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Local entrepreneur Dragoo takes helm of national group

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Billie Dragoo could not make it through a recent breakfast at The Capital Grille without multiple pauses to greet passersby she knew.

Being one of the most influential women entrepreneurs in the country will do that.

She’ll work herself even deeper into professional networking in July as she takes a new role as board chairwoman for the National Association of Women Business Owners. She hopes the connections she’s made over 18 years in business for herself will benefit the group’s members.

dragoo-factbox.gifDragoo, with little financial support as a single mother with two children in early adulthood, launched Indianapolis-based health care staffing and service provider RepuCare out of her home in 1995, as well as spinoffs of a staffing business in 2004 and an on-site-care business in 2011.

She enjoys explaining how she navigates the intricacies of health care, talent recruitment and government contracting.

But the 63-year-old mother of two and grandmother of three from Franklin lights up the most when she discusses her family or the people she has mentored.

Among a list of distinctions, Fortune magazine named Dragoo one of the “most powerful women entrepreneurs” in the United States.

She’s proud of the accolades but said she’s more focused on helping other women step up in the business world.

Dragoo stressed the educational element NAWBO provides as a way to help women business owners find the money they need to start or grow their companies.

“I think the education on venture money with business owners, whether they’re minorities or women, needs to be there,” she said.

Nationally, the organization has more than 7,000 members spread across 80 chapters. The group promotes women-owned businesses by providing them with educational and networking events, as well as lobbying for women-related business issues.

Colleagues credit Dragoo with a lot of progress NAWBO’s local chapter made under her leadership as well as an improving business climate for women.

A member of the organization since 1999, she served as Indiana president in 2005 and 2006. Within a year, the group grew from 20 members to 165.

“We’ve become the largest and most powerful chapter in the country,” she said.

Kathy Cabello, a board member for the Indianapolis chapter, credited Dragoo with developing corporate relationships—including recruiting area executives to serve on NAWBO’s board—that have helped the group grow as well as help its members network with major companies.

Cabello noted that other NAWBO chapters have visited Indianapolis to learn how it operates.

“We’re doing things at a whole different level on a local level that other chapters are saying, ‘Wow. NAWBO can do that?’ in a lot of other cities,” she said.

Dragoo has dedicated about a third of her time to NAWBO while juggling her responsibilities at RepuCare.

“We all have passions that we chase and that are close to our hearts,” she said. “Obviously, women’s initiatives and issues are a big part of my life.”

A lot of her effort relates to the organization’s broader mission of helping women entrepreneurs, even when the work doesn’t tie directly into running NAWBO’s day-to-day business.

Dragoo was among a half dozen Indianapolis business leaders who traveled in late May to California to meet with Silicon Valley venture capitalists and companies as large as Google, Facebook, Oracle and PayPal.

The group aimed to cultivate interest in funneling investments to Indiana, especially through a $1 million, Elevate Ventures-managed fund for women- and minority-owned businesses that Dragoo has helped start.

“She can give a spotlight to the fund and the importance of it,” said Deborah Collins Stephens, who is spearheading the effort for Elevate.

Meanwhile, Dragoo will have lobbying duties on behalf of NAWBO.

The organization has thrown its weight behind legislation to earmark more government contract funding for women-owned small businesses, which receive 3 percent of all federal contract funding.

Dragoo’s perspective on the issue: “Are you kidding me?”

Her solution is more women in elected office.

“Hopefully, we can challenge women and say, ‘Put your hand up. Let’s go for it,’” she said.•

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  • Congratulations
    Billie - congratulations on becoming our next NAWBO chairwoman - you deserve it with all the hard work Indianapolis put in to become such a thriving chapter. Best of luck. Barb Roberts

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  1. to mention the rest of Molly's experience- she served as Communications Director for the Indianapolis Department of Public Works and also did communications for the state. She's incredibly qualified for this role and has a real love for Indianapolis and Indiana. Best of luck to her!

  2. Shall we not demand the same scrutiny for law schools, med schools, heaven forbid, business schools, etc.? How many law school grads are servers? How many business start ups fail and how many business grads get low paying jobs because there are so few high paying positions available? Why does our legislature continue to demean public schools and give taxpayer dollars to charters and private schools, ($171 million last year), rather than investing in our community schools? We are on a course of disaster regarding our public school attitudes unless we change our thinking in a short time.

  3. I agree with the other reader's comment about the chunky tomato soup. I found myself wanting a breadstick to dip into it. It tasted more like a marinara sauce; I couldn't eat it as a soup. In general, I liked the place... but doubt that I'll frequent it once the novelty wears off.

  4. The Indiana toll road used to have some of the cleanest bathrooms you could find on the road. After the lease they went downhill quickly. While not the grossest you'll see, they hover a bit below average. Am not sure if this is indicative of the entire deal or merely a portion of it. But the goals of anyone taking over the lease will always be at odds. The fewer repairs they make, the more money they earn since they have a virtual monopoly on travel from Cleveland to Chicago. So they only comply to satisfy the rules. It's hard to hand public works over to private enterprise. The incentives are misaligned. In true competition, you'd have multiple roads, each build by different companies motivated to make theirs more attractive. Working to attract customers is very different than working to maximize profit on people who have no choice but to choose your road. Of course, we all know two roads would be even more ridiculous.

  5. The State is in a perfect position. The consortium overpaid for leasing the toll road. Good for the State. The money they paid is being used across the State to upgrade roads and bridges and employ people at at time most of the country is scrambling to fund basic repairs. Good for the State. Indiana taxpayers are no longer subsidizing the toll roads to the tune of millions a year as we had for the last 20 years because the legislature did not have the guts to raise tolls. Good for the State. If the consortium fails, they either find another operator, acceptable to the State, to buy them out or the road gets turned back over to the State and we keep the Billions. Good for the State. Pat Bauer is no longer the Majority or Minority Leader of the House. Good for the State. Anyway you look at this, the State received billions of dollars for an assett the taxpayers were subsidizing, the State does not have to pay to maintain the road for 70 years. I am having trouble seeing the downside.

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