A few weeks ago, ValiantCEO hosted an interview with our Founder, Sawyer Stromwall. We've included the interview below, but you can find the original article here.
Tell us a little bit about your current projects. What exciting milestone would you like to share with our readers? (Don’t hesitate to delve into your achievements, they will inspire the audience)
Sawyer Stromwall: I’m currently working alongside Kid Explorer; a kid-driven media platform that is redefining educational content for kids. A few months ago, they launched a Women’s History course that I had the pleasure of writing the scripts. As I researched and wrote about 12 legendary women who changed the world, it greatly inspired me. I started looking at my dreams as an entrepreneur and saw a modern-day Sacagawea or Amelia Earhart or Madam C.J. Walker.
Women who boldly embarked on journeys regardless of age, pursued passions to become the “firsts,” and have the drive, courage, and determination to push through even in the midst of difficulty. If they can do it, I can too. Right?
Even more than that, I thought it was special to have been so inspired by a project that is meant for kids. If I’m a twenty-something entrepreneur, figuring out the ins and outs of owning a business, can you imagine how those same historical women will inspire a 12-year-old? Even better! I love the idea of taking my inspiration to produce work that inspires the next generation. May we never lose our wonder.
Was there somebody in your life that inspired you to take that specific journey with your business?
Sawyer Stromwall: My dad has played a huge part in my success. After 30 years as an owner and execute of an engineering firm, he kicked off his own business, Odigos LLC, as an Executive Coach. He launched a year before I did which was right when COVID-19 hit. Seeing him thrive in his passions, despite odd circumstances, was incredibly inspiring. Plus, the fact that what he does aligns perfectly with what I’m doing as an entrepreneur is the best of the best.
I think I can speak for both of us when I say that the core of what we do is wrapped up in how we can help others. I am a big believer in following your dreams and doing what you love. When my dad stepped out of his previous position to start his own business, his entire demeanor changed. High stress evolved into a high passion and that is a really powerful thing. So, how can my creativity help others build the business that they are passionate about too? I want others to experience the joy and freedom that comes with owning a business. It’s possible!
What are the most common mistakes you see entrepreneurs make and what would you suggest they do?
Sawyer Stromwall: Oh gosh, I would say structure. A lot of entrepreneurs are incredible visionaries. They dream big and big, and bigger. However, it’s crucial to balance great vision with great follow-through. Write down goals, create a brand guide, learn when to say no, hire a community of people that will inspire and support your visions, but will also keep you accountable.
I am a task-oriented person, so I could work all day. But I try to constantly remind myself that there will always be an opportunity to work. I never want to trade investing into a relationship with momentary gratification from a project. I think finding what your balance is and being humble enough to ask for help, is key to successfully owning and growing a business.
Resilience is critical in critical times like the ones we are going through now. How would you define resilience?
Sawyer Stromwall: I would say resilience is being mature enough to recognize the situation at hand, proactively initiate a plan to pivot, and have the patience and flexibility to lead yourself and others through that plan. It takes a lot of strength to be the bigger person, and there will be backlash, but you have to learn to be okay with knowing what’s best for you and your company. You have to believe in it.
When you think of your company, 5 years from now, what do you see?
Sawyer Stromwall: I love this question. 5 years from now, I see myself leading a team of my own. I would love to train up others to master different avenues in my company, so can have the freedom to try new things and grow. I have a B.A. in Communication and I really enjoy speaking. I would love to one day have the capacity to travel and speak and teach others, knowing my team is backing me up at HQ.
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success?
Sawyer Stromwall: My company’s core values are clarity, creativity, honesty, encouragement, and intentionality. So, okay maybe more than three! But as an individual, that is what I value. I think by being my truest, most authentic self, and having a heart for building others up, that has been a major part of my success. You can’t take life too seriously. Own you and love others.
How important do you think it is for a leader to be mindful of his own brand?
Sawyer Stromwall: I think it is very important for a leader to be mindful of their brand. Who you are permeated what you touch. Whether that is a relationship, an environment, or a project, what you put into it will be evidence of who you are. I think it’s definitely a balance. Because the truth is, we are all human and have lives that we separate from our “9-5,” right? But the core of our human desire is the longing to be known, so I think it’s important to be true to yourself in the communities you lead and build.
What’s your favorite leadership style and why?
Sawyer Stromwall: I think the democratic/participative leadership style is my favorite. I’m going to step out of the business world for a second and give you an inside scoop into Sawyer’s personal life for a second. So, I love to write songs. Just recently I started collaborating with fellow writers and producers to refine and release my music. However, up until recently, I’ve been fairly hesitant about inviting people in on the process, simply because songs can be very vulnerable. But I’ve realized how much fun collaboration can be. If you have the right people supporting you in your circle of life, working with them can be a wildly entertaining and expansive process.
I think it’s really easy to settle into a reclusive lifestyle when you’re bringing your dream to life. Who doesn’t wrestle with “I want to do it by myself,” right? But I believe that life is better with people. I want others to learn from me and I want to learn from others – regardless of the age or stage of life. And inviting someone in to participate doesn’t mean that they have the final say. I can still make a decision for myself after listening to the thoughts and questions and ideas of others. But if I invite others into the process, I will have a broader perception and understanding of my team, of the reasoning behind decisions, and how to approach future conversations and projects.
What advice would you give to our younger readers that want to become entrepreneurs?
Sawyer Stromwall: One, know what you are for. Who and what do you support? That will drive a lot of your decisions. Two, know yourself. Do you believe in what you can do? Are you driven? Are you prepared to wear all of the hats? Know your strengths, your weaknesses, when to put in the work, when to rest, and when to ask for help. I think when you know what you’re for and you’re honest with yourself about your capabilities, you can do it, 100%.
What’s your favorite “leadership” quote and how has it affected the way you implement your leadership style?
Sawyer Stromwall: I’m not sure who originally said it, but Judah Smith once tweeted, “Be the same person privately, publicly, and personally.” That’s really inspired me over the years. I don’t want to mask a thousand lives to keep up with the expectations of others. I want to be the healthiest, kindest, most authentic version of myself 24/7. Setting good culture will come at a price, but I long to invest in a life full of deep conversations, real friendships, kindhearted team members, creative projects, and exciting stories that will outlast my time on earth.