Areanna Sabine’s 18C 23EvMBA dad is a bit of a mad scientist. If there’s a problem, he’s going to find a solution.
After a successful professional tennis career, he began a private coaching company in Los Angeles. But his clients soon began to complain of dirty tennis balls and bird droppings on the court. So, he started a court-cleaning company…then began to work on the bird issue.
First, he brought pictures of bird droppings to the local natural history museum to identify which birds were to blame. Then, he began constructing prototypes in his garage, eventually launching BirdzOff, a bird control solution.
“I got to witness what was happening,” says Sabine. “My entire life, my dad has involved me in so much of what he’s done.”
At the age of nine, Sabine was already touring manufacturing facilities at her father’s side. After college, she even joined the company—though she only lasted three months in the family business.
“It was the worst three months of my life,” she jokes.
Sabine admits she was unprepared to run a company or launch a marketing campaign. She had majored in environmental sciences, with a specific focus on mosquitoes and vector ecology. But after a few years working at Emory and earning her MBA through Goizueta’s Evening MBA program, she took another stab at joining BirdzOff.
“I knew the MBA was going to give me something that had a lot of different applications. While I was working on it, I realized I did have the passion to step into the family business.”
It would seem the second time’s the charm. Now, she’s the CEO.
Leading a Family Business
Whether she’s riding shotgun in a boom lift hundreds of feet in the air to install a product, quickly manufacturing fixes from parts in her car, or taking client calls and answering emails, no day is the same for Sabine as CEO of BirdzOff, and that’s just the way she likes it.
The company’s product line consists of both nesting and perching deterrents. Clients include school systems, stadiums, airports, and telecommunication companies. Sabine actually helped invent two of their products with her father.
“It’s really rewarding for me to think analytically about something and collaborate with my dad,” she shares. “I think a lot of people look at us and think, ‘Oh, you just keep birds off.’ But, in reality, it’s how do we create an environment where birds, man-made structures, and people can exist side-by-side without harming one another.”
At any time, the company can have 40 ongoing projects in addition to hundreds of one-off requests throughout the year. A lot of these projects revolve around safety. Bird droppings can be toxic, and the U.S. has strong protection laws, including the Migratory Treaty Bird Act, which prevents humans from touching active nests—a law that costs some industries millions of dollars each year in wasted time.
While her father loves making products and finding solutions, Sabine takes after his engineering mindset by applying her skills to navigating client requests and tricky-but-lucrative contracts.
“I’m really proud of my dad,” she shares. “Something I was really passionate about was how we could expand these really great product lines so more people can use them and they can be more effective.”
Sabine took the helm in August of 2020, and in just a few years, she has helped the company grow exponentially. She’s secured multi-year government contracts serving the U.S. Navy and Department of Defense internationally, increased their lead generation 480% since 2020, and caused their projected gross revenue to skyrocket 830%.
Sabine’s personal goal is to continue their entry into renewable energy. BirdzOff has recently secured a contract with an offshore wind company after she initiated a research collaboration with scientists at the Oxford Flight Group of the University of Oxford.
“The U.S. offshore wind market is finally catching up to the renewable energy efforts globally,” explains Sabine. “Not only does this growth present a lucrative business opportunity for BirdzOff, but it also aligns our business direction with my personal passion for protecting and advocating for the environment.”
One with the Flock
Sabine’s favorite aspect of the job, though, is interacting with others. She loves the collaboration of client calls and networking at trade shows. Frequently, she even dons the company mascot suit, Birdie (her idea) at shows. Sabine also enjoys mentoring, stemming from her involvement in Goizueta’s Delta Leadership Coaching Fellow program.
“I can’t recommend that program enough,” says Sabine, who still maintains close contact with her mentees and mentors. “One of my priorities–always and forever—is as I move forward, I need to be bringing people with me. If I am progressing, I am helping someone do the same.”
During her junior year of college, Sabine started a STEM women’s group. It ballooned to 300 members by the time she graduated, and it’s still active today.
“My core definition of success, as I see it right now, is the quality of the relationships I have with people, in every part of my life. It could be personal, professional, or social.”
Sabine knew that—along with the weight that the name Emory University carries—her MBA came with a certain responsibility. She must share her knowledge with others.
“I can’t imagine my life without the people who have helped me along the way,” reflects Sabine. “Part of my job—as a professional and as a human being—is to help other people get to where they want to be. That doesn’t mean they have to do what I did, but I can help them find whatever it is.”
The Goizueta Evening MBA
The letters in her title carry extra weight in a heavily male-dominated industry. Sabine admits that being CEO of a five-person family business looks a lot different than being the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. But one of her favorite things about her role is surprising people with her title, especially as a woman under the age of 30.
“A lot of people expect for me to say that being a woman CEO is always super empowering. But I’ve had to face a lot of insecurities,” admits Sabine. One example, she say, was learning to tell her dad what to do. “Talk about a fast learning curve.”
In addition to leaning on her mentors for guidance and support, she also relies on the single most important skill from her graduate education: leadership. Everything Sabine learned about emotional intelligence and leading people who have differing work styles comes in handy daily. She also regularly consults her notes from Douglas Bowman’s Product and Brand Management class.
“It was one of my favorite classes. It was so well-executed,” says Sabine. “He was also just the most excited about what I was doing and the most willing to help.”
Sabine still keeps in touch with many of her peers from the Evening MBA program.
“I found such an amazing community of young professionals, people who were my age or older, who were so incredibly supportive,” she says.
Goizueta’s Evening MBA is one of the best in the nation and the top-ranked in Georgia for a reason. Find out how Goizueta can help you take the lead in your career.