant. My health wasn’t what it should be. I took that as a wake-up call and made some dramatic changes in my life to improve my health. Changing the course of my health is one of my achievements that I am most proud of. It has created in me a passion to help other people understand and improve their health.
After welcoming my first baby into the world, I was even more driven to help people improve not only their health but start their family. As my four younger brothers began settling down and getting married, I realized that they would never get the wake-up call that I did. If any of them had an issue with their fertility, they would likely not know until after countless months of trying to get pregnant. While women often see doctors annually, men usually don’t. They have very little support when it comes to improving their health, especially as it pertains to fertility.
Who has been your mentor or role model in your entrepreneurial journey?
I’ve learned a ton from everyone I’ve had the fortune to meet along this journey. Investors, board members, fellow entrepreneurs, thought leaders. But, I think my greatest role model has been my dad. He started his first business when I was five and has been at it ever since. Growing up in an entrepreneurial family gave me the grit and perseverance that it takes to get something off the ground and personal experience of some big lessons for what to do and what not do that you can’t really learn until you’ve been in the driver’s seat.
Have you come up against a stereotype and how did you handle it?
I’ve been pregnant most of the time I’ve had this start up. On more than one occasion I have put on several layers on Spanx to hide a 6-month pregnant belly because I didn’t want it to dominate the conversation. I’ve received pointed questions about childcare arrangements, breastfeeding, and host of other personal matters that left me on the defensive. In these situations, I have found it best to take a deep breath and guide conversation back to business goals, metrics and objectives. I’m not always as graceful as I want to be but I think I’m getting better.
What has been the most challenging so far in building your startup and how do you keep the motivation up?
For me, one of the biggest challenges an entrepreneur faces is to invite people into a vision of how the world can be different and then, let go and let them help shape that vision going forward. Most things worth doing can’t be done alone. Entrepreneurs are often keenly able to see a change in the world that most people can’t see. Communicating and cultivating that vision is the hard work of building a company, and as you do, more and more people will take stake and ownership of the vision. Leadership is shepherding that process.
The motivation to keep at it day after day comes from talking to the men who are changing their health because of our product. I play an active role in customer support, on social media and in the forums to hear challenges and triumphs faced by our customers. It keeps me grounded in the why.
What is your one top advice to female entrepreneurs out there?
Know your customers. Talk to them every chance you can. Know what their problems are, their dreams, their purchasing habits. Watch them interact with your product. Get feedback as often and as early as you are able. It will likely cause you to fail, iterate, and fail again. But, failing early is cheap. Failing later is expensive. The more you can build your product on the truth of your customer’s experience, the better shot you have at success.
It’s only 17 days left to our Women in Tech Festival 2017, March 24th-25th at Microsoft, Mountain View. Join us and hear Sara Naab, Co-Founder of Sandstone Diagnostics pitch on March 24th! #SVFWIT17 #SVFWomenTechFest
Author: Xi-Er Dang
Product Marketing Specialist