It was a case of the "horrible bosses" that spurred LaPronda Spann in 2012 to finally turn her side gig into a successful, full-time consulting firm.
During the eight years prior, Spann worked full-time in the nonprofit hospital sector in Winston-Salem and Charlotte while helping a few nonprofit clients write grants, after a friend suggested in 2004 she get a business license.
"He saw value in the company," Spann said. "I didn't take it seriously."
But all that changed when she began working in a new section of the hospital for a new boss. It took about eight months for Spann to realize the arrangement just wasn't working.
"It was the best blessing," Spann said. "At that point, I just wanted to manage my own schedule and do what I was good at."
In October 2012, Spann made the jump to operate Lain Consulting LLC full-time. The Charlotte-based firm provides consultation, technical assistance and services to nonprofits, municipal agencies, corporations and small businesses. Her services include organizational capacity building, strategic planning, professional development and management training and education, program and project management, fundraising and monthly technical assistance and support.
Within a week of dedicating herself to the business full-time, Spann had her first contract and within two months she had a contract that replaced her monthly salary. Since then, Lain Consulting has been responsible for the successful procurement of more than $1.2 million in grants and contracts from public and private foundations, local government for the company, as well as local and regional clients.
Spann also earned certifications as a Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprise in the city of Charlotte's Small Business Inclusion program and the Historically Underutilized Business certification through North Carolina's Statewide Uniform Certification Program. These credentials helped open the door to government contracts. Spann teamed with a former procurement coordinator who taught at a local community college and was an expert on federal procurement. Together, the duo sought and won a contract with the city of Charlotte.
"In public health, everything is about collaboration and partnerships," Spann explained. "You maximize your strengths and eliminate your weaknesses by pulling in someone who has strengths you lack. I knew how to write grants, but I did not understand how to respond to invitations for bids."
Despite Spann's early and continued success, she realized there were a lot of things she didn't know as an entrepreneur. In 2013, she met Briles Johnson, director of NCIMED's Women's Business Center of North Carolina, at a networking event that helped women entrepreneurs develop their 30-second pitches.
"One of my biggest challenges was putting systems and infrastructure in place for my business," Spann said. "I knew something was missing, but I didn't know what it was. In addition, Briles helped me better understand what success looks like for an entrepreneur, especially one who is starting out."
Spann credits Johnson and the Women's Business Center with teaching her how to target the right client and offer the right services at the right price. As a result, Spann's revenues increased by $17,000 in a short period of time.
In addition, Spann shares her "time, treasures and talent" with others by employing special populations, such as the disabled and unemployed, to help with clerical and administrative work. While working in corporate America, Spann said she had an opportunity to work with a nonprofit mental health organization and saw first-hand what it meant to offer others a hand up.
"They will work hard for you," Spann said. "They just want a chance. I understand what it means to be productive in a way that not only impacts your life, but others around you."