Whether it’s going to the gym, reading one book a week or cutting back on Netflix, many of us set reasonable New Year’s goals and strive throughout the year to accomplish them. But for Cassandra Willard, it didn’t take long to realize that her go-getter personality would never let her accomplish one of her recent aspirations.
“A few years ago, a friend of mine challenged me to set aside one day a month where I just relaxed and did nothing,” Cassandra says. “I rested for one day when I had surgery in January, but by the end of February, I knew this resolution was clearly not for me. I’m just wired to not be sedentary.” As a partner at the Florida-based Franklin & Willard law firm, head of the Entertainment, Art and Sports Law section of the Florida Bar and course director at Full Sail University, it’s easy to see why there’s little room for Cassandra, the NAWBO-Orlando chapter president elect, to spare a day for herself.
For the past 16 years, Cassandra has represented a diverse range of clients by consulting on business plans, exploring best business practices, creating and negotiating entertainment contracts and evaluating business offers for a variety of Fortune 500 companies. She is now excited about the growth of her new law firm and the ability to support upcoming attorneys in the field of entertainment and entrepreneurship. Through it all, cyber security is always a top priority for her and her business. “Whether you use email, social media or a piece of technology like an iPhone or laptop, there are always certain risks when it comes to a data breach,” she says. “When you look at some of the major hacks that have made headlines, sometimes they’re due to a staff member clicking on a message and then downloading a file that compromises the computer, so it’s very important to educate your staff with best practices.”
For nearly as long as she’s been a business owner, Cassandra has also taught at Full Sail University. “I’ve always had a love for education since my parents were educators and this opportunity has been a perfect way for me to give back to the next generation,” says Cassandra, who works in the Entertainment Business Master’s program.
Cassandra also pours a tremendous amount of energy and passion into NAWBO since discovering it two years ago. “I originally found NAWBO because I was invited to present on negotiation tips for women in business,” Cassandra says. “I was able to see what NAWBO and the chapter were able to deliver for education, networking and the business community and easily saw the rate of return. I definitely knew that’s the direction I wanted to move in.”
Cassandra wasted little time making an impact on the NAWBO-Orlando chapter, immediately serving in a board director role before becoming the membership chair in August 2017. As co-chair, Cassandra was on the support team of the chapter’s inaugural Women Who Win mentorship program, a six-month program that pairs business women with students and new business owners.
She has also chaired the chapter’s Advocacy Day workshop, which was sponsored by the Entertainment, Art & Sports law section of The Florida Bar, and volunteered to host four informational webinars for participants in the chapter’s first-ever PropelHER Pitch Competition, an event hosted at Full Sail University, in which women pitched their innovative business ideas for a chance to win more than $30,000 in cash and prizes.
But for as much as NAWBO has benefitted from her tireless work, it’s also provided Cassandra and her business with a much-needed support system that has opened doorways once thought impossible. “For me, NAWBO has given me an additional layer of leadership skills and has allowed me to be able to give back to the community as a whole,” Cassandra says. “It’s so great having so many different women in so many different industries helping you grow and succeed and the level of support from other women and the Board has been overwhelming. At the end of the day, it’s about women lifting other women to be able to reach that next level of success.”
With chapter presidency right around the corner, Cassandra picked the brain of current chapter president Jennifer Dickerson during this year’s WBC in Spokane and met with several other chapters to help get a feel for her approach to 2019, which she expects to be a great one. “I’m blessed to be able to sit back for the next nine months and really think about planning and what the Orlando chapter will look like in 2019-2020,” she says. “We’re in a really cool space right now where we have awesome diversity and everybody is established. As presidential elect, I’m very fortunate to have a great powerful board behind me and great things already planned for next year.”
From New Member to Chapter President: How Cassandra Did It in Two Years
“My biggest tip is to communicate with your existing leadership structure within the organization. Ask really great questions about what the return on investment is, what skillset is needed, what hole needs to be filled and what value needs to be added. For me, I just jumped on board and tried to help in any way I could.”
Going the Extra Mile on Cyber Security
As someone who has studied and worked in technology and entertainment law for more than 20 years, Cassandra knows first-hand the importance of cyber security and always covering your bases to ensure valuable information isn’t compromised. Her experience has allowed her to see the evolution of cyber attacks, dating back to the 1990s when hackers stole people’s domain names to hold them hostage. “Now, it’s far from just website addresses that hackers are stealing,” she says. “Cyber security is a huge space, so you have to be proactive so you don’t have to send an awkward letter to clients that there was information compromised and you’re not sure where it went.”
According to Cassandra, it’s easy for small business owners in particular to think they’re safe since they’re not the size of Facebook or Google. In fact, it’s usually the small- to-mid-sized businesses that hackers love to target most since many don’t have a full-time tech team on staff but they do have enough information available to make it worth stealing.
Some of the many ways Cassandra keeps her own personal and professional data protected is by keeping the laptop that holds her business information disconnected from the internet in order to avoid hackers stealing her valuable information. She also backs up her computer on a physical hard drive at least once a week so that she’s in a position where she can access any data from a local, protected resource.