Meet Sam!

8 min read

We’re thankful that so many customers use commonsku as the platform to power their business and many of you have asked about our team so, we thought we would share more about the people behind the platform!

Sam Kates is a sales powerhouse with energy and enthusiasm that few can match! As resilient in life as she is in sales, Sam has quickly led commonsku into record sales growth and has a knack for pushing (and pulling!) people around her to achieve greatness. Read her story below and you’ll discover what makes this dynamo tick!

Where were you born? Where did you grow up?

Born in Toronto (coincidentally, so was commonsku!), I lived there until I was five, then relocated to Southern Florida, until college.

How did your childhood home help shape your worldview?

I lost my dad at five and was essentially orphaned by the time I was fifteen. I lived with friends and their families for several years until I went to college. Having had a lot of loss and hardship at a young age, I can handle more stress than most and can put bad days in perspective. I was lucky to be taken in by some great people and exposed to different family units which gave me a blueprint for the kind of businesswoman and parent I wanted to be. Exposure to hardship (hopefully not too extreme) can be beneficial; it allows you to reach deeper inside yourself for strength, you can go through tough times more easily and rebound.

Where have you traveled? What was your favorite trip?

Traveling is how I would spend all my free time if I could. My favorite places in the US are California and the Oregon coast. Domestically, I have been just about everywhere. Except for Canada, Israel, and the Caribbean, I never traveled too far until last year, when I decided that for my 40th, I would go to Paris. I originally planned to go alone, but four days before my departure, my best friend called and asked if she could join, it was one of the best weeks of my life! Best friends since we were five, we traveled well together (doesn’t hurt that she speaks French!), everything was easy and wonderful. We walked over 10 miles each day without much of an agenda. We kept it low-key, avoided the big tourist attractions, and immersed ourselves in French culture. A week of amazing food, art, and walking was a dream vacation. Our mission was to find the best croissant in the city … We succeeded many times over.

What is your role at commonsku?

VP of Sales. I love working with an aggressive, entrepreneurial company who is not afraid to try new things. Everyone is invested in success and they work hard, they are there for you when things don’t go right, too!

What project are you most proud of that you have worked on for commonsku?

Marketing and enhancing our supplier products. Having been on the supplier side, I know first hand how hard it is to ferret out real opportunities and maximize the reps’ time to the fullest. There are a lot of demands on our supplier friends, only commonsku provides a transparent and authentic way to connect distributors to suppliers, where and when it matters most.

 What do you enjoy doing when not at work?

My kids would say my hobby is work! (You know you love what you do when you spend your free time doing it). Aside from work, I love to cook and bake. I find it relaxing. I test recipes and make huge messes in the kitchen (I was never good at the cleaning-while-you-go thing!) I love spin classes, listening to podcasts, hanging out with my kids, and am only slightly obsessed with my 80lb Goldendoodle, Emmett.

Why do you love to cook?

My mom was not very domestic. She owned several businesses and was rarely home when I was younger. However, our family put a lot of care, time, and emphasis on food. My favorite memories are the meals and recipes my grandmother would make and the feeling of family around them. Since I was an only child and home alone a lot, I taught myself how to cook at a very young age. (A great hobby when you have a bit of ADD – it can keep you occupied for hours!) I later owned a business in the food industry and found that preparing and feeding others was one of the most gratifying experiences for me. We eat as a family every night, always have, this was not something I had growing up. Having a good meal with everyone around the table is important to me. Plus, I learned, as a parent, you get the real inside scoop from your kids around the dinner table.

Do you have a favorite meal?

I have eaten in some of the best restaurants in the US. Four waiters, thirteen courses (looking at you, French Laundry). But I would trade all that for simple meals:

  • a sandwich from Paseo in Seattle (about the shackiest place you can imagine)
  • a 2-Euro Burre Sucre crepe on the Champs Elysees
  • my grandmother’s Chicken Fricassee (standing over her stove with Challah in hand)
  • Dim Sum at 11:30 at night with my kids after a Broadway show in NYC
  • Hattie B’s Hot Chicken in Nashville
  • or my absolute fave, Hummus from Dizengoff (Go – trust me!)

The best food is usually an unexpected delight, made with love, and inexpensive!

Where do you draw inspiration from? Who inspires you?

I admire women who do not take a back seat, and who are not afraid to go after their dreams, women who teach their children that it is healthy to have a career and be a mother at the same time.

What accomplishments are you most proud of?

As a single mom of four kids, I am proud of how my kids handle my schedule and our crazy life. They are remarkable people who have been through a lot; they are resilient, funny, empathetic and supportive. Life can be hard and can take you down unexpected paths, but it is how you react and adjust that matters.

What hobby or skill would you like to develop (but haven’t found the time to do so just yet)?

Oh, so many … I aspire to be an excel expert (I know enough to be dangerous but am not an expert). I wish I could run longer distances without getting bored … and how to not eat a cookie when it’s available (that would be a killer skill to acquire).

What has been one or two of the most significant moments in your life?

We don’t recognize the significant moments when they occur, do we? My mother passed away two years ago; we had been estranged for over 15 years up to that point with minimal interaction. She died relatively alone (other than me). As distant as we were, I was surprised how profound her loss was and how that impacted me (and still does). Someone can be out of your life in a physical way, but still part of you. It changes how you spend your life and where you put your energies.

The second one that comes to mind was when I started a business with a friend back in 2007. We had an idea, something we were passionate about, and it became a franchised organization with locations around the U.S. The business centered around feeding children healthier meals in school. Being at the core of an issue that mattered so much to me was an incredible experience. How often do we get to take our passions and turn them into work? It was backbreaking, but it taught me so much. I learned every angle of business: sales, marketing, legal, operations, finance (you name it). It set the stage for doing work I believe in, thinking like an owner, and learning how to focus on the things that matter.

What holiday moment stands out to you the most?

I love Thanksgiving. We never celebrated it as a kid (being Canadian). But I made it a tradition. I like frying a turkey. Last year, I didn’t check my equipment in advance. I marinated the turkey, bought all the oil, and made all the sides. When it came to flying time (which is like 60 minutes before mealtime!), the fryer shut off. I thought I needed more propane (good luck finding propane at 5 pm on Thanksgiving), but it turned out I needed a new fryer. Plan B mode: I hacked the turkey into ten chunks and put pots of oil on the stove. I fried the turkey in pieces, in different pans. It was a total mess and nearly set the house on fire. But, it sorta worked. Dinner was saved. Stressful, but we all laughed so hard that night. It was worth it.

Do you gravitate to projects or people more?

I am a mix of both, an introverted extrovert. When I have free time, I love purging and cleaning things: Cabinets, closets, kids clothing, countertops. But after a while, I miss interacting with people and go engage …. only to exhaust myself and then retreat to my alone world again. Vicious cycle.

What is your favorite boring activity?

Hanging with my dog. Budgeting and finance. When things get chaotic, I find peace and balance in doing budgeting and reconciling, it helps me feel more in control.

What are you typically doing on a Friday evening or a Saturday morning?

Cooking dinner. Cleaning up from dinner. Cooking breakfast (usually some elaborate brunch set-up to appease everyone). Cleaning up from breakfast. Depending on the season: Saturdays are spent at baseball games, soccer games, crew regattas, or all three simultaneously!


Also published on Medium.