Spotlight: Female Entrepreneurs in Charles County

Posted by: Economic Development Team on Monday, June 13, 2016

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?
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.

Zekiah Technologies

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?
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.

Are you looking for resources to start or grow your business in Charles County? Check out this page or contact us at

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“Charles County is a great central location for us to have access to all of our customers. We do business with NSWC Carderock, Naval Research Laboratory, NAWCAD Patuxent River, NSWC Dahlgren, and Indian Head Naval Support Facility, to name a few.”

Scott Decker
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“We are proud to be a key part of Charles County’s future and we heartily encourage other, cutting-edge companies to join us.”

Doug Egan
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“Charles County is where we started our company and where we grew and expanded. We now operate our managed print and managed IT solutions in five states and provide custom apps all around the globe. Our headquarters is still in Charles County, an excellent place to conduct business and recruit highly skilled individuals for our ever growing team!"

Joshua Justice

Just Tech


“We are proud to be a key part of Charles County’s future and we heartily encourage other, cutting-edge companies to join us.”

Katharine Tate
 Executive Director of Provider Engagement and Community Relations

Righttime Medical Care

“Charles County is a great place for businesses to start, grow, and thrive! We've worked with over 100 businesses since we opened our doors in Charles County, and I've witnessed the majority of these businesses achieve all three.”

Darlene M. Breck


Southern Maryland Business Center

“Charles County is a great place to do business because of the passion of the business community and the residents who strive to make it the best that it can be."

Andrew W. Welburn


The Welburn Organization