This Metro East entrepreneur has now sold 2 tech startups. Here's how she did it. – St. Louis Business Journal

When a United Kingdom-based company recently acquired local e-commerce startup OneSpace, Stephanie Leffler joined rarified air. She became one of the few St. Louis-area entrepreneurs to take two technology startups from creation to a high-profile exit.
OneSpace, which provides e-commerce technology and services to consumer brands, in September was bought by London-based Ascential (LSE: ASCL.L).
For Leffler, entrepreneurship has been the only career she’s known. In her early 20s, she and Ryan Noble started another e-commerce startup, MonsterCommerce. That firm, which developed e-commerce software for small-business clients, was a rapid success. It swiftly grew revenue, leading to a sale to Network Solutions in 2006.
In contrast to MonsterCommerce’s linear growth trajectory, Leffler describes OneSpace’s path as more of a “zig zag.” It started as an entirely different business.
What eventually became OneSpace began in 2011 as CrowdSource, a startup with a platform to help companies source freelancer workers. The freelancer concept raised more than $20 million from investors, but Leffler said the uniqueness of that platform became its biggest challenge to growth.
“What we found was that while we had success, it was really difficult at our size to market a product that people didn’t really know existed. We were creating a new market and companies were all trying to solve problems our workforce and platform could solve, but nobody really knew to go looking for a crowdsourcing platform to solve these problems,” she said.
In late 2017, Leffler pivoted her startup to its e-commerce focus and found a key client in St. Louis-based Nestle Purina PetCare Co. Today, the 96-person OneSpace provides e-commerce search data, product management and content optimization technology and services to about 60 consumer packaged goods companies in the U.S.
Leffler said OneSpace considered selling prior to the pandemic, thanks to inbound interest in buying the company. While the pandemic slowed down M&A conversations, the rise in online shopping due to the virus gave the startup further fuel, given its focus on helping brands sell consumer goods.
“These are all products that shifted from people walking into a grocery store to being procured through InstaCart or Walmart pickup,” Leffler said.
With its recent acquisition, OneSpace has joined a global company that counts more than 2,000 employees and clients in over 120 countries. Ascential works with consumer brands to provide them with data analytics, technology and services for digital commerce, product design and marketing operations. OneSpace will continue to be led by Leffler and is now part of Ascential’s Digital Commerce business unit, the London firm’s largest business division by annual revenue.
While much has changed during Leffler’s tenure as an entrepreneur, one major difference stands out for her. She says she can likely count on one hand the employees who left MonsterCommerce during her tenure there. The list is much longer at OneSpace.
“In some senses, I look at that as a personal failure to a certain extent. But I also think that the way people think about jobs and longevity and loyalty, all of that has just changed so much. It’s probably the biggest change I’ve experienced between those two companies,” Leffler said.
While she’s successfully led two companies to a notable exit, Leffler said she’s unlikely to pursue a hat trick. Her focus for the foreseeable future is still OneSpace.

“I’m really excited about what’s to come with Ascential. What we’re going to do as a combined entity is going to be great,” she said. “I feel really fortunate. I know it’s not all that common to go from the ground up and sell it twice. It’s nice to have hit that milestone,” Leffler said.
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