(INTERVIEW) On Female Leaders with Billie Dragoo
Bloggers by nature know how to take risks—we put our words on the Internet and let people comment on them! Have you ever thought of taking that courage and pouring it into entrepreneurship? BlogHer sat down with Billie Dragoo, the National Association of Women Business Owner's (NAWBO) National Chair & Interim CEO and President & CEO of RepuCare, to talk about perseverence and female leadership in business.
BlogHer: According to CNN Money, you researched top-paying jobs and picked one, as opposed to starting from the vantage of education or personal interest. What was your plan?
BD: I had been working 2-3 days a week, but I wasn't focused on entrepreneurship then. After my divorce, I did some research and went back to school to figure out which jobs were the most profitable. I got a job with one of the best recruiting firms in the city and quickly became their number two recruiter, specializing in healthcare. Things were going really well, and I saw a need for medical staffing. It was all about providing for my two young children and being able to support myself.
BlogHer: Becoming an entrepreneur takes a big leap of faith. How did you decide when to go out on your own after recruiting elsewhere?
BD: I worked for my firm for about eight years and made them a lot of money. In the eighties and nineties, recruiting was a very male-dominated field. I think that's where part of my drive for advocacy for women came from. I had to fight very hard for everything. I switched jobs, and after about a year I came up with my own business plan. I had a good reputation. I took my business plan to the owners of the company and asked for their thoughts. They loved it, so I asked to be part owner. They didn't want to let me be part owner, so I left with my business plan and started RepuCare with my own money. Now we have two divisions and more than 200 employees.
BlogHer: Tell me a little bit about the NAWBO and the NAWBO Women's Business Conference.
BD: This year, the NAWBO conference is in Indianapolis. NAWBO Indianapolis has the largest chapter in the country. Eighty percent of the chapter does $1 million or more in revenue. Our governor and mayor are very involved in the Indianapolis chapter, and there is an active lobby in Indiana for policy changes for women. We encourage all of our chapters and their members to attend. We anticipate about 1,000 people coming.
BlogHer: What are your goals for women to take away from the conference?
BD: There are a number of exciting initiatives we want to share with our members.
We're using a Silicon Valley-originated, cloud-based strategic mentoring program called MentorCloud to help our members grow. If I wanted to start a women's venture fund, then I could use this tool to hook up with people all over the country and beyond. We're rolling it out in two phases. The first phase is for chapter leaders and the second phase is for chapter members. It's very exciting, and we'll be talking about it at the conference.
The next program we're rolling out is the YEA!—Young Entrepreneurs Academy. It's a year-long program for kids in the sixth-twelfth grades who become entrepreneurs. The kids come from all kinds of schools, and the program has been incredibly successful.
NAWBO national is in collaboration with Indiegogo. Nearly 42% of the campaigns that receive full funding on Indiegogo are run by women entrepreneurs.
We have a strategic partnership with the National Association of Development Companies (NADC) to connect women entrepreneurs with the necessary funding they need to achieve their goals.
I've reached out to all of those organizations to collaborate and move forward doing great things for women in business.
BlogHer: Any advice for women who want to take charge of their own career destinies?
BD: Set a big goal and go for it. I encourage each of you to find someone who can point out to you where you might be giving away the power that will go on to define you. Devise a strategy for getting in to the room where decisions are being made, and ask for strategic help from others to get you into that room. Surround yourself with good people. Understand the power of reciprocity. And finally, realize that by virtue of being an entrepreneur you are going to fail. In fact, you will probably fail often and fast. It’s simply a part of the territory. However, failure can break you or build you. The wonderful thing is you get to choose which one it will be.