Re-Invention of 2 Women Entrepreneurs

Hello Boomers,

Today’s Re-Invention Connection shares two stories of Re-Invention.  Debra Townsend of partswench and Gail Wallace of Bellwind Consultants are solopreneurs who have partnered to provide advice to other women who want to become entrepreneurs.  Their combined venture is    Their stories will sound familiar to many and we hope inspiring to many more. 


Debra Townsend (AKA Willow), Owner of partswench.

I am 58 and live in Indiana.  I did the Haight at 15 and the communes at 18 and on and on. I still love the Dead, Grace Slick and Tie-dye. I had my babies at home, grew gardens and made granola. Needless to say alternative lifestyles and interests have been a driving force in my life for all of my life along with a Harley.

I have an alphabet soup after my name which I very seldom use. Debra Townsend, Rev, CRM, DIHom. I am sure the next question is what do those mean. The reverend is pretty self-explanatory, CRM stands for certified reiki master and DIhom is an English designation for my degree in Homeopathic medicine.  All of these have hung after my name for over 20 years. So how did I end up in as a web designer?  I love the computer and art work and tattoo flash. I have loved art all of my life. Creating has kept me sane and saved my children’s lives on some occasions. I paint, make jewelry, cab stones, do web sites and graphic design, knit, quilt, weave.

I am not really business savvy but I do know how to develop a website.  I started a friendship with a woman while developing her website, Gail Wallace of Bellwind Consultants.  Gail has since become my partner and friend.  

We were sitting having dinner and a girl’s night out when we started talking about different points in our lives and how many times we have started our lives over. We talked about how many women that there were out there like us (especially like me).  I have spent most of my adult life having kids or chasing kids or grandkids. I don’t know a board room from a private bathroom (if you don’t know what going to the bathroom alone is you have not had enough kids).  I do know how to use time management, how to get things done, how to work for what I want and for my dreams, how to answer a phone and many more things that are required to run your own business.  I am sure that you also know these things.  So what is holding us back?  I started my web design business when I was 53.

How do we outgrow the things that keep us waiting tables instead of owning the restaurant?  I believe that we can do it.  We can have our dreams realized with some help & support and some ethical guidance.  

I believe that there are a lot of women like me out there who are motivated and skilled (let’s see some CEO get six kids on a school bus!).  After my divorce and losing everything not once but twice (don’t ever make a husband the president of your company because it supposedly makes it look more legitimate), I have waited tables, bartended, delivered pizzas and lots of other things to keep my bills paid or not paid as the case may be. I have had my credit totally messed up by some man.  While all of this is going on in my brain I kept thinking of ways to work for myself and become independent. I have always done art and graphics and worked on the computer so I started teaching myself web design and development.  Having Gail as a friend has given me the confidence to go back to school and work on my web development certifications even at 55.  Yes, you can do this!  

I ended up talking with Gail about how to grow my business in a positive and ethical way.  This is a really important concept to me, positive and ethical. Gail gave me some great advice to which I responded with, “Why don’t you do another site geared to women who are working or want to work for themselves?”  All I found when I looked for information online was a lot of work at home scams..  Gail, being who she is, responded “Let’s do this together” and that is pretty much how all this got started.  

Willow owns Parts Wench and does all types of websites from brochure type to e-commerce using the latest in Joomla programming which includes CMS.

Gail Wallace, Owner of Bellwind Consultants.  I came of age between all the big “movements.”  At the tail end of the “beat generation” but then I was too busy working my way through college to become a hippie, though I grew my hair really long.  My father had his own commercial art studio and it was working with him that began nourishing my entrepreneurial spirit.

I graduated as a French teacher but discovered during student teaching that I loved sharing knowledge with those who wanted to learn not those who were forced to take a class.

I married a geological engineer right out of college and spent the next 15 years in the oil and gas business either working for  big companies like Exxon or with my husband starting our own small company.  A divorce ended that life but led me to my first contract consulting job for the US Geological Survey. Shortly after the contract ended, I started my first business while caring for my terminally ill mother, my young sister-in-law, and three young nephews.  Word Perfect had just come out with the first word processing program that could handle foreign languages and I used that along with my language background to process student and business papers in other languages.  The business was born out of the necessity in 1987 when I was 40 to earn some money and to keep me from being isolated in my caretaker role.  While the business was successful and taught me a lot, it wasn’t fulfilling and certainly not something for which I had a passion.

I chose to move to Dallas so my son could visit his father more easily but my life fell apart due to the stress and loss I had experienced during the previous couple of years. I had to remake my life.  After a couple of dead-end jobs that taught me a lot more about how businesses were run, I grabbed the opportunity to learn to write business plans.  I continued taking “regular” jobs while improving my writing skills.  Each opportunity taught me more about different businesses and industries.  I remarried in 1992 but It is just within the last few years that I formally named my company Bellwind Consultants.

Although I have enjoyed sharing my growing knowledge and experience with clients, I had always wanted a forum where I could share my hard-earned lessons with others just starting out to help them avoid many of the pitfalls of business ownership. It was also important to show what can happen to companies who have little if any business ethics.

When I first met Willow to discuss creating a website for my company, it was like talking with an old friend.  Although our backgrounds were very different, we were both survivors who kept re-inventing ourselves to follow our dreams.

Although we were kindred spirits I was still surprised when she proposed this partnership so quickly but accepted the idea immediately.  Our talents complement each other – she designs and I write but it is our dedication to ethics that really bound us together.  It’s funny that I remember this as being her idea and she thinks it was mine.  It just happened and gelled so fast that we just had to make it a reality.  We make no money from our 2 Women Entrepreneurs website and support it through our individual businesses.  It is our labor of love and giving back to others. Neither of us had mentors nor guidance from anyone so we made tons of mistakes and learned a lot of lessons the hard way.  We were both too stubborn to give up but we want to spare other entrepreneurs from a lot of the pitfalls and problems we encountered.

I am again reinventing.  After another 18 years of marriage and after spending 3 years back in Indiana, I am once again single at 63 (by choice) and have returned to Dallas where I am restarting my business.    

Although I have spent most of my life in the corporate business world, I am definitely not the button down collar type.  I love the freedom and ultimate responsibility of working for myself and the opportunity to wear many hats.  I am too much the rebellious teenager and my father’s daughter to want to be a number in a big corporation.    

Gail owns Bellwind Consultants and writes business plans for start-ups and growth companies and provides business consulting to small business of all kinds from management to defining and developing niche/target markets.


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