Entrepreneur Leverages Women’s Buying Power In Startup Tech Company

By Paula Burkes The Oklahoman, Oklahoma City

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Donna Miller, co-founder and CEO of "Purse Power Technology" is dedicated to helping you shop at businesses that are either run by females, are at least 50% women-owned or have 20% or more women on their boards.

Oklahoma City

Forget "Choosy mothers choose Jif." What if women, mothers or not, could choose to buy their peanut butter, or any product or service, from companies that support women.

Oklahoma City-based Purse Power technology and marketing company is helping women do just that, through an online national directory, free phone apps and a Google Chrome extension that -- in searches for restaurants, hotels and more -- flags businesses that are either run by females, are at least 50% women-owned or have 20% or more women on their boards.

"Studies show women make 80 percent of all purchasing decisions but fill fewer than 5% of CEO positions and only around 22% of corporate board seats," said Donna Miller, co-founder and CEO.

"Through Purse Power, women can absolutely make a difference," she said, "drive change and achieve the goals we women have had forever. Marches haven't worked, but money talks."

From Vault405 co-working community at 10 N Broadway in Edmond, Miller, 59, spoke with The Oklahoman on Monday about her life and career. This is an edited transcript:

Tell us about your roots.

I grew up in Lakewood, Colorado, a suburb of Denver. My dad worked as an engineer for the federal government and held 22 patents. My mom was a former psych nurse-turned-nursing professor. I have two younger sisters who are both medical doctors and businesswomen. One is a dermatologist and has several branch clinics in Colorado. The other is an osteopath and leads a health system there. My sisters co-founded Purse Power with me five years ago and serve on our board. We share a passion for empowering women and, in the process, partnering with the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence to create a funding stream to provide a safe and equal world for women and girls. Our mom's dad was an alcoholic, and she survived some stuff as an adolescent. One in four women are impacted by domestic violence.

What was your thing growing up? Horses. I was part of the Golden, Colorado-based Westernaires youth organization and learned to do mounted precision drills like pinwheels and thread the needle. When I was older, I called the drills for the 2,700 riders in the arena. It was fantastic. I loved it.

How'd you come to pursue human resources? I was a psychology major at Baylor, and halfway through my junior year, I woke one night and thought "Oh my gosh, what am I going to do with a degree in psychology?" I decided to double major in business and psychology, and human resources was a great mix of the two. I went on to earn an MBA in organizational development.

Before you went out on your own as a business consultant, you worked for several noted corporations. What are some of the highlights? I started in the computer industry with Sun Microsystems, which was on the forefront of companies transforming HR from a rules-driven entity to helping companies reach business directives through organizational and leadership development. Sun also was on the cutting edge of telecommuting. They're based in Palo Alto but allowed me to work from my home in Denver. I moved from the computer industry to the telecom industry and helped U.S. West lay off 4,000 people and, a few weeks later, 400 managers. After AT&T bought U.S. West, I led a team that developed a playbook to reduce AT&T's 250 call centers nationally to less than 30. Pregnant with my triplets at the time, I did much of that work lying down from home. Then, MediaOne cable company bought AT&T Broadband and versus a job, I opted for a package, which allowed me to stay at home with the kids for a year. I kept my hand in the industry by developing a leadership program for women in cable. That's what gave me the in with Cox Communications, which recruited me to Oklahoma City in 2003 as vice president of human resources. I left Cox the end of '06 and started my own coaching business -- Executive Resource Center -- because I felt like I was missing out on my kids' childhood. I again kept my hand in the industry by moderating a group for vice presidents of HR. I returned to the corporate world briefly, to Chaparral Energy from 2011 to 2013 when the energy industry dropped and hurt my husband's workflow. But clearly, I belong outside of the corporate world.

How did you meet the women leaders who came up with the idea for OCU's Women in Leadership Conference? I bought a lunch with Oklahoma First Lady Kim Henry in a fundraiser at my kids' school and invited power women I wanted to meet or know better, including OCU President Martha Burger, who was with Chesapeake then; Carla Brockman of Devon; and Debbie Fleming and Barbara Crandall of OCU's business department. The conference has grown exponentially, thanks largely to Melissa Cory, OCU communications director. The recent 10th annual event drew 525 to the Cox Convention Center.

Why is it important for women to be on corporate boards? Gender equity isn't just the fair thing to do, it's a smart business decision. Across all industries, companies with significant numbers of women on their boards of directors outperform companies without. The Boston-based 2020 Women on Boards set a goal in 2010 for women to represent an average of 20% or more of all corporate boards by 2020. Currently, women hold 22% of seats among Fortune 1000 companies.

Tell us more about Purse Power. How much have you raised so far, and what's on the horizon? We have 24 investors and, so far, have raised $405,000. We're now in the midst of our second raise. Among other things, I'm hosting podcasts to give visibility to the 750,000 women-owned businesses in our directory from the launch pad at Francis Tuttle Technology Center. We soon will have the ability for those businesses to offer coupons, and those specials will be flagged on our app by green pins. Meanwhile, some 1,400 women are visiting our web site every month. If women will come together and use their extraordinary economic power to reward the companies that support them, glass ceilings will shatter and lives will improve in a matter of quarters rather than decades. The power is literally in our hands. Purse Power: We have it. Let's use it.

PERSONALLY SPEAKING Position: Purse Power, co-founder and CEO.

Website: pursepower.com.

Age: 59.

Grew up in: Lakewood, Colorado.

Education: University of Colorado, Denver, master of business administration in organizational development, and Baylor University, bachelor's in business and psychology. She is a member of Delta Gamma sorority.

Family: Curt, well-site geologist and husband of 35 years (they were high school sweethearts), and 19-year-old triplets Sean, Seth and Anastasiya. She suffered eight years of infertility before conceiving on a second IVF (in-vitro fertilization) attempt.

Neighborhood: Canyon Creek Farms in northeast Edmond.

Community involvement: A former board member of the YWCA of Oklahoma City, Miller is co-founder of the Oklahoma City University Meinders School of Business Women in Leadership Conference, launched in 2010, and founder and chairperson of the Oklahoma City 2020 Women on Boards, launched in 2015.

Best business advice: "Sit in a graveyard with a piece of paper, and decide what you want your life to be about. Then, plan backward from there. I did that, and decided I wanted to make a difference in the lives of women."

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