Answering the Call of Entrepreneurship Are you all in as an entrepreneur in business and in life? Stephanie Breedlove took a leap of faith, left the corporate world, and answered the call of entrepreneurship. Over the next few years she built a thriving business while simultaneously raising two young children, eventually selling her start-up for more than $50 million. In All In: How Women Entrepreneurs Can Think Bigger, Build Sustainable Businesses, and Change the World, Breedlove outlines the hows and whys behind the decisions that led her towards success. Her inspiring message empowers readers to be all they are called to be, to set the bar higher, and to grow businesses with economic impact and power.All In explores the current status of women in growth businesses, debunks myths surrounding entrepreneurship, and gives practical advice and support for women who want to start or grow their own businesses. Using research, case studies, and transparent insights from her own journey, Breedlove gives her readers the information and authentic guidance they need to take the leap and bravely make tough choices on the road to success.
|Publisher:||Greenleaf Book Group Press|
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.90(d)|
About the Author
Stephanie Breedlove has been walking the walk of a successful entrepreneur for more than twenty years. After launching a career in corporate America with Accenture, she found her true calling as co-founder and CEO of Care.com HomePay, the largest household payroll & tax firm in the country. She’s traveled the full journey from start-up to successful exit, and wants to help other women take the leap into entrepreneurship.
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How Women Entrepreneurs Can Think Bigger, Build Sustainable Business, and Change the World
By Stephanie Breedlove, Tammy Kling
Greenleaf Book Group PressCopyright © 2017 Breedlove Ventures, LLC
All rights reserved.
Go All In
"Entrepreneurs consider themselves very happy, and entrepreneurs who go into business to pursue an opportunity are among the happiest."
— Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, 2013 Global Report
It was predawn on a Sunday morning a few weeks into my freshman year in college. There was a frantic knock on my dorm door, followed by a panicked cry for help. It brought virtually everyone out of bed and into the hall in moments. Sleepy-eyed and adjusting to the bright hallway light, we were jolted into reality as we learned that one of the girls in the room next to me had been found unconscious and not breathing. There were more than twenty of us gathered, trying to digest what was happening. Someone frantically placed the 911 call, and then the RA calmly asked if anyone could help until the paramedics arrived. We were standing in a circle around our friend's lifeless body, silent, doing nothing.
I had a knot in my stomach, the kind that makes you physically weak. I was a lifeguard trained in CPR but had never used these skills. I remember being afraid I didn't have the experience or skill needed to help. I was afraid of failure, yet I was more afraid for my friend. I recognized the need to push my fear aside and find the confidence to take action. A life was at stake, and I seemed to be the only one who could make a difference. I stepped forward, muttering something about CPR training and lack of experience, and with the RA at my side, I went to work. I methodically followed my training. She was clammy and pale, and the process required much more strength than I had anticipated. Her chest lifted as air successfully filled her lungs and then released. I didn't want to stop to take her pulse. I just hoped she had a heartbeat.
The fifteen minutes of CPR prior to the paramedics' arrival seemed like hours. We retreated into the hall as the paramedics closed the door. Finally the door opened and the stretcher appeared, with a zipped body bag on top. They pulled me aside and explained that she had experienced a grand mal seizure and had died before being found. There was nothing any of us could have done. Most of the discussion was focused not on her passing but on my heroic efforts.
Feeling alone and empty, I watched them push the stretcher down the hall until they were out of sight. I didn't feel like a hero. Strangely, I didn't feel like a failure, either. I believed I had a chance to make a difference, and I knew I'd make the same choice again. From this tragic event, a gift emerged: a self-awareness of my desire for and trust in the benefit of being all in. It is a core part of who I am, of what defines me, and I began to embrace it as integral to my path at a young age. It was truly a gift.
