This spring, a typical workday for Tedra Cobb consisted of running communication and leadership training for a 1,000-employee health care firm, and then glad-handing with hundreds of supporters at a rally at night. That's because in addition to being the founder of Canton, New York-based consulting firm Tedra Cobb & Associates, Cobb is the Democratic candidate for the congressional seat in the state's 21st District. So while her 9-to-5 entails advising on the ways to manage a team, avoid and deal with workplace harassment, and hire the right candidates, her after-hours gig requires just as much--if not more--attention and energy.
Which, she admits, breeds a certain amount of chaos. "I haven't been getting in an hour per day at the gym, I'll tell you that," she says.
Cobb isn't the only woman founder taking on the borderline insane task of campaigning for U.S. Congress while running a business. Two other female founders are juggling entrepreneurship with a run for the House of Representatives as voters prepare to head for the polls this November.
One of them, Cindy Axne, co-founder of digital design firm Creation Agents in West Des Moines, Iowa, has a business partner (in this case, her husband) to share work duties with when her focus on being the Democratic candidate in the state's 3rd District gets in the way. Axne, who previously spent a decade working for the state of Iowa, co-founded the company in 2014 before deciding to pursue a political run last year.
Meanwhile, Candius Stearns, the Republican running for the open seat in Michigan's 9th District, is founder and CEO of not one but two companies: DFBenefits, a benefits brokerage, and DFB TPA, a third-party benefits administrator, both located in Troy. She's up against the heavily favored son of the seat's 35-year incumbent. But her experience suits her well for her underdog status. "I liken it to being a small-business owner," she says. "You don't have huge venture capitalists propping you up and pouring money into your business. You've just gotta make it happen."
That's not the only similarity Stearns sees between the two roles. "I feel like I'm starting a business all over again," she says. "I tell my friends that running for office is like starting up in an industry you don't know anything about. And you've got to take it from zero revenue to $10 million in six months."
Last fall, Stearns decided to pause taking on new clients to focus on her campaign. Ideally, that's a temporary solution until she wins and needs to hand over the day-to-day. Life has been crazy, but entrepreneurship helped prepare her for this. "Being a woman who already has to balance kids, being a wife, and running a business has been very helpful," she says. "Now you're just adding another ball to juggle. It's not something I haven't had to do in the past. It's just adding an extra one."