Sada Naegelin: The Innovator

Sada by Adrienne Barnett

Sada by Adrienne Barnett

Interview by: Monica Valenzuela

Sada Naegelin and her mother Ana Consuelo Matiella launched their app, De Las Mías TM in January 2018. De Las Mías TM is a healthy lifestyle platform for Latinas in the United States. Latino people are nearly two times more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes and 1.5 times more likely to die from it. Latinas are the hub of the family--to affect Latina health is to impact the health of Latino families. Sada and her mother realized that their Latino community was hungry for representation and science based facts. 

Being Latina, I knew how important this app would be for so many. I knew I had to meet these incredible women. A few weeks back, I visited Portland and met Sada and Ana at Sada’s baby shower. Knowing full well that a baby shower wasn’t the best place for an interview, we planned to set up a phone interview once I got back to Austin.  

Family and culture are important to you, so it comes as no surprise that your mom is the Co-creator of this app. What was it like to work with your family on this venture?

Well it was actually a surprise for us to work with each other. As long as I can remember my mom owned her own business and worked in health and education. She created photonovellas (photo books that help Latinas with low illiteracy educate themselves on their health) for her community and was always passionate about that. I was always a part of the process growing up but I knew that’s not what I wanted to do, I didn’t want to work in health education. I ended up going to school for design. I worked in publication design and for a few design firms for awhile, then decided I wanted to go back to school and ended up going to The California College of the Arts in San Francisco for my MBA in Design Strategy. Around that time, my mom had received a grant for one of her photonovellas. That garnered some exposure for her, and that’s when the idea of the app started to form. She then decided to apply for a big grant of $1.7 million by the National Institutes of Health. (National Institutes of Health - National Cancer Institute - Small Business Innovation Research program, NCI Grant # 4R44CA177037-02). It was a highly competitive process, but my mother ended up getting the grant. 

Once I was finished with school and received my MBA, we both realized that we had complimentary skills and we could create this app together. Working with my family is challenging at times but it’s also effortless, if that makes any sense. And it’s not just my mother who helps us: my mothers sister, my tia, works in our test kitchen with our nutritionist to create all of the healthy and flavorful recipes you see in the app. So it really is a family effort and overall, it’s a very special experience for me.

Sada and her mother Ana in her Portland home

Sada and her mother Ana in her Portland home

In a Matter of weeks you will be a new mom. There’s probably a million things that are going through your head at any given moment. What is one piece of advice your mom has given you in order to prepare for your first born? 

Very early on when my mom/boss found out I was expecting, she told me that the next nine months are just about me and the baby. Everything else is second. It wasn’t really advice but it ended up being something important that I needed to remind myself at all times. I would find myself working too much or wanting to put my all into the app but needed to slow down because it would be best for the baby. 

Another thing she has shown me in order to prepare for this pregnancy, and actually has perpetuated my whole life, is to learn with intention. Being a researcher and reading tons of books and really retaining as much knowledge as I can. It has really helped my pregnancy and hopefully has prepared me once I become a parent. 

What is one piece of advice you want to share with your child?

One of the big lessons I’ve learned is working on fostering acceptance. How to do that as a parent... I’m not sure, haha. But I think it’s important to give that to them and allow them to handle whatever life throws at them. Our parents’ generation told us that we could be anything, but when I was in college that wasn’t the truth and it was a rude awakening for me. I want to lead by example. Maybe if they see me foster acceptance with anything, then maybe they’ll learn to practice it.

Monica Valenzuela