Power Women: Sabrena Gartland On How To Successfully Navigate Work, Love and Life As A Powerful Woman
Nov 12, 2021
Power Women: Sabrena Gartland On How To Successfully Navigate Work, Love and Life As A Powerful Woman
An Interview With Ming Zhao. Read the full interview here.I believe all we need is time. The new generation that we are raising will understand that a powerful woman can have and do anything they put their mind to. My daughters will grow up knowing that they can do anything they work hard for. If they want to stay home and be a homemaker, they can do that. But, if they want to be the next boss babe CEO, it’s there for them and hopefully by that time, there will be even more opportunities for women.
How does a successful, strong, and powerful woman navigate work, employee relationships, love, and life in a world that still feels uncomfortable with strong women? In this interview series, called “Power Women” we are talking to accomplished women leaders who share their stories and experiences navigating work, love and life as a powerful woman. As a part of this series I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Sabrena Gartland.
With 15+ years of experience in the wide-ranging art of marketing and (what some might say) a magical talent with social media in particular, Founder and Creative Director Sabrena Gartland dreams up (and manages) the always inspired but frenetic daily operations of Frogman Media Group and Peninsula PR & Influencer Services. Having a special knack for both early and later-stage start-ups and a decidedly soft spot for small business entrepreneurs, Sabrena is where the proverbial buck stops when it comes to all matters regarding design and technology solutions for her valued clientele. Sabrena is driven by a passion for finding new, exciting, and effective ways to engage the denizens of the virtual world and has extensive experience working within a myriad of industries, (in both the B2B and B2C categories), and is well-versed in all the latest trends, methods and means in Digital Marketing and Public Relations.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood “backstory”?
I was born and raised in San Pedro, CA. My mom was a single mother for most of my childhood and all throughout high school. Which means she was at work, day and night to provide for my brother and I. I learned at a very early age the importance of working and earning my own living. At 13 I had my first job at Sorrento’s Italian Restaurant (my grandfather’s business), and by 16 I was working two jobs.
Can you tell us the story about what led you to this particular career path?
At 20 I got my first ‘big girl’ job and worked first as a receptionist for Contessa Premium Foods, and then quickly got promoted to Marketing Assistant. Once I started learning about what Marketing was, I instantly knew that this was what I wanted to stick with and focus on for my career. I LOVED figuring out how to move the needle with creative promotions. Back then, social media just started becoming a tool for businesses — I instantly saw the vision of how huge this was going to be for businesses — big and small. So, I advocated heavily to get some sort of strategy in place to use social to our advantage to help with sales. From there, I was promoted to Social Media and Promotions Manager. This was back when Social Media Managers didn’t even exist. When there was no Instagram or advertising on FB. It was a brand new concept and I loved it! Ever since then, I’ve worked, learned about and have grown hundreds of different profiles across all of the different social channels.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
Within the first year of starting my own company I was blessed to be able to see a brand (one of my first clients) go from $0 to $50 million in sales in their first year of business. Being a part of that type of growth and seeing the different stages/ challenges has given me such amazing experience. I joined the company as their social media manager. They were selling one product; a product that was still overseas being manufactured. At the time, we were only accepting pre-orders. The two brothers that invented the product got chosen for Shark Tank, got a deal with Barbara, and quickly saw their idea morphe into a solid business. Being on Shark Tank of course brought them a good amount of pre-sales, but it was them going viral on social a few months later that brought them a HUGE amount of exposure and sales. Seeing them grow so quickly and being a part of the business when it was still just the two brothers and my team running social and customer service was a huge opportunity for me to grow my skills.
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
Being honest and upfront with clients at the very beginning is key. There are so many of our clients that have been burned by other agencies because of big promises that came along with under performance. Success does not happen overnight, it takes consistency, dedication and a well thought out strategy/ execution on that strategy to succeed. As long as our clients are on board with understanding that, we’re excited to take on the challenge of being a part of their growth and success. I always tell them, it’s a marathon, not a sprint, and if it was so easy everyone would be doing it.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. The premise of this series assumes that our society still feels uncomfortable with strong women. Why do you think this is so?
Unfortunately, (in my opinion) it’s still a new concept for a lot of people. If you look at other countries, for example, they are so far behind in terms of woman’s freedoms and status in society compared to where the US is today. While we are making positive strides ahead, there is still so much work to be done. For years, women were the lifeline of holding the household together, while men went out to make money to support their families. Now women are out here showing that we can have It and do it all; be a mom, be a wife, take care of our homes, and have a successful career. People that are in the old-time mind-frame have a hard time understanding this new normal.
I believe all we need is time. The new generation that we are raising will understand that woman can have and do anything they put their mind to. My daughters will grow up knowing that they can do anything they work hard for. If they want to stay home and be a homemaker, they can do that. But, if they want to be the next boss babe CEO, it’s there for them and hopefully, by that time, there will be even more opportunities for women.
Without saying any names, can you share a story from your own experience that illustrates this idea?
I’ve worked with many different companies over the years. Unfortunately, there have been many scenarios when I thought to myself “this wouldn’t have happened had I been a man.” Whether it be being spoken to a certain way, or totally disregarded in a meeting and directed to instead listen to a male that has a lot less experience on the topic we were discussing than I did. It’s unfortunate, but it happens all the time.
What should a powerful woman do in a context where she feels that people are uneasy around her?
Always speak up. If I feel disregarded or disrespected in any way, I will always have a conversation with the person directly. Being open and honest up front is key. A lot of the times, people don’t realize what they’ve done. By talking to them about it, it allows them to understand your point of view, and it also helps them understand and point out maybe some things that they need to work on as well.
What do we need to do as a society to change the unease around powerful women?
