How She Built It: Stephanie Leffler and CrowdSource

Stephanie Leffler knows how to build a successful business. After selling her first startup (an e-commerce software company called MonsterCommerce) in 2006, Leffler and her business partner Ryan Noble launched another series of ventures. One of those ventures changes the way companies access, manage, and evaluate talent.

Leffler and Noble now run, an online distributed labor management platform that helps companies connect with external talent and integrate it with internal teams and processes. Leffler, who is based in Swansea, Illinois and is a client of Regions Private Wealth Management, recently spoke about how she created her company and provided tips to other female entrepreneurs. 

When did you decide to become an entrepreneur? 

Leffler: I've been interested in creating and selling things for as long as I can remember. When I was a kid, I'd make perfume out of flowers and water and sell it to my neighbors. In college, Ryan and I started writing a business plan for an online store, which later became MonsterCommerce. That was in 2000. Watching everything that was happening with the internet at the time was exciting to me and I decided there was never a better time to start a business. I thought this would be the only time in my life that I wouldn't have people depending on me. 

After you sold MonsterCommerce, you started Juggle - and more recently, CrowdSource. Tell us about that. 

Leffler: Juggle was created to incubate ideas into functional companies. We spun off CrowdSource from Juggle in 2011. CrowdSource is an online platform that gives businesses an easy way to access external talent through one centralized platform.  We have created a network of more than 8,000,000 accessible workers with a range of skill sets by partnering with freelance platforms, agencies and directly recruiting talented people interested in working online. People who work on the CrowdSource platform can browse a catalog of jobs and see how much each job pays. They can decide to do one task a day, or 100. It's kind of like how Uber (the ride-sharing app) used technology to build a new way to get a ride somewhere. We're doing the same kind of thing for the world of work. 

How did you come up with the idea for CrowdSource? 

Leffler:  For me, it's always been about looking for the biggest problem I can solve really well. As we started Juggle, we ran into problems. As an online publisher, accessing great writers and coordinating the many tasks that go into publishing solid content is challenging. We knew talented people were out there; we just needed a way to sign them up and manage them as if they were sitting in our office. So we created a platform that solves that problem. 

That's really our overall approach to coming up with new product ideas. We talk with our customers not just about the services we're providing them today, but about their business in general, what problems they're trying to solve and what they're focused on. If you ask enough questions, your customers will tell you exactly what they need and exactly what is the biggest value you can provide to them. 

So what is it like running a business with your husband?

Leffler: A lot of people ask me that. We weren't married when we went into business together. We got married when we were running MonsterCommerce. Honestly, it's been great. Of course, there are pros and cons. The pros are that you really understand what the other person does for a living and you have a huge number of things in common. When you have big wins, you can truly share those wins. On the other hand, when things don't go so well, it's ultra-painful. Ryan and I have very different skills and that's an important aspect of running a business together. We divide what goes on around here. I know what he's good at and he knows what I'm good at, so we don't step on each other's toes. 

Do you have any advice for other women entrepreneurs or those aspiring to be entrepreneurs?

Leffler: My number one piece of advice for women entrepreneurs - and I've said this in speeches at several events - is to learn how to shake hands. Many women honestly don't know how and give a very weak handshake. First impressions are critical, and if you provide a weak first impression, it's difficult to rebound from that.


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