Building Tucson Businesses: Think small to grow
Building Tucson Businesses

Building Tucson Businesses: Think small to grow

Tucson consultant Alaina G. Levine identified a market that could benefit from her passion, knowledge and solutions.

The general rule regarding business growth is you need more. More customers, more employees, more revenue.

However, in today’s entrepreneurial, gig economy, where people are gravitating toward an independent approach to jobs and income, getting more is not necessarily the best solution.

Meet Alaina G. Levine. Levine is a (get ready) award-winning entrepreneur, science journalist, science and engineering careers consultant, professional speaker and corporate comedian, and executive communications consultant and coach. That’s a lot of hats, and it may seem like Levine is a subscriber to and practitioner of the “more is better” philosophy.

In reality, Levine is one of the few entrepreneurs I’ve met who is singularly focused. You see, Levine is a nerd, but a very funny, energetic, and creative nerd. Having been a nerd for a while now, Levine understands the challenges nerds face when trying to self-promote, be it for jobs, career paths or partnerships.

Levine channeled her self- awareness and her understanding of her fellow nerds into a focused consulting business. In a sentence, Levine helps nerds find, land and/or create their dream job and career. That’s it — a focused approach to a specific market, providing needed solutions for specific needs.

Levine has grown her practice considerably over the years, and has received numerous awards and recognitions. Some brief highlights:

  • Author of the book “Networking for Nerds,” and over 400 articles pertaining to science, engineering, science careers and business
  • Over 700 keynote speeches, workshops, and webinars for clients in the United States, Canada, Europe, Mexico and Africa; in 2018 alone she spoke in seven nations
  • 2006 Tucson Leader of the Year
  • Rising Star Entrepreneur of the Year from the National Association of Women Business Owners, Southern Arizona Chapter
  • Tucson’s 40 Under 40 Business Leaders

The path Levine took is one that many individuals and entrepreneurs would benefit from emulating. Here’s a broad overview of the steps she took, beginning with a three-question self-analysis and inventory.

  1. What are her passions? She identified and merged her four great passions — science, engineering and math; performing arts; communications; and business.
  2. Who would benefit from her passion and knowledge? Her fellow nerds. Nerds generally under value and under sell themselves. This means the nerds fall short of their potential, and businesses fall short leveraging their “nerd capital.”
  3. What value can she deliver? She developed solutions to help nerds and their employers. The solutions include speaking, consulting, workshops, and thought leadership books and articles.

Other best practices Levine used along the way to better serve nerds and grow her practice include:

  • Being open to opportunities and dropping preconceptions as to who would benefit, be it individuals or companies
  • Finding a diverse set of mentors to help guide her along the path
  • Generosity, first and foremost.

The Tucson aspects of Levine’s business are many and varied. She is a multidegree graduate of the University of Arizona. She ran a Masters Program at UA from 2000-2009, combining science and business. She works closely with UA and evolving business clusters e.g., optics and tech transfer, focusing extensively on business communications/consulting.

When Levine does speaking engagements, her stories are dominated by tales about people and companies in Tucson and UA. She’s a one-person ambassador for business in Tucson.

Coming full circle, Levine thought small, identifying a market that could uniquely and strongly benefit from her passion, knowledge and solutions. The focused entrepreneur saw a niche, identified a need, and provided a solution.

It is a proven path that existing and aspiring entrepreneurs should emulate. Think small and grow.

Ken Cook is the co-founder of How to Who, a program on how to build strong relationships and how to build business through those relationships. Learn more at

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