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Sarah Stockdale's Marketing Training Is Getting Her Students Paid. Here's How.

An Interview With Brooke Bohinc

Sarah Stockdale's headshot

Meet Sarah Stockdale, the Founder and CEO of Growclass, a hub blending growth marketing training with a close-knit community of entrepreneurial minds.

Sarah’s commitment to creating a community for underrepresented voices in the tech world is woven into the Growclass fabric. Reflecting on her own experiences as one of the few women in tech rooms during her early career, she decided to build her own table when a suitable one wasn’t available to her. Sarah’s mission with Growclass extends far beyond profit margins. For her, it’s all about the impact she has the opportunity to create. Her company has become a catalyst for career transformations, with students significantly increasing their salaries and alumni going on to build thriving businesses. This tangible impact on individuals’ lives is the true measure of success for Sarah, reinforcing the importance of creating a business that is helping others.

We asked Sarah about the founding story behind Growclass, how she navigates self-doubt as an entrepreneur, and what she would tell herself if she were to start her journey over again.

Tell us the story behind your company’s founding. How and why did you start working on Growclass?

Growclass started as an experiment when I was running my consulting company, Valkerie. Our clients were having trouble finding great marketing talent, so we helped them hire and train their teams; and it worked. We built an eight-week course piloted in Toronto. It sold out in 48 hours. After our first cohort, we knew we had something special.

What are some of the most meaningful impacts Growclass has had so far? 

My direct messages are filled with students who have changed their career trajectories after taking Growclass. I got one yesterday from a woman who has increased her salary by 93% in a year. On average, our grads add $27,600 to their salaries within three months of taking the course. We’ve had incredible founders from companies like Three Ships and Blume take our training and build thriving, profitable businesses. It's amazing that our grads are making more, of course, but what I get really excited about is that it means our community is having a real impact. A lot of these opportunities come from our alumni network, which is incredible to see.

What makes Growclass different from other similar companies in the industry?

Our focus and community. There are a ton of places you can get generic marketing courses. Our training is built by instructors who have built businesses from scratch and have decades of practical experience growing companies. And Growclass is the kindest corner of the internet. Our community members are smart, driven, and overwhelmingly lovely. It’s the diverse, women-led community I wish I had when I was growing up in tech.

In what ways has your upbringing or past experiences contributed to how you operate as an entrepreneur?

Early in my tech career, I was often one of the only women in the room. As you can imagine, being in my early 20s in rooms of men, I had some experiences I wouldn’t wish on anyone. When I started my company, I realized there were dozens of places on the internet where men in tech could find community, but no place that felt like it was built for people like me. If you can’t get a seat at the table, just build your own table. So Growclass became that community. 

Did you always know that you wanted to be an entrepreneur?

Not at all. Growing up, my mom was a social worker and my dad was a firefighter. I didn’t know anyone who had started a business until I was in my 20s. I don’t have the cool stories of starting businesses as a kid or in school—that just wasn’t modeled to me. 

Sarah Stockdale's headshot

What’s one thing you wish you had known before starting Growclass?

Most people talking about building businesses are leaving out a lot of their own stories. Trust your gut over entrepreneurship books or influencers. 

What are the biggest mistakes you’ve made? 

I’ve always been focused on sustainable, profitable growth. However, in 2021 I worried that we were playing too small with the business, as my competitors were raising money and taking big bets. So I hired to grow, and I did it beyond what our bootstrapped company could maintain healthily. When the economy turned in 2022, we were bloated and needed to course-correct. It was an incredibly painful lesson, and something a lot of founders experience but not many talk about.

What’s the biggest misconception that others have around entrepreneurship?

That it is glamorous. Entrepreneurship is messy and chaotic and really hard. But when you’re building something that is truly helping folks, it’s so worth it.

Have you struggled with self-doubt as an entrepreneur? How do you navigate this?

Constantly. My anxiety gremlin is loud and really good at coming up with inventive ways we could fail. But nothing interesting or good has ever come from listening to the part of myself that wants to stay small and safe. So I listen to the anxious chatter and then just keep going anyway.

Hire slowly, pay for experts when you need them, always have a coach, build a community of other entrepreneurs around you, and invest in people first.

Has your definition of success evolved throughout your journey as a founder?

I used to think success would come from other people deciding I was successful—potentially in the form of press or awards. Now I feel successful when the business is healthy; my team is happy; our alumni are successful; our community feels vibrant and engaged; and I can spend a lot of time with my family and friends. Instead of hoping for external validation, I get to decide what success looks like.

What people have contributed the most to your successes?

Back in 2018 when I was just starting as an entrepreneur, I was invited into a small group of entrepreneurs by Melissa Nightingale, called the Fauxworkers. Those founders have become my entrepreneurial family. I’m grateful every day for how they have helped me grow both personally and professionally.

How have you grown as a leader since starting Growclass? What experiences have contributed to this growth?

So far, I’ve led this company through a pandemic, a recession, a tech-bubble burst, and multiple “once in a lifetime” world events—it’s been a trip. I’ve learned how to stay lean, build strategy that can change on a dime, and build a resilient team. Most of those learnings have come from painful failures.

Sarah Stockdale's headshot

What have you learned about building a team and a support network?

The people around you are the most important part of the journey. Hire slowly, pay for experts when you need them, always have a coach, build a community of other entrepreneurs around you, and invest in people first.

What would you tell your younger self if you were to start your entrepreneurial journey all over again?

Focus on making something that really helps people, solves an acute problem in their lives, and truly delights your customers. Then, get really, really good at selling it. Oh, and don’t listen to the brotatoes—you don’t have to move fast and break things. You can, instead, move deliberately, and build something that does good in the world.

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