Publisher and reporter with Silicon Hills News

In 1994, Louise Epstein launched Charge-Off Clearinghouse after serving on the Austin City Council.

“I went on a shameless search to find out what was happening in the world,” Epstein said.

There was an explosion in credit card debt and an explosion in debt that went unpaid, she said. That’s where she saw an opportunity.

She was one of the first women investment bankers in Texas and used her experience to create Charge-Off Clearinghouse, a distressed debt company that valued, purchased and sold $1 billion of charged-off credit cards. She led the company from 1997 to 2008.

Today, Epstein serves as managing director of the Innovation Center in the Cockrell School of Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin.

Epstein shares her secrets to success in this latest episode of the Ideas to Invoices podcast.

Epstein found a partner and convinced him to hire her for his debt collection agency. She ended up spinning her company out of that venture focused on buying and selling buy debt.

“Like most great ideas I latch on to, they are not mine,” Epstein said.

Her company was profitable from the first month.

One of the big lessons she learned in business, is it doesn’t matter if you’re right.

“Being right doesn’t mean you just made a sale. You can be right all the way to bankruptcy,” Epstein.

The key is to present something in a compelling way and to know how to sell, she said.

She built relationships with her customers on the phone.

“The way to sell is to know how to listen,” she said. “And when you listen, you really learn what your customer is looking for and what’s important to them… don’t build a relationship by talking.”

Great entrepreneurs must have an incredible amount of energy, the ability to prioritize and focus, Epstein said.

“If you want to be successful there is no work, life balance,” Epstein said.
“You have to have the ability to delay satisfaction, delay gratification, focus and commit.”

Her favorite thing about being an entrepreneur is creating something from nothing.

“I believe that when we create, we are doing what we are supposed to be doing,” Epstein said. “That’s how we are being the closest to the greatest we can be. The most elevated existence we can have.”

Epstein also advises entrepreneurs to learn first before launching their ventures.

“It really helps to know something to be successful,” Epstein said.

Getting paid to learn is called a job, she said.

“Get a job, learn, because you need to know more about so many things before you begin something,” she said.

Entrepreneurs are driven and not everyone can be an entrepreneur, Epstein said.

At the Innovation Center at the University of Texas at Austin, Epstein shares an office with Bob Metcalfe, the executive director, inventor of Ethernet, founding CEO of 3Com and professor of innovation at UT.

The Innovation Center is using startups as vehicles to change the world, Epstein said. At UT, two robotics company are doing great work, she said. Professor Luis Sentis is heading up Apptronik, a company that makes robots and exoskeletons.

Professor Andrea Thomaz is heading up Diligent Droids, a company that makes robots for healthcare providers. And Mechanical Engineering Professor Chris Rylander is heading up several commercial ventures, she said.

Listen to the full Ideas to Invoices podcast to learn more.

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