This Serial Entrepreneur Shares the Surprising Confidence Strategy That Helped Her Build a Billion-Dollar Business

Kabbage's Kathryn Petralia explains why knowledge is power.

Grow Your Business, Not Your Inbox

Stay informed and join our daily newsletter now!
Will be used in accordance with our Privacy Policy
This Serial Entrepreneur Shares the Surprising Confidence Strategy That Helped Her Build a Billion-Dollar Business
Image credit: Courtesy of Kathryn Petralia
Entrepreneur Staff
Staff Writer. Covers leadership, media, technology and culture.
4 min read

Editor’s Note: Inspire Me is a series in which entrepreneurs and leaders share what motivates them through good times and bad, while also sharing stories of how they overcame challenges in hopes of inspiring others.

As co-founder of Kabbage, Kathryn Petralia is in the business of helping other companies and entrepreneurs get loans to get their companies off the ground.  

In 2010, the financial services data and technology platform launched with 50 customers on its platform -- and a few headaches. There was one in particular that she had to contend with right out of the gate.

Just as Kabbage was about to launch, thanks to some regulatory changes beyond their control, they learned that in order to comply with the new rules, they wouldn’t be able to move forward with a bank partner they had in place.

“It was a part of our story that we were going to have a bank partner and these were going to be bank issued loans,” Petralia recalled to Entrepreneur.  “At the 11th hour we were left without a bank. It was the only time I've ever cried at Kabbage.”

Related: This Young Entrepreneur Started a Company to Harness the Power of Networking and Help Her Community Hustle

Despite feeling discouraged, Petralia and her team shifted gears from the orignal plan to a merchant cash advance product. The company has since shifted back to the model with bank-issued loans and today, the company has provided over $5 billion to more than 150,000 small businesses in the U.S.  In 2017, the company was valued at more than $1 billion.

Petralia says that during these sort of tough moments it is technological innovation, along with customer stories, including those overcoming their own challenges, that make her excited to get up and go to work every day.

“We have to be willing to share the mistakes that we make and take pride in them,” says Petralia. “That's how you know you're moving forward.”

For our series Inspire Me, Petralia shared her insights about how to build your confidence in any new endeavor.

This interview was edited for clarity and brevity.

When you know you're facing a serious challenge or obstacle, how do you motivate yourself to tackle it?

My approach is that it's never as bad as you think it is. There's always a solution to whatever the problem is. Any sort of big challenge you have to break it down to the elements of that problem and what's the one biggest roadblock? You have to prioritize that challenge.

What is a book that inspires you?

Outliers and David and Goliath, both by Malcolm Gladwell. [Both books] take the personal story out [of success] in many ways. People often are where they are because of time and place, not because of something they did. People take a lot of credit for great things that happened, and it often doesn't have as much to do with them as it does the circumstances surrounding them. I wish that there was more humility in tech and business. Malcolm Gladwell's books makes us all a little more humble.

Related: Multimillion Beauty Brand Carol's Daughter Founder Shares How Her Family Has Made Her a Better Person

Who is a woman that inspires you?

Ruth Bader Ginsburg. I'm 48. My parents’ generation is the one that had to fight and work to overcome the obstacles of being able to even just do jobs. Forget getting paid for the same work, just being allowed to do the job. RBG is a great example of that. She went to law school and then worked at a law firm [and had to] hide two pregnancies. I find her story to be really inspiring. We stand on the shoulders of [women like her] every day.

What advice do you have for female entrepreneurs who are just starting out and need advice on staying motivated when they get discouraged?

A lot of confidence comes from knowledge. It's important for people who are starting businesses to be experts in their field, and that everybody needs to look to you as the person who knows it all -- and not in a negative way.

More From Women Entrepreneur

Podcasts

8 Podcasting Tips From the Hit 'Girls Gotta Eat'

With 2.5 million weekly downloads, their podcast is a booming business.
My First Moves

Larabar's Founder Stocked Shelves at Whole Foods to Learn About Retail

By starting at the bottom, Lara Merriken got a quick education to food-product sales and marketing.
Women Entrepreneurs

The Key to Starting a Business? Just Deciding to Go For It.

The female founder warns that you won't know everything at the beginning, but you will figure it out.
Small Businesses

These City Programs Are Giving Minority- and Women-Owned Businesses Access to Capital

If you're an entrepreneur in Minneapolis, Atlanta or New York, these programs could help fund your business idea.

More from Entrepreneur

Get heaping discounts to books you love delivered straight to your inbox. We’ll feature a different book each week and share exclusive deals you won’t find anywhere else.
Jumpstart Your Business. Entrepreneur Insider is your all-access pass to the skills, experts, and network you need to get your business off the ground—or take it to the next level.
Starting, buying, or growing your small business shouldn’t be hard. Guidant Financial works to make financing easy for current and aspiring small business owners by providing custom funding solutions, financing education, and more.

Latest on Entrepreneur

Entrepreneur Media, Inc. values your privacy. In order to understand how people use our site generally, and to create more valuable experiences for you, we may collect data about your use of this site (both directly and through our partners). By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to the use of that data. For more information on our data policies, please visit our Privacy Policy.