Sarah White is the COO and co-founder of Fairware,a small size company (10-99 employees) working in the promotional products industry. The company was founded in 2005 when Sarah joined forces with her business partner Denise Taschereau. They became WBE certified in 2010.
WBE Canada: Why did you go into this business?
Sarah: My business partner Denise Taschereau saw a gap in the market for functional, ethically sourced merchandise. We joined forces to create Fairware to bring innovation and drive change in the promotional products industry.
WBE Canada: When it comes to your business, what are you most proud of?
Sarah: Our team, our culture and our systems
WBE Canada: As a business grows it has a tendency to focus on institution instead of inspiration. How do you prevent this from happening?
Sarah: We have always been committed to staying ahead of the curve. In part, our purpose is to be a source of innovation for our clients. Also, we continually evaluate how we do what we do, in an effort to be a better business and to provide a better experience for our clients.
WBE Canada: How do you encourage creative thinking in your company?
Sarah: Part of what sets us apart is our creativity, so we encourage our team to contribute ideas. When more heads are put together, better ideas are created, and fewer oversights are made. We acknowledge and value our team’s input.
WBE Canada: How has your WBE certification helped you in your business?
Sarah: It’s important for us to identify as a women-owned business and to be a role model for younger women entrepreneurs. It’s critical to have a network of strong women entrepreneurs to support and encourage each other.
WBE Canada: What advice would you give to another woman at the beginning stage of building her business?
Sarah: Listen to advice! You don’t know what you don’t know. Get advisors from the very beginning. A good idea is nothing without a solid business behind it.
WBE Canada: What has been the most challenging time in your business and how did you overcome it?
Sarah: 2008/09 recession – we were months away from possibly having to close our doors, we pivoted very quickly, made tough decisions including letting people go. We turned things around within a year without any additional financing.
WBE Canada: What has been the biggest triumph?
Sarah: Achieving a profitable, growing business with a great team and culture.
WBE Canada: What is your superpower?
Sarah: Synthesising information to solve problems
WBE Canada: How do you continue to develop and grow as a leader?
Sarah: Read books, articles, attend workshops, speak with peers, collaborate, ask for advice.
WBE Canada: Has there been someone who inspired you and how?
Sarah: Eileen Fisher – in our early days, we won an Eileen Fisher Women Owned Business Grant. Through this we witnessed and learned about a business that did things differently and was still hugely profitable. It was an inspiration to see a woman business owner lead from the heart and be so strongly committed to her values.
WBE Canada: What is your favourite quote?
Sarah: Culture eats strategy for lunch
WBE Canada: Are you actively involved in community work? If so, please provide a brief outline.
Sarah: President and an active volunteer with Vancouver Street Soccer League, an organization that uses the power of sport to uplift and inspire marginalized folks on the downtown eastside of Vancouver. www.vancouverstreetsoccer.com
WBE Canada: What do you hope your legacy will be?
Sarah: That we’ve created a great place to work with an inclusive culture and that we’ve influenced the way companies purchase.
Fairware provides sustainable and ethically sourced promotional products to North America’s Leading sustainable brands. We do the homework, so brands have assurance that their purchasing aligns with their values. We are based in Vancouver and have clients in both Canada and North America, across many industries including retail, natural foods, alternative energy and universities. Clients include, Vancity, Nature’s Path, Hootsuite, Fleuvog, Patagonia, and Ben and Jerry’s. Connect with them on their website, LinkedIn , Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.
About WBE Canada
WBE Canada is a Canadian non-profit organization that is opening doors for women-owned businesses to supply chains across North America. It certifies Canadian firms that are at least 51% owned, managed and controlled by women and introduces them to opportunities with corporations. To learn more about how we support women-owned businesses, click here. If you are a mid-size or large company looking to support women-owned businesses through procurement opportunities, we want to hear from you. Click here to learn more how you can get involved.