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    Stacey Abrams: How to harness risk

    Building trust with potential customers and partners is crucial for business success. Networking and leveraging existing relationships can help gain credibility and attract customers. Perseverance and exploring alternative paths can lead to success.

    enSeptember 12, 2023

    About this Episode

    For some entrepreneurs, risk is just part of the game. But for the reluctant entrepreneur, whose endeavors come as a response to a need they've identified, risk can feel more like a necessary evil. That’s why you need to learn to harness risk. Stacey Abrams, an entrepreneur and scale leader both in and outside of politics, is a perfect example of how harnessing risk can be key to your success. Outside of politics, she’s started three companies with her business partner, Lara Hodgson. Their new book, Level Up: Rise Above the Hidden Forces Holding Your Business Back, dives into the lessons learned from those experiences. She also founded and scaled two voting rights organizations: the New Georgia Project and Fair Fight Action, as well as the census mobilization effort Fair Count and the Southern Economic Advancement Project.

    Read Level Up: Rise Above the Hidden Forces Holding Your Business Back, by Stacey Abrams and Lara Hodgson: https://amzn.to/36bw5Ay

    Read a transcript of this episode: https://mastersofscale.com

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    🔑 Key Takeaways

    • Collaboration and utilizing individual strengths effectively are crucial in entrepreneurship. Finding a balance between different approaches leads to success in achieving common goals.
    • Success as an entrepreneur is not determined by personal preferences or comfort levels with risk. Embracing failure and taking calculated chances can lead to success in entrepreneurship, regardless of one's initial inclination towards it.
    • Stacey Abrams shows how leveraging individual strengths and networks in a collaborative business partnership can bridge divides and lead to success.
    • Understanding and managing essential risks, along with having a balanced team, are key factors in creating something new and valuable as an entrepreneur.
    • Entrepreneurs can overcome challenges and gain valuable insights by embracing curiosity, resourcefulness, and seeking guidance from experienced mentors.
    • Nourish found success by targeting places of high inconvenience, effectively utilizing a boutique strategy, and demonstrating humility and self-confidence when fundraising.
    • Overcoming biases in the fundraising process involves breaking free from limited networks, embracing uniqueness, and building trust through honesty and hard work.
    • Scaling a business requires careful planning, adaptability, efficiency, financial management, and strong relationships with suppliers and customers to overcome unexpected obstacles and keep the business afloat.
    • Failing fast allows for early recognition of flaws and provides an opportunity to pivot to a new venture, leading to long-term success in business.
    • NowAccount provides small businesses with the opportunity to receive immediate payment for their goods and services by buying their unpaid invoices, offering a reliable solution for growth and financial support.
    • Building trust with potential customers and partners is crucial for business success. Networking and leveraging existing relationships can help gain credibility and attract customers. Perseverance and exploring alternative paths can lead to success.

    📝 Podcast Summary

    Balancing Different Approaches in Entrepreneurship

    There is a place for both the "Yes" and "But" approaches in entrepreneurship if they work in harmony. Stacey Abrams and Lara Hodgson, co-founders of Insomnia Consulting, exemplify these two different approaches. While Stacey focused on efficiently accomplishing the mission and marshaling resources where they mattered most, Lara demonstrated relentless pursuit and determination, willing to stay in the icy river until the goal was achieved. Both approaches were valid and led to success for Stacey and Lara as scale leaders. This conversation highlights the importance of understanding individual strengths and utilizing them effectively in an entrepreneurial journey. It emphasizes the need for collaboration and finding a balance between different approaches to achieve common goals.

    Embracing Risk and Finding Success in Entrepreneurship

    There is no one-size-fits-all definition of an entrepreneur. Whether someone prefers an open or closed office, or their comfort level with risk, does not determine their success as an entrepreneur. Some individuals are naturally inclined towards entrepreneurship, driven by a desire for independence and the excitement of taking risks. Others may stumble into entrepreneurship as a practical solution to address a need. These "reluctant entrepreneurs" can utilize their risk aversion to their advantage by being more cautious and calculated in their decision-making. Stacey Abrams, a successful entrepreneur both in and outside of politics, exemplifies the ability to harness risk and take calculated chances. Ultimately, the path to entrepreneurship can vary greatly, and embracing failure as a learning experience is an important aspect of the journey.

    Stacey Abrams: Entrepreneur, Politician, and Advocate for Collaboration

    Stacey Abrams's journey as an entrepreneur and politician taught her valuable lessons about recordkeeping, attention to detail, and the power of collaboration. Starting her consulting firm, Sage Works, allowed her to utilize her unique skill set and secure clients like the nonprofit overseeing the Atlanta BeltLine. Despite having different political beliefs, Stacey and her business partner, Lara Hodgson, found common ground in their shared values and desire to bring unique infrastructure projects to life. Their complementary approaches as co-founders of Insomnia Consulting allowed them to bridge political divides and land clients from various backgrounds. This conversation highlights the importance of leveraging individual strengths and networks in a collaborative business partnership.

