Stacey Abrams: The real risk in business is not trying
Stacey Abrams has become a well-known national figure for her suffrage advocacy, political campaigns and bestselling books. But amid her work on all these fronts in recent years, she’s also co-founded three companies.
Not all of them survived. The first was a consulting company, called Insomnia, which Abrams founded with Lara Hodgson. Soon, their interest in bringing a tangible product to market led them to found Nourish, a sterile bottle pre-filled with water.
The small business enjoyed some success and found hotel and disaster relief uses in addition to traditional retail. A turning point – a large order from a major retailer – turned into the first sign that the business was not on solid footing. But initially, what was effectively a death knell seemed like a big win.
“It took months to get a sense of the magnitude of the problem,” said Abrams, a candidate for governor of Georgia. Inc. Podcast What I Know. “There was no cinematic moment of, that’s it, you get your prognosis. Our first moment of death felt like a hit.”
With retailers placing orders and paying for them much later, Nourish found its cash flow situation unsustainable. Closing the business took years. But by then, Abrams and Hodgson had dug into the problem they faced and tried to solve it not just for themselves, but for other small businesses.
“Thirty days after sending your supplies and your product and your invoices, [a customer or retail buyer] will take care of paying you,” says Abrams. Those 30 days can turn into 60 or 90, she adds. “If you’re a small business, that’s an almost impossible standard to meet when trying to grow. You can basically lend this money for a short period of time if the bill is small. But the more the bill increases, the more you run the risk of not receiving your payment. You cannot pay your staff. You cannot buy a new product.”
Abrams and Hodgson channeled their frustration into a financial company that pays the bills for small businesses. It’s called Now, and its instant bill payment product is called Now Account. The couple don’t regret having to shut down Nourish to found Now, especially since it provided the idea for a business that could nurture many other small businesses.
Abrams says that entrepreneurship inherently involves risk. Although she says she’s not a natural risk-taker, she’s become “risk-tolerant” and advises would-be founders to stick with their ideas, even if others don’t believe it right away. continued.
“The real risk is not trying,” she says. “That, to me, is so important because when you’re willing to take risks, you see opportunities that others might not expect.”
Abrams’ new book, written with Lara Hodgson and Heather Cabot, is titled Take it to the next level: rise above the hidden forces holding your business back. To listen to the full episode, click the player below, or listen on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your audio.
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