Women in Business Q&A: Stacey Boyd, Founder and CEO, Schoola

Stacey Boyd is the Founder and CEO of Schoola. Schoola gives children opportunities at school to discover and fulfill their full potential by empowering parents to give clothes a second life. $2 of every $5 supports activities often most important to our children and first on the budget chopping block.

Previously, Stacey created Savvy Source, an online community to help parents make the most of their child's early education years. Stacey is most proud of having founded The Academy of the Pacific Rim in 1997. One third of the children that entered the Academy were 3-5 years below grade level upon entering. At the end of its first year of operation, the Academy was one of the highest performing middle schools in Boston. In 1999, she founded Project Achieve, an information management system for primary and secondary schools which was available to 15% of US schools. In 2004, Stacey founded Global Learning Ventures a boutique consulting firm that provided education and technology consulting services to non-profits, corporations and government entities focused on education in the Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Boyd earned her MBA and Masters in Public Policy from Harvard. Boyd serves on the board of the National Council for Teacher Quality. She is an advisor for PBS on its education programming. Boyd's work has been featured on CNN, PBS, Today Show and in the Wall Street Journal, Wired, New Yorker, USA Today, Washington Post and numerous other publications. She was named one of the World Economic Forum's 100 Global Leaders for Tomorrow. She lives in San Francisco, California, with her husband, Scott Hamilton, and their two daughters.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
My field hockey team won the state championships (or came close) all four years of high school. We had a coach, Miss Alimi, who was as respected by us as a coach can be. We loved her. She was also as tough as nails. Day in and day out she drove all of us harder than we had ever been driven. She also believed we were all capable of more than we realized. When we thought we were at the breaking point, she'd ask for more. She taught me the power of setting the bar high and the magic that can happen when a leader you respect and who genuinely cares expects more of you than you expect of yourself.

How has your previous employment experience aided your tenure at Schoola?
Two weeks after my graduation from Harvard Business School I started a middle school in Boston. Of the hundred entering sixth and seventh grade students, 30% of them were 3-5 years below grade level. Yet at the end of our first year we were one of the highest performing schools in Boston.

What struck me is that my students weren't just reading, writing and doing math. They were coming alive by discovering their passions, whether that meant performing Shakespeare, learning Mandarin, or exploring Boston on field trips. Too often those programs - art, music, drama, PE - are the first to go when budgets are cut. When I read that 80% of schools in the U.S. had budget cuts since 2008 and over 50% of schools in California had lost their art, music and drama programs in the wake of the recession, I was inspired to start Schoola. As a former teacher and principal, I know first hand just how important those experiences are for children.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Schoola?
We just wrote a check to a school in the Bronx for $30,000 to save their orchestra, a $15,000 check to a school in Harlem to fund their playground and a $19,000 check to a school in San Francisco that had a $1 budget for their arts program at the start of this school year. Seeing tangible examples of the potential Schoola is helping to unfold in kids in the 10,000 plus schools across the U.S. gives me great joy.

Our challenge has been managing growth! We were in just 5 schools 18 months ago. Today we are working to put art, music, drama, etc. back into schools across the US. We have moved warehouses four times over the past eighteen months and are moving again in July to accommodate expansion.

What advice can you offer to women who want a career in your industry?
Whether it is in my industry or another, my advice to women is to just do it. Dream big, decide what you want to do and then just make it happen. We all spend way too much time preparing ourselves to be ready to do something when the reality is we are ready and we just need to take the first step. You are more ready than you realize.

What is the most important lesson you've learned in your career to date?
Team matters more than anything, but you need to hire not just for smarts but for big hearts. We have a terrific team at Schoola that can solve almost any problem sent their way. They are tenacious, smart, creative and dynamic. They are also good, kind-hearted people. A company or organization with smart, creative, driven and big-hearted people - in combination with a compelling mission - will go far.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
I am not entirely sure work/life balance is the right way to frame the question. I think there is really just life. Work gives me great joy. As does being a mom of two girls and the wife to my husband. I am very blessed to have a husband who definitely leans in at home. Scott is a CEO too. But because we share what needs to happen at home and for our girls, we both have the opportunity to succeed. We both put up pretty good fences for family time, be it from dinner to the kids' bedtime on weekdays or weekends themselves. You won't find me online during those hours. But after the kids go down all bets are off. I love what I do both at work and at home. That passion in both the work and home realm makes a difference.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
Pay inequality is still a pretty pervasive issue. For every dollar earned by a man in America, a woman earns 78 cents. Companies need to be more vigilant about these disparities. We need to encourage women to advocate on their own behalf. As importantly, we need senior leadership at the company level also advocating on behalf of a fair and equitable workplace.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
It's very hard to choose one as there are so many great examples. But I think Sheryl Sandberg tops the list. She is doing more for other women leaders (and men too) than almost anyone I know. She didn't just write the book "Lean In." She walks the walk. The LeanIn organization she created in response to her book has framed the debate in such a different and novel way. She is always stunningly quick to lend a hand or make an intro if she can. And she opens up her home to hundreds of Silicon Valley women on a seemingly weekly basis - all while running Facebook.

What do you want Schoola to accomplish in the next year?
Just 18 months ago Schoola was working to support 5 schools. Today we are raising funds for over 10,000. My hope is that a year from now we've doubled this number. I also hope that as the idea of Schoola spreads so does our mission and message: art, music, drama and PE are core parts of an education that help our kids realize their full potential and should not be optional.