Startup Stories: Q&A With Thrive Market Accounting Manager, Sefanit BethuneFebruary 17th, 2020
Welcome to Startup Stories, a series that takes you behind the scenes to share what working at a startup is really like. Our mission at Thrive Market is simple: to make healthy living easy and affordable for everyone. But fulfilling our big dreams takes a team of dedicated, inspiring, funny, and tenacious people who show up to work every day eager to make a difference.
Today, we’re introducing you to Sefanit Bethune, Thrive Market’s Accounting Manager. Read on to get to know her and learn about her experience.
Let’s start with the basics! Tell us about your current role at Thrive Market.
I’m currently the Accounting Manager and have five people reporting to me. I’ve been here just over a year, and it’s been a crazy one! When I started, six people on the accounting and finance team had just left, or were in the process of leaving, for other opportunities. Start-up life, right? That was a wild time because I had to quickly become the “resident expert” for accounting.
But now, our team is entirely built out! Fit here is such a big deal, so recruitment took some time. Everyone is so great and everything has stabilized, which is nice.
Where did you work before Thrive Market?
I was at Toms Shoes for four years as part of its accounting team. Before that, I was at Nike, working for its internal auditing team. I started my accounting career at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) as an auditor.
So many industries! What has that been like?
I love mission-driven companies, and that’s really the common thread between everything that I’ve done professionally. When I was at PwC, I was working mostly with manufacturing clients, which wasn’t something I was necessarily passionate about, so I went to Nike. While working at Nike, I saw how the Nike Foundation invests in different projects. One that resonated with me was a project supporting the education of young girls in rural areas in Ethiopia. Although I was born and raised in the capital city of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa, it was amazing to see that there are companies that do good things.
I left Nike when my husband and I moved to Los Angeles with our 9 month old son. When we first moved here, I taught accounting and finance at Glendale Community College, which seemed like a good way to balance motherhood and my career. I knew it would be hard for me to go from working so many hours to being a stay-at-home mom.
After teaching, I knew I wanted to go back to a full-time job that I’d enjoy. At that time, Toms Shoes was leading the charge for mission-based companies. The company was doing a lot of work in Ethiopia and in other African countries, which made me feel good. I thought, “If I’m not physically in Ethiopia, I can at least have a career that supports a place I care about.” There was a senior accounting role open, so I applied, got the job, and was there for four years.
Why does working at a mission-based company matter?
I need more than a career. I want to combine my career with companies that are doing good for the environment and the community. That excites me. Having a passion for the brand really makes a difference. I want to feel proud of the companies I’m working for.
What was it like growing up in Ethiopia?
When people think of Ethiopia, they don’t think of it as a country with rich culture and tradition. But it’s the only African country that has never been colonized and has its own unique alphabet. Growing up in that kind of environment—without even knowing it—you grow to love who you are and become comfortable in your own skin. The strong family and community-based environment is what I miss the most. Even your neighbors become part of your family!
Why’d you leave Ethiopia?
Education. My dad went to school in Mexico, so he showed us that opportunities are out there. I can’t imagine how hard it was for them to send all their four kids abroad, just so they could have a brighter future than they did. Basically, if your family can afford it, you go abroad for school and then return to Ethiopia—that’s just what people do. But I came to the states when I was 18, met a guy, got married, and stayed! I studied at Carlow University for undergrad and got my master’s at Carnegie Mellon University in public management.
What was it like leaving home?
The first year was tough. I wanted to go home all the time, but then I got used to it and created a routine. I still miss that family-oriented environment but my family and I go back often, especially for my son, because I want him to know that culture. Every two years, we’ll visit for about three weeks, so we’re due for a trip soon!
Take us through a typical day for you.
Ha! It’s just a whole lot of spreadsheets. But in all seriousness, everyday is different. Right now, I’m researching technical accounting guidance, but I love this part of my job. Our financial statements have to be accurate, so it’s important to stay on top of any changes and updates. I also have a team to support so my day can range from assisting with vendor payments, reviewing the team’s work and to addressing any requests from the business. Since I am a CPA, I also need to keep with the current accounting guidance.
What is it about this research that you love so much?
I learn so much. And by nature, I just like rules. I like to research and learn more. If you want to mentor your teammates, you have to be aware of all the changes. I know it sounds so boring, but I like it.
What inspires you to live a healthy lifestyle?
I want to feel good emotionally and physically. I also want to be a role model for my son. If I’m not doing the things I tell him to do, he’s going to call me out! And especially in the U.S. with increasing rates of childhood obesity, I want him to have a healthy foundation.
What’s one thing you want others to know about Thrive Market, that they might not learn from ordering, reading the blog, or visiting the website?
The culture. As a mom and as a career woman, I appreciate that Thrive Market gives me flexibility to be both. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I get to pick up my son from school. I haven’t done that in years. And that makes me so happy—being there when he needs me. Some days, this means I need to log on when I get home, but I appreciate that I am still there to help with homework and spend time with my family. That part is very important to me.
Last but not least, what’s your favorite Thrive Market product and why?
The Medjool dates! I eat them straight from the bag or put them in a smoothie. I can eat a whole bag myself. My husband, Kevin, loves the Sriracha Cashews, and my son, Ezra, is obsessed with our Chipotle BBQ Paleo Snack Mix.