Mar 14, 2018
We would all like to be an innovative company breaking out of the traditional model. When we think innovation, we think of companies like Apple, Tesla, and SpaceX. Do you have an innovative company that comes to your mind that you wish you could emulate? Are you afraid it comes with big budgets, lots of resources, and time? Well, today’s show is all about how you can become innovative without the big pockets.
Lara Hodgson is the President and CEO of NOW Corp, a company she co-founded to free small businesses from the burden of funding trade credit and to enable small business growth. She also serves as an Entrepreneur in Residence at Harvard Business School.
Lara went to Georgia Institute of Technology where she majored in Aerospace Engineering. Her professor told her she had an engineering mind and a liberal arts personality; She loved problem-solving, but she was very extroverted and loved worked with people at the same time.
Lara applied for a program to go to Japan while she was still in university and she found herself learning Japanese and not speaking a word of English during her time over there. It was difficult and she was completely out of her comfort zone. This is when she discovered that she really didn’t want to be a research engineer anymore. She wanted to be creative.
The good news is, being creative is not about learning how to sing or draw, it’s about being a good problem solver. It’s about looking at the same thing as everyone else and seeing something different.
Fast forward a couple of years, Lara’s career is booming, she’s finding herself working alongside Shaquille O’Neal, Home Depot, Nike, and Coca-Cola, but it was time for her to go off on her own and build her own company. She wanted to be a great wife, mom, and CEO but she wasn’t sure that this was possible if she was working for somebody else.
During this time as a new mom, she kept finding herself having spilled drinks all over her car and there wasn’t really anything out there that was ‘spill-proof’ for babies. So, going back to her problem-solving roots, she co-founded a company called Nourish, a patented line of spill-proof bottled water for kids and ready-to-serve bottles for babies.
Great news! She started out small and suddenly her product was being bought by wholefoods. She was high-fiving her business partner in excitement until they realized … the company is going to have to grow to the point of death, that they’re not actually going to be able to make ends meet, and that this deal would actually put them out of business.
Everything that Lara and her business partner had done right was actually going to be the very thing that would put them out of business. Lara’s greatest strength, her spill-proof product that was selling like crazy, became her greatest weakness. This is when she found herself needing to innovative on a small budget.