Meet Sophie Bakalar, CEO of Fable

Tell us about yourself! How did you get started? What is and how did you come to create Fable?

Fable is a direct-to-consumer product innovation brand that solves real problems for pets and their people through thoughtful, functional designs. We believe thoughtful design enhances the important moments you share with your pets. Our products are modern and minimal, but we also take the time to focus on function-forward elements that make your life a little easier – including custom, one-of-a-kind hardware crafted to be more secure, easier to use, and sleeker than conventional premium pet products.

My brother, Jeremy Canade and I grew up in a household with many pets, and we have always been huge animal lovers which definitely served as a source of inspiration for the Fable brand. There weren’t many products that sparked our interest in the pet product space, and there hadn’t been anything introduced in some time so we took it as an opportunity to build a brand in the pet space and from there Fable was created.

What does a typical day in the life look like for you?

My days are so non-standard lately! I think I have a natural inclination to create routines, but I really try to take each week as it comes at the moment because work is so unpredictable. My only non-negotiable is that I get up well before I need to officially “start” my day, so that I can fit in a few things I really enjoy - a leisurely cup of coffee, a workout class, the crossword, etc.

What's the biggest lesson that you've learned in the past year?

I need more social interaction than I thought!

What are the biggest ways your own lived experience influences your opinion of start-ups?

I’m focused on consumer goods, both as a founder and as a venture capitalist, so my own behaviors and trend preferences as a consumer definitely impact my opinions, though I do try to separate out my own tastes as much as possible, especially as an investor, since it can create some unhealthy biases. In particular, the “fewer better things” movement is what attracted me to consumer goods in the first place. I was making a conscious shift in my personal life to buy less “stuff”, and to opt for secondhand or higher quality goods whenever possible, in an effort to be a more sustainable shopper. So I do tend to gravitate towards companies with that ethos; or those that are mindful of their impact on the environment generally.

We know that you're a Venture Partner at Collaborative Fund... what question do you wish every founder asked you (and every VC) on a first call?

“What types of businesses have you seen in this space lately?” I think this might be the biggest disconnect between early-stage founders and VCs, particularly investors like me who really specialize in a category. Often founders - especially those with companies that are pre-launch - don’t have as much insight into what’s going on in their own industry as a VC who is looking at the category from more of a bird’s eye view. While investors obviously can’t give specifics on other companies they’ve seen, they can help an early stage founder get a better sense of how competitive the landscape is and whether or not their idea is actually as unique as it may seem. There could be a dozen other nearly identical businesses that the investor just spoke to that month but if they’re all pre-launch, then a founder might not realize how crowded the space is. This happens more than you’d think, especially in consumer goods, since ideas seem to come in waves.

What's the biggest transition or change that you have had to make since the beginning of the pandemic?

Not working set hours. I haven’t really worked standard hours since I started in VC/startups, but since the onset of the pandemic and our shift to working from home, I completely lost any distinction between day/evening and weekday/weekend. I actually find this arrangement works really well for me and gives me a lot more flexibility to fit in some non-work activities into my life, but I’m mindful that a lot of people really hate that (so I really lean on the “Schedule email” feature in Gmail!).

As you know – we think community is everything. How has your community helped you navigate your personal and/or professional life?

I’m so lucky to have a number of very tight-knit communities in my life. My close girlfriends (mostly from college) are there for me in every way - providing emotional support, celebrating wins, venting about losses, giving workout advice, trading life hacks, and even sharing our favorite new snack launches. We’re all in very different industries, but we also lean on each other a lot for unbiased professional advice.

And then the female founder and women in VC communities are really strong in New York. It’s a relatively small group, so most women in the industry know each other and everyone is really supportive. We all share a lot of resources, from vendor recommendations to investment opportunities.

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