Positive pivot

Candace Klein, Founder and CEO, Bad Girl Ventures and SoMoLend

One of Candace Klein’s mottos in life is that she doesn’t believe in the word “failure.”

“It’s not part of my lexicon,” says the founder of Bad Girl Ventures Inc., a nonprofit micro-finance organization focused on educating and financing women-owned start-up companies, and founder and CEO of SoMoLend, a Web- and mobile-based peer-to-peer lending company. “Instead, I use the word ‘pivot.’ I think women are very good at that particular word — that when we see a challenge in front of us and one that we don’t know if we can overcome, we just change directions.”

Klein has had to put her pivoting skills to the test ever since she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer after college and right before going off to attend law school.

“I had to stay home and move back in with my parents in my baby sister’s Barbie bunk bed — major blow to the college-grad ego,” Klein says. “And I had no money — every dime I had went toward my medical bills.”

She had asked her boss at the time if he would be able to help her go to law school but to no avail. 

“Essentially, the ‘no’ that I got was first my health,” she says. “Something totally out of my control, an act of God, told me I wasn’t going to be able to do what I had set out to do. And then my boss told me I wasn’t going to be able to do what I had set out to do.”

Her boss instead introduced Klein to Alice Sparks, a woman on the board of regents of her undergraduate university who was committed to promoting women.

“That turned into a $40,000 scholarship from that woman, a personal scholarship to pay for me to go to law school,” she says.

When Klein asked what she could do to repay her for her generosity, Sparks said, “Find a way to invest in women.” Klein has been working at doing just that ever since. She became a lawyer and later started her two companies.

“I first launched Bad Girl Ventures at something called ‘Unite Cincinnati,’” Klein says. “My speech was ‘The Bad Girl’s Guide to Getting What You Want,’ which is a book I read in college as to how to get out of the things that girls get stuck doing in the workplace. And at the very end, I said, ‘If you say, “I’d love to do it, but my boss will never let me get away with that,” quit your job. Start your own business. And if you do, I’ll invest in you. I’m launching a company tonight, Bad Girl Ventures.’”

Today, Bad Girl Ventures is in Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus and Oxford, helping to change the lives of women looking to get financing and education to start a business. The recent growth of her company has presented more challenges to pivot around.

“Originally, it was my plan to grow to be in 15 cities by 2013,” Klein says. “That’s not realistic and it’s also not healthy or sustainable for our company. My board has just pushed me down and said, ‘No, Candace, we’re not expanding into any more cities in 2012.’ It makes sense, because you need to create infrastructure. My vision for this business was to be nationwide in three years.”

While Klein has never been one to take no for an answer, she appreciates the people who help her make smart decisions about her business.

“As the leader of the company, it’s good for me to have advisers, because they have the long-term health of my company in mind,” she says. “Sometimes being pushed down is a good thing. Sometimes my passion and my excitement for growth is not the healthiest thing for my business. I need to have opposing viewpoints in the room and people who are willing to push back against my concepts and make sure in the long run I’ve got the healthiest business.”

Without ever being told no throughout her life or having to fight against opposing viewpoints, Klein would be a different person than who she is today.

“I like to have somebody push back against me and fight me every step of the way, because in the end it’s going to make a much stronger product,” she says. “It’s not necessarily a bad thing to have people push back against you and have people vary from your opinion.”

HOW TO REACH: Bad Girl Ventures Inc., (513) 675-8500 or www.badgirlventures.com

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