    Embracing Essential Risks for Entrepreneurial Success

    As an entrepreneur, it is crucial to understand and take essential risks. Rather than trying to minimize risk as much as possible, it is important to identify the intrinsic risks of the entrepreneurial path and manage them fiercely. This includes risks such as product-market fit, MVP testing, outpacing competition, and acquiring the right talent. By aligning behind these essential risks, entrepreneurs can focus their efforts on creating something new, important, and valuable. Additionally, it is necessary to have a team that balances both gung-ho risk-taking and cautious risk-aversion. Different perspectives and tools are crucial for effectively assessing and managing risks. The conversation highlights the story of Lara and Stacey, who founded a successful baby water company by recognizing an essential risk and taking the leap.

    Curiosity, resourcefulness, and mentorship: the keys to entrepreneurial success.

    Curiosity and resourcefulness are essential traits for entrepreneurs. Stacey and Lara, despite having little knowledge about manufacturing, embraced their intellectual curiosity and actively sought to understand the industry. They asked questions, visited plants, and read books, ultimately transforming their fears into opportunities for learning and growth. Additionally, they leveraged their networks and sought advice from experienced entrepreneurs like Sara Blakely to navigate the early stages of their business. This highlights the importance of building alliances and seeking guidance from those who have already paved the way. By combining curiosity, resourcefulness, and mentorship, entrepreneurs can overcome challenges and gain valuable insights to launch and grow their ventures.

    Identifying the Right Market and Mitigating Supply Chain Risks

    Nourish understood their product-market fit by identifying where their customers would most need their product. They realized that their convenience product was not needed when people were at home with easy access to alternatives. Instead, they focused on targeting places of high inconvenience, such as airports and hospitals, where their product became a necessity. By adopting a boutique strategy and partnering with small sellers, Nourish was able to mitigate risks to their supply chain and determine if their product was a fit without large financial investments. Additionally, the conversation highlights the challenges of fundraising for entrepreneurs, particularly those who come from disadvantaged communities. There is a need for humility and self-confidence in convincing investors to invest in their vision.

    Challenging biases and embracing uniqueness in entrepreneurship and investing.

    Entrepreneurs and investors alike need to challenge societal biases in the fundraising process. It is important for investors to break free from their limited networks and apply a broader mindset when assessing risks. The disproportionate amount of investment going to male and white founders reveals systemic biases that need to be addressed. On the other hand, entrepreneurs should embrace their uniqueness and shape their pitch and business according to their own image. Stacey Abrams and Lara Hodgson demonstrate the power of leveraging differing styles and strengths to make their company stronger. Additionally, they emphasize the importance of honesty and hard work in building trust with investors. Ultimately, problems should never be seen as deal breakers if one refuses to let them be.

    The challenges of scaling a business and the importance of efficiency, resource management, finance, and relationships.

    Scaling a business requires careful planning and adaptability. Stacey and Lara encountered the challenge of meeting increased demand for their product after securing a major order from Whole Foods. Despite their excitement, they were quick to realize the need for efficiency and resource management. Stacey's practical approach ensured they focused on getting things done rather than getting carried away with celebrations. Additionally, they faced the issue of delayed payments from major companies like Whole Foods, which impacted their ability to meet growing costs. This highlights the importance of managing finances and establishing strong relationships with suppliers and customers. Ultimately, the conversation emphasizes the need for entrepreneurs to be prepared for unexpected obstacles and to find creative solutions to keep their business afloat.

    Recognizing the need for change and embracing failure can lead to future success in business.

    Failing fast is often better than languishing in a business that is destined to fail. It can be difficult to let go of a business, especially when you've invested a significant amount of time and resources into it, but if there is a fundamental flaw at the core, it is better to recognize it early on and pivot to a new venture. Taking calculated risks and addressing the essential risks first is crucial in business success. In the case of Nourish, their failure to scale led them to discover a major gap in the market and ultimately pivot to a new company, NowAccount, which addressed the problem they encountered. Recognizing and addressing systemic challenges is also essential for long-term success.

    Immediate Payment Solution for Small Businesses

    NowAccount was founded to address the problem of small businesses not being able to get immediate payment for their goods and services. The founders, Stacey, Lara, and John, identified a gap in the market and drew inspiration from the restaurant payment model, where customers pay immediately. They created a business model that allows small businesses to get paid immediately by buying their unpaid invoices for the full amount, charging a predictable 3% fee. NowAccount intentionally sought out businesses considered too risky by traditional lenders and built a strong partnership with the government for additional capital support. They also prioritized growth over quick selling by choosing the right equity partner. Despite sounding too good to be true, their goal is to provide a reliable solution for small businesses.

    Building Trust and Leveraging Relationships in Business

    Stacey and Lara learned the importance of building trust with potential customers and partners in order to succeed in their business ventures. They recognized that people are more likely to trust a business if it is endorsed by someone they already trust. By establishing strong relationships with credit unions, which have close connections with small business owners, Stacey and Lara were able to gain credibility and attract their first customers. This highlights the significance of networking and leveraging existing relationships to grow a business. Furthermore, the conversation emphasizes the value of providing support to small businesses and creating opportunities for job creation and stability. It encourages founders to persevere and explore alternative paths even in the face of failure, recognizing that multiple avenues can lead to success.

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