Photo Credit: Teri B Photography
Introduce yourself! Who are you?
Hi, I am Sarah Zurell, the Chief Brand Officer, Executive Vice President and a Founder of Pavemint, a peer-to-peer app that connects people looking for parking with residents and business owners who have spaces to share. Alongside my partners Randall Jamail and Karen Romine, I set out to create Pavemint, which launched in the 4th quarter of 2017, in order to improve the environment and city mobility. I’ve since taken on a hyper-focused role at the company, developing the brand’s image and managing the marketing, communications, design, product, development, and customer care teams.
Prior to Pavemint, I was the Head of Content for Google Ventures’ company, Strut, a fashion technology startup out of San Francisco. There, I worked directly with the CTO to categorize 7,000 brands and help transform 45% of downloads into daily users (compared to the industry average of 14%) through on-trend daily content and community management. I also worked closely with the CEO to develop strategy and build out the supporting digital channels to drive user growth. As the Brand Manager for Pacific World Cosmetics’ Sensationail PWC and Fingrs & Fuse Gelnamel digital launch campaigns, I coordinated over 30,000 pieces of cross-branded social content, managed organic outreach that resulted in over 80,000,000 impressions, and helped PWC to shift their entire strategy from costly broadcast campaigns to highly targeted and cost-effective digital, making the launch of Fuse Gelnamel one of the most successful launches to date.
As I aspire to improve the world around me, I work as a Brand Consultant for Milana Vayntrub’s charity, Can’t Do Nothing, which has received over 8,000,000 impressions and been featured on multiple major news outlets. Because of my motivation to bridge the gender gap in the field of technology, I’ve also become an active member of the Los Angeles Women in Tech community and joined the advisory board of Civicas, an organization of female leaders with an aligned mission to invest resources which enhance civic life. In addition to my charitable work, I was recently elected to the board of directors of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce in 2018.
What is one thing no one really knows about you?
I don’t really like bacon and I have never watched Friends.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
When I was about 16, I had someone tell me that I was not unique. While it sounds incredibly mean, in the long run, it actually ended up helping me. Keeping that in mind taught me to realize that everyone has things going on in their lives that you can’t see, and taking the time and effort to show grace and understanding goes a long way.
The Grass is greener where you water it — that advice applies to everything from romantic relationships to careers. That’s not to say that you should hesitate if something truly isn’t right, but there are times when the best thing to do is to stay.
What would you say to 16-year-old you?
Read more and care less what other people think, especially boys...
What is your greatest fear?
Being irrelevant and not leaving the world a better place in my wake.
Have you ever had anyone doubt you? How did that make you feel?
Absolutely. Being a woman in tech, I am doubted all the time. I am lucky to have a supportive team, but when I was starting out and transitioning from acting to tech, no one thought I could do it. Now, when I think about all the people who doubted me I just play “Look What You Made Me Do” By Taylor Swift on the loudspeaker...just kidding! But in all honesty, I think it’s important to use the energy of people doubting you as motivation to work harder. After all, the best way to handle a hater is to prove them wrong!
What message do you think every woman should hear?
You are enough and there is enough room at the top for all of us. Support each other, don’t live in fear, and always do your best. There is always something that can be done, especially if you are willing to grind through to find the answers.
What is your favorite thing about where you live?
I mean, LA is magical. I am so lucky to have a beautiful home, and even more lucky that I can go to the beach and see snow on the same day if I want to. One of my favorite things about LA is that if you are feeling trapped you can just try a new restaurant or go to a new neighborhood. There is so much diversity and so many things to do, making LA a great city to explore and escape into.
What do you love most about yourself?
My grit. I have been through a lot and learned a lot of lessons. I love that through that I have never given up and that I have so much tenacity to press on, even when no one thinks I can.
Do you remember a specific time you overcame adversity?
I could go on about adversity for hours, as much of my life has been about overcoming it. To give a specific example, a few years ago, I was going through a very painful divorce while starting a new job on a TV show. One of my female co-works was repeatedly unkind, and a downright bully. I was already super bruised at the time because of everything else going on in my life, so her harsh words and the way she tore me down brought me to tears most days. However, because of that experience, I grew thicker skin, and I decided to love her harder and show her more grace and compassion. Ultimately, she was not invited back for a second season of the show. The thing about adversity is that it is often how you handle it that defines how you come out on the other side. In this example, going through that time taught me the importance of being supportive of other women, whether older or younger than you.
