About The Power Of Purpose, The Skill Of Debate And Building Yourself All Over From The Ashes

Sharon Barak,
CEO & Co-Founder at Solutum

A strong “why”

Sharon always wanted to do something of her own, but didn’t know what and how she’s going to do it in the beginning. What she did know is that it had to answer those criterias:

1) Be within her expertise areas - an arena where she knows that she's doing

2) Have a great impact for the world

She spent years as an employee, having a great career, learning a lot in her last job about the world of plastics - the good and the bad - and then all the dots connected. She knew that plastic is good, but it creates huge pollution at the end of its life. She was determined to find a solution for the planet. So she quit her job and became an entrepreneur.

Then came some turbulence at the age of 35. Her relationship at the time ended, she had no job, which means no money and no place to live. She hit rock bottom. But from that place, she realized what it means to be there for herself, truly. The power needs to come from within. She invested all of herself in her startup, living in her aunt’s and uncle’s apartment for a year, creating everything from the ashes.

From nothing to everything

How do you keep on going when there's no promise for achievement in the future?

1. Sharon had no plan B - there's no other way. She was passionate and believed in what she was doing.

2. She enjoyed what she was doing, and so she could live it and give it her all.

3. Having a good support system - she had her family, she met Maya who started the company with her and believed in her. Even as adults, we all need that one person who believes in us, that will help us take the next step.

Sharon shares that in hindsight, she probably made every mistake in the book on her journey of founding her startup. She shares about trying to bring a person she admired for his knowledge in tech and business to be her co-founder, although he wasn’t really into it. In the process of making a contract, they couldn’t get into agreement and things turned ugly, to the point where they had to involve lawyers, which meant that the business was in a loss before it even started - it was a scary point for her. 

She handled the situation through being very upfront with the investors, and luckily they were willing to take the risk. The second thing she did, is putting the lawyers aside and meeting with him in person. This made a huge difference, and allowed them to end things on friendly terms. That was a big lesson for her, teaching her about the importance of making a contract from the very beginning of working together - don’t just trust luck.

I (Gali) always tell the entrepreneurs I coach - if we’re not willing to speak about the major parts in the beginning, then later on they will find their way to come into the surface as much bigger issues. It’s crucial to know if we’re aligned before we choose to work together. Look the fear in the eyes, don’t avoid it.


In her 4th year at the university, Sharon had a big project to present in front of the entire chemical engineering department - and even the thought of that was terrifying to her. She was frustrated, thinking of what she can do, when a friend told her about the debate team - and she jumped on the opportunity. 

The first few sessions were terrible. A couple of months later, she won first place in a debate competition - and completely fell in love with it. It taught her many lessons that served her later as an entrepreneur - the value of listening deeply to the other opponent, how to study and practice before the debate itself  in order to plan the strategy for convincing, and of course - how to speak in front of an audience: “I don’t know how I would have done the startup without it.” Now when she needs to do a pitch, she can manage that with all the tools she learned.

The power of listening

As the founder of her startup managing her team, she found that what helps her employees shine and express their great ideas is simply - shut up, and listen. In meetings, she resists the urge to speak first and gives her team the space, and they come up with amazing ideas - that’s why she picked them, after all. She still makes her voice heard, but she allows others actively by waiting to do that as well. It's not easy, but it’s a learning muscle, and the benefits are enormous. 

Bringing entrepreneurship into a traditional industry

Sharon definitely ‘stood out from the crowd’, and people didn’t really know how to handle her unique position, coming from such different worlds. When she went as part of the delegation of Weact of the wonderful Darya Henig Shaked to Silicon Valley, people didn't know what Water soluble Plastic is, and Sharon faced the challenge of raising money as a woman entrepreneur, as well as pitching something that doesn't have a “sexy” ring to it. 

The turning point was when she realized words are not enough - they need to see it with their own eyes. So she showed them a plastic bag that can dissolve in contact with water - and indeed, it made a huge difference. Now she had them hooked, and managed to raise a few millions of dollars.

When I asked Sharon what she wishes for herself for her soon to come birthday, she shared about how lucky she feels with her life partner, 2 kids and her startup, and that she simply wishes for it to stay that way. Enjoying and maintaining the beautiful relationship with her supportive partner, raising her two sons, raising the next round for her company, and enjoying the great team she has built.

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