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Visionaries Season 3 kicked off with an inspiring conversation with two purpose-driven marketing leaders, Sadira Furlow, Chief of Brand and Communications at Tony’s Chocolonely, and Sheila Pollak, Chief Brand Experience Officer at Orvis. Visionaries host—Lisa Hufford, Founder of Simplicity, a 24 Seven Company, led them through a conversation on their successes, failures, and learnings along the way with note-worthy insights about the future of marketing, teams, and career development. From breaking down the similarities and differences in leading small vs. mega-brands, living and working internationally, and bold career advice to wielding levity and humor as you lead, this conversation touches on it all. Here’s what they had to say: 

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The Future of Marketing 

Mega brands vs. small brands: what are the biggest differences and similarities? 

Biggest differences 

Sadira Furlow: Spending millions of dollars and spending a few dollars are equally hard, but for different reasons. It’s a myth to think if you have millions of dollars it will solve all your problems. When you are building a brand or scaling a company, you have to get in there. There isn’t a playbook. You have to trust your instincts and have the ability to jump in. There’s not 10 people and 10 teams. It’s you and a few people around you. That’s different than a big company where things are outsourced and specialized. 

Sheila Pollock : The ‘how’ feels very different. There’s something scrappy, fun, and entrepreneurial about it. You get to be really creative. It’s more efficient in some ways. It’s a different feeling, but it’s also exhausting. As the saying goes, you gotta skin your knees on a startup.  

Biggest similarities 

Sheila Pollock: The challenge is the same. You still have to think about the unique purpose and positioning for the brand. Defining the purpose-driven story is the same for big and smaller brands. You will always have to be smart, creative, strategic and bold; it doesn’t matter the size of the company. More is the same than different. 

What do consumers seek in purpose-driven brands? 

Sadira Furlow: Consumers are seeking actual purpose. Clever positioning is not enough. Because of that, businesses have greater accountability to actually show the impact coming about as a result of that purpose. Consumers are more aware than they’ve ever been. They are informed, equipped, and have questions. They expect brands to show up, have answers, speak up, and act on their behalf, particularly if they want to earn their purchase and share their content. There is much more of this stance where “If you want something from me, I expect you to live by the purpose that you keep talking to me about.” 

Sheila Pollock: People want to feel like they’re a part of something greater that’s aligned with their values and be a part of an authentic community. Our role is to make it as easy as possible for them to get involved. It’s incredible how many people join us for local river cleanups and other conservation efforts in our community. The feedback we receive is that it’s not about the money but rather the love and time they spend together while helping out. We facilitate these efforts and make it easy for them to participate. I think that’s really important. 

The Future of Teams 

What are strategies for maintaining high morale and a strong team culture? 

Sadira Furlow: Whether it’s a good day, a bad day, or something in between, I always try to recognize the impact that my energy has on the team. My aim is to set a good example and provide inspiration, particularly when things are getting hard.

I believe that comes from my experience as a competitive athlete, which has influenced my leadership style and team-building approach. I like to think of myself as a GM and coach, as well as a player. I want to be right beside you, doing those sprints, running up and down the field, so that you’re never out there by yourself. If I’m going to challenge you, I’m going to be right beside you, cheering you on through it.  

Sheila Pollock: We try to spend as much time together living the brand, like fly fishing and getting outdoors, and getting together outside of work to create experiences like grabbing dinner or making lunch go a long way. We also talk often about the small wins and big wins and always make time for positive reinforcement. And most importantly, levity and humor really work. We try to make everything have a little bit of humor—it changes everything. 

How do you lead remote teams effectively? 

Sheila Pollock: We treat our remote meetings the same as we would in person. The difference is that we do more homework/prep work than if we were in the office together. We have pre-reads and assignments so the team can come ready to play and engage. The most important thing to do as a leader of remote teams is to make sure you are “reading the virtual room” to determine who is speaking and who is not and to make it possible for people to feel free to challenge, build, and ideate. 

Sadira Furlow: We start by asking everyone, “How are you doing?” to give a personal check-in. We schedule fun and inspiration because if you don’t schedule it, it won’t happen. We also encourage remote walks and talks to get outside and walk together. 

The Future of You 

What are the hidden benefits of living and working internationally? 

Sadira Furlow: Moving internationally is something that I have always wanted to do. Running a brand outside of the U.S. and being a part of such a global culture is very different from how I have spent the past 20 years of my career. I would say that it has been very humbling, and each day brings new joys, curiosities, and challenges.

From navigating how to take the bus to the number of translations and languages I need to communicate our brand purpose, everything is uniquely different from my U.S. experience. But it is such a joy to be a part of this purpose-driven brand and to enjoy my new home in Amsterdam. 

Sheila Pollock:  I grew up in Germany for 12 years before moving to the US. My dad is Indian, and my mom was German, so I grew up in a very international household. I have also been a part of global marketing teams. When I think about my international experience, there are three things that I have learned: 

  1.  Empathy. Moving to the US in middle school taught me a lot about empathy and putting myself in others’ shoes. From a customer’s perspective, I always consider how different people might take something in and how we need to consider diverse groups of people.  
  1. Universal truths. I believe that there are fundamental desires, needs, and wants that all humans share, regardless of culture or background. As we think about a brand’s position or purpose, it’s important to boil it down to what will speak to everybody on an emotional level. 
  1. Remote leadership. I have learned how to bring virtual teams together and how to empower those teams, create connections, and share things with each other. 

How to know when it’s time to make a bold career move? 

