Startup Stories: Q&A With Thrive Market Goods Innovation Assistant Nancy Ibarra

October 3, 2019

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 Nancy Ibarra, the Innovation Assistant for the Thrive Market Goods team. 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.

As the Innovation Assistant, I support everyone on the Thrive Market Goods team, as well as anyone in the company who needs anything related to one of our products.

There are so many components to launching a product for our line. It’s my job to get everything set up in our internal system so that my team can place purchase orders for our fulfillment centers. That involves adding product photos and uploading information about nutrition, ingredients, and sourcing.

I’m also the go-to person on the team if any of our members have questions about products in our Thrive Market Goods line. In addition to setting up the backend for new products, I also run Quality Assurance on them. I coordinate the delivery of test samples and record them in our system. Then I work with volunteers from across the company to help with new product sampling (the technical term is “cutting”). During the cuttings, we’re assessing the taste, texture, and ease of use of each product. We’re also making sure the directions on the back of the package are clear and easy to follow.

Nancy Ibarra Soup Cutting

This isn’t your first role at Thrive Market, either. Tell us about how you transitioned into your current position.

I started working at Thrive Market in October 2015 in the Member Services department on the Retention team, taking calls from members wanting to cancel their memberships. From there, I moved over to the group within Member Services that communicates with members via our social media channels, before finally ending up on the Resolutions team. That team is focused on helping members who have concerns about their orders. In my Resolutions role, I became the middleman between Member Services and Thrive Market’s Merchandising team. I compiled all of our member inquiries into a comprehensive report and created a communications channel so that everyone in the company could see the types of issues our members had and develop the best possible solutions. Around this time, the Innovation Assistant position was posted on the Thrive Market job board, and I thought it would be a great fit, given how familiar I am with our in-house line of products.

How does your experience in Member Services help you in your current role?

At Thrive Market, we make a huge effort to put our members first, so all of my time spent relating to members and helping them with their issues has been extremely valuable. It informs everything I do in my new role. I make sure that I’m including all the necessary information that our members need, like allergy warnings and details about nutrition, ingredients, and sourcing so they won’t have to call Member Services with questions about any of that. I also know so much about our products after years of helping members hunt down answers to their questions.

How does your team support each other?

We’re a pretty small team, so we all wear a lot of different hats. Also, because some members on our team are remote, we tend to over-communicate, just to make sure everyone is on the same page.

Something we’ve been trying to do recently is take more walks as a team. We’re aiming to walk to the farmer’s market every Friday. It gives us a chance to get some fresh air and talk about something other than work.

So, you’ve been with the company for four years. How has it changed?

The company is definitely more well-known than when I first started. Now, when I say I work at Thrive Market, people will mention that they’ve heard of us.

Within the company, there’s been a bigger effort to improve the culture. We have a book club, kickball tournaments, frequent volunteer opportunities—all that stuff makes a big difference.

What initially drew you to Thrive Market?

I got recruited by a former co-worker. We had worked together at Good Eggs, which was basically an online farmer’s market. After it closed its LA office, I was out of work. I took a few jobs here and there, but then my coworker told me she was working at a new company called Thrive Market, and it aligned with what Good Eggs was doing, in making it easier for people to access healthier options. I decided to check it out, and after learning more about Thrive Market’s mission, I was very interested and was brought on pretty quickly.

What’s the best part about working at Thrive Market?

I’m very fortunate to work on the Thrive Market Goods brand. Because it’s the company’s own product line, we work closely with so many different departments, including the Creative team for all of our packaging design and the Content team for the marketing and packaging copy. I’ve gotten to know so many people in this role, and every day, I’m completely fascinated by how talented everyone is here. And I’m really impressed by the level of growth that’s available within the company.

Nancy Ibarra Thrive Market Goods products

Take us through a typical day for you.

