Growing up in the family restaurant business, Sarah Sanders knew the ins and outs of food waste from a young age. After finishing her undergraduate, Sanders completed an accelerated International Business MBA program at Xavier University. This allowed Sanders to travel the world, but it was one trip to Israel that helped her realize her passion for preserving the planet.
A University of Kentucky graduate and avid Wildcats basketball fan, Sarah flew to Dallas to see her favorite team play. While in Texas, Sanders got stuck in a snowstorm that delayed her flight over 34 hours. When she finally boarded the plane back home, she and the man sitting next to her struck up a conversation about the Kentucky apparel she was sporting. After divulging her love for Kentucky sports, she went on to explain that she was interested in pursuing a career that enveloped both technology and sustainability. The man beside her introduced himself as Nate Morris, CEO and Co-Founder of Rubicon. After keeping in touch and meeting up again in Atlanta, Sanders began her career path working alongside Morris as his executive assistant.
Today, Sarah is the COO and Co-Founder of her own venture, Bon Harvest. Bon Harvest is an online cloud-based platform that allows farmers to put their produce up, and wholesale buyers purchase the “ugly produce” at better prices than the major suppliers.
How did your time at Rubicon set you up for success?
Sarah: I always tell people about how Rubicon is a true career accelerator. You get back what you put in. Rubicon truly has the best board, advisory, and investor network. The network that I gained from Rubicon translates everywhere I go. No matter what department you are in, when you are dealing with a vision that huge there is so much to gain. If you work hard, Rubicon can certainly become a launch pad for your entire professional career.
What sparked your passion for sustainability?
Sarah: A lot of it started on that Israel trip. We visited a Kibbutz Hatzerim where the drip irrigation technology was created. I was really inspired by how efficient Israel is as a country. It’s a country with minimal resources, in a geographically and politically challenging environment, forcing them to be incredibly self-sufficient. It was so inspiring to me. I saw how sustainability and technology have truly made Israel the most innovative country in the world. I saw how big the opportunity was for someone in my generation to get involved and then when I had that airplane conversation with Nate, it really helped solidify for me that this was my path.
After leaving Rubicon, you stayed on that path and are now the COO and the Co-Founder of Bon Harvest. What is Bon Harvest?
Sarah: As you mentioned earlier, Bon Harvest is a cloud-based, on-demand platform where people buy and sell farmers market quality produce. It’s used to tackle the global epidemic of food waste. We work with the 40% of food that is grown in the United States that goes uneaten. That is an alarming percentage. There is a whole area of food that is identified as “Farmers Market quality” or “ugly produce”; produce with blemishes on it that are deemed unfit and are rejected by traditional grocers. The products are still just as tasty and nutrient dense, they are just rejected by grocers and can be used in a multitude of different ways and Bon Harvest is the platform that will promote that.
What is the number one thing people can do to reduce their food waste?
Sarah: It’s all about purchasing. We live in a society where we have access to everything and we need to purchase responsibly. I don’t mean buying organic or non-organic, I mean buying only what you need. I think everyone struggles with that.
What is your role at Bon Harvest? What does a typical day look like for you?
Sarah: I am the Co-Founder and Chief Operations Officer. What I will be overseeing will be anything operations related; building the sales team, human resources, etc. and Rubicon prepared me well for this. A typical day for me right now is mostly focused on fundraising. I find ways to network every day. You can find me at nearly every food technology event in the city.
How did working so closely with Nate play a role in your own entrepreneurial growth?
Sarah: Being around someone who has a vision for a once-in-a-generation opportunity to solve a problem like waste was an incredible experience. He let me see everything. I was able to learn and hear and grow and be exposed to building a product. I was also around the rest of Rubicon’s leadership team and different layers of management and involved in almost every single department. That experience with Nate has clearly translated into my understanding of how to successfully grow a business at the absolute highest level. I am incredibly grateful for that.
As a young entrepreneur yourself, what is the best piece of advice you give someone who is trying to start their own business?
Sarah: Thinking back to how I got started in my career at Rubicon, my best piece of advice is definitely “talk to everyone.” Your network is your net worth, as a business and personally. I firmly believe that. I would advise people to cast as wide of a net as possible and create available opportunities for yourself. Opportunity is in front you every single time you leave the house! I treat everyone the same because you never know who you are talking to. If you have an open mind and connect with those around you, it can take you exactly where you want to go.