Careers can take many twists and turns as the years go by, and many career women discover at a later age that they are ready for something different, maybe unique, maybe more entrepreneurial. How does one go about discovering what’s next and how does one make it happen?
Lisbeth McNabb was one of those women – moving up the ladder at some of the biggest Fortune 500 companies on the planet and then taking an executive role, CFO, Chief Revenue and Strategy Officer, at a smaller company going through a transformation. That company was Match.com where McNabb was part of the team that turned the company into a high growth, innovative market leader.
So as Match.com settled down, and McNabb mulled over other job offers, she felt it was time to reassess what she really wanted to pursue next. For that reassessment, she hired a coach who helped her evaluate her past experiences – both good and bad – to define and confirm her strengths. The coaching helped her realize that even at the big companies where she had worked, the jobs were always in a smaller, innovative unit doing work that had never been done before. This is where she thrived – in smaller, very innovative, high growth areas.
Armed with the confirmed knowledge that innovation was where she belonged, and being a serious networker and proponent of the need for women to digitally connect and share ideas and resources, McNabb created her first entrepreneurial venture, a digital place where women can connect. Her target is women in their 20’s and 30 who can access career advice as well as connect through “network circles.” This was one of the first digital networking sites for career women.
Her next idea for a business came from her experience in the digital world and from the burgeoning science of “Big Data.” Digiworks Corp. provides solutions that allow consumers to get the right offer at the right time. As McNabb describes it “It’s like Match.com for retailers.”
It’s great to have the big idea, but then what. Where does the money to start come from and how much do you need? When asked these questions, McNabb answered,
” I personally funded the start-up phase, and then I asked my network – friends, family, contacts – and was able to secure funding from “Angels” – those folks who like and support an idea and think it’s worth the investment. I also gave equity in the company in exchange for low or no pay to employees who believed in my concepts.”
When asked about the difficulty of raising money, McNabb said “I started w2wlink during the recession, so it was very difficult to raise money. It’s slightly better today for Digiworks, but still very difficult in Texas which does not have the reputation for digital start-up funding like Silicon Valley. Be prepared for a time-intensive experience and lots of thanks, but no thanks.”
McNabb shared her thoughts on the positives and negatives of going from Big Company Employee to Small Start-up. Here are her comments:
“In the U.S. today, people value startups and entrepreneurs much more than in the past. This is evidenced by all of the resources now available for start-ups — incubators, courses at Universities, shared work spaces, seminars, angel investor groups, etc. I was also amazed at how much more control and flexibility I have over my time – I was surprised at my ability to integrate my life much better with social, business and family commitments. The negatives are lack of resources and the time it takes to get traction on the businesses.”
Advice that McNabb shared for other women looking to transition their life and/or career:
It is never too late to start a new venture – 23.4% of all new businesses are started by people 55-64 years of age and that is up from 18.7% in 2003.