Name: Erin Sarofsky
Business: Sarofsky Corp.
Location: Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Industry: Media & Publishing
Reason for starting? After working with several high-profile companies in Chicago and New York, then returning to Chicago to launch a partnership that did not work out, I started freelancing and reflecting on my next move. A client/friend came to me with a job he wanted to give me, but I didn’t have a company anymore. And that is what instigated me going out on my own. I created my own entity in a rush, and was up and producing work within a couple days. It’s now eight years later and I’ve grown that one job into a significant business. I have scores of full time employees and staff up to as many as 40 when the jobs call for it. We produce work for Fortune 500 companies daily and for some of the highest grossing box office movies of all time.
How do you define success? To me, being successful means being okay with failures. Whenever something doesn’t work out, I am able to easily detach and move on to the next thing. Some of the best advice I have ever gotten is to always remember “It’s not age, it’s mileage.” Meaning… it’s the time and effort you put in that gets you where you want to be. You can be young or old, it doesn’t matter or entitle you to anything. It’s experience.
Time is an amazing and wondrous thing. In many ways, it seems like yesterday when I was at home in Long Island with my family, growing up and being encouraged to pursue my talents and interests in art. And then in a flash, I see myself sitting in a meeting with “Guardians of the Galaxy” director James Gunn being given enthusiastic notes on our work for what would become one of the biggest box-office films of 2014. Like everyone else, I am a by-product of the highs and lows I have experienced in my life so far, and yet I feel especially fortunate to have so many cool achievements to look back on, and so many phenomenal opportunities ahead of me.
Biggest success: My greatest achievement is creating and growing a healthy company. At the end of the day, a happy life comes from being surrounded by other happy, inspired people. We are a petri dish of creativity and fun… and somehow we have been able to make it profitable, too!
Related: Scaling Up: When Equity Matters
What is your top challenge and how you have addressed it? Probably being a woman. This industry is a boys club for sure… especially on the creative side. Luckily, when I was just starting out, I never thought much about it. I always just did my own thing and never gave it any thought. Only when it became obvious that I was paid significantly less than my male peers and I was to getting passed over for promotions while my less experienced male peers were not, did I start to take notice. The second I did, I spoke up and made changes. I’ve never been one to wallow or abide unacceptable behavior. But it was good not being too aware of politics at the beginning of my career. It was all about the work to me. I was sad to come to that realization eventually… but had I known that was going on earlier, I’m not sure I would have had the confidence to overcome it.
Who is your most important role model? I can more easily tell you who I don’t admire. For me, this business is about the collective. I always look at what is best for the company now, in the short term and in the long term. I try very hard not to be overly narcissistic about things and make them about me. Whenever I see businesses fail, I assume it’s because simple things went wrong… bad partnerships, overextending, ego…. All of that can be avoided if you have a clear vision for your company and truly want to grow a healthy entity.
Edited by The Story Exchange