Who The Folk?! Sara Frailich

What’s it like to randomly study people and help billion-dollar companies make better products? We learn from our guest this week, Sara Fralich, CEO of Design Research Collective and one of our new Jewfolk Board members. Sarah and I talk about being flaming extroverts, Buddhism, and exploring Judaism, in this week’s Who The Folk Podcast.

New for this year: You can read a lot of the interview below, but for the full interview, please listen or subscribe to the Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, and Stitcher, with more to come later soon. Please subscribe, rate, and review. And of course, if you have suggestions of others who would be great subjects, let us know!

You started your own company a couple of years ago; tell us about the Design Research Collective.

Basically, I love watching, talking, interacting with people and studying them in the larger context of society and culture. We get hired for different companies and corporations, in town mostly, to help them understand the customer. We do both research and design – my business partner’s a designer and my side of the street is helping with the insights and understanding the customer, and my partner’s side of the street is more developing either marketing products or strategy based on what we learn about the customer to deliver to our clients.

Can you give us an example of products or are those top secret?

They range from paper plates to a deep vein thrombosis treatment. We’ve developed a framework of innovation that goes from insights and innovation that can be applied to both paper plates all the way to a sophisticated medical device. The idea is that if you do deep insights and you understand your customer, you can develop incredibly successful products and solutions for that customer. Our process goes from research to design insights into the actual innovation.

How did you get interested in this?

My kids, they want to know what I do for a living and they ‘say she talks to strangers.’ I’ve always been fascinated by strangers. I would love to know their life story and it’s always been easy to get there with people. I’m genuinely curious about people’s lives and not only what they do but why they do things.

I would have to imagine you’re not an introvert.

I’m a flaming extrovert which is funny because my husband’s a flaming introvert.

You mention your husband (Chris Costino), and I’ve got to ask: he’s the front man of the band The Big Wu; how are you an introvert and do that on stage in front of people all the time?

Yeah it’s pretty hysterical. We have family events or get-togethers with friends and everyone would love to hear him play guitar and sing, you know busking on the street, and he will never do that. He can barely play a song for kids but standing on a stage in front of hundreds or thousands of people and he’s figured out a way to do it.

So what led you to want to start your own company?

I’m crazy. You have to be. I tell people who start their own thing you have to be like this much crazy (holds fingers close together). It’s not a normal thing to do. There’s not a lot of security and you have to be willing and excited to take risks. I just had this kind of spark that I had to do it. The second reason, which I think is more interesting and kind of speaks to society and modern culture to be honest, is that people I was working with had their kids in daycare 11 hours a day. I don’t judge that and that works really well for a lot of families, but that was kind of a culture that I was immersed in and I missed my kids. I needed to have be able to see my kids when they came home and so a lot of it had to do with being present for my kids and being more engaged in our home.

So many corporations talk about the work/life balance but did you find it was maybe a little more talk and not enough action?

I think in my early 30s I went through this really big existential crisis. I’m chasing a future and there’s more here in the present like my kids and family. The other thing is I was looking for a little more soul. I don’t know what I want to do when I grow up.


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