In this episode, I interview Laura Bell, the Founder, and CEO of SafeStack Academy, a boutique cybersecurity company with a team that now stretches across New Zealand and Australia. With over a decade of experience in software development and information security, Laura specializes in bringing security survival skills, practices, and culture into fast-paced businesses and organizations of every shape and size.
An experienced conference speaker, trainer, and regular panel member, Laura has spoken at a range of events such as BlackHat USA, Velocity, OSCON, Kiwicon, Linux Conf AU, and Microsoft TechEd on the subjects of privacy, covert communications, agile security, and security mindset. Laura started SafeStack from a shared workspace back in 2015, aged 30 and with just $300 in startup capital. The business is currently focused on its online educational platform, which they launched in July 2020. Five months in, they had about 4,000 learners and were generating $280,000 in annual revenue with expectations to reach $1 Million within a year.
She was the sole full-time employee when she started the business and now has 8 full-time employees after peaking to seventeen a while back. Laura says the hardest thing in growing a small business for her has been trusting their journey to be different from other companies without focusing on what the other companies were doing. The one thing she says she would tell herself on day one of starting out is, “Believe in yourself more, be confident, don’t sweat the small stuff, and don’t let your anxiety get the best of you” Prepare to be blown away by Laura’s small business growth wisdom.
This Cast Covers:
- Cybersecurity consulting for growing businesses and those that may not have their own internal security team.
- Generating revenue from the consultancy services and online educational platform.
- Rate quitting her job to go out on her own and fix everything she couldn’t fix before.
- Focusing on the online educational platform that they launched in 2020.
- From 0 to 4,000 learners within 5 months of being in operation and currently generating $280,000 a year in revenue which is projected to reach $1 Million.
- Giving time to ideas and opportunities that may not seem worthy in the present.
- Bootstrapping the business from the beginning and their current funding round.
- The valuable hiring lessons that Laura has learned over time and how it has positively impacted her business.
- Discovering that sales in cybersecurity are based on emotion and shared values.
- The power of being authentic to herself and finding confidence in her style of management.
- Navigating the roller coaster that is fast growth in small business.
- Overcoming challenges, continuous learning, and enjoying the flexibility that comes with being a small business owner.
- Scheduling your fitness time and health activities as if they are your most important client.
- Having success with hiring people who are outside her bubble and hiring through a recruiter.
- How she struggled with work-life balance in the beginning.
- Reading a lot on management, communication, and habits for her professional development.
- SafeStack Academy
- Thinking, Fast and Slow By Daniel Kahneman
- Atomic Habits By James Clear
- The Gift of Imperfection By Brené Brown
“Success to me is making sure we are hitting our goals and making security more inclusive for everyone” – Laura Bell
“Be kind with your time” – Laura Bell
“Hiring badly is very expensive” – Laura Bell
“Not everyone wants to work for a small company” – Laura Bell
“It’s better to have an empty sit than the wrong person in it” – Laura Bell
“Hiring when you’re small is very challenging” – Laura Bell
“The energy it takes to grow something is beyond what you can imagine going into it” – Laura Bell
“Use your health as if it was a precious resource and protect it” – Laura Bell
“Model the behaviors that you want to see and be more visible as a leader” – Laura Bell
Music from https://filmmusic.io “Cold Funk” by Kevin MacLeod (https://incompetech.com). License: CC BY (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/