Your Defining Moment
Have you ever had a crossroads moment? Many of us have experienced a life moment with deep impact, driving us to achieve more than we ever imagined. Some people lose a loved one unexpectedly. Others experience a divorce, a breakup, or a financial crisis. It's often the darkest moments that make us dig deep and draw upon the gifts we carry inside. In that moment in that dorm room I was all in. For whatever reason, I was the one who didn't want to give up.
Many years have passed, and the calling to be all in has taken me down an entrepreneurial path as a co-founder of a self-funded company that has grown to enterprise level and national leadership. It has developed the best me, the one we all really want to become.
So who is Stephanie Breedlove? We all have the star-studded bio laced with accomplishments and achievements, and then there's the real us. The value is in knowing which is the real you and in being incredibly comfortable in that skin. The real me is rolling through the peaks and valleys of life filled with good and bad decisions, amazing successes, and debilitating failures. There is always so much to do and so little time. I'm in balance for a millisecond and then out of balance, given the dynamic nature of life. Just when I feel prioritized, all of a sudden things are falling off the plate. I'm confident one minute and full of doubt the next. I'm breaking new ground and then feeling guilty when I bump up against societal norms. I'm feeling that life is great but wondering why there is so much of it. And somehow through it all, I know I am where I am supposed to be and doing what I was meant to do.
I do not come from a long line of wealthy, connected people. Nor do I have a rags-to-riches story. I am most likely similar to you, and I have a journey that is worth sharing so that it will be traveled over and over again by many women. My hope is that you will read this book and say, "I can do what she did!" Your journey may not be exactly like mine, but you will certainly be inspired to blaze your own trail.
I am from an upper-middle-class family and am the oldest of three daughters. My parents are from blue-collar families in coastal south Texas. My father was the first in his family to attend college. With an undergraduate business degree and an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, he set out to make his mark on the emerging corporate world in 1963. I was born before my mother completed her degree, and she became a traditional homemaker with total responsibility for raising children and managing all aspects of home life. My father was a focused, proud breadwinner.
My family crisscrossed the Northeast and Midwest for much of my childhood with corporate moves. By the time I was eleven, I had lived in New Jersey, Michigan, Ohio, and Texas and had attended five different schools. In my middle-school years, my parents left the corporate rat race for an entrepreneurial life. They returned to their home state, purchasing a hardware store in Bryan–College Station, Texas. I spent summers unloading trucks, pricing merchandise, running a cash register, and working in the accounting office.
I enjoyed academia and was taught to value education. I am a firm believer in the long-lasting benefits it offers. I was one of seven valedictorians of my high school class (a basic four-point scale produced a number of students with a 4.0). I was fortunate to have parents who could financially support my college education, but with two sisters on my heels it was necessary to attend a state school. I have an undergraduate degree in finance from the University of Texas at Austin and an MBA from the University of Houston. My husband and business partner, Bill, has a degree in petroleum engineering and an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin.
Bill and I have similar backgrounds. Our families were friends since we were teenagers, and our childhood friendship turned into a serious relationship my junior year of college. We were married within a few weeks of graduation after little more than a year of dating, and we settled in Houston where Bill was working. I was interested in a graduate degree, and Houston had two offerings, Rice University and the University of Houston (U of H). I could only afford one. I completed my graduate degree at U of H, and our jobs took us from Houston to Denver. I went to work for Accenture (previously Andersen Consulting), and Bill joined the consulting division of Ernst & Young. It was 1989.
I valued my corporate career and was breaking new ground. Not only did I work in a male-dominated field, but both of our sons were born in the early 1990s during my career with Accenture. After six years in corporate America, I left a middle-management position for full-time entrepreneurship and became the captain of a self-funded fledgling business in our basement, with my husband burning the midnight oil on the side. During this time, we were raising two toddlers, living on one salary, and had no financial support from our families or outside investments. We were doing lean before lean was cool. Pretty much everyone thought we were crazy.
