Female Entrepreneurs Often Shine in Challenging Situations and Evolving Marketplaces

Jan 23, 2024

Secretariat is one of the best athletes in American history and perhaps the greatest thoroughbred stallion of all time (https://www.espn.com/sportscentury/features/00016464.html). The name is historically iconic in a similar manner to Pele, LeBron, and Serena.  However, like most exceptional athletes the story of their success is as much about the team around them as their individual ability.  A story that has been largely lost to history is the one about the team surrounding Secretariat.  A team that was managed with vision and skill by Helen “Penny” Chenery.

Penny demonstrated intelligence, leadership, and a strong work ethic early in life. She was employed at a naval architecture firm that designed landing craft for the Normandy Invasion after graduating from Smith College in 1943 and in 1946 went to Germany and France with the American Red Cross to assist in the demobilization of GI’s before returning home to attend Columbia Business School as only one of twenty females in her class.  After marrying Jack Twedy, the couple relocated to Colorado, had four children, and were instrumental in the creation of the Vail Ski Resort. However, in 1967 she was thrown into the proverbial fire, when her mother passed away and coinciding with the failing health and cognitive ability of her beloved father, Chris Chenery, she was forced to step in as the executive head of Meadow Stable, a failing enterprise headed for liquidation.  Under her leadership, and blessed with back to back Kentucky Derby winners in Riva Ridge and Secretariat, combined with the ability to identify undervalued talent in trainer, Lucien Laurin, and jockey, Ronnie Turcotte, and the business acumen to syndicate Secretariat’s stud potential for over $6 million to raise the capital to save the business before a race was run in his Triple Crown Year, Mrs. Twedy achieved a level of success as a business owner never before achieved by a female in a male dominated industry.   The story was told by Disney in the movie, Secretariat, with Diane Lane playing Penny Chenery (https://youtu.be/UKmuvjL2cVw?si=ErJL_xsJo-vCv5Vq).  It is a movie I recommend every parent watch with their daughter, as much to provide a role model image, as to share a story about the greatest racehorse of all time.

The American economy is unique in the world with its ability to reward the vision, execution, and skill of entrepreneurs regardless of their demographic characteristics.   This list (https://www.forbes.com/self-made-women/) demonstrates the diversity of success achieved by the “Best of the Best” of American businesswomen, often starting from humble beginnings with little more than an idea.  IBA, having successfully sold over 4300 privately held companies and family businesses since 1975, has been blessed to represent 100’s of female entrepreneurs who built profitable enterprises possessing leadership roles in their industries with exceptional corporate cultures in the sale of their businesses.  A large number of these companies successfully navigated challenging situations, like Penny Chenery, or thrived in evolving marketplaces.

The following are four examples of female business owner achievement from IBA’s American Dream Achieved Series, which features the entrepreneurial stories of IBA past clients.  A level of disclosure about our body of work as a professional service firm not offered by any of our firm peers.

Ann Bailey (https://ibainc.com/blog/nesha-ruther/the-story-of-ann-bailey-ecochem/): In the 1970’s when Ann Bailey graduated from the University of Montana with an advanced degree in Environmental Studies there were limited paths forward for her that embraced her love of science and leadership ability.   The positive outcome she created was a woman led firm EcoChem which provided environmental chemistry support for government & pseudo government entities in a world where corporate “experts” created wide berths for the environmental impact of their clients to the detriment of communities and nature.

Karen Mollison (https://ibainc.com/blog/nesha-ruther/the-story-of-karen-mollison-of-peek-a-boo-creations-chasing-treasure/): Today, the purchase of a limitless spectrum of products on the Internet is common practice for individuals 10 – 90 years of age. That was not always true.  In a time, not so long ago, many items could only be purchased in retail stores.   Entrepreneurs, including Ms. Mollison, identified the opportunity to sell unique merchandise online without warehousing the product, but utilizing dropshipping strategies from manufacturers, establishing deep, diversified customer offerings to satisfy demand from people without sufficient retail venues available to them.

Tamara Simon (https://ibainc.com/blog/nesha-ruther/the-story-of-tamara-simon-koss-property-management/):  The glass ceiling present in a male dominated business world was a real barrier for many women before the turn of the last century.  The best option to shatter the barrier for many women was to create competitive firms and take market share from those that did not recognize and support female talent on their team.  Tamara Simon’s entrepreneurial success story has that element.  Today, she mentors and trains both genders on best practices in the same industry that once restricted her professional achievement.

Joanna Bruno (https://ibainc.com/blog/nesha-ruther/the-story-of-joanna-bruno-jr-bruno-associates/):  IBA successfully facilitates dozens of transactions a year where the acquisition is supported by a Small Business Administration (SBA) backed loan.  Many of the best bankers serving the lending niche in America are female.  Joanna Bruno created a professional consulting firm to help create and manage SBA lending departments at banks and credit unions where best practices and proper policies & procedures were put in place and maintained.  She was essentially the “Johnny Appleseed” of the SBA industry planting seeds in countless lending institutions that today produce bumper crops of loans annually.

I elected, by design, to share stories that did not involve food service, retail, or beauty industry companies.   Women entrepreneurs thrive in those industries (and are welcomed for representation by IBA), but experience achievement in every sector where men own companies.  Stereotypes often are based on facts, but definitely should not be reinforced when alternative information is available.

Men successfully represent entrepreneurs, male & female, in the sale of their businesses every day.   However, it is also common for genders to seek their same sex for professional advisors.  It is human nature to seek professional advisors you know, like, and trust.  People also seek to do business with those they have elements in common, whether it is college experience, ethnicity, or gender.

IBA is unique in the mergers & acquisitions industry, a historically male dominated industry, to have had numerous knowledgeable, experienced, highly skilled female intermediaries on our team in our nearly fifty-year history. The firm has always embraced the concept of judging people by their ability & achievement and not hereditary or biological attributes.  The depth of knowledge & experience in this group is appreciable.  Current female members of the IBA team include Andrea Lines, who had a professional background in the healthcare industry before joining IBA, and transactional experience as a business broker in that space, education, professional services, hospitality, retail, and beauty; Sally Bergesen, who founded, managed, and sold a manufacturing company, and specializes as an intermediary on manufacturing, construction, and franchise resales; and Grace Chang, a software engineer, hospitality industry entrepreneur, and real estate investor before joining IBA, focuses her representation activities on technology, home services, and hospitality.  All welcome the opportunity to represent female or male entrepreneurs in the sale of their businesses. They also have the ability to refer female business owners to women attorneys, CPA’s, bankers, and wealth advisors if a desire exists to have a homogeneous professional advisory team.

Martha Stewart has been quoted as saying, “I’m a maniacal perfectionist.  And if I weren’t, I would not have this company.”  IBA is thankful for our female entrepreneurial clients and intermediaries.  We would not be the company we are today without you.

IBA, the Pacific Northwest’s premier business brokerage firm since 1975, is available as an information resource to the media, business brokerage, mergers & acquisitions, and real estate communities on subjects relevant to the purchase & sale of privately held companies and family owned businesses.  IBA is recognized as one of the best business brokerage firms in the nation based on its long track record of successfully negotiating “win-win” business sale transactions in environments of full disclosure employing “best practices”.