Beth Handrigan on the Importance of Networks and Date Nights

Beth Handrigan’s Brazen interview is an honest look into how entrepreneurship can be tough (missing out on family time!) but oh-so-rewarding (making a difference!). Conclusion: it’s 100% worth it.  

Photo Credit: Jonathan Veith

What inspired you to start your business? What pain were you solving? How did you get motivated to take the first step?

The idea for Lean Media was born at my husband’s digital media and marketing agency that actually ended up transitioning from a services business into more of an incubator for new business ideas. The fact is, we were experiencing real problems that other agencies were also facing and we were good at creating solutions to solve these problems. We were also experiencing the volatility that an agency can have when it comes to clients, revenue, and staffing. As a result, when we identified the lack of effective targeting in online advertising and came up with a solution that addressed this issue, taking that leap of faith to build a company with the potential for a more predictable and scalable business model was a natural next step.

What sacrifices have you had to make to become a successful entrepreneur?

As a female business woman and mother of two girls, it often feels that the biggest sacrifice I have made to become a successful entrepreneur is “missing out”… from sports events to class parties and school shows, those pangs of guilt that come along with being a working mother are ever present. And these don’t necessarily stop once I am home, because the work of an entrepreneur doesn’t stop when you leave the office. It takes a certain level of discipline to remind yourself that once-in-a-while you need to find time to be present, that childhood slips away in an instant, and that sometimes playing an excruciatingly long game of War is more important than any business plan or pitch deck. It’s also important to remind myself that there is a silver lining that comes along with this sacrifice. I am confident that I am raising two independent girls that have learned to solve problems on their own and that see the sky as the limit when it comes to what their futures might hold.

“I am confident that I am raising two independent girls that have learned to solve problems on their own and that see the sky as the limit when it comes to what their futures might hold.”

What motivates you and how do you stay motivated?

Like every entrepreneur I am driven by building something that can make a difference. But, I will be honest, staying motivated can sometimes be a challenge. There have definitely been days when I have asked myself if I should throw in the towel – when I look longingly at strangers and wonder what their 9-5 lives must be like. Times like these are when it is important to have that network of other entrepreneurs to turn to for encouragement, ideas, and support.

If you had the chance to start your career over again, what would you do differently?

It took me a LONG time to discover that I had the makings of a successful entrepreneur – beginning my professional career as a classroom teacher and slowly shifting to the world of digital marketing and media and finally a business owner and CEO. However, when I look back at what seems like an unusual path, it is clear that there were some innate entrepreneurial characteristics there all along – specifically: a passion for making a difference, a drive to always go beyond my comfort zone, a comfort level in taking risks, and a tendency to see opportunity where others might see obstacles. If I could change one thing, it would be to realize this sooner!

How has your business changed your life? How has it changed the lives of others?

Being the CEO of a startup has not only forced me to learn skills I never thought I would, but more importantly I have developed a sense of confidence that I never had before, I am less focused on what others think, and I am more comfortable “thinking big”.

Have you ever been treated differently because you’re a female? How did you deal with that discrimination?

With a male co-founder there have certainly been occasions when potential clients and/or investors appear to speak directly to him, sometimes barely acknowledging my presence in the conversation – similar to how I have felt when attending a business event as my husband’s +1. At first, I was taken aback when this occurred, and honestly did not deal with the issue head on. However, over time, I’ve made a conscious effort to be more “brazen” and interject myself in these conversations, making my presence and role more clear.

Lean Media is growing! What is something that has surprised you in the growth process?

Yes, we are growing, which is very exciting and incredibly frightening at the same time. The most surprising (and humbling) part of this has been being able to find folks that are willing to leave their “normal” assumingly more stable jobs to join our team!

Beth, you have participated in a couple of accelerators. Do you recommend an accelerator to others? What is the biggest benefit you received from your participation?

Yes! I am a Prosper Women Entrepreneurs Accelerator graduate and I am currently participating in The Yield Lab Accelerator program as well as the Pipeline Fellowship program – each of which has been greatly beneficial to me in very different ways. However, the common thread among them all is the networks. I am consistently amazed at the how giving the Midwest startup community is. An introduction to a potential investor, team member, or service provider is only an ask away. In my opinion, you can only fit so much content into an accelerator program (whether it is 13 weeks, 9 months, or even 1 year) so to truly get value from these programs you need to go beyond that information and take advantage of the amazing networks they provide.

Your husband is also an entrepreneur. Tell us a little about that experience! What is the biggest piece of advice you would have for husband/wife entrepreneurs?

Having husband and wife entrepreneurs is definitely an emotional challenge, even for the strongest of relationships – not to mention the financial instability that it can create. That being said, you simply cannot replace the value of having your partner truly understand the daily challenges you are facing and support you through them. Yes, that means our dinner conversations often center around exciting topics like cap tables and valuations – and our children have watched more pitch rehearsals than I care to count – but I wouldn’t have it any other way 😉 On the flip side, it is also important to know when to step away from all of the family business ventures (yes we have more than two) and challenge yourselves to have that date night where you don’t talk about work!

Follow Beth and Lean Media @lean_media and visit their site


Beth Handrigan is the CEO of Lean Media, which helps give agribusiness advertisers (such as farm equipment manufacturers, seed/chemical companies, and crop insurance providers) confidence they are delivering the right online ads to the right people at the right time.