You may have already read about the critical work Robbie is up to now with her new angel network of women investing in women on WRAL Techwire. Companies led by women get just 2% of all venture capital funding, and Robbie and her team at xElle are on a mission to change that by providing education, mentorship and capital to women-led startups. Robbie talks about her passion for this work and some of the challenges facing women-led companies in our interview.
But you might not know how Robbie’s entrepreneurial journey began. Back in 1993, after working in the corporate world for 25 years, she started getting an itch for more.
“You play the corporate game and you think, ‘Hmm, is this all there is?’” Robbie said in the podcast. “And so, I told them I was leaving and they were like—I was a woman in 1993 in a publicly traded company, so they did not want me to leave. But they said ‘Take a leave,’ you know, ‘figure out what’s wrong with you,’ and so I did.”
At the time, Fred Hutchison was president of the Center for Entrepreneurial Development, and he and Robbie crossed paths at a CED event.
Robbie was starting CI Technologies and needed good outside counsel. As she notes in our interview, having good outside advisors is critical, because as a CEO you may experience certain events only once but a good service provider like a lawyer or CPA will have seen the same thing play out on a number of different occasions.
And those advisors have a chance to become an integral member of the team, providing not just subject matter advice, but good, solid business advice, too.
“As a lawyer, an entrepreneurial lawyer, you’re not doing your job unless you give your client some advice,” Fred Hutchison said. “Sometimes it’s legal, sometimes it’s business, sometimes it’s just common sense advice, but that’s what you’re supposed to do. Unlike what they tell you in law school, which is never give business advice.”
Even with the best team around you, however, there are still times when a CEO has to make the big calls with nothing else but her wits, and perhaps a Magic 8-Ball. For that story though, you are really going to have to listen to the podcast because nobody can tell it like Robbie.