As most NAWBO members know, one of the greatest keys to business success is learning from other entrepreneurs. This month, we sat down with some of NAWBO’s recent award recipients from this year’s National Women’s Business Conference Awards Gala to learn more about their tips for growth. Read on for more!
Dottie Gandy, Susan Hagar Legacy Award
It’s fitting that Dottie recently received the Susan Hagar Legacy Award, as she can also be counted as an important co-founder of the organization. While she was highly influential in getting NAWBO off the ground, Dottie admits that the goal was always to simply support women. “It felt like overnight that we became the National Association of Women Business Owners,” she says. “We considered ourselves to be savvy business women and we were there to support businesses and how they looked at employing women.”
After helping to launch NAWBO, Dottie went on to consult for large-scale corporations with women’s initiatives, including Giant Foods grocery chain. From there, she became the Market Director in Dallas for the Mentoring Women’s Network, and authored two books to support women in business. Today, she works in her most challenging role yet–as a full-time caretaker for her husband, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Dottie’s knack for finding opportunity in unconventional places has still kept her heavily involved in supporting women. “What I’ve learned from my caregiver’s group is that so many women who’ve been caregivers never worked. So I thought, ‘I’m starting one more business!’ So I do some mentoring on the side, I call it “rewirement” mentoring. I teach workshops and mentor primarily women who want to rewire their thinking in a variety of areas.”
Laura Yamanaka, Gillian Rudd Award
As this year’s Gillian Rudd Award recipient, Laura knows a thing or two about strong leadership. As president of teamCFO, Inc., she is a financial expert who provides outsourced accounting services to support other businesses in improving and maintaining financial success. She also has served as a NAWBO National Board Chair and has been actively involved in the NAWBO-Los Angeles chapter since the early 2000s.
While Laura has found immense success as a business owner, she has also found tremendous growth opportunities through NAWBO. From meetings to national conventions, she has gained knowledge and know-how from other industry experts. “It was educational and nice to be with people who understood what we were going through,” she notes. “People who understand the perspective—just sometimes what is it like to be mom, wife and business owner. It became a one-stop shop.”
Didi Discar, WBO of the Year Award
As a newer NAWBO member, Didi is a prime example of entrepreneurial spirit. The principal of Carling Communications, she leads the largest privately held health care advertising agency in Southern California. With high-profile clients like Bausch & Lomb and Novartis, her business provides specialized communications across dermatology, aesthetics, ophthalmology, pain management and cardiovascular medicine.
She’s made strong connections with NAWBO and has found the support she needs to continue to push the boundaries as a woman business owner. “Unlike many NAWBO members, I didn’t join to network my business, as my business is very specific and unique to a particular industry,” she says. “Rather, I joined so that I could find a place where there were like-minded individuals, with whom I could both rant and celebrate our similar experiences.”
What does receiving this specific award mean to you personally?
Dottie: “The first thing that I was enormously touched by is that Susan was an integral part of the founding days and was a great friend—it was a personal honor to have something that had Susan’s name on it. The other is that because I’ve continued to support women in so many ways, I’ve never walked away from the success of women. It’s an acknowledgment of the lifetime of continuing to find ways to support the success of women in business.”
Laura: “First, it was a shock! Gillian Rudd and what she was able to accomplish—she’s in a different class. All the NAWBO mothers accomplished so many things. I don’t feel that I‘ve done anything to that magnitude. One of the things they talked about is you do what you can with what you have where you are. Each of us has skill sets to contribute to making this world a better place. I feel like my award was on behalf of all those women who are making a difference and not having the glory pieces.”
Didi: “My first reaction was, ‘What? Me?’ Then, as it sunk in, I came to the realization that I’ve spent the better part of the last six years pounding the pavement, driving my business, keeping my head down (except when it came to my clients) and never did I notice that other people were noticing. So what does it mean to me? The award validates my vision and me; it says to the world, and even to myself, ‘I created something of real value. I made a difference.’”
What’s next for your business? How do you plan to take it to the next level?
Dottie: “It’s continuing to figure out my role as a caregiver. It’s about as entrepreneurial as anything I’ve ever done. One of the things I’ve learned through NAWBO is just because it’s new, doesn’t mean you can’t figure it out. While this caregiver role brings a whole new set of parameters, the same skills and insights that we used in starting NAWBO are really serving me in figuring out how to continue to do this. I do the mentoring on the side when there is time available. I will never stop actively supporting the success of women. Right now, the irony is I’m learning how to support my own success as a caregiver.”
Laura: “What is next for me is very much aligned to personal development and the country and everything else. You always have to be learning and thinking about that next step and thinking of becoming better. I think with teamCFO, we look at that—there are so many businesses out there that we can make a difference with their accounting and financials so they can do a better job. It’s our calling to help people understand how they can get accounting to work for them rather than against them.”
Didi: “We continue to experience explosive growth, so what’s immediately next is to fuel that growth with more talent; to make more jobs for San Diego. I anticipate we will grow our global footprint and do more work outside the U.S., and at some point, we’ll have to think about opening an office somewhere more convenient to our East Coast and European clients. My plan, however, is not set; I’m not a big believer in over-planning because when you’re in the service industry, you are dependent on the winds on which your clients fly, and so rigid planning for an uncertain landscape is a recipe for disaster. Instead, I would rather continue my business with agility and scalability in mind, so that I can flex as my clients’ needs evolve.”
What’s your one best piece of advice for other women entrepreneurs who are looking to grow their businesses to at least $1 million in revenue?
Dottie: “Number one: Don’t try to figure out what somebody else has figured out. Go consult every expert you can who understands the nature of new business. What you save your own initiative for is finding a niche and marketing yourself in a way for people to understand that what she’s doing is different. A lot of women and men think that in order to have a million-dollar business, you have to have a staff and corporate office. Set this business up your way, so it not only serves your clients, but also you and your lifestyle. Make sure the business honors the person you are.”
Laura: “Don’t limit yourself. When I’ve spoken to women business owners, the greater majority actually is looking smaller. They’re really not setting their sights on all the things they can be. If you don’t shoot higher, you don’t get higher. You have to figure out how are you going to get there and celebrate those accomplishments day to day. You need to understand what are you doing today that will help you get to that million-dollar level.”
Didi: “Dream short-term, and make decisions based on money you know is coming in, not money you think is coming in. And when you achieve those dreams, then dream again short-term, with the same financial guardrails. And so on. Before you know it, you will have built something bigger than you imagined.”