Q&A with Mary-Cathryn Kolb, 2018 Small Business Person of the Year Finalist

Atlanta Business Chronicle has named our finalists for the 2018 Small Business Person of the Year Awards. The winners are scheduled to be announced at an awards event Sept. 20 at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. Here’s a Q&A with one of the finalists, Mary-Cathryn Kolb, founder and CEO, brrr.

Q: What strategies can small business owners use to build success in their companies from the start?

 A: Starting a company from scratch is incredibly hard, and you have got to have a very large and very dedicated support system, or you’ll be toast. It’s not exactly a 9-to-5 job. There are days I have to set an alarm for 2 a.m. so I can talk to our team in Taiwan before their day ends, and I spend a lot of time in airports and on planes to meet with customers and partners.

 It’s critical that you hire smart, dedicated employees who believe in your vision and will roll up their sleeves and put in the long hours and do the heavy lifting to bring your idea to life. You have to have good advisors who will share their business knowledge and professional experiences, and investors who believe in your business model and your strategy.


CEO and Founder, Mary-Cathryn Kolb

Q: What was the best piece of advice you took when starting your business? What advice did you disregard, if any?

 A: One of the best pieces of advice someone gave me was to be strategic in creating a board of directors, because they are very much an extension of your management team and they will bring powerful insights that you wouldn’t otherwise get. They’re both insiders and outsiders, and that’s a valuable combination. Our board includes a capital markets director at SunTrust Robinson Humphrey, the former CFO of a major telecom company and the former CEO of a department store chain, and each of them brings unique insight and perspective to our business.

 I can’t think of any specific advice I disregarded completely, because everything that someone shared came from a place of sincerity and it was an important lesson or insight for them that they were trying to give to me. Some things might not have been very applicable for my particular situation, but every bit of wisdom has merit on some level and I am grateful for all of it.

Q: What would you share with an aspiring entrepreneur who is considering taking the plunge and starting their own business?

Take advantage of the network you have, and seek advice from friends, former colleagues, neighbors and anyone whose opinions and wisdom you trust and admire. People will bend over backward to help you, make an introduction or open a door if you are humble and if you make an effort to give back or pay it forward. There is enormous power in that.

Q: How does metro Atlanta support the formation of small businesses?

I can’t imagine having started brrr° anywhere other than Atlanta. There is such a culture of innovation and creativity and finding better ways to solve challenges, and there is an incredibly deep talent pool. The city and the region are very pro-business and supportive of entrepreneurs, and there are great networking opportunities with organizations such as Launchpad2X and the Technology Association of Georgia.

Q: What can the region do better to help support small businesses?

For as many startups as there are in Atlanta, there should be a more robust investment community based here to provide capital and seed funding to get these young businesses off the ground. I would love to see the investment community double or triple for the next generation of entrepreneurs.

Find the article here: Atlanta Business Chronicle