We need to make it normal. Normalize the fact that a woman can also be a powerful and successful CEO, business owner, doctor, etc. We also need to stop shaming woman. i.e. a working mom… It is very hard to juggle trying to be the best mom AND being a successful business owner. I feel a lot of guilt and shame sometimes coming from family, friends, and others when it comes to how much time I spend working. On the same token they’re congratulating me on my success. This same guilt and shame is not placed on my husband… at all…. Even though he also works full time. THIS needs to stop. We need to lift each other up and keep the positivity coming and realize that working is a good thing to do. We need to normalize successful full-time working mommas. We need to also be given more resources to be able to flourish in our positions professionally and personally.
In my own experience, I have observed that often women have to endure ridiculous or uncomfortable situations to achieve success that men don’t have to endure. Do you have a story like this from your own experience? Can you share it with us?
At the first company I worked for, I was their Social Media and Promotions Manager, and the CEO called me into his office one day and asked me to stand in front of his window and help him un-knot his window blind strings because they were in a huge bunched up knot. No joke… I was young at the time, so I did as I was told. Looking back, it was a complete waste of my time and something that I know he would never have some of my male counterparts do.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women leaders that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?
A lot of what I discussed above about being a mom and juggling work and home. THIS. This is the biggest challenge for me personally and I know a lot of woman face.
Let’s now shift our discussion to a slightly different direction. This is a question that nearly everyone with a job has to contend with. Was it difficult to fit your personal and family life into your business and career? For the benefit of our readers, can you articulate precisely what the struggle was?
It is constantly a struggle for me to make sure that my family come first and foremost before anything else. When I had my first daughter, I was in an office job, and I specifically remember the day I decided I was going to veer off on my own and start my own company. I would go in at 7AM and come home at 7PM and by then my baby was ready for bed and I barely got to see her and spend time with her. One day I came home, and my grandmother told me she had rolled over. I instantly broke down in tears because I missed it. A week later, I had a conversation with my boss about potentially working from home a couple of days a week. It was quickly shot down and declined, so I decided to leave my comfortable full-time job and start my own business. It was terrifying but allowed me to make own schedule and be home more with my baby. I haven’t looked back since and do not for one day regret that decision.
What was a tipping point that helped you achieve a greater balance or greater equilibrium between your work life and personal life? What did you do to reach this equilibrium?
I left my corporate job. I was not given the opportunity to have a work life balance, and because of this I left and built a far larger and successful opportunity for me.
I work in the beauty tech industry, so I am very interested to hear your philosophy or perspective about beauty. In your role as a powerful woman and leader, how much of an emphasis do you place on your appearance? Do you see beauty as something that is superficial, or is it something that has inherent value for a leader in a public context? Can you explain what you mean?
I see it as superficial, and another hurdle that we as woman must jump over. Men can wear t-shirts and jeans and be the head of a billion $ company. When we wear yoga pants and t-shirts, we’re viewed as slobs and not taken seriously. That should change. While I agree that at some point, depending on the situation, you must be put together, it’s not something that needs to happen every day. What I wear, has nothing to do with my success. Most days I’m in comfy clothes and my hair is up in a mom bun. That’s been the case for the past 6 years and has had no impact on my success. People should be comfortable in their own skin and be able to be 100% themselves and authentic; if you thrive in heels and a skirt, wear it! If you feel better in comfy clothes, then that is what you should wear. What we wear for clothes, if we wear make-up or not, or style our hair every day should not determine how far we can go professionally.
How is this similar or different for men?
There is a total double standard for men vs. woman when it comes to appearance. As I mentioned above, the richest, most successful men can wear t-shirts and jeans every day. Woman can’t get away with that quite yet.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your opinion and experience, what are the “Five Things You Need To Thrive and Succeed as a Powerful Woman?” (Please share a story or example for each.)
Passion - None of this will work without true passion for what you’re going after and trying to achieve. You won’t wake up every day wanting to hustle, but you must love what you’re doing and be passionate about it. When I worked my corporate jobs, I would wake up and go through the motions of the day, without much thought behind it. I loved what I did, but I did not love the constraints that were put on me from day to day. I was working on someone else’s dime and there were so many times that I got shot down with an idea that I truly felt was a homerun, simply because I was young and at a jr. level. What I do now is so rewarding because I’m able to set my ideas in motion on MY dime and see them flourish. I’m truly passionate about the work that we do, and the day I don’t feel that passion any longer, will be the day that I move on to something new. The beauty of it all, is that I now have the authority and space to do that.
Accountability - It takes a specific type of person to work for themselves. It’s so easy to just procrastinate in this job and push things off to another time, another day. Keeping yourself accountable is key to growth and success.
Integrity - Always stay true to yourself and set up a strong belief system within your company and your offerings. Being honest and truthful has been my go-to since I started my career.
A Strong Tribe Around You — I wouldn’t be able to do what I do without my team. I learned very early on the importance of delegating and hiring people that you trust, and more importantly, that mesh well with your personality. Your tribe also goes far beyond who you work with on a professional level. When you have a family and a household to run, it’s essential to accept help if you have it. I am forever grateful to my family for their on-going help with my children.
Endurance — This profession is not for the faint at heart! You need endurance to keep up with the day-to-day tasks it takes to thrive and succeed. Taking care of yourself mentally and physically to make sure you can keep up is so important.
We are very blessed that some very prominent 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.
Oh my goodness.. this is a TOUGH one! There are so many amazing leaders that I look up to, and that have helped encourage and inspire me throughout the years. I would love to meet and have a conversation with Jasmine Star, founder of Social Curator, speaker, photographer, social media guru goddess! Her story really hits home for me, and I love and admire what she has been able to build over the past few years.