Sheila Pollock: The boldest move for me was when I was at Gap brand and I made my change to Athleta. I was really happy at Gap. It was a wonderful job. But when I met the CMO of Athleta, I felt like I had met my soulmate from a work perspective. When she described the purpose and the vision of Athleta, my personal passion for women’s and girl’s empowerment lit on fire. The very first time I met her, I said, “I’m going to work for you.” A year and a half later, she reached out and said, “Hey. I think I’ve got a role for you.” I dreamed it. I wanted it. And I went after it. 

Sadira Furlow: I’ve made two bold moves in my career that started with a “no” instead of a “yes.” Although it was incredibly scary at first to transition from a brand like PepsiCo to Happy Money, a financial tech startup, the founder of the startup reached out to me, and after a few conversations, I decided to take the leap to improve my skills as a modern marketer and become more digitally savvy. It turned out to be one of the best moves I could have made.

Later, when an opportunity with Tony’s Chocolonley came up, I initially said no because it required moving to Amsterdam, which was a big change. However, I allowed them to share my profile with the CEO, and after a conversation with him, I realized it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. My advice would be to start with a “no” but remain open to a “yes.” There’s so much ahead of you if you’re willing to take bold steps and embrace new experiences.

What do marketing leaders need to do to have a successful career? 

Sheila Pollock: Let your superpower shine. Don’t worry about what you’re not good at. Lean into your strengths, get clear, and shine. Second, create a group of inspiring people who fuel your passion, inspiration, and creativity; they will lift you throughout your career. Third, work for dream bosses vs. dream jobs. The dream job can fall apart if you don’t have a dream boss. 

Sadira Furlow: Build community around you. This is different than networking or transacting relationships. While I did a good job getting to where I wanted to be in my career as a CMO, I didn’t have people around me to help me excel now that I was in the room.

You need people to pour into you while you pour into others. Second, fall in love with being a life-long learner and have a healthy dose of curiosity. Curiosity develops empathy and humility. Not only this, but stepping out of your comfort zone puts the gas petal on growth.  

More About Sadira and Sheila 

What’s your word for 2024? 

Sheila Pollock: Adventure. The consumer is looking for some escape. People are gravitating towards experiences for a reason. Personally, I’m trying to keep a work/life balance. We are leaning heavily in getting our customers outside and putting as much romance around that as possible. 

Sadira Furlow: Out loud. Say it out loud. Show up authentically. No more hiding. Live your truth. Share your purpose even if it’s unpopular. The world needs to hear your voice. We can only drive change when you do so out loud. 

Sadira, what advice would you give your 12-year-old self? 

Sadira Furlow: Be curious. I wish I would have known to explore all the possibilities. Had I asked more questions or been exposed to more, who knows where that would have led me. Curiosity can serve you for a lifetime. 

Sheila, what’s one habit and one hobby that has served you well in keeping your sanity in the chaos? 

Sheila Pollock: Hobby—I’m a water sports fanatic. If I can get in the ocean once a week, I am a much happier person when I am surfing, stand-up paddling, dancing, etc. Habit—Every couple months, I do an ideation circle exercise that reminds me of the things I love and like. 


Sadira Furlow, Chief of Brand and Communications, Tony’s Chocolonely: From managing billion-dollar brands to scaling a unicorn startup, Sadira is a true brand + creative marketing genius – with the awards to prove it. Forever fueled by curiosity, she’s architected growth and generated smiles for over 20 different brands, delivering performance with purpose for Lay’s, Happy Money, and more. And now, she’s swapped the city that never sleeps for the city that always cycles to lead Tony’s team of impact-makers. A steward of stories, she captures and champions the magic of Tony’s like no other, allowing the brand to reach its greatest potential and impact in cocoa. Heading up both the Creative + Global Comms team, she’s responsible for the long-term strategy, culture, and brand identity – overseeing the challenger brand marketing that makes us uniquely, undeniably, and unreservedly Tony’s. And she does it all without a wand, cape, or top hat (but with some fresh new kicks). Pretty magical, eh? 

Sheila Pollak - Chief Brand Experience Officer, Orvis: Sheila joined Orvis in 2022 as Chief Brand Experience Officer.  Sheila leads the Marketing, Creative, User Experience, E-commerce, Retail, Wholesale and Adventures functions at Orvis, driving a powerful, relevant and differentiated brand and customer experience.  She has over 25 years of brand strategy, marketing, creative and communications experience, which includes a very successful sixteen-year career at Gap Inc. where she helped position Athleta as a purpose-driven, high growth brand in her role as CMO.  Most recently, Sheila was the SVP and CMO of Biossance, a top clean beauty brand.  Sheila is currently a strategic advisor to Allyson Felix’s women’s empowerment and shoe brand Saysh. Sheila graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles. 

Lisa Hufford, Strategic Advisor and Founder, Simplicity Consultinga 24 Seven Company
Recognized as a visionary and thought leader, Lisa Hufford, is on a mission to help everyone thrive in the new world of work. With a passion for driving transformative business strategies, Lisa brings a wealth of insight as an author, entrepreneur, and advocate for helping companies and professionals adapt and thrive.

Visionaries airs live on Zoom every month and is brought to you in partnership with The Wall Street Journal. In each episode, two new Visionaries share their game plan and how that impacts today’s teams, talent, and you.  

Marketers That Matter® is a community of top marketing executives coming together to pioneer the future of marketing, sharing real-time experiences, and solving current challenges. 

Our parent company, 24 Seven, specializes in helping you find exceptional marketing and creative talent for your teams.