At the end of September, the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) hosted its annual National Women’s Business Conference (WBC)—which was unlike any other WBC in the organization’s history. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the conference was held virtually. And while the women of NAWBO may not have been able to share a handshake in the event hall or a round of applause in the auditorium, this unique event delivered as it always does in bringing together women entrepreneurs from across the world to learn from one another and share their ideas for the future. NAWBO, which is celebrating its 45th year as an organization, chose “Brave Is…” as this year’s theme—and our team fully embraced that sentiment! Marking Bank of America’s eighth year as the presenting sponsor of the event, our team was energized, empowered and inspired by the incredible women business owners who are making brave strides across the country.
Three women who fully encapsulate the idea of “Brave Is…” are this year’s National Woman Business Owner of the Year Award finalists. From hundreds of nominations submitted from NAWBO Chapters all over the country, the group of finalists consisted of: Nooshin Behroyan, Founder & CEO, Paxon Energy & Infrastructure Services; Rebecca Fyffe, CEO & Director of Research, Landmark Pest Management; and Ranee Cress Wright, President and Owner, DrillMax.
After much deliberation, Rebecca was selected as this year’s Woman Business Owner of the Year Before she was awarded the title however, the NAWBO audience had a chance to hear from all three women in a panel discussion moderated by Bank of America’s Senior Vice President, National SBA Executive, Karen Harrison. During the discussion, the three finalists shared their stories and what bravery means to them:
2020 winner of the Woman Business Owner of the Year Award
Rebecca is CEO and director of research at Landmark Pest Management as well as a subject matter expert on policies and programs designed to enable women and minorities to capture a representative share of economic opportunities in corporate and government procurement and contracting. She served as chair of the Chicago Transit Authority’s DBE Advisory Committee and has testified in numerous disparity studies.
- “Even though I started [my company] because of a tragedy, we’ve had such a wonderful growth story that as a result of this, we've been able to help so many people live and work in safer, cleaner buildings.
- “The advice that stands out most to me is a comment that Michelle Obama made. She said that when you make it through that door, it's not enough to just leave the door open for the woman behind you. Reach back reach through that door and pull the next person through – and that is so much what NAWBO is about.”
Nooshin is founder and CEO of Paxon Energy & Infrastructure Services. In less than three years, she has grown the company into America’s 9th fastest growing management firm and a leading woman-owned consulting management firm, which is heavily focused on improving critical infrastructures in the oil, gas and utilities industries.
- “I work in the oil and gas industry, which is not known for much diversity, nor inclusion and I wanted to elevate and advance women. I wanted to address the barriers and try change for positive impact - and that became the value for me to advance our business. I truly believe that it's going to take all of us to make a difference for women across all sectors, not just women engineers. We may be individually strong, but we are collectively powerful, and I see that in the community of now.”
- “My advice for all of our women business owners is to understand your say-to-do ratio. In other words, how reliably are you going to deliver on what you're promising? What truly distinguishes a good company is the quality of their say-to-do ratio, because quality doesn't come by chance – quality is a responsibility that needs to be shared within all sectors of a given company.”
Ranee Cress Wright, President and Owner, DrillMax
Ranee Cress Wright is an entrepreneur and business owner with over 25 years of experience. As the current President of Drillmax® Inc, her dedication to innovation and growth has positioned Drillmax® as a global brand in over 35 countries. Within her company, Ranee uses her collaborative management style to create a unique company culture, which has led to 20 years of employee retention. Ranee helped build Drillmax’s reputation as the premier valve manufacturer of quality products for over two decades.
- “When I think about my brave. It has to do with going beyond where I'm comfortable and leaning into the fear of the unknown. How I've leveraged my brave is to first allow myself time to acknowledge what I know and apply my know-how to make any adjustments and then to bravely advance in whatever the decision or circumstance is that I'm facing.”
- “My deepest desire is that all women business owners would begin to see and understand that their companies most valuable asset is themselves.”