Personality: Lee Brazzell

Spotlight on local president of the National Association of Women Business Owners

3/11/2016, 11:23 a.m.
Lee Brazzell is on the front lines promoting the interests of women business owners as president of the Richmond/Southeast Virginia ...

Lee Brazzell is on the front lines promoting the interests of women business owners as president of the Richmond/Southeast Virginia Chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO). She was elected to the post in 2015 and is committed to serving two more years.

Since 1982, NAWBO Richmond has “provided a strong voice and vision for a dynamic group of women business owners and corporate partners in Central Virginia,” Mrs. Brazzell proudly says.

The Richmond chapter has about 100 members and now could gain up to 100 more after adding Southeast Virginia women business owners to its membership during the past month. The chapter is one of two in Virginia. Nationally, the organization has more than 7,000 members in nearly 70 chapters in the United States and 35 other countries. Based in McLean, NAWBO is the only dues-based national organization that “represents the interests of all women entrepreneurs that own and operate businesses in a variety of areas,” Mrs. Brazzell says.

The organization was founded in 1975, Mrs. Brazzell says, when a group of women in Washington organized to fight a law barring women from getting loans or credit cards without a male co-signer. In 1988, Congress repealed the law. NAWBO is described on its website as “a one-stop resource to propelling women business owners into greater economic, social and political spheres of power worldwide.”

According to national estimates, about 9 million women own businesses, with 2.9 million of those owned by minority women.

Mrs. Brazzell and the Richmond/Southeast Virginia NAWBO chapter will celebrate the accomplishments of exceptional local women entrepreneurs and community leaders at their 18th Annual Women of Excellence Awards Dinner.

Christie Garton, founder and CEO of Washington-based UChic will deliver the keynote address at the event 6 p.m. Thursday, March 17, at the Hilton Richmond Hotel & Spa/Short Pump.

Lisa Schaffner, director of public relations and marketing at Richmond-based UNOS, will serve as emcee. Four women are to be honored as Entrepreneur of the Year, Rising Star, Community Leader and Student Entrepreneur of the Year. Proceeds will benefit the Richmond NAWBO Foundation, which supports the educational programs of the local NAWBO chapter.

For more information: www.nawborichmond.org.

In her professional capacity, Mrs. Brazzell is CEO of Richmond-based Transformation Consultants LLC, a diversified organizational development and research consulting firm.

This week’s Personality, Lee Brazzell, is all about business:

Date and place of birth: March 6 in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Education: Bachelor’s and master’s degree, University of Georgia; graduate studies, Mississippi State University and Central Michigan University.

Family: Husband, Louis Brazzell; son, Austin.

Other top volunteer positions: Chair of the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce, Portsmouth Division; Chair of the Chesterfield County Multicultural Advisory Commission.

The goal of NAWBO is: To fully represent the diverse makeup of female business owners through increased representation within ethnic and minority communities, while expanding access to leadership opportunities. NAWBO’s strength comes from its diversity.

Its mission: Strengthening the wealth-creating capacity of our members and promoting economic development; creating innovative and effective changes in the business culture; building strategic alliances, coalitions and affiliations; and transforming public policy and influencing opinion.

To become a member: www.nawbo.org/membership.

When and why the Richmond chapter was founded: Through events such as the Women of Excellence Awards and monthly meetings, NAWBO Richmond’s programs are designed to create business opportunities within the community; build strategic alliances through partnerships and networking; educate the public about women-owned businesses; influence public policy; present a united front; and promote leadership within the civic and business communities.

Why I am excited about NABWO: It is the only national women’s business organization that has just completed a study of woman-owned business in Virginia. More than 38,000 women-owned business owners were contacted for the study. The number of women-owned businesses in Virginia grew an annual average of 4.3 percent from 2007 to 2012. In 2012, the total number of paid employees in Virginia women-owned businesses was 270,683. It was expected to grow to 328,340 in 2015. The total revenue of all women-owned businesses in Virginia was $45 billion in 2012, accounting for 5.3 percent of all the revenue of all firms in the state. The main challenges of women and business in Virginia are in the areas of fundamental business operations, business development and access to capital. The impact of the study has far-reaching influences on public policy, capacity building and projects for women-owned business.

Involvement of NABWO in the community: Dress for Success, Toys for Tots, mentoring, and leadership development.

Status of businesses owned by women in Richmond area: Members are sole business owners that started their businesses from scratch. Women-owned businesses have been in the business an average of 11.9 years, with nearly half in the professional and business services sector.

Status of businesses owned by black women: Minority women are fueling growth in female entrepreneurship. The number of minority woman-owned firms in the United States more than doubled to 2.9 million from 1997 to 2014. The findings show that minority women have gone from one out of every six women-owned businesses to one out of every three. This kind of growth is something short of phenomenal, given that it has taken less than a generation.

Your response: Great, if the trend continues upward.

Government’s role in advancing women-owned businesses: To expand upon and help create successful programs and small business associations to assist women-owned businesses.

Advice to aspiring business owners: Believe in your business and show dedication to your business. Seek out leading experts who can help you grow in all aspects of yourself and your business. And be aware of the economic environment and how it may impact your business.

Pluses of business ownership: Owning a business gives you the ability to fully utilize your creative perspective for the business. It allows freedom of expression and innovation. It gives the owner the ability to identify opportunities that will allow them to innovate and reinvent their business based off their values. And it provides the ability to contribute to the community in a multitude of ways.

Minuses: Constant working on your business — and very little sleep.

Leadership is: Creating vision and inspiring others to work together to achieve a common goal or vision of the organization. It requires a delicate balance of respecting and encouraging members.

How I start the day: By reflection and setting my goals for the day.

Perfect day: Sitting at the beach, reading and listening to the sounds of the ocean, followed by great seafood.

Perfect evening: Dinner with family and friends, followed by a good jazz concert.

How I unwind: I enjoy water aerobics.

Prized possession: My mother’s chain.

Best late-night snack: Shrimp.

What people think when they first meet me: I give off a very positive outlook and am always ready to do business.

Nobody knows that I: Love jazz music.

The one thing I can’t stand: Injustice at any level regarding anyone.

Person who influenced me the most: My mother. She was one of the first black female fur shop owners in New York City.

The best thing my parents ever taught me was: Look at everyone equally and always accept them for who they are.

The book that influenced me the most: I can’t think of one singular book that had more influence than the others I take knowledge from.

What I’m reading now: “Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand in the Sun and Be Your Own Person” by Shonda Rhimes.

My next goal: Help increase the visibility and viability of women-owned businesses in Virginia.