Taking the Family Business to the Next Level - With Intention & Strategy

Original text written by B The Change + published here August 8, 2017. Learn more about B Corps.

Sierra Sage Herbs Strategically Balances Growth and Personal Connection

The company’s Green Goo products are meant to deliver nature’s healing properties, using sustainably grown herbs. As the family-run business continues its own growth from a side hobby to a thriving enterprise, bringing in outside perspectives has kept the mission front and center.

The story of Sierra Sage Herbs sounds dreamy. The company produces “food for your skin” — several lines of natural, herbal “Green Goo” salves, lotions and balms. And it’s been kept in the family: CEO and co-founder Jodi Scott runs sales and marketing; her mom handles art and design; her sister is the herbalist; her husband is COO; her brother-in-law manages the warehouse and most of the staff; her mother-in-law heads the accounting department; and her dad plays an advisory and consultancy role.

At a glance, you may be skeptical at how well the company really operates wth so many family ties, and wonder how it could scale successfully. But the family hasn’t simply fallen into operating a successfully run business. On the contrary, as Jodi Scott explains in an interview with B the Change, the sourcing, labeling and more have been largely shaped by the company intentionally focusing on mission first and seeking a diverse Board of Directors.

“We wanted a team who could contribute their wisdom and knowledge, each bringing their own strong suits to the table that would overall strengthen us as a whole,” Scott says. Such strategy has helped Sierra Sage Herbs grow from a small company selling at a farmers market to a thriving women-owned and family-operated Certified B Corporation, while still sourcing all organic herbs and oils and crafting all of its products in the U.S. The company has partnered with multiple global nonprofits to give back, including 1% for the Planet.

We spoke with Scott about her experience running the business and some of the intentional steps Sierra Sage Herbs took to grow and keep its values.

B the Change: Why did you choose to create a Board of Directors?
Jodi Scott: We chose to create a Board of Directors so we could be guided by people with synergistic ethos who we respected professionally and personally. We wanted a team who could contribute their wisdom and knowledge, each bringing their own strong suits to the table that would strengthen us as a whole.

We wanted to be able to defer to our counsel for necessary support and insight, as our brand’s growth can sometimes complicate the vision. The Board has been key to keep our vision on the right path.

Who are the members of the Board, how are they affiliated with the company, and/or what type of expertise do they provide?

Some of the Board members are family members, some are owners of the company (my mom, sister and me), some are dear friends, and others are professionals that we thought would contribute to our overall efforts. For example, we have one who has a doctorate in environmental sociology who helps us with our sustainable business practices. We have an HR attorney who helps us to remain sensitive to our employees’ needs as we grow. We have another board member who is a seasoned CEO and former bank president who helps us stay on course financially and guides our CFO as we grow.

How, if at all, has having the Board helped your business?
Without our Board, we would not be where we are today. Their guidance, resources and contributions have helped my mom, sister and me in areas that we don’t have the expertise, and they enable us to make swift decisions. Rather than having to dig and develop relationships for business hurdles that arise, having the relationships readily available makes for faster solution-seeking and gives us confidence to do so. If our Board can’t solve it, they have resources we can count on to help.

How does the value you place on nature play out in how you set up your business?
With every decision we make, we evaluate how it will impact our business’s footprint and ask whether it will benefit society. It is our moral code to consider nature as a key element. There are some fantastic herbs out there that could be used, but if they are not sustainable to grow in large numbers or potentially harmful to scale because of their scarcity, we don’t include them in our formulas.

We have solar panels on our warehouse, we collect rain water, we grow our own food, and we even try to work with buyers to be strategic and efficient with our travel. We are not perfect by any means, and there is always room for improvement, but it is a top priority for us. Our Board is a great checks-and-balances system to keep nature at the center of our business practices.

What has your experience been as a female founder and CEO?
My experience has been self-taught, but with an amazing counsel. I have a weekly meeting with an adviser who teaches and supports me in being a CEO. My adviser also provides emotional support, but more than anything, I get shaped and become more confident to lead the team.

How has family and your mom and sister being leaders in the business played a role, if any, in your development?
We are a certified women-owned business. The amazing gift our team/family brings to the table is its level of diversity. I am stunned sometimes at how perfect our puzzle fits. I couldn’t have created it better myself.

When forming your board of directors, was gender equity something you specifically considered? If yes, why?
Our board is majority women, but gender wasn’t something we set as a criterion. We sought a diverse team with members that complemented each other and bring an overall strength to the team. Each is a leader in his/her professions and keeps strong interpersonal relationships, which was important to us. They don’t need to be the “best” in their class, but they need to the best person they can be while always striving for a better world, and that meant the most to us.

How do you envision achieving this vision statement, particularly the last section, with your company’s work: “The change Sierra Sage seeks is that natural products will become more affordable and more available to everyone around the world.”

We are constantly looking for ways to increase our efficiencies, yielding the highest amount from the plants with as little waste as possible, increasing our manufacturing efficiencies so we don’t waste product nor time. This helps reduce our footprint, but also helps everyone run at optimal levels to reduce costs. We make internal compromises every day, even if it is cutting our own personal income to make the price point a reality. We have a saying, “Live simply so others can simply live.” If we accomplish anything in this adventure, it is that we make organic products available to everyone who wants them, and as a result, we live healthier and cleaner lives. This should be everyone’s natural right.

B the Change gathers and shares the voices from within the movement of people using business as a force for good and the community of certified B Corporations. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the nonprofit B Lab.

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