Featured Entrepreneur: Sarah Van Dyke // Featured Member // Feb 03 2018
Doyenne Group (DG): What business do you own?
Sarah Van Dyke (SVD): Revel
DG: What is your background? What got you to where you are now?
SVD: My “career path” has been anything but straight! After getting a music education degree and teacher’s license (+ a business minor) from UW-Madison, I went to work in the hospitality industry and was the Assistant Food & Beverage Director at the Hilton hotel in downtown Madison. My next position after that was at Epic, where I helped hospitals implement medical records software in their Emergency Departments. After 6 years of traveling/project managing/leading teams at Epic I spent my non-compete year at CUNA Mutual Group (as an IT Project Manager) and during that time started a business with my husband – a mobile flipbook studio that we provided for weddings, corporate parties, etc. My next corporate job was for a new Epic consulting firm. It was a start-up environment and I got to do a bit of everything: sales, client and consultant management, marketing, HR, etc. until we were acquired by a large consulting firm (which was a great learning experience). In 2015 we sold our flipbook business and in 2016 I left my corporate job and opened Revel (after 18 months of pre-work to get Revel up and running!) I never would have guessed that that mish-mosh of jobs would have led me to Revel, but a day doesn’t go by that I don’t draw upon things I learned/did at my previous jobs!
DG: What made you decide to start your business?
SVD: I always knew I wanted to do *something*. But hitting hitting the 10 year mark in an industry that I wasn’t super excited about was a wake-up call. Also around that same time I became a mom and had some family drama that made me realize that life is short and that I needed to “create the things I wish existed” in my world.
DG: What is your biggest accomplishment so far in life and why?
SVD: Probably becoming a parent and raising my daughter. I am a very independent person and so changing my mindset to be about her and our family (above my own whims) has been an intentional one. Also I’m soooo impatient and parenting is a lesson in extreme patience every. single. day. 🙂
DG: What is your biggest accomplishment in your business and why?
SVD: I’m really proud that I created something out of nothing – I took a concept that didn’t really exist and created a business model and a beautiful physical space around it that is proving itself to be sustainable. And we’re continuing to provide inspiration and fresh, new offerings for our guests every month (which is much harder than it may look!) I’m also proud that we’ve attracted the attention of local and national brands and have become a desired business to partner with as other companies look to extend their reach and build their brands.
DG: What is the biggest obstacle that you have faced while in business? What is the biggest fear that you have for your business?
SVD: Oh geez – where to start! I feel like the obstacles change by the day…or week. Sometimes it’s staffing, sometimes it’s finances, sometimes it’s an aspect of our physical space (things breaking, not having enough storage, etc). The challenges are many and I’m certainly learning a LOT on this journey!
My biggest fear is that I’m too bogged down/embedded in the day-to-day minutiae of running the business that I’m not spending the right amount of time on strategic planning, goal-setting, and overall leadership. I often wonder: could Revel “work” without me? And could the business afford (monetarily) for Revel to work without me?
DG: If you could give one quote to live by, what would it be?
SVD: “In victory you deserve champagne, in defeat you need it.” Haha! Ok – my actual quote would be “Dreams don’t work unless you do”
DG: What words of advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?
SVD: I’d encourage them to not make the leap to entrepreneurship too soon. There’s something to be said for having the security blanket of a corporate (or any) job while you find your way and spend time/money working on your passion project. Sometimes that day job can enable bigger dreams/leaps than you’d be able to make otherwise. Also – if you are passionate and excited about working on your idea when it’s 10pm at night…or every weekend…well, then you know it’s probably what you’re meant to be doing! 🙂 Another piece of advice would be around building a support network for yourself. Networking is great, but building *meaningful* relationships with friends/other entrepreneurs who you can be open with is so important. They can be a sounding board when things aren’t going well (since you never want to be negative around your customers/staff!), and can give outside perspective/ideas that might not be obvious to you when you’re so entrenched in the business.
DG: What does Madison need to encourage entrepreneurs to stay and grow their businesses?
I think everyone considers Madison to be an entrepreneurial city. But a large portion of the programs/incubators/press seems to be around IT/tech startups. I think it’d be great to have additional programs (maybe similar to the Edible Startup Summit?) for entrepreneurs working in different industries or with different business types (e.g. boutique v. food v. consumer product v. service-based business)
Also I personally found it challenging to work through all of the government “hoops” that were involved for my business – a zoning amendment, the liquor license process, food license process, etc. It would be neat if entrepreneurs could be assigned a “guide” to help them navigate the forms/offices/meetings/relationships that they needed to get their business from idea to reality (in a compliant, legal way). It can be stressful to wonder if you’re checking all of the right boxes when it comes to regulations, taxes, etc!
Better support for our teachers, public schools, and universities.
If you would like to know more about Sarah Van Dyke and Revel please explore their web and social media sites! Friend, like, and share their hard work and celebrate their success with us!
Website & Social Pages
Join us at our monthly Connect Event on Wednesday, February 28th from 6-8pm for an evening of networking with other women professionals and a presentation from this inspirational entrepreneurs while enjoying food and beverages.