During the Fall of 2019, Nicole Rodden and her husband, Robert, decided that “business as usual” just wasn’t working. Robert was grinding away in corporate America, and Nicole had finished a tenure serving as a dynamic positioning operator off the Gulf Coast at the beginning of the year before running for Congress. Nicole was accustomed to life on the water, having served for ten years as an officer in the United States Navy Reserve, but she was ready to have the freedom to raise a family and pursue her political ambitions. The campaign trail wasn’t easy, either. Nicole largely self-funded her run, receiving boots-on-the-ground support from her husband who’d been laid off towards the end of the primary.
When the couple was able to step back and take a breath, they decided that they wanted to be their own bosses. After looking into their options, the Roddens decided to open a franchise in the waste management field called “Smash My Trash.” It was the perfect opportunity—a chance to help fill a need for other small businesses, disrupt a sleepy industry, and benefit the environment. They had their plan in place and business model in-hand, when March 2020 came around and upended everything.
Over the next year of the pandemic, Nicole and Robert struggled to stay in business. According to Nicole, “a lot of family and a lot of prayer” kept the franchise afloat. In fact, Nicole and her brother managed sales, while their father operated their first truck. The Roddens relied on the community around them—from their Church, First Baptist of Atlanta, to Robert’s fellow Georgia Tech MBA alumni—for support, which Nicole says is key to success in small business. The business climate finally softened in the Spring of 2021, and the Roddens’ Smash My Trash franchise began growing 20 percent month-over-month.
During this time, Nicole also kept her sights on advocacy. After her run for office, Nicole started fellowship positions with the Empower America Project and the Club for Growth. She was selected to be a part of the Smash My Trash’s National Franchise Council, an exclusive committee that represents the interests of franchisees to company leadership.
Nicole sees this work as an extension of her military service and campaign for office—especially when it comes to fighting for small businesses. Nicole says that there’s a “misconception that small business ‘owners’ have it cushy, but that’s not the case;” rather, small businesses work hard to care for their customers and employees before themselves.
As a small business advocate, Nicole knows the unique challenges facing small businesses and asserts that "folks in D.C. need to know we exist."
To learn more about the issues that Nicole and other NSBA members are fighting for, please visit nsba.biz/issues.