Keep on Trucking: Cheryl Womack, The Leading Women Entrepreneurs of the World
One of 11 children born to Panamanian immigrants, Womack first made her mark with VCW, which sells insurance to independent truckers. That company, which she started with just $17,000 in 1983, was worth more than $100 million when she sold it in 2002. Currently, she manages a nonprofit called the Leading Women Entrepreneurs of the World, helping others on their way up. Married and the mother of two, Womack recently pledged $2 million to build a women's softball field at her alma mater, the University of Kansas.
Hitting the road: "I was working for an insurance company in the department that covered trucking. I was so mad that my boss wouldn't let me take the next step in sales that I thought, 'If I can't be my own boss, I don't want to be in this business.' Anger was what got me going."
Diapers and elbow grease: "I started the business in my basement. After about a year, when I felt I could buy space, I realized that the flu I thought I had was really a pregnancy. So now I was in debt, and I had to call on my largest customer when I was eight months pregnant. Then I had to do their year's checkup when I was pregnant again. They were not happy. The first time they were all, 'Take your time. Enjoy.' The second time, it was like, 'Are you going to have children, or are you going to run a business?' One client would not work with us until after I delivered the baby and returned. So I came back to work three weeks after I gave birth—and I'd had a C-section. But it was a huge account and we needed to get it. When the kids were young, if I was going to be away for more than a night, I took them along with a nanny.
Passing it on: "The whole reason I was successful is that I hired a lot of incredible women and gave them a chance to move outside the box. I love empowering women."