Care.com HomePay (previously Breedlove & Associates) delivers payroll, tax, and HR services to the in-home care industry — families with nannies and eldercare. The idea started in a basement, grew to national leadership, and has experienced growth every year since its inception in 1992. It was generating $15 million in annual revenue at my exit and continues to grow in impact and value. I realized a true entrepreneurial dream. Each accomplishment often seemed to require commitment and confidence at groundbreaking levels. However, when I look back and view them as parts of a whole, the full journey has a natural progression that anyone can follow.
Breedlove & Associates was started because we had an idea that we couldn't get out of our heads. Combine that with a growing desire to give more than the corporate box allowed for at any point on the ladder, and the entrepreneurial desire grew. The endeavor became my full-time job in 1995. Our children were two and four. We had $40,000 in savings to fund the business and Bill's salary to pay the bills — barely. Somehow we found a way. Was it crazy hard work? Absolutely. But what you get in return makes it worth doing a hundred times over. Some of the best times of my life were during those risky, lean, bring-ya-to-your-knees years.
I co-founded a self-funded company that became a true success in every sense of the word. I know without a doubt that it has done far more for me than I ever did for it. I am an entrepreneur by passion, calling, and skill, and the path took me from solopreneur to CEO and thought leader. I am a parent of two truly remarkable sons, now grown and embarking on the journey to find their own callings. I am a wife married to my best friend and business partner. I am a daughter and sister to a loving, supportive, and sometimes rowdy family. I am a mentor and a mentee. I am a friend to any who will have me. I bet this list describes most of you, too — proof that the entrepreneurial journey is for everyone who truly wants it.
Mostly, I am a person who has had this compass or unusual clarity (I'm not sure what to call it) that is yanking on me to be painfully focused on becoming the best me, the person your soul wants you to become. In other words, I'm all in. My drive took me on a journey to break with many norms to become an entrepreneur and to embrace the unbridled potential for both the company and for me. This focus drove me to build a family with new norms built on equality and to live a prioritized, paced, and integrated life that in many ways has been in direct conflict with our societal norms where more is better and life is about having it all. Life is about living the way you design it.
BUSINESS STRATEGY 2: BE ALL IN.
Being all in is a key ingredient for going everywhere you want to go. It means giving all you've got. It requires an unwavering belief in its value. It delivers an unbelievable level of enjoyment from the hard work required, independent of results.
In my time building a company, I was living my own life in search of the best me and the best I could bring to those in my life. I wasn't trying to tackle barriers or to prove professional and societal establishments wrong. I wasn't attempting to help usher in a better way to build a company or to integrate life, or to prove that work and family are complementary, not mutually exclusive. I was not attempting to show that men want and deserve to be equal parents.
I am also not ahead of my time. I am simply a part of the group that is in the beginning of the evolution of women in entrepreneurship. I have learned that I have an opportunity to affect the evolution, proof that one person, one business, one family, even one conversation can make a difference. Your journey is making the same difference. I have learned that I am a woman with a successful business and family model that does make me an agent for change. I don't have all of the answers we seek, but I can contribute openly and honestly about life as an entrepreneur as part of the efforts to find the answers.
Designing Your Own Life
While traveling the entrepreneurial path, most of my decisions in business, marriage, and family required a leap into the unknown. There was no standard, no role model, no societal norm. But there was victory in pushing through the fear to make decisions filled with uncertainty. I'm not sure if it was confidence that drove me to victory or the drive to find the best me. When the results are fulfilling for everyone involved, you know you are doing the right thing.
Women like Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook and founder of the Lean In Foundation, have given us strong role models in the corporate space, but for the woman entrepreneur trying to make it without the backing of an established company and a steady paycheck, the advice and strategies are often different. I am working to fill the gap in role models and to help women entrepreneurs see what they can be. We need authentic voices that have walked the path already and can offer the rich guidance needed to help women bravely answer the call and make the tough choices when there are no easy answers. My hope is that you will connect deeply, gain confidence and value from the real-life stories of how it really went down, and find use for the practical business strategies and principles.
