Lead Like a Woman: An Interview with Entrepreneur Jamey Elrod
Oct. 28, 2019
Startup Week Chattanooga always brings a spritz of energy and color to downtown. This year was no different, with over 100 panels and events celebrating entrepreneurship.
One panel in particular, Lead like a Woman, hosted by Jamey Elrod and her team at Text Request, drew a crowd of community leaders and creatives. Even after the Q&A officially ended, the speakers, including Elrod, had a long line of people eager to discuss the challenges and excitements of being a female entrepreneur.
With this in mind, I asked Elrod a few more questions to keep the conversation going. Elrod is the co-founder of texting software company Text Request, and a private school outfitter called Educational Outfitters. She's also the mother of three boys and a Shar-Pei named Tank.
Entrepreneurship takes a lot of work. How much do you work in a single day?
Elrod: Most of the time, I feel like I wake up working, go to bed working and wake up in the middle of the night thinking about working. That sounds quite treacherous, but really, it's not.
And with my amazing team, I have just enough flexibility to go to my youngest son's games, move my oldest son to Tampa, have an occasional lunch with my middle son in college or even take my parents to their doctors' appointments. I love it.
In what ways do you manage your team differently from other leaders? Do you think there's a distinctive way entrepreneurs can lead that's most effective?
Elrod: I'm not a micromanager. I try to lead by example, and listen to our staff so we can best use their expertise and opinions for the greater good of our company, customers and team. Bottom line - I do what's comfortable for me and our team, and I think we all respect each other for it.
I believe in hiring quality people who have amazing potential and allowing them the freedom to grow, learn and lead in their department. Creating a truly supportive environment comes first, because it takes the entire team to make the company thrive.
When you first started your companies, did you ever feel a sense of imposter syndrome? (If so, how did you combat it? If not, where did you draw your confidence from?)
Elrod: I did lack self-confidence in the beginning of my career as an entrepreneur. Since I didn't major in business, I wasn't initially comfortable being in a room full of like-minded business folks.
From time to time, I have had feelings of self-doubt and inadequacy, but my husband and business partner, Brian, always pushes me to step out of my comfort zone and just go for it. His unconditional love and support are why I'm where I am today.
What's the biggest risk you've ever taken as an entrepreneur? How did you find the courage to take it, and was it worth it?
Elrod: Brian and I sold our car to pay for our initial inventory when we started Educational Outfitters. We also put our home on the line, took out personal lines of credit and spent much of our retirement and savings to start Text Request.
As a mom-a-preneur, I've also risked something even more valuable than dollars. Time with my kids. But I believe almost all working moms feel the same way, and I'm hopeful our children have learned with us through the journey.
Whenever I have doubts, I always try to picture myself in a rocking chair when I'm 75 saying, "I wonder what would have happened if I'd just gone for it?" I don't want that. I want to live life with no regrets.
What's something you wish more women in general knew about female entrepreneurs?
Elrod: I wish more women realized success is truly in their hands. Don't categorize or squeeze yourself into a box. Avoid limiting your beliefs. One of the best things a woman (or man for that matter) can do is know that every successful person is a regular ol' person. We all eat, put on clothes and face the daily challenges of life.
I think most female entrepreneurs are willing to sacrifice much and don't allow fear of failure to hold them back. Does the fear ever creep into my head? Absolutely. But I quickly get back to the task at hand and focus on our goals at work.
With a great product, awesome people and a solid plan - if you dream it, you can do it. Stick to a goal, dedicate yourself to working hard and don't allow anything to stand in your way.