We’re Growing: Meet Sara, Our Newest Lean Innovation & Growth Strategist

October 10th, 2017

We are ecstatic to welcome our newest Innovation and Growth Strategist Sara Valasek. She brings 10+ years of experience in digital strategy, media planning, and experiential marketing across multiple categories. Her creative and strategic background lends itself as an integral asset to the entrepreneurial culture and growth at The Garage Group. Welcome to the team, Sara!

Tell us a bit about yourself. 
I grew up in a small town outside of Cincinnati where the majority of my family still lives today. I studied Magazine Journalism and Advertising at Ohio University.  After learning I may have to do a tour of duty fact checking at Automotive News before I could write for a major publication, I embarked on the advertising path after graduating.  I worked for a couple of major media agencies in Chicago for the first five years of my career before returning home to Cincinnati. In Cincinnati, I continued my agency career focused on mass and personalized media planning, digital strategy and creative, word-of-mouth, advocacy and experiential marketing. My background is diverse in agency-client leadership with CPG and retail brands. I currently live in Oakley with my husband, Brian, and our two dogs, Bauer and Gus. We loved the TV show, 24, so much that we named our dog after Jack Bauer (aka Keifer Sutherland). I enjoy cooking, running and going to as many concerts that budget and time allow.

Something interesting people might not know about you?
I studied in France during college and was nearly fluent in French during my time there. I was blessed to be able to live with a family during my stay and they gave me a proper immersion in French culture. Prior to popular belief, I know the French to be a proud and loving people and they left a wonderful impression on me.

So, you jumped into The Garage Group. What made you decide to join us?
I’ve always been interested and drawn to entrepreneurial ideas and approaches to work. I met Jason at an industry event soon after TGG was launched.  His explanation of the business was very interesting to me and so I signed up for the email newsletter. With each newsletter, I would devour the contents and maintained curiosity about this company over the past few years. After meeting members of the team, it became clear to me that not only the work but also the way the work gets done is extremely unique.  I am eager to finally feel like an entrepreneur and work in the positive culture that’s developed here.

What does an “entrepreneurial approach to research and innovation” mean to you?
It means challenging traditional ways of working and accepted business practices that have been around for many years. It’s no secret that the majority of innovation launches fail after using traditional approaches that are complex and take several years. Testing new methodologies and collaboration techniques that have been embraced by entrepreneurs can give a shock to “the way its always been done” to increase success and ultimately satisfy consumer needs.

What trends do you see in marketing, branding, or innovation at large companies that lend well to a more entrepreneurial approach?
After spending my last four years at a data science company, I’ve observed many large companies trying to tackle and understand the Big Data world. Most companies acknowledge the value and potential business impact this data holds, but are still struggling to make insights from the data easily actionable within complex working organizations. I believe the companies that are finding ways to truly integrate a nimble data strategy into their business practices will be able to leapfrog ahead.

What’s inspiring you right now?
We are unfortunately in a season of many natural disasters with Hurricane Harvey, Irma and the devastating earthquake in Mexico. I’m inspired by the people who are living through these crippling times, picking themselves and others up and relying on their faith to move ahead each day. I’m also inspired by people all around the world who are helping, however, they can. It’s a great reminder of the core goodness we all have and how much people really do want to support each other.

What is your spirit animal?
I would have to choose a lion. You can’t judge a lion by its large teeth and mane alone. While fierce in their hunting prowess, lions are incredibly social animals and rely heavily on their pride for survival. They care about and are invested in each other. I love the dichotomy of being strong, brave and utterly competent in their environment while also ultimately valuing their community and loving each other.

What is something you believe that almost nobody agrees with you on?
Yanni is an amazing musician! Yes, I said it. I LOVE Yanni! I started listening to him in high school and was surprised I could love modern instrumental music that much. If Yanni is within a couple hundred mile radius of Cincinnati, you’ll know where to find me!

What’s your favorite innovation that’s come out in the past year?
While it’s not technically brand new in the past year, I’ve recently started trying a food delivery service, Blue Apron. I’ve been hesitant to adopt this new trend based on the uncertainty of the recipes, freshness of ingredients and disbelief of how a box of fresh food can sit on your porch all day and be ok. But, it is ok and delicious too! I’m still playing with this new type of service to see how it can best fit into my routine, but the service itself is very impressive.

Tell me two truths and a lie about yourself.
I love to skydive.
I once had a conversation with Tim Robbins about The Shawshank Redemption in the Paris airport.
I have 5 brothers and sisters.

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