Leah Brown

Fear nothing, and keep moving … these are the mottos of Leah Brown.

The dynamic founder and president of A10 Clinical Solutions Inc., Brown says she hasn’t created a powerhouse company by tip-toeing through the business world.

“If you’re an entrepreneur you’re a risk taker, every day,” she said from her Cary offices. “But you try to take calculated risks. My motto is fear nothing. Women are typically crippled by a fear of failure. Yes, there will be obstacles, and yes, you will at times feel overwhelmed. Just accept it and keep moving forward.

“The biggest thing about being an entrepreneur is that you truly have the ability to innovate freely. That’s such an awesome power that no one can take away from you — and that can change the world.”

Changing the world was Brown’s goal in launching A10 in 2005, motivated by the deep personal loss of her uncle to HIV/AIDS years earlier, due to a lack of adequate medications and available treatment.

A clinical research and clinical care company, A10 works to bring new drugs and health care improvements to market faster.

Brown explains A10’s services this way: Before a doctor prescribes a drug, it must first be approved by the FDA. For that to happen, the drug must be tested on humans for safety and efficacy. A10 monitors that multi-step process.

Brown says the company’s mission has also expanded to meet what she calls a “change in the landscape of the industry,” to include development of technologies to improve both patient and provider experience, and lower the cost of care.

Though she originally wanted to be a nurse, Brown holds a degree in information technology from Virginia Commonwealth University and a juris doctorate from the University of Kentucky, and is a member of the North Carolina State Bar.

She spent the years following law school as a technical solutions consultant working with hospitals and academic medical systems on health care regulatory compliance, till the time came to pursue her dream.

A solo entrepreneur tackling financial and single-mom challenges along the way, Brown pauses to consider the sacrifices she’s made.

“A lot of time with family and friends is the biggest one, that you can’t get back,” she said. “But for the contributions I believe I’ve given to others, I hope the family would understand and look compassionately on me, that I was working for the greater good.”

In 2011 alone, A10 Clinical ranked No. 328 on the Inc. 500 list of America’s fastest-growing, privately held businesses, with almost $20 million in revenues and 260 employees, and was named to Forbes’ America’s Most Promising Companies list.

“Building a business is relationship, relationship, relationship,” Brown said, “and networking, networking, networking. I’m not from North Carolina, and didn’t inherit any contacts. This has been grassroots.

“And as a business owner, you can pay someone to sit in the office, but you can’t pay someone to be you, advocating for your business and your industry. You have to be everywhere and be genuinely giving, if not money then time. People need to see the sincere person I am, that I’m the same at work and in the community. A true business relationship is two-way.”

Brown has also learned how to delegate, a tough lesson for such a self-starter.
“You can’t grow a business if you’re doing everything yourself, but at first there was a trust factor with hiring people. You’ve got to have the right team. Now our executive team is phenomenal,” she said.

Brown says she’s a proponent of “leadership by example.”

“I won’t ask anyone to do what I won’t do. But then leadership is also showing people a way to really improve their contribution to their team and to the world. I’ll coach, and be their biggest cheerleader.”

Mentoring has been a large part of Brown’s professional life, from foreign travels with Peace Through Business to her current roles on the boards of organizations both local and national.
Examples include the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce, the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council, and lobbying on behalf of female entrepreneurs as deputy Health Care Committee chair for Women Impacting Public Policy, in Washington, D.C.

Brown received the WIPP AT&T Innovator of the Year Award for North Carolina in 2011, and is co-founder of the nonprofit Diversity Alliance for Science.

“Much of the work focuses on how we can help women business owners grow their businesses; we’re the force that can move the economy forward,” Brown said. “We want to effect public policies on the political end, so women get the chance to have different business opportunities.”

Brown has been recognized among the nation’s most powerful women entrepreneurs, and participated in Fortune’s 2010 Most Powerful Women Summit in Washington, D.C., alongside political heavyweights including President Barack Obama.

Could politics be in her future? Brown says maybe.

Among her goals for A10, meanwhile, is to “really launch the company as an international force,” she said, “to take our mission and our vision to other countries. It’s time.”

Brown’s keep-moving philosophy continues outside the office, where she enjoys water sports, tennis, clamming and snow skiing.

So has she found success in life?

“I love what I do,” Brown said. “But the only way I measure success is that one, my children are happy and grow up to be well-adjusted adults, and two — and I’ll never know if I reach this one — if at my funeral someone does a eulogy and states that I’ve made a positive impact on the world.”

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