A business owner has many responsibilities when it comes to cultivating success—from accounting to staffing to growth opportunities, the “to-do list” is endless. But while it is critical to women’s business success, public policy hasn’t typically been at the top of that list. That is until Terry Neese got involved and starting inspiring change for women business owners around the world.
As the Founder of Terry Neese Personnel, she ran and grew the staffing agency for 31 years until her daughter, Kim, took over as owner in 2006. After running her business with her signature “GIPOGOOB” approach—that’s “Get Involved in Politics or Go Out of Business”—she decided to take her public policy efforts to a new level and founded the Institute for Economic Empowerment of Women.
Through the Institute, she developed the PEACE THROUGH BUSINESS® Program, which empowers and mentors women entrepreneurs in Afghanistan and Rwanda. While the program started as just an idea to help others in war-torn countries, it’s now made a huge impact. “This is our ninth year running the program, and we’ve graduated more than 500 women who have created more than 12,000 jobs for their communities and countries,” Terry notes.
The PEACE THROUGH BUSINESS® Program is a 10-week intensive course that helps women entrepreneurs to develop business plans, financial statements and marketing plans. From there, 15 women from each country are selected based on their business plans and performance by an independent selection committee to travel to the United States for intensive leadership training in Dallas, Texas. At the end of their coursework, participants are matched with an American woman entrepreneur in the same industry who they live with and shadow to better understand how Americans balance their work and their personal lives. “That is one of the most incredible experiences where all the American women say they learn more from their mentees,” Terry says. “I think our U.S. mentors realize how lucky we are. Plus, these relationships remain vital for months and even years afterward. We have people who mentored in 2007 that are still mentoring today.”
The culmination of the program is a full-day International Women’s Economic Summit focused on business issues and featuring keynote speakers and interactive panel discussions. A graduation ceremony is held in the evening, where one participant from each country is awarded the Enterprising Women Award by Enterprising Women Magazine.
As a woman entrepreneur, Terry notes that getting involved with international communities is critical to business on many levels. “We have a tendency to live in our own little world where we think that it’s all about our city—but it’s not,” she says. “We live in a global economy and, therefore, there are opportunities for us to do business in other parts of the world. But also, if we help these women raise their gross domestic product, it will be a more peaceful world.”
While she’s personally passionate about empowering women entrepreneurs, Terry also credits NAWBO for providing such a powerful support system during her journey. As a longtime member and previous National president, she recognizes the importance of investing in women. “There is no doubt in my mind that had I not been a member of NAWBO and had the opportunity to serve as its National president, I would not be where I am today, “ she says. “The NAWBO sisterhood is strong; there’s such a bond between the women of NAWBO. We are strong yet gentle women, and we are holding hands as we march forward in our journey of entrepreneurship.”
As Terry looks ahead, she’s excited to see the future of business operating on a more global scale, where women can work together to shine as entrepreneurs. “It’s so important to reach out and communicate with people in other parts of the world so we know what is happening in Syria or Russia or India or China and how that is impacting us,” she says. “That’s exciting information and it’s knowledge we must have in order to run our businesses successfully.”
For more information about Terry’s work and the Institute for Economic Empowerment of Women, please visit http://www.ieew.org.