To inspire the next generation of female would-be innovators, the Dare2BDigital Conference began challenging girls to understand the excitement and everyday use of math and science. The conference started on Sunday, February 12 at eBay’s San Jose campus. It is continuing virtually today as “Dare2BDigital Monday,” encouraging participants to spread the word online and in their schools and communities.
In honor of Dare2BDigital Monday, we’re featuring Sheryl O’Loughlin as a model for female innovators everywhere. Her path to success and satisfaction demonstrates that no matter in which field you work, blending the personal and professional aspect of your life can help you innovate and boost your career.
Blend your personal and professional lives for true innovation
During her 10 years at Emeryville-based Clif Bar & Co., Sheryl, an avid mountain biker, skier and marathon runner, developed the Luna Bar, the first female-focused energy bar. The Luna Bar was more decadent tasting and less caloric than previous products, and filled with female-specific nutrients.
“Before the introduction of Luna [in 1999], women didn’t participate in the energy bar category,” Sheryl says. “Luna was inspired by the women at Clif Bar who wanted a bar that fit our own lives.” Despite criticism from the media and some employees, the brand took off. It was a $10 million business the first year and $70 million business three years later. The effort raised Sheryl’s profile and, in part, led to her promotion to CEO. That’s career-boosting product innovation borne from personal experience.
Learning to bridge the personal and professional: It’s not easy
Sheryl hadn’t always bridged the personal and professional to solve problems at work. “I compartmentalized my life. My love of adventure, debate and collaboration and my passion for the outdoors and for my family stayed at home,” she says. At work, she was a cooler, more robotic version of herself, and game-changing breakthroughs were few and far between. Without feeling comfortable in utilizing her personal experiences to influence her work, product innovation was difficult.
She learned how to harmonize her personal and professional life from Clif Bar founder Gary Erickson who conducted her job interview with his three-year-old daughter climbing onto his lap. “I had never seen such a whole and integrated person at work,” she says. “Sitting at his desk, Gary was not only the founder and owner of the company, he was also a loving father, a husband, an athlete, a baker, an inventor, and a happy guy.”
More on the power of integration and product innovation
Sheryl brought her belief in the power of integration into her post-Clif Bar endeavors. She continues to innovate and has since co-founded The Nest Collective, an organic food company for babies and children, of which she is the Founding CEO alongside co-founder and CEO Neil Grimmer.
Sheryl O’Loughlin is Executive Director of the Center for Entrepreneurial Studies at Stanford University, Co-founder and Founding CEO of the Nest Collective and Former CEO of Clif Bar & Company.