Stephanie Smith. Founder & CEO. HopN, Inc. Georgia Tech


EnrichHER 2018 Spark Conference held last March 14 at Atlanta Technology Village. EnrichHER, founded by Dr. Roshawnna Novellus are local initiatives designed to help entrepreneurs with coaching, capital, and connections.  In business, the saying is “it’s not what you know, but who you know.”  EnrichHER Spark allows entrepreneurs to advance their businesses by making meaningful face-to-face connections with local leaders, investors, business coaches, and like-minded entrepreneurs.  

According to Dr. Novellus, one of the biggest issues that women-led businesses face is access to capital. For this reason, InrichHer program presented an entrepreneur showcase that included a grant to a lucky entrepreneur with shared resources that will increase success of gaining capital.

Meet the EnrichHER 2018 Spark Conference Finalist

Stephanie Smith.  Founder & CEO. HopN, Inc. Georgia Tech

HopN is on a mission to help parents all over feel good about their busy lives by providing reliable transportation for their kids by way of optimized carpools. Coming to a city near you   Headquarters: Atlanta, GA

What was your first job ever? I worked as a seasonal Sales Associate at JCPenney

Who were your mentors and icons that have influenced you the most and why? Dave Williams. He's a serial entrepreneur and the founder of a startup that I worked for after I graduated; BLiNQ Media. He is the epitome of a leader that puts his people first. I had so many doors open for me while working under his leadership that I will forever be appreciative of my experience and tenure there. Even years later, I still feel that he has an active interest in my well-being and what I am doing professionally.

My other mentors include my close friends, whom I also call my tribe. They have been the ones who have pushed me to pursue my goals, cheered on my successes, encouraged me during tough times, and critiqued my ideas when I needed it most. They believed in me during times I was questioning whether I should really give entrepreneurship a try. There are a select few that I have regular calls or meet ups with to just exchange updates concerning what we are each working on and some short-term goals. It keeps me going and creates a sense of urgency to have updates for my next call or meet up.

When did you first realize that you were born to be an entrepreneur and what course of action did you take in terms of following that passion? There was a certain point in college that I knew I wanted to own my own business. However, I never thought about it being my main source of income. My idea was to own a company while maintaining a regular job. I didn't grasp what it really meant. However, when I started my first real job at BLiNQ Media being surrounded by serial entrepreneurs opened my eyes. At that point, I told myself that I would learn as much as I could from my experience and those around me, and I would know when it was time for me to take that knowledge and step out on my own.

Being an entrepreneur is a gift and a curse. We have to work 20 times harder and learn to sacrifice a lot to arrive to our destination. What advice would you impart to future entrepreneurs? My advice would include to go after whatever you are truly passionate about and it won't feel like you are working harder or sacrificing that much. It will feel like you are getting closer and closer to the light at the end of the tunnel. I would also advise not to pursue an idea based on money; when you believe in yourself and your idea, the money will come.

I would also say to stop making excuses as to why now isn't the time. Excuses tend to be a lengthy way of saying that you are scared. Admit that you are scared and let your mentors, friends and family encourage you to push through.

Leading a successful group is a challenge. How do you consistently inspire and motivate the team to extract the most optimized version of themselves to bring to the table? Leadership is an area that I am constantly aspiring to be better in. The best leaders that have been in my life took initiative to get to know me as a person and to know what drives me in life. I do the same with my team or anyone else I work with. I like to know what people are passionate about outside of work, who they are as people not just about why they are there.

When you have to put out a fire, what process do you have that's proven to be effective? Keeping calm. I do not believe that showing frustration helps anyone. Staying level headed and calm under pressure has always been a strength of mine. I typically take some extra time to get a full understanding of what the fire is so that it can be put out correctly.

How do you decompress in order to keep that balance? Travel. Make 'me' time.  Having some me time can be a little difficult to achieve at times but with the village that I have around me, I make it happen. Being able to live and laugh with my friends or seeing new parts of the world, relaxes me and clears my mind.

What's been the most gratifying business or personal role that you had that led you to be where you are now? Motherhood. I had my son at 21 so most of my adulthood has been spent figuring out parenting while also figuring out life. Even with navigating into areas that I simply had no idea about, I've enjoyed motherhood to the fullest. My son is my motivation and ultimately is the reason why I am who I am and why I am where I am today.

Life lessons learned that you carry with you to keep the fire alive to stay on top of your game? My motto is "You don't know what hard is unless you have experienced easy. Until then, it's just life." I've been asked so many times if being a single mother is hard and I've never known how to answer that question. What in life with high reward, isn't somewhat hard? From that, my life lessons include not dwelling on what some would consider hard or difficult and instead focusing on my goals and what my story will be. My story at the end of all of this keeps the fire alive.

How do you define success? Success is when you have reached a point where you can give back; not just monetarily. Where you have learned so much (whether from successes or failures) that you are able to give back by sharing your knowledge to those who may be following in similar footsteps. Where you have gotten to a point in your career, that you can give back time to those who really need it. I also define success as solving the initial problem that you had. While starting a business, it's so easy to pivot while working on your idea because one path makes more sense than another, but in the meantime the original problem gets lost. I will personally feel successful when I have helped parents ease the guilt and ultimately make their lives a little less stressful.

What's next for you? Continuing to push forward with HopN. I want to position the company for possible investment by late spring / early summer. In the meantime, I'll be constantly tweaking the idea and proving out the concept and business model.

Click here to meet The EnrichHER Speakers 2018

Originally Published on WireTap Media. Interviewed by Maryan Aiken. Publisher. CityBox Media. PaperGlass Media. WireTap Media.

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