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BETH HANDRIGAN
// Lean Media

If you told Beth Handrigan she would be an entrepreneur thirty years ago, she wouldn’t have believed you. It may have taken her a while to discover but now when she looks back, she realizes business has always been her passion. 

 

As a young high school student, Beth worked at a Fortune 500 company as the assistant to the secretary to the CEO and had an inside view of what it looked like to build and run a business at an early age. But she wasn’t sure that was a feasible path for her. Because of her family’s financial situation, she felt as though she had limited options. As a result, she 

decided to attend the state college where she studied to be an elementary education teacher. After graduating, she worked for a few years as a teacher, but soon realized something was missing, that perhaps teaching wasn’t the career she wanted to pursue for the long term.

It was then that Beth began working in other fields including professional development and marketing. Along the way, she married her husband, Brian, who was an entrepreneur. Ultimately, she started working at his full-service marketing agency. It was there that the idea for Lean Media was born and tested. Eventually, Beth and her business partner decided to spin off on their own. Today, the company partners with some of the largest brands in the world to plan, design, build, deploy and measure digital advertising campaigns designed to reach more of their unique audiences more often and with greater precision and control.

 

While Beth had a lot of exposure to entrepreneurship through Brian, when she decided to start Lean Media, she wanted to become a business leader on her own and learn for herself. She participated in two accelerators, Pipeline’s Fellowship and learned through trial by fire. One of the accelerators she participated in was exclusively for female founders. Part of that program included digging deeper into behaviors that women leaders engaged in that Beth hadn’t paid much attention to before, like how body language in meetings matters, feeling uncomfortable talking about your accomplishments and saying no without guilt. 

Lean Media team during the 2019 holiday season.

"Some of this is my personality and some of this is informed by being a woman. …Then, I learned to become brazen and interject myself more in those conversations."

“Some of this is my personality and some of this is informed by being a woman. I’m less likely to talk about our success and specifically my own. I also noticed that investors, customers and others would typically direct their eye contact, conversation and questions to my male co-founder, who is not the CEO. At first, this shocked me. Then, I learned to become brazen and interject myself more in those conversations.” 

 

As a woman, these are certainly some challenges Beth has faced in being an entrepreneur. But she says the most significant challenge she has faced is being a female businesswoman AND a mom. “It feels like a sacrifice. You feel like you’re missing out on things like sports events, class parties and school shows. My oldest daughter has actually said to me, ‘you never went to any of my tennis games.’ There are pangs of guilt that come along with that. My job doesn’t stop at the end of the day because that’s the life of an entrepreneur. Looking back, I do wish I would’ve sometimes had more discipline to stop working on the pitch deck (or whatever was in front of me) and play a painstaking game of Monopoly.” 

 

On the flip side of that, Beth and Brian have raised two independent daughters who have learned that they can solve problems on their own. Having two entrepreneurs as parents, they don’t know anything different. “There is pain and guilt that goes along with being an entrepreneur mom but also, the sky's the limit for them. They don’t see those boundaries that maybe I self-imposed on myself, which is potentially why it took me thirty years to get to where I am today.”

“There is pain and guilt that goes along with being an entrepreneur mom but also, the sky's the limit for them. They don’t see those boundaries that maybe I self-imposed on myself, which is potentially why it took me thirty years to get to where I am today.”

It is clear that entrepreneurship is embedded into the Handrigan family. Dinner conversations around topics like cap tables and valuations are normal for them. Their kids have watched more pitch rehearsals than they can count. As a second grader, one of their daughters developed a marketing plan for a side hustle. 

 

Beth advises other aspiring entrepreneurs to follow their own path. “Since we started in 2014, I’ve tried to fit a square peg into a round hole. Many of us are lured in by a one size fits all plan — develop a SaaS product, raise money, raise money again, repeat as many times as necessary then exit. I’ve built a very successful service based company. Last year, we were on the Inc. 5000 list, grew 55% in revenue YOY during a pandemic and were just shy of $4M in revenue. I should be singing this from the mountaintops. At the same time we were doing all of that, I was trying to develop a SaaS product and it took until Q4 of last year to bring myself and other stakeholders to the shared understanding that this isn’t the best path for Lean Media. We are now 100% focused on the service side of the business. We still see an exit in our future, it just may look different and that’s not something to be ashamed of — I fully believe we can build this company to $15M or $20M.” 

Women in Business Panel_ Brazen.jpg

Beth is seeking warm introductions to executives in the large agency or adtech space with industry expertise to build her advisory board. If you have connections that could be helpful to Beth, please connect with her on LinkedIn. You can learn more about Lean Media by visiting their website. Beth completed her Pipeline Fellowship year in 2017 and is now an active Member of the organization.

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