Entrepreneur/Investor Sari Azout Bakalarz's Best Business Tips and More
Photos via Emma del Rey
In just three decades on the planet, Miami-based mama Sari Azout Bakalarz has already managed a handful of successful career ventures. After earning her B.A. from Brown University, the trained sociologist eventually found herself desk trading for an investment banking company, then founding and running curated online consignment shop Bib + Tuck, which was recognized by the likes of Refinery29 and Vogue. And now, in addition to her role as wife and mother to two little boys, the bonafide boss babe is a partner at Level Ventures and advisor at Rokk3r Labs.
In layman's terms, Azout Bakalarz spends her days "investing in and working with entrepreneurs that are reimagining outdated industries and helping them with digital product design, organizational design, business strategy and storytelling." When you tack on motherhood, the savvy businesswoman certainly has her plate full — but she wouldn't have it any other way. Because we know there are plenty of other entrepreneurial-minded moms out there who are in search of motivation, we asked Sari to give us the scoop on how she got to where she is now (in such a short time), her tips for managing meetings and family time, and the advice she'd give budding businesses.
How did you first make the jump from sociologist to entrepreneur?
I’ve always been fascinated by consumer and organizational behavior. I have also always been drawn to new ventures. The desire to turn nothing into something in a way that solves a real problem has always motivated me. I come from a family of entrepreneurs. My great grandfather immigrated to Colombia from the Middle East and built a business from nothing, so I was raised to believe that going out, building something and disrupting the status quo is totally possible. My father is a lifelong learner and serial entrepreneur – he set a really strong example of living a passionate life and loving what you do which has really influenced who I am today.
At a young age you've already had a few different careers! What about your current one are you most enjoying?
When I was running Bib + Tuck, I was laser focused on e-comm/P2P marketplaces and ignored other markets. I really enjoyed being an operator, but I am also genuinely interested in other industries. My current work allows me to spread my focus over a wide range of companies and industries, it really satisfied my intellectual curiosity. I basically get paid to meet with interesting people who are trying to change the world.
As an investor, what's the best advice you have for anyone looking to launch a new business?
Spend more time in the early days learning and understanding your customer and less on executing and building your idea. You need to get to a point where you know what to execute. Unfortunately, most startups skip the customer discovery and validation phase and jump straight into company building, and that is why most fail.
What does a "typical" day look like for you?
My kids wake up around 6am. My husband picks them up (I am not a morning person!), brings them to our bed, and we cuddle with them for a few minutes before we’re forced to get the day started. I like to start my days with a yoga class or morning meditation (I use the Headspace app) and then head to the office. I listen to a podcast every day on my drive to work; it fills me with energy and inspires me to have a productive day. Every day at the office is different: some days are focused on deep work while others are full of meetings. Being a mom has made me ruthlessly efficient and a few work hacks that have helped me are: having at least two days a week with no meetings to focus on deep work and creating, not taking meetings when an email or call will do, and not taking meetings unless there’s an agenda.
I try to leave my office by 4pm or 5pm to be with my kids. On slower days I go for walks on the beach — my kids love to run in the sand and I get to disconnect. We try to get the kids in bed by 730pm so my husband and I can get some one-on-one time together and watch our favorite TV shows, play backgammon, or go out to dinner with friends. It keeps us sane!
You made the move from NYC to Miami. What's the biggest culture shock and what do you love about raising a family there?
It took a lot to get used to the slow pace and calling a city that people think of as a vacation spot home but I’m so happy here and am constantly reminding myself how lucky we are to be able to do beachside evening walks, kayaking on the weekends, outdoor tennis in the afternoons, and blue skies all year.
What advice do you have for other new moms who are looking for a major career change?
Always choose growth over complacency. A career is a multi-decade process of getting in alignment with who you really are, and it requires being open to change so you can find your true potential.