Biotech CEO on how cash-strapped entrepreneurs can barter for what they need
STC Biologics is a Cambridge-based biotechnology company focused on the development of biologic drugs. Magdalena Leszczyniecka, the company’s president and CEO, started her career in the pharmaceutical industry after completing her Ph.D. She later pursued an M.B.A. focused on entrepreneurship. “I had to take my career into my own hands,” Leszczyniecka said.
Plotting her business idea during her M.B.A program put Leszczyniecka in just the right place to start a company when the market crashed. “What better time to start a company than now?” she reasoned. After several years in the field, Leszczyniecka shared her experiences with bartering, negotiating, and asking for help.
Barter for what you need – Despite heading up her own business, Leszczyniecka spent 15 hours a week setting up cell culture experiments and training employees of another company. In exchange, she got access to a lab bench and equipment for her own use. “They could not afford to hire me, even if they wanted to,” Leszczyniecka said. “Sometimes payment doesn’t have to be in cash.”
Negotiate on price to gain business – Customers are price conscious, Leszczyniecka said. She’s negotiated price on many occasions to gain business. One potential customer wanted to work with a name brand, Leszczyniecka said. But her company won out after negotiations because they cut their price. Also, Leszczyniecka said, she’ll sometimes give something away for free at first, so there’s no risk for the customer. Once they get used to the company, she said, they’ll become paying customers. “As a small or unknown company, you go around and basically have to reduce the barriers to entry to zero for everyone,” Leszczyniecka said.
Don’t be afraid to ask – When she started her business, Leszczyniecka said she was too ashamed to ask for favors and help. But now she’s realized that “if you don’t ask, you’re not going to get.” Leszczyniecka said she isn’t shy when it comes to asking for assistance. While she’s received some “no’s,” she said, others say “yes.”
Know how to package yourself and your business – Holding both a science and a business degree has helped Leszczyniecka better position herself in the space. There are many entrepreneurs who are great in science, she said, but they don’t know how to fit into the field. Leszczyniecka also focuses on the long-term vision for her company. She knows what she wants STC Biologics to look like in several years, which helps her plan what to do now. “Think big,” she said.