Stacey Abrams is widely known for her political activism and her popular race to become the governor of the State of Georgia. The race made her the first-ever black female nominee for governor in the U.S. However, besides politics and activism, Abrams is also an entrepreneur.
The 47-year-old is the co-founder of the fast-growing fintech company called Now, which she started in 2010 to provide small businesses a quicker method for getting invoices paid. Recently, the startup landed a $9.5 million Series A investment aimed at taking the platform “national”, according to Inc.com.
Abrams tells Inc. that she entered into entrepreneurship reluctantly due to her wide range of interests. However, Abrams says the mechanics of running businesses got her interested in entrepreneurship. According to her, what has kept her in entrepreneurship is the fact that it allows her to multitask.
She explains, “I became an entrepreneur and a political leader at the exact same time, so I would say they’re mutually reinforcing. Whether you are trying to pass a bill, win an election, or start a company, clarity is incredibly important. Taking the time to write out the steps of how you’re going to get it done and understanding the obstacles and the opportunities are skills I’ve had to foster and hone in both spaces.”
Starting Now is not Abrams’ first business venture. She started Nourish, a line of formula-ready baby bottles pre-filled with purified water, but it failed due to a lack of funding to fill orders. The African-American woman didn’t allow failure to define her.
“We’ve been taught that failure is this negative word for us to recoil from. But the issue isn’t whether you succeed or fail. When Nourish failed, we failed because we grew to death. So we didn’t let that moment define our capacity for success, and we didn’t let it dictate what we were going to do next,” she says.
“Instead of rehashing what we could have done differently had we been born millionaires, or if we had taken this or that opportunity, we thought, ‘OK, what we did we learn from this?’ We simply learned that our business model did not work,” the voting rights activist adds.
Now offers a service to pay off the invoices of small businesses for a 2.5 percent fee. According to her, she co-founded Now with Lara Hodgson because she noticed there was a pain point for small businesses that sold to one another that wasn’t being addressed by the capital markets.
“We looked at what failed for us and decided to fix what we saw that was broken,” she says.
The former tax lawyer and author explains that the financial system has been designed to let small businesses fail. Giving specifics, Abrams says a big business can carry $150,000 worth of unpaid invoices because they can access all the credit they want. However, for small businesses, that’s drowning.
“Our goal is to step into that gap, because currently, the capital markets either expect you to borrow the money you need or to sell off part of your business to get the money you need,” she says.
“If Now is successful, we change the way small businesses are treated by a system that sees them as beggars at the table, not income generators that deserve their own system of capital.”