Like A Boss : Sarah Stewart
We recently sat down with ethical entrepreneur Sarah Stewart, founder of Arc Apparel. Sarah’s a boss like no other. Named after Joan of Arc, Arc aims to get beautiful clothing curated to you from responsible brands. Um hello, we love you Sarah Stewart. Sarah told us about her incredible journey that started with a mindset shift and the launch of her business and how she manages to lead a mission-centric company with courage and grace. Read on, Beaconites, she’s an inspo’:
So, you have a killer idea that you’re passionate about. What next?
I knew I needed to go back to school to get more experience. In the back of my mind I knew I wanted to start a business so I decided I’d study business and do it quickly. I shifted to BCIT for a condensed program. This was a great decision because it taught me great work ethic and I got industry experience doing practicums. I worked with Shoes.com and ended up getting a job with them once I graduated. It was incredible to work there in the startup environment. After I did that for some time and once I felt I was ready (and the timing was right!) I bit the bullet and started Arc. That was 2 ½ years ago.
What or who has been your greatest influence in business and why?
Hands down my Dad. He has ran his own business for 30+ years. He has incredible experience for practically every situation. He’s been the right mix of supportive and pushing me. About being scared he says, “what’s the worst thing that can happen?” He reframes this to focus me on learning and growing and that this is always positive. The best one-liner advice he says is, “you don’t get what you deserve you get what you negotiate.”
So, Sarah, tell us your story:
I grew up in Calgary and moved to Vancouver with my family when I was 12 years old. I went to UBC straight after high school but soon realized I didn’t actually know what I wanted to do. What I did know was that I wanted to explore my horizons, meet people, and ultimately learn.
I decided to take a break from university and do some traveling. I followed my intuition (and my mother’s footsteps) to Bali where I did my yoga teacher training. This trip changed my life. I learned how other people in the world live; I gained perspective. I found the locals, the people working at hostels and hospitality so open and generous with their spirit. This experience shifted my mindset to connectedness: Everything and everyone is connected. The shirt that I’m wearing is made by someone, the food I’m eating is grown by a person. The resounding lesson was that the decisions we make as consumers affect someone’s life. This is where my passion for sustainability sprouted.
How did you take that newfound perspective and shape it into a business idea?
It didn’t happen overnight. When I got back from travelling I started working at a yoga studio and soon earned a role as a retail buyer. At the same time I was volunteering for eco-fashion week. Soon I learned about the dark side of fashion. Despite being a girly-girl who loved to dress up and express myself with fashion, I now felt conflicted knowing how bad it all is for the planet. This is where the concept of Arc came together, I just didn’t know it then. I wanted to create what I couldn’t find; a simple convenient place where everything was ethical and someone had already done the research for me.
You’re the leader of Arc. How would you define a leader?
A great leader is someone who can lift people up to their potential. What is really important is vulnerability, courage to have difficult and meaningful conversations. I think the other important thing is to make your team, no matter what their role is, have a connection to your mission and feel like every person is important to the whole picture. Team momentum.
What does success mean to you?
Taking the time and energy to think about what I want my life to look like and setting goals personally, professionally, and for my health. Following through and achieving those goals rather than just going through the day to day.
What’s the last new thing you’ve learned?
I just read Dare to Lead by Brene Brown in our last book club. My biggest takeaway was leaning into vulnerability and having difficult conversations at work. If you can’t do that as a leader you are doing a disservice to your team. “Clear is kind, unclear is unkind”
Do you follow a certain morning routine or daily schedule to maximize productivity and well-being?
I am not a morning person. My morning routine varies but what sets the tone of my day is sitting down with my notebook and writing my daily gratitude. This practice is grounding for me because I can find myself caught up in the trivial tasks of running a business. Writing it down helps me stay in the moment and appreciate the small things and small wins. This is very important and not always easy.
Every day I do a to-do list dump and write down everything on my mind. I take my top three priorities and write a seperate list --these are the things that have the most impact. If I don’t get everything done on the other list then I don’t feel like a failure because I know I am driving my business forward by focusing on the highest impact work.
What will be the biggest challenge for the generation of women behind you?
Women need to continue to show up and support one another. The quick fix - and that doesn’t mean easy - is to stop the negative talk that can just slip out of our mouths. Focus on the positive outlook. There are so many women doing awesome things out there - show up for them and celebrate their successes.
After all this success, what do you struggle with now?
The biggest thing I struggle with is that I wear a lot of different hats and I don’t always feel like I’m doing an exceptional job at any one thing. I reconcile with the reality that I’m trying to grow a small business and ultimately I will drop a ball and I have to figure out which is the least important ball today.
Rapid Fire Q’s
What gets you up in the morning? Literally, my dogs get me up in the morning. What truly gets me up is creating a lifestyle I want to live, creating a better life for myself and a better place for my kids and the next generation in terms of what i am building with this business.
What are you most grateful for in this moment? Definitely most grateful for the people in my life and I am so, so grateful for my fiance Drew. He is so supportive in this entrepreneurial journey as well as my family. Both of my parents are entrepreneurs. I can lean on them in this rollercoaster.
What 3 things do you always pack when you travel?
Journal - constantly have so many things swirling in my mind and need to put things on paper, or else i will forget or drive myself crazy with thoughts
A good book - for the downtime moments
My headphones - for music and podcasts
How do you practice self-care? This year, working out and making food for myself has been really important when I am active and eating well. Taking the time to cook at home. I am introvert/extrovert - I need time on my own to recharge. I’ve gotten better at saying “no”.
What’s the last new thing you’ve learned? I am learning new things all of the time running this business. I just read Dare to Lead by Brene Brown in our last book club. My biggest take away was leaning into vulnerability and hard convos in the work place. If you can’t do that as a leader you are doing a disservice to your team if you can’t have the convos or be vulnerable.
What does success mean to you? Taking the time and energy to think about what I want my life to look like and setting goals personally, professionally health and following through and achieving those goals. Rather than just going through the day to day.
What’s the best way women can support one another? The hardest but easiest way is the stopping of negative talk that just slips out of our mouth. Turning things into positives. Showing up for each other.
The women we surround ourselves with now are doing so many awesome things, throwing events, doing awesome things in their career. Just showing up or sharing something, those little things matter.