Sara Weinheimer on how to do it all, when to make a change, and who to listen to. (Hint: you’ll find them on BroadMic.)
Sara Weinheimer is a master of the pivot.
From solar energy to Wall Street to angel investing to founding BroadMic, a podcast for and about female entrepreneurs, this Changemaker is on the move. At our January Chat in NYC, Sara reflected on the personal qualities that helped her transition through different fields and industries: embracing change, being independent, taking risks, and learning to trust her instincts.
With feminist cookies in hand, a room full of potential pivoteers listened intently to Sara’s experiences and the insights she gleaned while helping other women find their piece of the proverbial pie. Here’s a snippet of our favorite changemaker moments.
Finding a problem you can solve
While there’s no hard and fast rule on how to become an entrepreneur (see Miki Agragwal, Heidi Messer and Jessica Peltz-Zatulove’s stories below), most have a strong industry track record, have identified a problem, and are working to solve it. For Sara, her background was in finance, and the problem she’s working to solve is the lack of venture capital (VC) investment in women—women currently receive only 6% of VC funding, and women of color receive almost zero. Sara is supporting the journey of female entrepreneurs by investing in them directly and creating a knowledge base for and by female entrepreneurs.
For any Changemaker and founder-in-training, Sara stressed the importance of having a strong entrepreneurial mindset, which includes investing in hard and soft skills, keeping that LinkedIn profile up to date(!), networking with an attitude of giving, and having domain expertise. She noted that it is critical for entrepreneurs to be undaunted by failure and risk, but she cautioned against falling in love with your idea and believing if you build it they will come—two lessons she has learned first-hand with BroadMic.
Wear your elbow pads
During Sara’s time as a bond trader at Goldman Sachs, women and minorities made up less than 5% of the finance workforce. Without female role models at the top, she learned the value in developing relationships with female peers and serving as mentors to one another.
While she “wore her elbow pads to work every day” within the male dominated industry, she often strategized with a female colleague to create their own playbook, approaching their work as a football coach would approach an important game. She focused both on being a team player and advancing her own goals.
Standing your ground
Despite her career trajectory prior to giving birth, Sara returned from maternity leave only to find herself being “mommy-tracked”: offered a position she had outgrown earlier in her tenure. After several months of job-limbo, she made the case that she should have a different position by arguing it would be a far better return on investment for the company. She stood her ground and won.
Meet your demons where you are
Sometimes a pivot isn’t possible, which turned out to be the case for Sara after her son was the victim of a hit and run accident. Despite having entertained other job offers, her fantasy about escaping was off the table. Instead, she had to focus on being successful where she was, for which she learned adversity has its payoffs if you stick with it.
When to pivot
You want to reach an equilibrium where both the company and the employee invest in each other. Only you can be the judge of whether there’s a good opportunity in your situation. Career advancement takes time and Sara emphasized patience in the process. Before making the leap, she advised being intentional about communicating your aspirations with your manager. And while you’re contemplating that career change, you can always invest in marketable expertise (for instance, learning to code or becoming a domain expert in your field).
You can do it all…
…just not all at once. This is the best advice Sara received. During her time at Goldman Sachs, Sara’s desire to give back was unfulfilled, but she was learning the hard skills and building a successful track record. It wasn’t until after she remarried and took time off to be with her family that she started investing her own capital in start-ups. In 2005, she was invited to become an angel investor with Golden Seeds, which provided a double bottom line opportunity, to make money and close the funding gap for women. Sara jumped at the opportunity to do both. Patience and grit: Changemaker virtues!
Thank you, Sara, for sharing your experiences with us and helping us get pivot-ready.
Some entrepreneurs are born, but not all.
- Stumbled into it: Miki Agrawal, founder of Thinx Panties, went to the World Cup in South Africa and met many girls who were not going to school because of their periods. Listen to her story here.
- Domain Expert: Jessica Peltz-Zatulove worked a full-time corporate job in marketing and fell in love with the emerging tech scene. On nights and weekends, she made learning the tech industry her side job and ultimately became the resident expert. She was then recruited by KBS+ Ventures. Listen to her story here.
- Learning to ask: Matt Wallaert, feminist and behavioral scientist, recognized the millions of dollars that women were missing out on from not asking for a raise. He started GetRaised.com, a platform designed to help women successfully negotiate for a raise. Listen to his story here.
BroadMic has produced 37 episodes dedicated to aspirational female entrepreneurs. These are a few of Sara’s favorites:
- Know What Business You Are In: How Olga Vidisheva, YC Graduate and Founder/CEO of Shoptiques Built the Anti-Amazon
- The Real Unicorns of Tech: Kathryn Finney on Black Women Founders
- Dare to Dream Big: Q&A with Dream, Girl Director Erin Bagwell
- Tell Me Ten Reasons Why You Can: Alicia Thomas, Founder/CEO of Dibs Technology