Sarah Panis, COO, and Founder of The Gritty Movement inspires us as a young businesswoman and entrepreneur. Sarah developed her passion for business and leadership while she served as Chief Operating Officer at a startup fresh out of college. Her success was driven by hard work as well as her deep understanding of operational strategy, leadership, and business expansion.
Tell us a little about yourself. What inspires you? What scares you? Why?
I have always had a passion for leadership and entrepreneurship. I was in college studying business and marketing at University of San Diego during the time where companies were shifting towards socially responsible business models (Tom’s, Pura Vida, Warby Parker). It really fascinated me how much power and influence companies have to affect positive change in the world, and I knew I wanted to be a part of the social responsibility movement. I’m inspired by women in business who do it all: lead teams, take care of their families, and kill it at work! I have the tendency to get fearful when I feel like I don’t have control over something, but I’m quickly learning that as an entrepreneur, you just have to do your best and let go of the rest.
You have developed your passion for all things leadership while serving as COO for a startup that you grew exponentially. How has this experience shaped you into the businesswoman you are today?
I learned everything I know about business and leadership during that time I spent as COO of a startup. I started at that company as the receptionist when I was a junior in college, and worked my way up as the company grew. When I received the title of COO at 23 years old, that’s all it was-- a title. I had to spend the next 5-7 years learning how to be a COO by doing/learning from my mistakes, reading, going to conferences, meeting with other C-level executives from other companies, and anything else I could think of to develop myself. Being in that small business, rapid growth type of environment really shaped me into the scrappy, resourceful, do-it-all type of entrepreneur I am today.
We love that you help female founders expand their business, especially through mindful leadership and operational efficiency. For you, what is the most rewarding part of being a female entrepreneur?
I feel truly blessed to be living in this time: a time where feminism and equality are at the forefront of political and social dialogue and when the American workplace is positively shifting away from the industrial revolution clock-in and out mentality and toward a workplace that values all stakeholders, especially employees. The most rewarding part of being a female entrepreneur in my industry right now is the opportunity to collaborate with so many business owners that want to create beautiful workplaces and cultures for their employees!
How have you been GRACEDBYGRIT? Has there been a gritty moment in your life that has forced you to learn what you are truly made of?
I am GRACEDBYGRIT because I took the challenges I experienced and turned them into a solution to help other women become more mindful and effective leaders. I think I’m currently living in my grittiest moment, which is planning and executing my first event- the Gritty Leadership Conference! Throughout this process, I’ve forced myself to go outside of my comfort zone and push myself.
How has this moment shaped you into the women you are today?
It’s shown me that I can make something amazing out of nothing- even if I’ve never done it before. It’s also taught me to keep raising the bar for myself and to ask for help from those around me!
Tell us about The Gritty Movement. Why did you start this business? What types of services do you provide?
Gritty Movement Consulting is a leadership development and management consulting firm for women-owned and led companies. We work with modern female founders to articulate their vision and values, strategically expand their teams, and increase employee engagement. We also help founders with expansion goals by creating project roadmaps and through operations strategy consulting.
I started Gritty Movement because when I was a COO, I struggled to find resources and support that I personally resonated with- as a woman, millennial, and minority. I want to fill that void for other female founders because a lot of us face similar struggles and growing pains when it comes to expanding our businesses and leading our teams.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I always try to start my day with a workout at Barry’s Bootcamp, followed by a healthy breakfast- usually made by my amazing boyfriend who’s the early riser and better chef out of the two of us. We’ll spend some time with our dogs either at home or Coronado dog beach before he goes to work, and I settle into my home office. My work days are a little different now that we’re getting so close to the conference- I’d say I’m working on conference stuff for 60% of my day and the rest of the time I’m focused on client work. I typically work with 5-7 clients at a time. In the evenings, I like to relax with a glass of wine or meet up with friends. I’ll try to meet other female founders at networking events a few times a month. My favorite networking groups are LadyKillas and Dames Collective!
What can you not live without?
My favorite podcasts- The Daily, Hacking Your Leadership, and Harvard Business Review’s Women at Work are some of my faves. I’m currently reading Radical Candor and Give & Take. Highly recommend! Other things I can’t live without are my Google Calendar, my English Bulldog pup, Sadie, green tea, Spotify, and my rosewater facial spray (favorite beauty product!).
What do you do outside of work to stay balanced? Where do you go to seek rest and rejuvenation?
Outside of work, I enjoy working out, cooking with my boyfriend or best friends, and trying out new restaurants. For rest and relaxation, I drive straight to my parent’s house in Encinitas! They have a jacuzzi and a great view, plus my mom always has the pantry stocked and essential oils going.
What advice would you give to a young woman who is starting her own business?
Find mentors! There are so many amazing women out there who are just a few steps ahead of you. You can significantly cut down your learning curve if you put yourself out there, build relationships, and ask for advice and guidance.
The Gritty Leadership Conference is coming up on May 23rd. Tell us about what the conference is all about and why female entrepreneurs should attend.
I am SO excited about the Gritty Leadership Conference, which is a conference dedicated to enhancing the impact of women in business- specifically female founders and leaders. As someone who has been to so many conferences, I’ve been craving an experience that’s inspirational and fun but also jam-packed with actionable takeaways and deep, meaningful content. In my experience, conferences were either all fluff/”see and be seen” events or super informative and educational but stuffy and boring (and expensive!). Gritty Leadership is a perfect blend of the two. I’m looking forward to the panels because we have so many amazing local female founders speaking (KATE NOWLAN, COO of GRACEDBYGRIT!!) and the workshops because they’re so action-oriented. It’s going to be an amazing day of learning and collaborating with San Diego’s modern women in the business community.
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