Mothers in Business: Stacy Valner, co-founder, PHASE ONE
“Most people fail at whatever they attempt because of an undecided heart. Should I? Should I not? Go forward? Go back? Success requires the emotional balance of a committed heart. When confronted with a challenge, the committed heart will search for a solution. The undecided heart searches for an escape. A committed heart does not wait for conditions to be exactly right. Why? because conditions are never exactly right.”
STACY VALNER is the founder of the PHASE ONE Foundation which she created in 1991 after her husband’s battle with stage four cancer. Stacy’s continued work with the foundation includes funding research for clinical trials and ensuring the foundation continues to grow and thrive.
Your foundation, PHASE ONE, was created after your husband’s battle with cancer—something that no one ever plans for, we’re certain. What was your career like before this?
My career experiences began with early childhood education. I was a nursery school teacher. From there I went on to start multiple small business. I imported gorgeous home goods from Mexico, where my husband is from, and I had a gift business where I was the corporate gift buyer for Fox Studios. At the time of my husband’s cancer diagnosis I was a full-time mom to three small children.
Give us more detail about PHASE ONE, and how it influences your day-to-day
Our mission statement sums it up: Phase One Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting phase 1 and 2 clinical research and treatment programs for patients with cancer.
As co-chair of the granting committee, my days consist of finding the best clinical trials out there. This would include speaking with our local hospitals and those departments that work with cancer research. In addition, I help out with day to day operations of running an organization as large as ours. I am lucky to have 2 great women working for us but support them daily in many different areas of the foundation.
How many children do you have, and what are their ages?
I have 4 children, ages 26, 24, 20 and 15. Three girls and a boy in the middle, he’s 20.
How does what you do impact the way that you raise your own children?
My children have been raised in a home that values the importance of living your best life. Do a job that makes you happy, not for the salary you may earn. I do not earn a salary for my work at phase one, and it is a very big commitment, but it makes me happy. It defines my wishes for generations to come. A world without cancer.
Describe what a typical day looks like for you.
I still have one child at home, a freshman in high school. I wake up at 6:45 each day and feed my dog, make lunch, have a coffee, wait for her student driven carpool to arrive (you have to participate in student driven carpools at our school to secure a parking spot), change out of my robe, run to get in a work out, run back home to get in a shower…often my desk traps me for a few hours. Some days I eat at my desk and some days I run off to a meeting…grab my daughter at 3 or 5:30 depending on the day, rush home to make dinner…throw on my famous outfit of sweat pants. Wait for my husband to arrive around 7:30, eat dinner with our daughter, and about 9:30 head upstairs to get in bed and relax in front of the tv.
On any given day, what are the biggest challenges you face in business and at home?
By far the biggest challenge is deciding where to put our donor money. Our donors believe in Phase One and the decisions we make. Carefully we navigate whom to fund, why we would fund them, and ultimately these decisions can benefit patients around the world.
My biggest challenge these days at home are dealing with a naughty puppy!
You can offer a unique perspective to other moms in business, because it could arguably be said that your career chose you, not the other way around. For others in similar circumstances, what would you tell them? How do you turn lemons into lemonade, so to speak?
Yes, I did not choose to have a life revolving around philanthropy. Securing dollars and working for love rather than a pay check is definitely not a choice I think I would have made 25 years ago. This job did choose me, and I chose to keep doing it for 20 years. If you have a passion that revolves around philanthropy my first words of advice would be to find an organization that exists and join them. Staring a 501c3 is challenging every single day. There are some may great organizations out there that need active board members, dedicated team members, and loyal donors. Join them, and help them, bring new spirit and energy to help the cause. If nothing is out that that fulfills your need or passion, then certainly create it. But know it is a long and hard road, and you have to really surround yourself with dedicated partners. There have been a few times over the years we have been ready to move on, but the wonderful board and partners I have motivate me to continue moving forward.
What is your main goal (or goals) for 2018?
We are adding so many events in 2018. I want to see them all get off the ground and have a real value to the community. These include a speaker series, an art event, and some community grants we hope to award soon.
What helps you to unwind?
What is your mantra?
Have a committed heart!