by Kristin Bentley
Sarah Scudder is both a trailblazer in the print marketing industry and a thought leader in the procurement industry. Born a Californian, she currently resides in San Francisco and enjoys the benefits of working remotely, which supports her frequent travel for networking events and meeting new clients. Known for the Women in Procurement events she helps organize and her Women in Sourcing initiatives, Sarah has been presented as a North Bay Forty Under 40, a Print+Promo's Trailblazer Under 40, and a Print Services & Distribution Association (PSDA) Member of the Year.
Currently, Sarah works as the president of Real Sourcing Network (RSN), a print e-sourcing tool software company. Before joining RSN, she was the youngest board member to serve with PSDA and the Founder & CEO of its Young Innovators Group.
We had the opportunity to talk with Sarah to learn more about the things she is most passionate about in business.
RLC: Your professional background began and remains to be within the print marketing industry. Can you tell us more about how your career started?
SC: I used to be a fashion model and was planning on going into the fashion industry to eventually produce fashion shows. So, my plan was to work for the agency that produces the Victoria’s Secret fashion shows and eventually open my own company. I always knew that I wanted to have my own business.
My senior year in college I finished my sorority presidency and had taken on my last project to give back with our big philanthropic event called Lip Jam, all of the proceeds went to diabetes research. When I was starting to put the event together, I knew I didn’t have time to source all of the needed materials, so I hired a local print management firm. Afterwards they offered me a job. They were looking to bring a young female into the organization. I decided that it was a great opportunity to work at a small organization and learn all aspect of business. I also saw an opportunity to add thought leadership, innovation and technology to a very traditional industry.
I really helped to transform the company into a more technology-focused business. After three years of being on the “buy” side, I decided I wanted to be on the “technology solutions” side. So, I took all of that experience and used it to help solve the problems my team and I were having.
RLC: During your time on the PDSA board, what about that role were you most passionate about?
SC: When I was involved with the PSDA, one thing I was really passionate about was bringing younger people into the industry. The print industry consists of primarily older men, and I think that’s a big problem.
We need to hire young people to recreate thought leadership and innovation, and prepare them to eventually take over.
So, I founded the Young Innovators Group under the PSDA. We provided mentorship, hosted events throughout the country and held an annual conference. The goal was to bring young people together in the print space to network and collaborate.
The real value is bringing people together. So much of the world is remote and online now that people lose that human connection and it’s really important that people meet in person. About six years ago we launched our first conference, and they’ve done one ever since.
RLC: How long have you been with RSN, and what drives you in your current position?
SC: Last August I joined RSN, a company set up by three men out of New York, two from the print industry and one from the tech industry. I was brought on to rebrand and relaunch the company, resetting our business strategy and managing the growth. We provide a unique software solution to the procurement space.
It has been quite a wild ride. Over the last year I've built out a team, rebranded and relaunched the company. So, we’re about 13 months in and it’s been insane. Starting a team, building a brand and reputation in an industry is not easy.
I absolutely love the procurement industry. I love the people, and that there’s a lot of room for innovation and technology to drive significant growth and change. I think in the next three to five years we’re going to see substantial changes in the procurement space.
RLC: Can you share with us your top goals for 2020?
SC: Our major goals include doubling the size of our company and focusing on expanding globally. Our growth strategy is all around marketing and thought leadership. We have zero salespeople, everything goes through our marketing team. So, we are definitely building out and expanding that marketing team and have significant growth plans for 2020. We also work with many contractors who do specific projects for us, such as content creation. All of our R&D is done in Australia.
In 2019, we’ve really focused on the US and Canada markets only. By acquiring and bringing on clients in those two markets, we also happened to get international users on the tool. So, we now have users in eight countries. We weren’t actively targeting or pursuing this audience, but we do want to be more global so that is a priority for us.
RLC: Tell us a little more about your magazine, ProcuRising, and how it engages with the procurement industry.
SC: It’s important today to tell a story as a way to teach. Everything we do, we try to make it interesting and personal because at the end of the day we’re not robots, we’re selling to people. This is why you want to have a human connection.
ProcurRising is a quarterly magazine that comes out digitally and through print. We go out and find people doing really cool things in procurement and tell their stories in a way that’s fun, modern and offbeat. It’s very different than other publications I have seen in our industry.
RLC: As a supportive partner of RLC, what is it that attracts you to supplier diversity and how does it affect procurement?
SC: I’m a big believer in partnerships and collaborating with other companies that are doing unique and innovative things in the procurement space. So, I had been following (RLC Diversity CEO) Lamont online and someone has suggested an introduction. Since then, we have maintained our partnership, which has been about a year.
Personally, I’m very passionate about supplier diversity. I think diversity is something that will never go away, whether it’s diversity in viewpoints, the way people think, age or gender. I think the most successful companies are those that have diversity on many levels. For me, that’s often diversity in viewpoint and how people look at the world, and that comes from people who have very different backgrounds and experiences.
I want to be a part of the movement as much as position to help companies build out supplier and procurement teams that have diversity of thought. RSN is also so passionate about diversity that we’ve built it into our printing procurement tool, SourceIt, a tracking component. It allows our clients to track and manage diversity spend in several different categories.
RLC: What is your advice to those who are either currently in the procurement industry or looking to enter it?
SC: I think there is a ton of opportunity in the procurement space for people to explore a career that they never knew about or thought possible. I think they’re also a lot of opportunities for solution providers to bring new innovation to organizations that have been doing things the same way for a long time.
I would encourage people, no matter where you are in your career to really go out and educate yourself, and network as much as possible. There are many opportunities for events and online communities that can help you build a personal brand for yourself. The industry is changing very fast, and if you don’t have something that makes you unique and adds value, you will become obsolete.