Photo Credit: Teri B Photography
What is the biggest thing you’ve learned along the way?
It is ok to speak up. Standing up for yourself can be hard as a woman. After all, we are taught as little girls to always be sweet. It can often feel like a battle to balance all the egos you encounter as a businesswoman, while also not wanting to come across as a bitch. Believe me, I know it can feel like a double standard to speak your mind like any man would, then to be asked if you are PMSing. Ruthless grace is the answer. If there is one thing I’ve learned, it’s that you aren’t doing anyone any favors by watering down your opinions. Stating your opinion and backing it up with research is one of the strongest moves you can make and it is indisputable. This also applies when you are in a position where you are asking for recognition. Leave your emotions behind and leverage your work ethic and everything you bring to the table instead. Doing this will make you unstoppable and endlessly respected. Always lean on facts and your feminine energy, and trust that your intuition is right.
Why do you love to travel?
Traveling for me is very inspirational. These days I am mostly at my desk, and getting out into the world is refreshing and an important way to unplug and spark creativity. If you need to solve a problem, go for a walk. I don’t even have to be out of LA to achieve this feeling; Just going to new places and breaking up the normal grind can have the same effect.
What motivates you most?
My drive comes from a mix of having a giant chip on my shoulder from being a pretty little girl no one thought was smart, and my desire to solve problems in order to leave the world better than I found it. I want to make an impact, and in everything I do I work to leave the door open for other women to follow in my footsteps. I feel like it is my duty, as someone who has overcome and created my own opportunities, to continue to create future opportunities for people, and especially women, who don’t think they are capable of doing so.
How do you manage your work-life balance?
If I had a good answer to this question I would share it. I fear my life consists mostly of work. Luckily, I love what I am doing and work with friends. I do try to carve out time on the weekends for just me, but that doesn’t always pan out.
What do you do on a daily basis to grow and move forward?
I work really hard to meditate twice a day, once in the morning and once in the afternoon. This is good for balance and growth and helps me continue to move forward. Taking a few minutes to find clarity is one of the best ways for me to find the answers I am looking for. Those answers are often in my mind, I just have to check in with myself to find them.
What is one thing people would be surprised to hear about you?
I was homeschooled growing up. Yep, that’s right, all the way through K-12. We also went to church 5-6 days a week for 12 hours a day until I started going to college at 16.
If you weren’t doing the job you have now, what would you be doing?
If I wasn’t working in tech I would probably be an interior designer. I would love to one day either re-brand and redecorate a chain of hotels or open up my own boutique collection of hotels.
What is something on your bucket list?
I want to go swim with those little baby pigs! I forget what island they are on, but I think they would be so cute!
Where do you find inspiration?
Everywhere! I love listening to people speak, listening to people’s life stories, reading books, being in nature, and I also love the ocean; it’s my favorite place to be and where I feel most connected.
What are your biggest passions?
Making the world a better place and being a part of the cultural shift that will solve inequality across gender, race and economic brackets. We are all humans and we all deserve the best lives we can possibly achieve.
More About Sarah
Photo Credit: Teri B Photography
Sarah Zurell is the Chief Brand Officer, Executive Vice President and a Founder of Pavemint, a peer-to-peer app that connects people looking for parking with residents and business owners who have spaces to share. Prior to Pavemint, she was the Head of Content for Google Ventures’ company, Strut, a fashion technology startup out of San Francisco.
Sarah aspires to improve the world around her, she works as a Brand Consultant for Milana Vayntrub’s charity, Can’t Do Nothing. Because of her motivation to bridge the gender gap in the field of technology, she's also become an active member of the Los Angeles Women in Tech community and joined the advisory board of Civicas, an organization of female leaders with an aligned mission to invest resources which enhance civic life. In addition to her charitable work, she was recently elected to the board of directors of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce in 2018.