An inspiring and revelatory guide to starting and scaling a small business, from powerhouse duo Stacey Abrams and Lara Hodgson
Like many business owners, renowned politician and activist Stacey Abrams didn’t start a business because she dreamed of calling herself an entrepreneur. Her part-time post (and its $17,310 annual salary) as a member of the Georgia House of Representatives necessitated striking out on her own as a consultant—her first small business. Then, Stacey and her friend Lara Hodgson launched an infrastructure advisory firm—named Insomnia Consulting because they did their best thinking at 3:00 a.m.—and then another business, and then another.
Fifteen years into their entrepreneurial journey together, they have tackled the obstacles that many business owners face: how to grow sustainably, hire thoughtfully, and keep up with the Goliaths in your industry.
Now, for the first time, Stacey and Lara share their inspiring and relatable personal story and lessons learned the hard way to show how every business owner can confront the forces that conspire to keep small businesses small. Lauded for her “resilient, visionary leadership” (Barack Obama) and celebrated as a “passionate advocate of democracy” (Madeleine Albright), Stacey now brings her fierce sense of justice to the challenges that America’s business owners face. Level Up arms readers with the confidence, know-how, and savvy to overcome the obstacles that hold their businesses back.
Though the deck is stacked against small businesses, persistence and creative thinking can get entrepreneurs past tough times, advise politician and voting rights activist Abrams (While Justice Sleeps) and Hodgson, cofounder of an invoice payment company, in this pithy survey. The authors draw on lessons they learned running a small company that sold spill-proof water bottles for young kids, which closed in 2011, a casualty of lack of cash flow and leverage: they had to scale quickly but weren't able to. Here, they look to help leaders face "the systemic hurdles challenging small businesses more than ever," and cover what they learned about supply chain, design, scaling (leaders should focus on "really listening to the people closest to products"), promoting a product (trade shows are helpful), staffing (patience is key, in employees and in leaders doing the hiring), and getting paid on time. Helpful lessons round out each chapter ("successful partnerships require extreme candor," for example, and "get comfortable with ambiguity"), and the authors' cheerleading and assurance that "it's not you, it's them" is enormously validating and backed up by easy-to-implement tips. Small business owners who feel lost in the trenches should give this a look.