What is “A Moment With”? The Women’s Business Development Center is pleased to continue with our series, “A Moment With” where we periodically highlight our greatest supporters and partners by sharing their career experiences and advice. This month, we will be highlighting our very own Carol Dougal, Co-Founder, President Emerita and Hedy Ratner, Co-Founder, President Emerita.
Celebrating our Founders in Women’s History Month: In 1986, Carol Dougal and Hedy Ratner founded the WBDC to provide programs and services in order to economically empower women. The WBDC’s mission is to support and accelerate women’s business ownership and strengthen women’s economic impact by creating jobs, fueling economic growth, and building strong communities. Over the years since the launch of the WBDC, in response to shifting demographics and community needs, our focus has broadened to include other underserved and under-resourced entrepreneurs.
During Women’s History Month, we would like to spend “A Moment With” honoring these two inspirational women who founded our organization and share what they have learned throughout their careers as entrepreneurs and life-long advocates for women and minorities.
We asked: What are you most proud of?
Carol and Hedy shared: Thirty-five years ago, we had an idea that was radical for its time in an environment that was less than receptive to the potential economic impact of women and minority business owners. We are most proud of establishing, supporting, and strengthening its growth and impact nationally and internationally. It has taken over 35 years to realize its significant economic impact. Today, almost 45% of all businesses are women-owned, but when we started it was less than 10%. We are most proud to see the continued growth and importance of the WBDC’s legacy with Emilia DiMenco’s leadership and with the help and support of the fabulous WBDC team.
A Turning Point
We asked: What spurred you to start the WBDC?
Carol and Hedy shared: We have been involved in social justice issues our entire lives, participating in the Civil Rights, the Women’s, and the Human Rights Movements. During the second wave of the Women’s Movement, we found a niche that had not been addressed, which was women’s economic impact through business ownership.
We had a vision of what we wanted the WBDC to be, but our biggest challenge was getting the financial support and establishing the credibility of our mission in order to grow the organization. When we first started, we had to establish credibility with key community leaders and supportive government officials in order to implement critically needed programs, initiatives, and public policies. We were the first organization to achieve this nationally, thanks to the initial support of Governor Jim Thompson. We had a vision, and with the Governor’s support, we were able to secure additional support from the corporate and foundation sectors as well as local and national government entities. Our strength was, and still is, our passion and tenacity toward the advancement of women.
We asked: What advice do you have for future leaders?
Carol and Hedy shared: When we started the WBDC, like many of the non-profit women leaders at that time, we knew what was needed for real economic empowerment and equity. So many of the women leaders had the will, the passion, the tenacity to do what was needed to help women have an impact on themselves, their families, public policy, our economy, politics, and business generally. Today, it is exciting to see more diverse women in leadership positions, and we are optimistic women will continue taking stronger roles within all aspects of society.
Today’s leaders still need passion and tenacity, but it has to be accompanied by knowledge and strategy. Our advice for future leaders is to surround yourself with people smarter than you, be knowledgeable about the environment, plan for your growth and for all eventualities, and be strategic in your business decisions.
Thank you, Carol and Hedy, for participating in “A Moment With”. We are inspired by all you have done and thank you for making the work of the WBDC possible. To learn more about the WBDC, visit our website.
Looking back on Carol and Hedy over the years: