As CEO and Founder, Dr. Terry Neese leads the Institute for Economic Empowerment of Women to accomplish its mission through public policy and entrepreneurial education training programs for women business owners. Since its creation in 2006, the PEACE THROUGH BUSINESS® program has empowered more than 300 women entrepreneurs in Afghanistan and Rwanda. Terry is also the Founder of Terry Neese Personnel Services and is known as a small business expert.
We recently spoke with Terry about her role, how she sees women leading the way and what she hopes you will take away from her panel participation at this year’s National Women’s Business Conference.
Q: Tell us a little bit about you.
I grew up at the end of a dirt road in Oklahoma and became a serial entrepreneur at the age of 21. I built a multi-million-dollar staffing firm, which my daughter now runs. I got involved politically in 1986 when I ran as a delegate to the 1986 White House Conference on Small Business. I am a past president of NAWBO National, co-founder of Women Impacting Public Policy and founder and CEO of The Institute of Economic Empowerment of Women (IEEW). We celebrated 10 years of global impact in July 2016. I am also a pilot and was married to my soulmate, Earl Neese, for 39 wonderful years. We have a daughter, two stepsons and four grandchildren.
Q: What’s next for you and your organization, and how will you get there?
IEEW will continue to empower women in Afghanistan and Rwanda. We have graduated more than 600 women business owners who employ more than 13,000 of the countries’ women and men. Eighty percent are still in business. Is a third country in our future? Perhaps.
Q: What are some areas today where you see women entrepreneurs leading the way?
I see women leading the way in stepping out and charting their own futures by becoming women business owners. I also see women using their voices more to express their views on issues of concern to them and taking the step to run for political office to serve their community, their state and their country.
Q: How have you led the way in your organization and community in the past year?
I traveled to Rwanda in March 2016. During the trip, I visited many women business owners in their businesses. I met with Ambassadors, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of Gender and many other Rwandan leaders. Locally in Oklahoma, our PEACE THROUGH BUSINESS students met with elected officials, were mentored by Oklahoma women business owners and discovered ways to track commerce between Kigali City and Oklahoma City.
Q: In what areas do you hope to see women leading the way next?
I would like to see more women in top of corporate America and seeking to serve in public office.
Q: Why is a conference like this one for women entrepreneurs critical?
For me, it is all about education, networking, connections and mentoring.
Q: If women walk away from your presentation with one thing, what do you want it to be?
NAWBO is historically the women’s entrepreneurial organization of the country. NAWBO’s leadership has changed the way corporate America does business. It has made changes in public policy at local, state and federal levels, and is the power machine as a voice for women entrepreneurs.
Q: Who is one woman from the past or present who inspires you when you think about leading the way, and why?
My mom, Vida Bowles. She is passionate about life, loves her family, is a servant leader and I could only hope to be half the woman she is. She will be 95 years old in November. She always said to me that I could do anything I put mind to and she was right.
There’s still time to join us in Columbus!
View complete conference agenda here.