The first thing I do when I get to the office is check my email and Slack to see if there’s anything really important that needs to be addressed immediately. Then I’ll have a quick chat with the Product Innovators to see if they have anything that needs my attention. If it’s a Monday, I’ll run the prior week’s sales numbers for Thrive Market Goods and share a quick update with the team before we share the results with the entire company.

Once I’m sure everything important is being taken care of, I’ll make my way to the kitchen, where I make a smoothie with a banana, Thrive Market Organic Medjool Dates, Thrive Market Organic Creamy Almond Butter, Regeneratively Grown Organic Cacao Nibs
, milk, ice, and Thrive Market Grass Fed Collagen Peptides. Sometimes I’ll also grab a mug of Thrive Market French Roast Coffee. I add our collagen peptides to that, too. Back at my desk, I start working my way through my checklist and will do that for the rest of the day. When lunchtime rolls around, I grab a catered meal from the kitchen and bring it back to my desk.

Since having a baby, I’ve been coming in early so I can leave at a decent time, usually by 4:30 p.m. That way I have some time with my son before he has to go to sleep.

Tell us about your new baby!

He just turned six-months-old, which is a really fun time because he wants to interact more. He’s very social—so much that my boyfriend and I joke that he’s a FOMO baby! If he hears us but can’t see us, he’ll call out until we come over and hang out by him. If he’s taking a nap and we make too much noise, he’ll wake up instantly and is just so happy to join the party.

How has it been to transition back to work after having a baby?

It’s been great! My little guy is such a good baby. I was able to get him on a schedule when he was two-months-old and come back to work after three months off. I was really ready to come back—that’s just my personality. My boyfriend jokes that even if I was in the financial position to not have to work, I would still want to!

Nancy Ibarra at her desk

But it was really great to have that time and know that everything at work was being taken care of while I was out. And it was a huge relief knowing that my position would still be there when I was ready to return.

I was really impressed to learn that Thrive Market contributes to the maternity benefits offered by the state of California, so I could continue to make my full salary while on leave. I also appreciate that I had time to ramp up again once I came back. My boss, Jenna, was good about giving me space to get back into the groove. She knows “mom brain” is a thing! During that first week back, I worked short days, and she let me work from home when I was really missing being with my baby.

How does Thrive Market’s mission impact the company culture?

I love that employees get so many opportunities to volunteer. Just yesterday, I went to an event at Baby2Baby to help pack boxes of baby essentials for low-income families. At the event, the organizers showed a video of women who don’t have enough money to buy diapers, wipes, and all the things necessary to take care of a new baby. It definitely made me tear up. I’m so glad Thrive Market supports such an important cause.

What inspires you to live a healthy lifestyle?

Trying to live as long as possible! My parents have always emphasized the importance of living healthy. They come from a line of farmers and taught me how to eat from the land. I grew up eating the food that my dad and grandparents grew. Now, we always shop at farmers’ markets on the weekends. We really like going to the one on Saturdays in Torrance.

What are your favorite forms of self-care? Are there fitness routines or other interests that help you feel your best?

I do Self-care Sundays! Working closely with the Merchandising team definitely has its benefits—the best being that there’s always free samples laying around. I love face masks and will do one every Sunday. One of my favorites is the Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay.

When do you feel most successful or proud of your work?

When we finally launch a new item from Thrive Market Goods. When I see the new product on our site, it’s such a great feeling knowing that that project is done!

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?

I don’t think many people realize how mission-driven our company really is. We all genuinely care about our members and the planet.

Last but not least, what’s your favorite Thrive Market product and why?

I love the diapers! They’re such a great value, too. My baby always sleeps through the night and never has any leaks.

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Melinda Gross

Melinda writes about health, wellness, and food for the Thrive Market blog. She started her career as a financial journalist in NYC and has written for Where Magazine, Worth, Forbes, and When she's not reading or writing, she enjoys working out, sketching, and playing with her daughter and mini-dachshund, Goliath.

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