The concept of being all in is truly about your own personal commitment to success. Once you've said yes to entrepreneurship, you must be all in to craft the goals, strategies, and road map that allow you and your business to experience their fullest potential. Do you have the fortitude to be the CEO, the janitor, and everything in between? Are you ready for everything to begin and end with you? If the answers are yes, each step of the journey will be a gift filled with opportunity to be capitalized upon.
Women entrepreneurs can, and should, go everywhere they want to go. Let's not leave more on the table than need be. Let's not settle. Let's believe that developing our talents to the fullest is good for us, our families, society, and the economy. In the words of rapper Prince Ea, who believes every person on this earth has a gift, "What ignites that spark? You can't kinda want that. You have to want that with every part of your whole heart. Will you struggle? Yea ... but if you don't use your gift, then you sell not only yourself, but the whole world, short."
Are you all in?CHAPTER 2
"Entrepreneurs are the creators of new wealth and new jobs, the inventors of new products and services, and the revolutionizers of society and the economy."
— Kauffman Foundation
"This is a mistake. I just don't see this business scaling. Maybe there's a little money in it, but this isn't a real business. How are you going to have a financially stable life, put your kids through college, or save for retirement?" My father was frustrated and on the verge of anger. "I've grown businesses. The risk on this one just seems too high. It is very likely you will fail," he said. I sensed that he wanted me to just do as he said, like when I was a child. My mother sat beside him in strong, silent agreement.
This was the conversation to inform my parents that Bill was joining the business full time within the next few months to help meet growth demands. We had orchestrated a formal announcement. This was a big deal, and we wanted to tell them in person during a visit to Texas over the holidays. One evening after the boys were tucked in bed, Bill and I positioned ourselves together on the living room couch facing my parents. We looked at each other, took a deep breath, and launched into our announcement with optimism and confidence.
I had taken the leap into full-time entrepreneurship to take our nanny tax business national almost two and a half years earlier. I had answered the most important call. After several hard years, the business was on its way. We had crossed over. The possibility of shutting down and going back to a corporate job was in the rearview mirror. We anticipated annual profit of more than $150,000, close to my lost salary plus Bill's current salary. We were simply sharing our good news. Once you've made that initial life-changing leap, don't those that influence your life come around and support your path, have confidence in your vision, rejoice in your newfound fulfillment? Apparently not always. I had to choose how I was going to process this confrontational conversation and how much value I was going to place on this prediction of failure. Although I was thirty-two, this was my dad I was talking to. He was experienced and influential in my life. It was important to be open to information I had not considered, but it was far more important to remind myself that I had control over my choices and their outcomes. It is so easy to allow yourself to feel that you don't have control. My favorite Eleanor Roosevelt quote came to mind, "Never allow a person to tell you no who doesn't have the power to say yes."
Excerpted from All In by Stephanie Breedlove, Tammy Kling. Copyright © 2017 Breedlove Ventures, LLC. Excerpted by permission of Greenleaf Book Group Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Preface: Answer the Call xvii
Introduction: How to Think Bigger, Build a Sustainable Business, and Change the World 1
Chapter 1 Go All In 9
Chapter 2 See Opportunity 17
Chapter 3 Focus on the Money 35
Chapter 4 Take Small Steps 53
Chapter 5 Think Big 69
Chapter 6 Believe in the Power of Partnership 87
Chapter 7 Get Integrated 103
Chapter 8 Overcome Obstacles 117
Chapter g Pace Yourself 133
Chapter 10 Create a Company of Owners 145
Chapter 11 Make a Difference 169
Business Strategies 181
U.S. Entrepreneurship by the Numbers 187
The Amazing Eight 189
About the Author 203
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Love the practical content in this book and the focus on building a company of owners. The statistics on women-owned transformational businesses was eye-opening.