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Meet our Founder: Sarah Athanas

It’s not an exaggeration to call Sarah Athanas the heart and soul of Groundwork. She has steered the ship for many years and has done so with grace and authenticity. In fact, when you look closely at Groundwork’s core values- care, curiosity, presence, and accountability- you’ll quickly notice that Sarah embodies these qualities effortlessly. Whether she is running Bizlab, connecting with members, or dealing with the day-to-day of running a business, Sarah seems guided by these values in everything she does, and with the calming presence of a Zen master. Sarah holds space for people to grow and learn, which is the essence of Groundwork.

I’ve learned so much from Sarah in the short time we’ve known each other and I look forward to many more learning opportunities to come. In this blog, Sarah shares her journey with us, from her time living and working in Argentina, to starting Groundwork and all that she has learned along the way. Read on to learn about Sarah, what inspires her and everything she loves about Groundwork!

What led you here? Give us a short summary of your life journey up to this point.

Before I started Groundwork, I was living and working in Buenos Aires, Argentina. I started off as the Marketing Director for a language education provider called Bridge; later I stepped down from that position to freelance and enjoy some flexibility while living in the city. My experiences living in South America are what really led me to start Groundwork.

I fell into a marketing career accidentally– I had no desire to enter the “business world” as a young person in my twenties. I volunteered as an ESL teacher in the Patagonia region of Chile. During that time, I kept a blog about my teaching experiences and it got me a couple of gigs creating content around teaching English. The gigs went well and I landed a job, and the next thing I knew I was learning about newsletters and SEO and the early beginnings of digital marketing. We were still coding web pages in html tables and buying “banner ads” back in those days.

I learned a lot about entrepreneurship in that role, especially during my time in Argentina. Entrepreneurship is really about problem solving and figuring out how you will add value to society with your unique mix of talent and resources. That really appealed to me, so here I am nine years into running my own business.

What are some of the things you’ve learned working in the different environments you’ve worked in up to this point?

Living and working in both Chile and Argentina taught me so much. I learned to be humble and to listen a lot more than I speak. I learned how to make decisions in uncertain landscapes with constantly changing conditions. Most importantly, I developed the confidence to take on challenges without really knowing how things will turn out. Sometimes you just have to take a leap and trust your ability to make it work. This has been immensely helpful to me as an entrepreneur.

What excites you about Groundwork?

Right now what excites me the most is stepping back and letting a new generation of leaders take the reigns. It’s really fulfilling to see a new team get excited about what we are doing and suggest all kinds of ideas and improvements.

I will always get excited about the connections that are made at Groundwork. It never gets old! I love to see members discover they have something in common or help each other on a project. It is truly fulfilling to feel like I played a small role in making those connections happen.

What are you listening to, watching, or reading?

I’m re-reading the Artist’s Way, a book and program that I first encountered while living in Buenos Aires. It has been fun to go through it again and learn new things about myself in the process. I’m also working on my MBA right now at UMass Dartmouth so I’m reading a lot of business case studies. I don’t listen to many podcasts or audio books unless I’m on a long road trip; otherwise I let my mind wander. I try to be careful about too much content intake– it’s important to leave white space for creativity and reflection. But I do listen to a podcast to fall asleep, and it’s called Nothing Much Happens. I have a hard time turning my brain off at night, so listening to something really helps.

What inspires you right now?

Ever since I moved back to New England, I’ve been inspired by the changing of the seasons. I never appreciated it growing up, but the four seasons we experience here are nothing short of miraculous. I’m even inspired by those grey winter mornings when you never really see the sun rise, it’s like the universe is giving us permission to slow down.