Featured Founder: Sarah Moe, Sleep Health Specialists

Sarah Moe’s Whyography is one of more than 30 stories featured in the “Whyography: Building a Brand Fueled by Purpose” book. 100 percent of proceeds from book sales benefit the Fueled by Purpose micro grant fund for womxn-owned businesses. To purchase the book, visit the Marketplace page.

Sarah Moe was on a path to the career she imagined for herself when something unexpected happened. “You’re in the wrong room,” her college professor told her. There weren’t many people of color at the small-town Wisconsin university where Sarah was studying elementary education, and all eyes were on her as the instructor asked to see her schedule. When Sarah provided proof she belonged in the course, the professor still wasn’t satisfied. She asked to see Sarah’s student ID. Sarah fought back tears as she handed it over. Finally, the professor relented and told her to sit down.

The instructor didn’t acknowledge she’d humiliated Sarah or even apologize. Sarah’s head swirled as she tried to understand. She thought about the hockey jersey she wore to class—was it too casual? But others were dressed casually, and their presence wasn’t questioned. She’d been singled out because the professor thought she didn’t look like she belonged. Not only did the exchange make Sarah uncomfortable, she felt truly unwelcome.

As a result, Sarah left the university and returned to Minnesota. She began to rethink her plan to become an elementary school educator and considered her interest in health sciences instead. A medical career became more appealing as she thought about working nights. Her dad had worked the overnight shift at a local newspaper when Sarah was growing up, and she’d always been a night owl herself.

As Sarah explored options, she learned about the field of sleep study. She took a course and was hooked from the get-go. She went on to pursue an education in sleep study and got licensed in polysomnography. Sarah had found her new career path.

For several years, Sarah worked overnights conducting sleep studies in a clinical setting. She loved working one-on-one with patients, educating them about sleep health and seeing the dramatic shift in their quality of life. Some burst into tears of joy when they awoke in the morning after using a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine for the first time.

Outside of the clinic, Sarah was getting lots of questions about sleep. She often wondered why, since one-third of a human’s life is spent asleep, sleep health wasn’t taught in school the same way exercise was. She’d been teaching courses at a local college but realized she wanted to reach a broader audience, so she created a business model for a new venture.

Sarah launched Sleep Health Specialists in 2015. Her aha moment came when she realized she could partner with businesses to educate their workforce about sleep health. Sarah now shares her expertise through customized lunch-and-learns, classes and seminars. She also conducts sleep assessments and provides action plans to improve team members’ sleep quality. Ultimately, Sarah shows companies how well-rested employees are healthier and more productive, which benefits the organization’s bottom line.

Today, Sarah couldn’t be happier with her career path and believes it was diverted away from elementary education for a reason. She has found her true calling.

To learn more about Sarah’s business, visit SleepHS.com.

Photo: Kate Pearson-Halyburton for My Founder Story

About the author: Chris Olsen is a radio veteran turned communications consultant, educator and author of “Whyography: Building a Brand Fueled by Purpose”. Through her work as a consultant partnering with startups, Chris realized her WHY—to support womxn-owned businesses in confidently communicating their purpose and impact, setting them up for entrepreneurial success. She created My Founder Story as a platform for doing so.

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