Did you know? A recent study conducted by venture capital firm First Round Capital, which analyzed more than 300 companies and about 600 founders, found that female-founded startups “outperformed all-male teams,” despite the fact that twice as many men as women become entrepreneurs. With this in mind, we decided to take a look at women-owned and founded businesses in Charles County.
We spoke with the founders of Charles County-based Advanced Vision Systems, Inc. and Zekiah Technologies about their experiences:
Advanced Vision Systems, Inc.
Advanced Vision Systems, Inc. (ASVI) is an engineering and technical services company that helps high-tech businesses bring their systems and products to completion, providing a range of support services from concept through to testing. The company services a range of clients from government agencies and military to high-tech companies. AVSI employs about 25 people, with 95 percent located at Indian Head work sites.
With a background in electrical engineering, design and development, Pennie Drinkard founded ASVI in 2004 after years spent working in the private sector. A native of Charles County, Drinkard, President and Technical POC, wanted to have an office in Indian Head to support the area’s revitalization. Additionally, she cites the great potential for growth in a variety of industries and market segments as a main advantage to doing business in Charles County.
Charles County Economic Development Department (EDD): What’s the best part of owning your own business?
Pennie Drinkard (PD): As a business owner, I get the satisfaction of seeing the rewards reaped both professionally and personally for taking high risks. I am also able to share those rewards with those individuals and team members who have provided dedicated support, energy and hard work.
EDD: What is your favorite part of working and living in Charles County?
PD: After hours of commuting to and from D.C. and Northern VA for 20 years, I love the commute—or the lack of a commute.
EDD: What has been your company’s greatest success thus far?
PD: Being able to hire and retain intelligent and dedicated employees.
EDD: Who are your role models?
PD: I am inspired by a wide variety of people and have had the luxury to work with and train under some of the most intelligent and talented engineers and scientists in the world. I am inspired by anyone with a vision and the wherewithal to try.
La Plata-based Zekiah Technologies focuses on software engineering, application development and geospatial solutions. Founded in 1998 by Brianna Bowling in the basement of her home, Zekiah now has nearly 30 employees, maintaining its headquarters in Charles County, with an office in Dahlgren, VA and staff on client location in Arlington, VA and in Indian Head. Zekiah works with variety of clients from local NSWC Indian Head to the Department of Homeland Security.
Prior to founding Zekiah, Bowling worked in a variety of fields—from a staffing company to a law firm, in addition to spending some time as a stay at home mom. Her English literature degree, while not directly related to running a software company, taught her how to research and find solutions, and her time at the staffing company taught her how to grow a business.
EDD: What is your favorite part of working/living in Charles County?
BB: We have water access; we have a lot of walkways and parks and different ecology across the County. It’s also an incredible community of really good people who contribute
to society here—whether financially or via volunteer hours.
EDD: What do you feel is the hardest part of owning your own business?
BB: You’re everything. While you have other people to support you, you never quit working when you own your own business. You never quit thinking about it. Whether you’re in
the office or not, you’re always on.
EDD: What are some advantages to being a female business owner?
BB: I think women are more flexible in that we’re able to adjust to multiple situations. Even when there’s a situation where there should be an obstacle, we find ways around it partly because we’re more diplomatic. Many women business owners are mothers. There aren’t that many differences from running a company well and running a family well. I was a mother before I was a business owner. I learned how to do that well, and that helped me. We’re really good at juggling multiple things because we have to.
EDD: What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
BB: The biggest one is don’t kid yourself. It takes a lot of hours to make this work. Work hard and work smart.