Her Own Boss #BossesGiveBack Edition
Stride is a unique small, women-owned business, manufacturing office products. Stride, Inc. looks for ways to develop office products which enables “ease of use” for its consumers when utilizing products for day to day tasks around the office, including ring binders, writing instruments and other office products that ship to large corporations across the United States from their headquarters in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
What motivated you to start your business?
I did not actually start the business. I was fortunate enough to be born into it! Stride, Inc. was the business my mother started almost 35 years ago and was founded back in the 1960’s. I was the fourth child of Don and Barbara Brennan. My brother, Joey, was born just 18 months before me with a severe birth defect called Hydrocephalus. Hydrocephalus is the medical term for excessive cerebrospinal fluid in the brain. Hydrocephalus has a way of severely bloating a person’s head. Joey was part of our lives for seven years; he never walked or talked and was blind by his third birthday, but his short life is the reason my family started Stride, Inc. and his legacy today is a company that has as its core, a mission to employ a severely underutilized workforce – adults with special needs.
What is the greatest barrier you faced in launching your business and how did you overcome it?
The greatest barrier in the founding of the company was the death of Barbara’s husband, Don Brennan just two months after the business was purchased. Stride is a woman-owned business, but that was not initially by choice. It is ironic that the greatest loss the business and the family suffered was turned into a powerful tool…The ability to become certified by WBENC as a WBE has opened many doors for Stride.
Do you have a mentor? How did you find him/her?
Barbara would tell you that her mentor in the early years was a lady by the name of Jennifer Ruth who worked for a company called Boise Cascade Office Products (Boise later became OfficeMax/Office Depot). Jennifer discovered Stride, an office products manufacturer, and was instrumental in guiding Stride, Inc. into the office products industry and granting us access selling to many large corporations and customers. As the now CEO of Stride, my mentor is my mom, a woman who has always held true to the belief that every individual regardless of their challenges, has the ability to learn and that we should encourage their instinctive desire to work. They belong and are productive members of society! We support and encourage this – It is just a matter of finding out what people are good at doing!
If you could go back in time to when you were first starting, what would you tell yourself, with the intention of avoiding mistakes and heart ache?
Barbara is fond of saying “owning your own business is great because you can work half days and you decide if you will work the first twelve hours or the second!” When running your own business, you are the hub. For example, if someone calls and asks for the head of the IT department, it’s going to be you and one needs to be prepared to learn a little about everything. Be comfortable with the unknown and don’t be afraid to ask questions, that is when you will learn the most.
What resources have been most helpful to you?
Today small business is regulated to the point that having experts that you can trust in certain fields is a must. This can be a CPA, a corporate attorney, people with expertise in HR and a partner in banking who will work with you through the ups and downs. Surrounding yourself with hard working, qualified, people is critical.
What does success look like for you?
Success is seeing a person like our James B. on the Autism Spectrum, who learns a new task and is able to advance in our organization. Or, working with someone with Special Needs and recognizing that they have outgrown us and are ready to advance on to another organization. Stride has assisted in placing hundreds of such workers. These are the joys we experience with our staff each and every day.
What do you do to recharge?
I like to scrapbook and also dabble in the family genealogy – having a parent with dementia, it is important to document those moments in life so they can be remembered for generations.
What’s your advice for a young woman that’s considering starting her own business?
Educate yourself by networking. I think one of the key ways to be successful in your own business is to be open about what you don’t know. God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason!
To learn more about Stride and Kerri Brennan Bertram, check out their website at http://www.strideinc.com/ and connect with Stride via Twitter at @Stride_inc.