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Inside View: Semprae Laboratories

Semprae Laboratories' flagship product improves sexual satisfaction for women. Co-founder Rachel Braun Scherl, a Stanford MBA, tells us about careers at this innovative company

By  Kyomi Wade

Thu Nov 29 2012

Semprae Laboratories is a company founded by women and focused on women's sexuality. Their flagship product, Zestra is the result of seven years of scientific and clinical research and testing and represents a breakthrough in women's sexual health. 
CEO Mary Wallace Jaensch and President Rachel Braun Scherl are two women passionate to get the conversation started about this taboo topic; and it seems other female celebrities too. Zestra has seen praise for its results from the likes of Kris Jenner.
The firm is based in New Jersey and we managed to speak to Co-founder and President Rachel Braun Scherl in the midst of Hurricane Sandy. Rachel also happens to be Stanford MBA.
It was their 11th day without power, be she assured me they were all safe. We then swiftly got into why she wants to see a candidate use his or her networking skills and how an MBA can impress her at an interview…
Hi Rachel, how are things down your end?
Well, it’s day 11 without power. Most people are working from home and it’s a bit of a mess - but we’re all safe at this point.
Tell us about Semprae Laboratories in a nutshell!
Semprae Laboratories is a company founded by women for women, dedicated to the idea that all women deserve sexual satisfaction. Our flagship product is Zestra a blend of botanical oils that is scientifically proven to improve sexual satisfaction.  
What sparked the creation of Semprae Laboratories?
We bought the assets of the company that owned Zestra, seeing that there was a gap in the market for women’s sexual pleasure. We saw many products available for men but 43 per cent of women have sexual difficulties, and that is a huge market.
What do you think makes Semprae Laboratories so successful?
A couple of things: we have a culture of passion for what we do, combined with highly skilled employees in their sectors, whether it’s marketing, operations or finance. Most of our departments are small so we need each person to have a significant amount of knowledge in each field. Most people who have worked for us have been in large companies and played entrepreneurial roles. We recruit people who love the thrill of a start-up.
When making decisions we gather input and take risks. We have this passionate culture, high energy and we’re relentlessly focused on business results. We expect our employees to come in and hit the ground running, we have high expectations and want high energy from people who join us. 
What would you say is the best thing about working for Semprae Laboratories?
The main thing is that we’re creating a category that improves sexual experience, which is a life-changing category. We have women telling us what the product has done for them and their relationship. There about half a dozen common reasons womens' sexual experience is lowered, including hormonal changes after pregnancy, pre- and after the menopause, or due to the contraceptive pill. It’s something worth investing in.
What qualities do you look for when you're hiring?
High energy, problem solvers, self-starters - people who charge their own path of what needs to be done, emotionally low-maintenance, with professionalism and respect for the colleagues. I say that because I don’t always find that with other companies and people I meet along the way.
Do you specifically hire MBAs, if so for what types of positions?
Yes, mostly we have MBA’s in marketing and operations roles. In terms of recruitment we find it’s helpful to use our professional networks. Our recruitment isn’t formal, so we’d expect someone to take the initiative and reach out to us, and tell us what they think they can contribute. You can tell a lot about someone from how much research they do about the company beforehand. We don’t take people with no experience because of our size.
What would you typically pay an MBA grad?
In the low hundreds, so $80k to $150k, but the upside is an opportunity to participate in equity ownership or strategic partnership, thus being part of the company’s growth.
What advice would you give MBA students hoping to work for you?
My single biggest quality I promote is truly effective networking - so asking for jobs, asking for experience. If an MBA came to me and said this is what I’ve done, this is what problems I can solve, and treated the interview as if they were commencing the position, I would be impressed. I really want them to hit the ground running. 
And in the application process…
In applications I want to see clear examples of what they’ve contributed to other companies, actual evidence of how they’ve solved problems. The fundamental skills have to be a given, for example proof of work in the field they’re applying to.
Do you think you'd be where you are now without a Stanford MBA?
Definitely not, and for a few reasons. There were firstly areas I wanted to develop, the experience of working with really brilliant people, also the summer internship.
It also gave me a level of confidence, especially in the fundraising area. The MBA is a really meaningful a stamp of approval - people have a confidence in your basic ability, I call it the "good housekeeping skill of business approval". A person with an MBA comes with a list of things you can count on. It varies between schools, but the fundamentals are the same.
What business schools would you prefer to recruit from?
I would be predisposed to Stanford MBAs because of the entrepreneurial skills, but we don’t recruit from specific schools. Because of our leadership we use our networks at Yale and Stanford. Access to network is helpful as you have the ability to validate what people say they can do.
What's next for you and for Semprae Laboratories?
Hopefully we will launch a number of new products or buy a new product and continue to be the go-to place for female sexual health and wellness. 
Semprae Laboratories' flagship product Zestra is being offered at a reduced price for BusinessBecause readers; simply click here for the offer.