Today, Nutrabolt is proud to celebrate International Women’s Day with a special spotlight on an incredible leader: Sabba Naserian, Chief Growth Officer at Nutrabolt.
This year’s International Women’s Day theme is: #EmbraceEquity. Born and raised in Iran, a country under an oppressive regime, Sabba calls this theme near and dear to her heart. Here’s her story.
In 1997, Sabba’s family left Iran for Canada with nothing, where they had to learn an entirely new language and culture. As a young girl, Sabba watched her father work around the world, where he helped build out the Nokia network when cellphones were just knocking on the 21st century’s door. At the time, she thought she wanted to be just like her father – in both her career journey and her journey with travel.
Sabba’s parents’ biggest motivation to leave their home country was not necessarily the
danger occurring around it – but the opportunity to give their two daughters a life where they were encouraged to learn and maximize their full potential.
“I remember hiding under stairs when there were bombings, or getting in my dad’s car and just driving around all night at the sound of bomb sirens. They had two daughters, and they knew if we stayed, we had no future,” Sabba said. “As women, we were not encouraged to seek higher education, to get a job, or have a voice. There was no equity, and therefore, no meaningful future.”
Throughout Sabba’s childhood in Canada, math skills were highly important to her father. And she learned to love it, too, by the time she reached high school. Katherine Johnson, a female mathematician who broke barriers in the aeronautics industry to shape the future of space travel, is one of Sabba’s biggest IWD inspirations.
Sabba is also deeply inspired by her mother and the Iranian women who fight for their freedom every day. Despite the uncertainties and challenges Sabba experienced in life, her mother constantly reminded her that no dream was too big, and every goal is attainable.
“Every time I had a setback, she was fast to say, ‘they can knock you down, but they can’t keep you down.’ I owe my career to her many sacrifices, and to this day, she is my best mentor and advisor,” she said.
Sabba often reflects on how different her life could be without her family’s courage, especially on International Women’s Day. She believes that asking ourselves, why we embrace equity, is the key to breaking down many barriers that stand in the way of true equality.
No matter how hard a new challenge may seem, Sabba has always been one to approach it head-on. From 2014-2016, Sabba served as VP of Development at Nutrabolt. During this exciting time of growth for the company, she and her team grew the Cellucor brand globally, one tub at a time.
Following two years with Nutrabolt, she built out an expert resume full of a range of incredible experiences, but it was in 2018 when Sabba took on what she called, a ‘once-in lifetime opportunity,’ and became VP, Global Business Development at Canopy Growth Corporation where she built out a department and strategy for an OTC product line.
Throughout Sabba’s career, her resilience to adversity is a quality that has set her apart, and as a woman in an often-male-dominated sales and business-development world, she has faced her own fair share of challenges.
“If you know me, you know I’m very stubborn. Every, ‘let me ask your boss what he thinks’ fueled my fire,” she said. “I learned not to back down. Sure, I’m a woman — but my boss doesn’t have the time to fly and sit with you face-to-face — I do! It’s never about what you don’t have or what you can’t do, and that made all the difference.”
Taking accountability for your work and actions, and working each day to improve, is of utmost importance to Sabba. She said the most impactful advice that she’s ever received is: “Nobody is coming to save you.”
“No one is going to chase your dreams on your behalf. When you’re knocked down, people will cheer for you to get up, but it is 100% on you to pull yourself together and get back up on your feet,” she said. “It’s about you. How determined you are, how passionate you are, and how much you’re willing to sit with discomfort knowing there is growth on the other side.”
Sabba emphasizes that when taking on a new role, you sign on with a boss as much as you sign on with a company. This mindset comes from her experience at Nutrabolt. Sabba shared a personal anecdote about the first time she joined the company. She recalled that after her first interview, she nervously called a current teammate, who of course, confidently reassured her. Fast forward one year later, her then-boss offered the opportunity to expand her role into Latin America. Sabba had never been, but he believed she would give it her all. After her boss was later promoted, she was once again asked to take on a new role with the belief that she had the ability to build the relationships needed to be successful. She said Doss Cunningham (Nutrabolt Chairman and CEO) continued to support her growth, and she eventually moved into a VP role.
Today, Sabba still loves sharing her business-travel journeys with her father, and exchanging notes about cities and memorable trips. Most importantly, she believes a younger Sabba would be proud of her professional achievements to date.
“My younger self really wanted to prove that I could do anything, particularly growing up in a culture where women were not meant to have meaningful careers,” Sabba said. “So, regardless of where my career has taken me, the younger me would be very proud of my path.”
One of Sabba’s proudest moments is when she was interviewed by a publication about breaking glass ceilings. Today, it can be found framed in her home office, and she can’t help but smile each time she walks by it. In times when a person feels doubt, or as if they can’t do something, Sabba points out that she relates to these feelings often, but all it takes is a little bit of courage to unlock your greatest potential.
“If I was to define myself by the limitations I put on myself, it would be a recipe for staying stagnant if you ask me,” Sabba said. “Take a deep breath, say F*** it, and just go. I promise you – if I can do it, anyone can do it!”
Sabba’s growth, results-driven way of thinking, and extraordinary leadership makes her an inspiration to girls and women reaching to achieve fulfilling careers. Her biggest piece of advice: “Never walk into the room assuming you’re at a disadvantage.”
“There may be people who want to hold you back, but there are also many people who will want to let you win, if you are open to it,” she said. “Seek out mentors that are aligned with the role you want to have, the goals you want to achieve, the obstacles you want to overcome — male or female. Be authentic to who you are. Ruthless, but authentic.”