Sarah Best, Sarah Best Strategy
IB’s Professional of the Week is the premier way to meet Dane County’s professionals. This week features Sarah Best, CEO and chief strategist, Sarah Best Strategy.
What are the most challenging and rewarding aspects of your job and why?
The most rewarding aspect of my job is giving businesses the tools that they need to succeed on social media and search, no matter what constraints they are facing. I geek out about solving team workflow problems and helping people focus their efforts around a coherent vision. The most challenging aspect of my job in the fourth year of running my company is to continue to lead, evolve, and teach despite the pressures that come along with being a startup. The most fun I have is teaching other professionals about marketing topics over glasses of wine during my monthly Sip & Social series at Table Wine in Atwood.
Who do you look up to or admire in business and why?
I really admire Derek Notman of Intrepid Wealth Partners, whom I have been coaching in digital marketing for the past year. The thing that I admire about him is the integrity and work ethic he brings to his marketing efforts, which are based in giving entrepreneurs the resources they need to succeed. Not every business leader cares about doing his or her marketing well. He works so hard and it’s been so rewarding to see his efforts paying off. He does it all in a way that’s really customer focused and with a lot of joy. I’ve also learned a ton about how to work my airline miles from him as a small business owner!
What has been the high point of your career so far?
The high point of my career so far was doing my first significant business deal with (a then startup) Foursquare as one of their first content partners. It was my first time creating a win-win that paired brands with social media audiences. I leveraged my access to social media audiences in the Chicago market with any internal resources I had access to. I got creative! I wrote the copy for the badges myself, pulled in internal public relations officers, and used our in-house graphic designers to get the work done at no cost to me. We made a huge splash with our efforts, which included a badge to recreate Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, received press coverage for our joint effort in TechCrunch, Mashable, Travel + Leisure, National Geographic Traveler, Crain’s Chicago Business, WGN, and other publications. Many of the awards I’ve won for my work were for that campaign.
Thinking back on your career, what advice would you give your 21-year-old self?
Mostly I would tell myself that working three jobs and spending all of my free time reading about social media and business was worth it, even if I was pretty broke and didn’t have a lot of free time.
What would you say are the best things about living and working in Dane County?
I relocated to Dane County from Chicago in 2014 and I think it’s a fantastic place to start a business. Having resources like Doyenne Group, 100state, Merlin Mentors, and the UW Law and Entrepreneurship Clinic were critical to learning how to become a CEO. I also moved here for the beautiful parks and lakes, and the vibrant arts and restaurants scene. I grew up near Penn State and love living in a college town.
Do you have any secret talents or abilities that people would be surprised to discover?
I’m also a visual artist and writer. My last major art project was building a secret 1920s nightclub in a studio at a Chicago art museum. One minute you were walking down an industrial hallway, and then next minute you’re surrounded by palm trees, low couches, and constructed artifacts from another time. For a month I hosted free, intimate concerts and film screenings in the space.
What are your guilty pleasures?
I went to school in New York, London, and Chicago and am a HUGE theater fan — I will even hop on a plane to go see a play. My favorite playwright is Wallace Shawn, who is perhaps best known for his role as Vizzini in The Princess Bride. I have met him on three occasions, most recently when he was in the cast of Evening at the Talk House in New York City. The cast milled about on stage before the show so that we could talk to them and after telling him I was the biggest fan of his plays, he exclaimed in that classic Wallace Shawn voice, “You aaaarrrrrrre? I feel like I owe you something!” Little did he know that back when I was a hardworking but pretty broke 20-something, he actually did do something for me. I had purchased a one-day, $400 sale flight to London to go see two of his plays, but when I found that they were sold out I sent him a letter and he personally purchased tickets to both Aunt Dan and Lemon and Grasses of a Thousand Colors for me. I was so thankful!
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