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February 26, 2019

Lead(H)er: Marybeth Sheppard, Senior Vice President of Marketing at SevenRooms

Picture this: When you show up for your dinner reservation at your new favorite restaurant, the host welcomes you back and greets you by name. Your server asks if you’d like a glass of that wine you enjoyed so much last time, and mentions that while the night’s special has dairy in it—you mentioned you had an allergy to it last time—a dairy-free option is available. Have you suddenly become an A-list celebrity without knowing it? Not quite. This restaurant is just using SevenRooms to make you feel like one.

SevenRooms is an integrated reservation and seating platform that makes everything from organizing reservations to making guests feel special that much easier. It’s an approach that Marybeth Sheppard, the company’s Senior Vice President of Marketing, takes to her own career, as well.

“I've always been in these roles where I’ve needed to take a very integrated marketing approach to manage the whole lifecycle,” Sheppard said. “How do we make sure the industry knows who we are and what we do, how do we get leads to talk to sales and engage with us, and how do we make sure they know how to use our product in a way that meets their needs?”

Sheppard earned her bachelor’s degree in communications at Seton Hall University, where a love of writing eventually became a love of marketing and the wider range of activities that fell under that umbrella. After graduation, she took a full-time role working in non-admissions marketing at her alma mater, running events including capital campaign launches designed to raise $150 million and speaker and gala events attended by such luminaries as Hillary Clinton, Kofi Anan, and Toni Morrisson.

Though the work was rewarding, Sheppard had always wanted to work at a marketing agency. She found her opportunity in Zer0 to 5ive, a B2B tech marketing agency. The experience allowed her to get a behind-the-scenes look at how different types of companies worked, from financial services to education.

“Working at an agency is a very intense experience,” Sheppard said. “You’re really working for another company’s success when you do.”

After six years, Sheppard decided to go in-house again. She was looking for a B2B company with a household name, and she found her match in Seamless, the popular food ordering and delivery site. There, Sheppard handled corporate business account sales and restaurant and delivery driver marketing. As she grew into new roles, so did the company, and Seamless eventually merged with GrubHub, with the combined company IPOing shortly after.

When she began to crave a new challenge, Sheppard again knew just what she was looking for. She hoped for company with a New York headquarters, where she could be right in the middle of the action, and for a role that continued to combine hospitality and tech.

“The hospitality industry, with its energy and its excitement, has a way of getting into your blood if it’s something you love,” Sheppard said.

SevenRooms was a natural next stop. In addition to checking all of her boxes, the company also offered Sheppard the chance to work with passionate, driven, and kind founders who had a strong vision for their company.

For Sheppard, her colleagues are often the most exciting part of working at a startup. When each person’s contribution can make such an impact, the workday becomes that much more rewarding.

“You really build a camaraderie with your colleagues around the fact that you’re building something together and that you’re part of the reason that this growth is happening,” she said.

Sheppard looks forward to the many opportunities these connections can bring and is eager to get involved in new projects that her colleagues might someday develop. Her immediate focus, though, is helping SevenRooms bring Amazon’s Alexa into the restaurant industry. In October 2018, SevenRooms received funding from the Alexa Fund, which sponsors programs designed to use voice enabled technology in innovative new ways.

“I don’t really know what that’s going to look like 10 years in the future,” Sheppard said. “But I can tell you, I’m super excited for it.”


Rapid Fire Questions

What do you like to do in your free time?

I love to cook, host, and entertain. It’s probably why I’m so drawn to hospitality and restaurants. I love to think of a big meal and cook it up for friends and family. If the weather’s nice, I’ll go play tennis or go to the beach, but cooking is year round.

How do you typically manage stress?

Luckily I’m not a very stressed or anxious person. I was born with a positive outlook, and I tend to remember that and use that. When I do get nervous about a project or other situation, I have learned that it helps me verbalize it to the people who can help do something about it. The sooner you can do that and talk about it to the people who have the ability to impact it, the better. All it takes is saying, “Hey, I’m starting to think about this. What are your thoughts?” Just being stressed for the sake of being stressed doesn't do much. I like to be action-oriented.

If I’m stressed about a personal thing, I try to ask myself, “What's the absolute worst thing in the whole world that can happen right now?” We all know that whatever it is, it would never happen. Once I ground myself like that, I can manage almost anything. I even joke with my children—freaking out is always the worst response. It always makes things worse, and calm heads always prevail.

How many cups of coffee do you drink in a day?

Two big ones, but they’re decaf, so I get to cheat a little bit. I don’t drink caffeine in theory, but I do drink a ton of decaf coffee, and there’s a little bit in there.

What’s one of your favorite places in the New York City area?

My happy place is Cape May in New Jersey. It’s a Victorian landmark city, and it has these big houses, an amazing beach, and great restaurants and bars. In the summer, we spend as much time there as we can. It’s just a two-hour drive from the city. In the city, there’s nothing like Long Meadow in Prospect Park. If I have an afternoon or a day to spend somewhere, that’s probably my favorite.

What do you consider one of your greatest accomplishments so far?

I think one of the things I’m most proud of is the relationships that I’ve built in my career and the number of people who are willing to work with me again. When people who have worked with you before know the results you’re able to produce, and how you react to good things and bad, and they want to work with you again, I take a lot of pride in that. If people are reaching out to you, that means you’re doing something right. Your professional network is invaluable.

What’s your advice for recent college graduates?

Control what you can control. What I mean by that is, for example, I may not always be the smartest in the room or the person who went to the fanciest college, but I’m on time. I work hard. I try to be the most prepared person in the meeting. So take the time to send the thank you notes and build those relationships and work on the things that don't have to do with the fact that you don’t have a Harvard MBA and someone else does. A lot of succeeding has to do with just working hard, showing up, paying attention, and listening. Do what you say you’re going to do. Be easy to work with. All of those things make an impact, and I think that’ll take them very far.


Samantha Costanzo Carleton is a Contributor to VentureFizz. You can follow her on Twitter @smcstnz.

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