Jennifer Mallet speaks with eloquence and ease as she explains the intricacies of her smart home consultation and installation company, Level Up Your Home. Even before learning about the details of her career, you immediately get a sense of her long history working in home technology installation.
However, as you begin to learn more about Jennifer’s career experience, you begin to grasp just how much success she’s seen.
That’s why she’s the subject of this spotlight—she’s one of the innumerable women in small business within male-dominated industries who are successfully fulfilling their entrepreneurial ambitions despite the odds being stacked against them.
To honor Women’s Small Business Month this October, we sat down with Jennifer to pick her brain about the successes she’s faced as a woman entrepreneur and the lessons she’s learned from challenges along the way.
Despite the challenges that come with being a woman in a male-dominated industry, Jennifer has stepped up to the plate time and time again. For instance, as an employee at Bose at just 32, she was chosen to oversee the entirety of their home installation efforts, which included more than 60 contractors, a call center, and a team across the U.S. and Canada. Even though this task was certainly something to balk at, Jennifer remained undaunted, and Bose’s home set-up sector thrived under her leadership.
After her success at Bose, Jennifer set out on her own within the same male-dominated industry at the intersection of tech and consumer goods. Two years after branching out, she remains enthusiastic and undaunted as she runs Level Up Your Home.
Here’s what we learned from the CEO, president, and founder of the nation’s foremost smart home installation small business:
After 20 years in corporate business, Jennifer decided to leverage her history and experience for more personal growth, and she set out on her own.
Now, with Level Up Your Home—a Massachusetts-based smart home installation firm—she harnesses her past to amplify her future within the industry.
In fact, this forward thinking is what brought her to open her own business in January 2016 and to eventually seek funding for her business through Fundera. Jennifer’s voice bubbles with enthusiasm when she shares the industry’s numbers with us—the smart home industry is supposed to be a $15 billion business in 2017 and is projected to grow by 21.8% by 2021.
And her business has mirrored this industry-wide growth. Back in 2016, Level Up Your Home began with five contractors nationwide. The business quickly scaled up to 20 contractors within only a half a year. Not even two years later, Level Up Your Home is now working with 40 contractors nationwide.
These numbers answer the growing demand that the industry faces. What once was a target demographic of early adopter tech heads is now, essentially, all homeowners looking to make their homes safer, more efficient, and better for entertaining guests.
As her business’s customer-base continues to grow, Jennifer wants to “future-proof” Level Up Your Home. And she knew exactly how she wanted to do it.
Well, at least she knew how she didn’t want to do it. Because she had had access to the wisdom of Amar Bose—MIT professor and Bose’s founder—through his company-wide talks, she knew she wanted to find funding that wouldn’t dictate how she ran her business.
During those talks, he had emphasized the importance of funding to grow business but also warned that traditional funding, like investors and VCs, don’t allow business owners to retain control of their company.
Still, an expensive but promising opportunity presented itself to Level Up Your Home that required more working capital. With this opportunity in limbo, Jennifer felt it would’ve been too late if they gathered the necessary funds gradually.
While she began “looking forward” and considering her potential funding sources, Jennifer remembered Bose’s advice and took it to heart. Because she and her team, rather than an external investor, were in the best position to make decisions for Level Up Your Home, Jennifer looked beyond traditional investors.
With the funding that Jennifer secured through our services, she’s moving forward on a vendor-proposed strategy. Her newfangled access to capital has allowed her to prepare to match expected demand by expanding her staff and finding “the right kind of talent” to do so.
Additional access to cash flow has made it possible for Level Up Your Home to match the ever-growing demand for their services and puts them on the same sky-rocketing trajectory as the smart home industry at large.
Just like any entrepreneur, Jennifer’s path to success hasn’t been an entirely smooth one. Nonetheless, she cherishes the rough patches she’s experienced throughout her career as opportunities to learn and improve.
When we asked about challenges she’s faced throughout her career, Jennifer doesn’t hesitate when she admits, “In the first year [of running Level Up Your Home], I made some mistakes.” She quickly adds, “Thank goodness I did, because I learned from them.”
Jennifer considers every misstep she’s had along the way as a vital part of her tool belt for handling whatever complication she’s dealing with. She makes adjustments by learning from experience, especially when it comes to knowing which avenue of investment will give her the most bang for her buck.
This mindset has also fed into to her biggest piece of advice for other entrepreneurs. She says the biggest lesson she has learned along the way is figuring out how to get comfortable— and eventually even excited—about risk. With time and experience comes the ability to make educated risks within your business, and doing so should be a thrilling part of growing your own company.
Finally, when asked specifically about challenges she’s faced and lessons she’s learned as a woman small business owner, Jennifer optimistically shares, “Things are changing by the minute, and I see them balancing out.”
But that’s not from her sitting idly by—Jennifer participates in multiple New England-, Boston- and locally-based women’s entrepreneurial groups. She actively networks and supports women entrepreneurs, and insists that the best thing women in small business can do for each other is support each other “through networking and relationships.”
What next steps will Jennifer be taking with Level Up Your Home?
That’s a good question. Beyond hiring more talent, “meeting industry demand” can mean a lot of things.
But remember, Jennifer followed Bose’s advice to seek funding sources that let her retain authority over her business decisions. Because of this, she and her team, the ones with years and years of expertise, are the only ones who will get to decide where Level Up Your Home is going from here.
The rest of us will get to sit back and watch them succeed.
Maddie Shepherd is a former Fundera senior staff writer and current contributing writer for Fundera.
Maddie has an extensive knowledge of business credit cards, accounting tools, and merchant services, but specializes in small business financing advice. She has reviewed and analyzed dozens of financial tools and providers, helping business owners make better financial decisions.