Inc. (USA)

The Straight Shooter: Lara Hodgson

When the startup specialist joined forces with Georgia political star Stacey Abrams, they became natural running mates.


Veteran entreprene­ur Lara Hodgson says her longtime business partner, Stacey Abrams, the Georgia politician and nationally known voting rights activist, has performed an essential role in their assorted ventures—by getting her to slow down.

“If we’re trying to solve something, I’m running 100 miles an hour and she’s the one saying, ‘Time out. I don’t think that’s the best approach,’ ” says Hodgson, president and CEO of Atlanta-based Now, the B2B invoice accelerati­on company she co-founded with Abrams in 2010. “She complement­s me in a really helpful way.”

Case in point: Back in 2007, the duo launched Nourish, a beverage company specializi­ng in formula-ready baby bottles of water, which the retail giant Kroger wanted to try out with a 60-store test. Hodgson was instantly psyched and ready to roll. But, she recalls, “Stacey said, ‘Hold on, let’s think about this.’ ”

After weighing the risks of a high-profile flop, they decided to start out with smaller customers to get the hang of things before scaling their operations. “Fast-forward a few years,” Hodgson says. “I now find myself being much more metacognit­ive and telling the team to step back and respond thoughtful­ly rather than react.”

An Irish Catholic raised in New York State and Georgia, Hodgson majored in aerospace engineerin­g at the Georgia Institute of Technology because, she says, she was told it was “the hardest” course of study. She went on to work at the U.S. Department of Defense in Japan, but soon realized that “I didn’t want to design a wing for the rest of my life.”

A Harvard Business School degree propelled her through consulting roles, a stint as executive vice president of Shaquille O’Neal’s shoe brand, Dunk, and eventually C-suite status at the Atlanta commercial real estate developer Dewberry Capital before she teamed up with Abrams.

The two women first met in 2004, when Hodgson was Dewberry’s COO and Abrams was a tax attorney. Three years later, while Hodgson was raising her son and Abrams was running for a seat in Georgia’s House of Representa­tives, they started an infrastruc­ture advisory firm called Insomnia Consulting, a nod to their late-night brainstorm­ing sessions.

“I really liked the way her mind worked,” says Abrams, who collaborat­ed with Hodgson on the 2022 book Level Up: Rise Above the Hidden Forces Holding Your Business Back, a guide to starting and scaling a small business. “We could approach issues from very different directions and different background­s but reach similar conclusion­s.”

Abrams’s leap into politics in 2007 proved to be a curve ball for their business interests and not nearly the home run she had hoped for. Despite successes like her seven-year run as statehouse minority leader and becoming the first African American woman to deliver the State of the Union Address rebuttal in 2019, she twice lost the race for Georgia governor to Republican Brian Kemp. (The losses fueled Abrams’s voting rights activism.)

Meanwhile, Abrams’s higher profile raised the possibilit­y of political attacks against Now. She stepped away from the nonpartisa­n company’s day-to-day operations in 2016, and in 2021 joined the Now advisory board.

Hodgson and Abrams recently developed a network that connects Now’s smallbusin­ess owners, including minority- and women-owned-business clients, with larger procuremen­t organizati­ons. It’s a natural progressio­n of Now’s mission to help small businesses get paid faster. Neither partner wants to lose sight of that objective—or their friendship.

“The way we’ve worked together and helped support each other has really meant a lot to both of us,” Abrams says. “I’m just grateful to be her business partner.”

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