It’s not the idea; it’s how you do it: What Sara Batterby taught me about entrepreneurship

[Editor: This week, we are mourning the loss of Sara Batterby, who — in a relatively short time — had an outsized impact on our community, becoming a source of empowerment and energy for both the Portland startup community and the cannabis community. Sara’s presence and guidance touched many of us. Ciara Pressler shares some of her learnings from Sara in this guest post.]

The first time I hung out with Sara Batterby, she came by my office for coffee — ahem, tea — showing up straight from the farm in ripped jeans and a white tee shirt on an uncommonly sunny Portland afternoon. I remember the sunlight streaming through the window to light her throughout our conversation; fitting, as everything she said felt illuminating. 

I was intimidated by her casual confidence and, at the same time, inspired to step up my own game. Here was a woman who absolutely embraced her one of a kind blend of education, experience, pedigree, creativity, and community to continually iterate her businesses and herself. 

This week, our Portland startup community was devastated to learn that Sara had passed away at the young and vibrant age of 49. As her friends’ beautiful memorial testified, she lived multiple lifetimes in her five decades:

The speed and the intensity at which Sara lived may well have been exhausting for some. Now she’s leaving us, you have to ask, how many lives did Sara pack into her 49 years? How much of the world did she see, how many lives did she touch, how many ventures did she pioneer? And how do we carry Sara’s gifts with us for the rest of our lives? Sara showed us all what it meant to thirst for a life, filled to the brim of all the world could give you, all of it: the dark and the light, the joy and the pain, the depth and the breadth.

I spent the past 24 hours reflecting on what I learned from Sara in the brief times we spent together, from drag brunch on NW 23rd to speaking together at an International Women’s Day event. I want to share these insights to show how powerful her influence was even through a handful of interactions. And by recognizing her contributions publicly, how powerful her influence can continue to be.

Execution over ideas.

When speaking at a Startup Week event for my community of entrepreneurs, the inaudible gasp happened with Sara blithely said during Q&A, “I don’t ask people to sign noncompetes.” 

The room fell silent. Wasn’t the legal promise to not disclose ideas vital to a startup’s value?

Not really, Sara explained. Ideas are a dime a dozen. Execution is what matters. No one else will or can do it just like you. An idea poorly executed renders the idea itself powerless. The activation of the idea is what wins in the long run.

Investing is psychology. 

Sara is known for her unique and effective approach to securing investors, and it all starts and ends with the right mentality. 

Sara taught that investment is not a beggar’s errand; it’s an invitation. We are all human, and subject to our own emotional and psychological strengths and pitfalls in business as in life. Sara’s brilliance was showing her clients how to leverage this in an ethical and productive way to fund a business, both through financial capital or social capital. 

Stay in control of your business.

Even if your startup journey leads through the adventure of offering a piece of business in return for investment, it is you who really owns the business and drives its growth. Never forget who is in charge. And don’t be afraid to take a stand or set boundaries in order to see your vision through various stages of growth.

Genuine swagger is the best attractor.

Sara had that thing, that shimmer, that light that only comes from authentic confidence in oneself. She knew her value, and her commitment to continual growth came from a place of wholeness. She engaged in activities and with people out of genuine curiosity, not the need to please anyone. May we all embrace our truest selves and bring our whole selves to the table. 

Being a boss is not about being liked, but it’s still about being human.

While CEO of Hi Fi Farms, Sara not only ran the business but navigated the wild west of the newly legalized recreational cannabis industry. Building the right team was essential, and it wasn’t a one-and-done proposition. The seasonality and rapid growth of the industry demanded adaptability in shaping the right workforce, which meant aggressive yet conscious hiring, but also fearless firing. 

As startup CEOs, we can too often get caught up in the trap of being liked over being effective. Sara always seemed to keep her role in the right perspective by putting the value and needs of the company first, keeping culture a close second, and evolving it quickly to meet the needs of a rapidly developing industry. 

Working on yourself comes first.

Though she was sometimes private and always professional, I felt closer to Sara when she alluded to doing a mountain of personal work in her 30s. The unspoken conclusion was that her ability to create success on her own terms and pass that along to others had been contingent on getting her own inner house in order. 

Instead of seeing inner work as lost time, Sara demonstrated that my personal journey is inextricably linked to my professional approach. And maybe that’s the whole point. 

Sara, thank you for the precious time you spent with us, showing us through your own real, ambitious, generous, messy, honest example, just how we can be.

Let’s honor and amplify Sara Batterby’s legacy by continuing to apply her well-earned wisdom to build better businesses, and a better business culture at large. 

Ciara Pressler is the founder of Pregame, Inc.