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On International Women’s Day, held March 8 each year, the achievements of women around the world – on the social, economic, cultural and political fronts – are celebrated. But it is important to remember that all achievements include a first step: opportunity.
Here’s a look at three women whose entrepreneurial spirit brought opportunity to themselves and others. Each transitioned from solo entrepreneur to employer – or what we like to call “Becoming the Boss.”
After mapping out a business plan on a train from New York to Washington, D.C., Susan Apgood launched her own public relations company, Bethesda-based News Generation Inc. Her clients include media firms, trade associations and large corporations, and she helps them secure broadcast media opportunities across the country. Apgood hired her first employee in 1997.
Now with a team of 16, Apgood says she loves the intimacy of having a small group of employees.
“I like to know what makes people tick, and I like being a mentor to my employees as well as learning from them,” she says.
Apgood says being able to create jobs for someone else is a responsibility she takes “very seriously.” After working for someone who let paychecks bounce, she says she takes extreme effort to make sure her employees are treated well.
“At the same time, it’s a bit nerve-racking, because you feel so responsible. This person’s livelihood is dependent on you, and you have to make sales and good decisions. It puts pressure on me to continually do better,” she says.
Bridget Gaddis, an expert architect and retail design specialist, spent more than two decades designing the stores of high-end retailers like Prada and Burberry before deciding to start her own business in 2011.
Her firm works with small businesses that wouldn’t otherwise be able to access her type of services.
Gaddis hired her first employee, Julie Minkunas, in 2015 after her list of clients rapidly expanded. The two now design anything from dentist offices to yoga studios. Gaddis and Minkunas kept in touch after working together at a design firm in New York.
"I have to tell you, I was really glad to not have to sit here by myself anymore. I love that I have someone to talk to and bounce ideas off now,” Gaddis said.
Maddie Watkins co-owns two locations of 202Strong, a chain of CrossFit gyms based in Washington, D.C. The 27-year-old personal trainer opened a gym in D.C. and another one in Bethesda, Md.
Watkins has hired 10 employees since opening 202Strong. She said that while the most challenging part of management is not always being able to control everything, she’s become much better at not being a “helicopter parent.”
“The most exciting part is teaching someone else and giving someone else the experience that I was lucky enough to have. Coaching and helping guide and mentor our new employees through the process, to me, that’s really exciting,” Watkins says.
The Business of Inclusion
On Monday and Tuesday, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation Corporate Citizenship Center and United Nations Office for Partnerships will play host to the 6th Annual International Women’s Day Forum. The event will convene public and private sector leaders to explore inclusive solutions that create opportunities for women and girls around the world.