Ignite DFW Speaker Profile: Sarah O’Leary

Ignite DFW is a night of presentations on a variety of inspired topics—with a twist. Each presentation has 20 slides which automatically advance after 15 seconds. It is a worldwide movement. The third installment of Ignite DFW takes place on Tuesday, January 26 at the Texas Theater in Oak Cliff. Click here to purchase tickets

Speaker: Sarah O’Leary

Talk Title: All I really ever needed to know I learned at Second City

For the better part of her life, Sarah was a creative leader in the advertising and marketing agency-land. She’s a published comedic and business author, a contributor to the Huffington Post since 2008, and a Level A Improv alum of the Second City Training Center in Chicago. Currently, she’s the Founder and CEO of Exhale Healthcare Advocates, a Dallas-based start-up known as “The H&R Block of Healthcare”. She’s a nationally recognized consumer healthcare expert, having appeared in the New York Times, Yahoo News, Fox Business, CBS Radio and on a host of TV and radio programs.

Consciously opposed to ever working within the healthcare space, The Universe forcibly wedged the concept of Exhale Health into Sarah’s gray matter while she was sleeping on a Tuesday in 2013. Unwilling to tempt the gods in case the dream was Divine Intervention, she began to build Exhale Health before breakfast. When she’s not obsessing about her start-up, you’ll find Sarah writing, reading, running or gaming the Wheel of Fortune machine at Dave&Busters.

What sparked the idea for your Ignite talk?

Studying at The Second City Training Center in Chicago changed my life in ways I couldn’t have imagined, and I thought the audience might find some of its lessons useful. On the first day the class the dean told us great ensemble improvisation is all about love and connection, and the lessons we learned at Second City could profoundly change our lives. He was right. Ignite DFW seemed like the perfect place to share how the experience at The Second City Training Center changed me for the better.

What’s your day job? 

I’m a nationally recognized consumer healthcare advocate and the CEO and Founder of Exhale Healthcare Advocates. In a nutshell, we’re the H&R Block of Healthcare, helping people get the healthcare they deserve for a fair price. My company just graduated in November from Health Wildcatters, a mentor driven healthcare start-up accelerator based in downtown Dallas. In a former life, I was a creative marketing executive and owner of an L.A. based agency called Methods & Madness.

What inspires you and how do you stay motivated?

I’m inspired by positive people from every walk of life that don’t let life’s setbacks get them down (or down for long). I’m motivated by the passion I have for my business and our mission: to help people fear less and live more. It’s not easy raising a start-up, but it’s worth it. If I feel my motivation waning, I lean on my pom-pom squad (a cadre of positive encouragers I assembled a few years ago) to get me back on track. Meditation, exercise, writing and play help me stay motivated at work.

What’s your secret passion?

To those who know me this is no secret: I am passionate about connection and expression. I will start a conversation with just about anyone at any time. It keeps me in the moment, and I always learn something from it. I’m also passionate about creativity in just about every form. I’ve sold a couple of paintings, a few pieces of pottery and have written a couple of few books. I also have a secret crush on CNN correspondent heartthrob Dr. Sanjay Gupta, but please don’t let him know that.

What places, spaces, and faces do you recommend for someone visiting Dallas for the first time?

Not far from the Dallas Arboretum is the Fraternal Order of Elks club house and Olympic sized swimming pool. It’s a hidden gem most locals don’t know about. You feel like you’ve been transported into the 1970s. By far it’s the biggest, loudest, and most entertaining people watching (from frat boys to hard core bikers to families having picnics in the grass) pool party in Dallas.

White Rock Lake is high on my list for anyone who likes the outdoors. Katy Trail Ice House has the best jalapeño burger I’ve ever had, and their bbq is supposed to be pretty good as well. The farmer’s market downtown Dallas is a fun stop when it’s not under construction, and of course the site of John F Kennedy’s assassination and the museum there should not be missed.

Hear more from Sarah and the 12 other speakers at Ignite DFW on Tuesday, January 26. Click here to purchase tickets

  • Raquel Vincent is a Dallas-based creative with a knack for words and inspired creative direction. When she's not working, you can find Raquel hitting a gallery opening, working on her book, or thrifting for unforgettable vintage finds. She loves music festivals, tacos, and her rescue cat Berlioz.


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