Stephanie bootstrapped her first company to $20 million in revenue from St. Louis. Her second, also from St. Louis, is venture-funded and crossed $10 million in revenue last year. Awesome entrepreneur, inspiring woman!
Sramana Mitra: Let’s start with the very beginning of your journey. Where are you from? Where were you born, raised, and in what kind of background?
Stephanie Leffler: I am from Northern Virginia in Fairfax. I was actually born and raised there. Ultimately, I went to school at Washington and Lee University. I found my way to St. Louis as part of my entrepreneurial journey. I’ve lived here ever since. >>>
Blackbaud is a SaaS company that caters to the philanthropic segment—helping non-profits manage their donor management workflows. This interview explores the trends and evolutions of the sector.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s start by introducing our audience to Blackbaud and yourself.
Mary Beth Westmoreland: I’m Chief Technology Officer and Senior Vice President of Product Development at Blackbaud. Blackbaud has actually been around for quite some time. We’re the leading provider of software and services for the global philanthropic community. A big chunk of that is the non-profit space. We’ve grown our customer base by about 15% and our stock price by about 70% over the past two years. We’re a growing company. We serve more than 35,000 customers today in the philanthropic space and also the consumers. >>>
Paula Tompkins started her bootstrapped digital marketing venture in 1985. She has navigated massive industry level shifts, three significant downturns, and has managed to remain relevant. The company today does $20M+ in annual revenue.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s start at the very beginning of your journey. Where are you from? Where were you born, raised, and in what kind of background?
Paula Tompkins: I was born and raised in Huntington, West Virginia. I was the first of my family to be college-educated. I went to Marshall University. It was a local university in my hometown. I graduated with a Business degree in 1974. My mother was a hairdresser. My father owned a shoe store. My father was a first generation Lebanese. My mother has a multi-generational Irish-English-Welsh background. >>>
Over the years, I have observed a lot of people struggle with their newfound freedom as empty nesters. With children off in college after 18 years of dedicated nurturing, many parents find themselves lost. Especially for those parents with no professional identity, this phase of life becomes particularly challenging.
Demographic trends suggest that this problem is acute in stay-at-home moms who have spent a couple of decades chauffeuring kids around, attending school events, perhaps even volunteering at the kids’ schools.
I’d like to see some entrepreneurs take this problem on, and create meaningful platforms for engagement for these women who have a lot to offer to society.
As I am thinking through the solutions needed to help older engineers reconfigure their careers [Ref. A Startup Idea To Help Older, Laid-off Engineers], I am also thinking about a related issue: older women trying to get back into the workforce.
I know too many talented women who are now in their forties and fifties, and some even in their sixties, looking to start working again. Their travails are gut wrenching. The ten-, twenty-year gaps in their resumes stare back at them like menacing, identity-destroying demons.
You know I don’t buy into the men saying that there’s a bias against women entrepreneurs in the industry. Janet doesn’t either. Here’s an opportunity to learn from her success in building solid revenues, and a profitable business.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s start at the very beginning of your story. Where are you from? Where were you born, raised, and in what kind of background?
Janet Kosloff: I was born and raised on Long Island in New York. My father owned a diner in Queens. He was from Brooklyn. My mother was from a small town in Central Pennsylvania. I had a fairly typical upbringing. I went to college at the State University of New York and I studied Nursing. I started my career as a nurse not necessarily because I had a passion for nursing. It was more so because I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do with my life. My family guided me into that career for the reason that I had an affinity for science. >>>
On March 31st, I gave a talk at Hacker Dojo in Mountain View for the Women Who Code group. In it, I addressed many of the myths about being a female entrepreneur that are currently circulating in the industry. For example:
And many others.
Here’s a recording of the session. I do believe those of you who are navigating these issues would find this useful.
In case you missed it, you can listen to the recording here:
During this week’s roundtable, we had as our guest Heidi Roizen, Operating Partner at DFJ Venture, who discussed her important article, “How to Build a Unicorn From Scratch – and Walk Away with Nothing,” and imparted crucial lessons to entrepreneurs on how to look at terms in a venture financing situation.
As I was writing the previous post, 10 Women Leaders Of VC-Funded Companies, I noticed that six out of the 10 companies I included on the list followed aBootstrap First, Raise Money Later strategy.
My point of view is that as long as you follow this strategy, your chances of raising money is always going to be higher, whether you are a man or a woman.