2021 Star Women in Grocery winner Sarah Joyce (Q&A)
Canadian Grocer staff
Senior Vice-President, E-commerce
How did you get into the grocery business?
After my MBA, I was running two fashion e-commerce businesses in New York City. My husband and I decided we wanted to move back to Toronto. I couldn’t imagine finding a digital leadership role in Canada that was as exciting as the one I had… until I was approached by Sobeys to launch a new online grocery home delivery service powered by Ocado Group’s world-leading technology. I believed (from my experience living in the U.S). that Canada was under-penetrated in e-commerce, particularly in grocery, and was motivated by the mission of what this could be. It was an instant personal fit with the values and culture at Sobeys - something that is very important to me - and the rest is history!
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Before leaving Stanford from my MBA, I had the opportunity to have lunch with Oprah Winfrey and she provided perfectly-timed career advice. She reminded us that when faced with career path decisions, just focus on making the right next move, then the right next move after that. You don’t have to have it all planned out. It will often work out better than you could have planned it anyway. Another important reminder from that conversation is to not lose yourself in the process: who you are being is more important than what you are doing.
Biggest challenge faced in your career? And how did you overcome it?
We launched Voilà by Sobeys, our new online grocery home delivery service, to customers in the Greater Toronto Area in June 2020, right in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. We had been working on the launch for two years (since that is how long it takes to build robotic automated warehouses!) and, all of a sudden, we had an opportunity to become an essential service to Canadians when they needed it most. We accelerated and adapted all elements of the plan, including: enhancing all safety protocols to keep customers and teammates safe, working with our supplier partners on revisions to our assortment, hiring more teammates and doubling the size of our delivery fleet. We operated with agility and empathy on behalf of all Canadians trying to get food safely for their families.
Career highlight/greatest achievement?
The customer reception to Voilà has been greater than we could have ever imagined. We have seen consistent weekly order volume growth and extremely strong customer feedback and loyalty. But the part that makes me the most proud is seeing the world-class team that we have built who are so passionate, dedicated, collaborative, agile, customer-obsessed, and results-oriented. We have built the team to over 650+ teammates (and growing!), and they are the true magic behind Voilà.
What do you like most about your job?
What I love about e-commerce is that there is so much room for growth. We are never standing still. We are constantly looking at data (from our teammates, customers, Ocado, its global partners) to ensure we continue to evolve, innovate, and stay ‘best in class’. Everyone on the team embraces this mentality. It is so inspiring to see. This is only the beginning of our journey!
How would you describe your leadership style/philosophy?
I have always been interested in the human side of business. I want everyone on the team to feel energized by the vision, valued and appreciated for their contribution, and empowered and supported to be the best they can be. I want to create an environment that allows others to learn and grow.
Click here for the full list of 2021 Star Women in Grocery award winners.