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From A Construction Office Clerk To Entrepreneur Of The Year

People

If you knew only her childhood background, it would be hard to imagine that Debbie Frazier could have built a corporation responsible for more than $100 million in sales annually. But that’s exactly what she’s done.


An Unlikely Industry

Frazier's beginnings were humble to say the least. She grew up in the transient mobile home community, but harbored a deep desire to rise above her situation to see success during her lifetime. Her work ethic was honed at a very early age. At 14, she told employers she was 16 to get a job working at a local hamburger restaurant. She received a scholarship to college, but due to an accident that had landed her father on disability, her family needed her income and she was forced to decline the scholarship. Her family moved to Texas, where Frazier got a job as an office clerk working for a company in the lumber industry.

The male-dominated construction industry was a rocky place for a young woman and Frazier was the only female in the office. She spent several years as a clerk before taking a big risk by asking that they consider her for an open salesperson position with the company. The CEO, bemused by the request, told her she needed to train on the front lines of the business for two full weeks before they would even consider her for the role. She traveled to their wood processing plant in Greeley, Colorado, where she worked in the mill for 12-hour days, sawing 30-pound, 2’X10’ pieces of wood in half with a rip saw. She cleaned the plant at night and was tasked with shoveling snow from the driveway each morning. When she needed a break, there wasn’t even a woman’s restroom to be found in the plant. Eventually Frazier earned the position as the company’s first female sales representative, making exactly half of what her male counterparts did. But she didn’t let that stop her. Her first year in role, she outsold all her (male) peers.

After leaving the construction industry, Frazier went to work for a travel agency whose ethics and business practices didn’t sit well with her. Frustrated with her company, she set out on her own, founding etc group in 1993 (then known as Executive Travel Consultants). Turns out, a business that began with less than $1 million in sales and three employees has today morphed into a $100 million business with 27 full-time employees. Through Frazier's remarkable leadership, the etc group has withstood the test time, continually reinventing itself to remain relevant in today’s crowded marketplace.

Despite the uphill battle of a woman in a then man-lead industry, nothing could detour Debbie’s tenacity to launch and maintain etc group as an industry leader in every facet of the company. What Debbie lacked in formal education, she made up for with heart, spirit and chutzpah.

Boss Lady

Frazier is a testament to the fact that old fashioned values still thrive in today’s Millennial world. The tradition of doing business with people still matters today – she’s incredibly passionate about serving and being true to her word. With this old school attention to detail, equality and fairness, Frazier sits on the Advisory Board for the Dallas Stars—alongside twelve male CEOs.

Frazier's business now brings in more than $100 million in revenue and is ranked in the top 50 woman-owned businesses in the U.S., etc group is a private, minority-owned company built on her personal beliefs of service, integrity, persistence and creativity.

After bearing witness to unpleasant business practices at her former travel management company Frazier knew she could put a team together to do better on behalf of and for the corporate traveler. While eight weeks pregnant with her second child, and determined to turn her passion into reality, no obstacle was going to stop her.

By staying nimble in the ever-evolving travel industry, Frazier has continued to grow the business. After their first year, the company grew revenue and profits by 10% and has continued to enjoy both revenue and profit growth in every year following, with an average of 20% year-over-year growth. This year, the company will post an unprecedented 30% growth rate.

Initially the company was singularly focused on providing travel services for clients. It has since evolved into a multi-tiered corporation with several unique lines of business.

Giving Back

Even as recent as the last year, Frazier knew there was still the opportunity to evolve her business – with the ever increasing emphasis placed on conservation and sustainable resources. So she expanded the Branding Solutions division to include “every thing conscious" – focused on regenerated apparel created using recycled water and excess cotton remnants that would otherwise be taking up space in landfills both in the U.S. and overseas. Because, as Frazier says, “sustainability is not someone else’s problem.”

Bringing the apparel line “every thing conscious" to life was no small undertaking. Frazier partnered with the only company in the industry with the patent pending to provide the material, sourcing and shipping of the product.

This new venture grew the Branding division of the company by 50% in the last year and these products are used as uniforms for a several national retail chains. Etc group serves clients such as 7-11, Pier 1 Imports, Cash America, D.R. Horton Homes, and Dean Foods.

Under Frazier's leadership, etc group established a charity and foundation team committed making a difference within the DFW community – supporting a new cause or event each quarter.

Uplifting Women

The travel agent role is one typically held by females and many of Fraizer's first employees were single working mothers. As a working mother of two, she understood firsthand the delicate balancing act required to do a 24/7 job. To this day, Debbie answers her phone at any hour of the night, in order to "protect the sacred client relationship." Because her staff was completely female, Debbie took advice from the words of makeup maven, Mary Kay Ash, and offered jewelry as a gift for milestone service anniversaries. Diamonds, to be exact. Much like the legendary pink Cadillacs, these precious stones are displayed with pride and serve as daily reminders of how precious each of her employees is to her.

During her tenure as CEO, Frazier has encouraged growth and promotion from within. By helping employees find their true passion in serving their clients, she creates a true win-win for all involved. She is also working with Ernst & Young to get more women on the panel that selects the winners of the contest each year. She never stops.

Frazier doesn’t tell her story very often, but what a remarkable one it is.

Culture

A Modern Day Witch Hunt: How Caster Semenya's Gender Became A Hot Topic In The Media

Gender divisions in sports have primarily served to keep women out of what has always been believed to be a male domain. The idea of women participating alongside men has been regarded with contempt under the belief that women were made physically inferior.


Within their own division, women have reached new heights, received accolades for outstanding physical performance and endurance, and have proven themselves to be as capable of athletic excellence as men. In spite of women's collective fight to be recognized as equals to their male counterparts, female athletes must now prove their womanhood in order to compete alongside their own gender.

That has been the reality for Caster Semenya, a South African Olympic champion, who has been at the center of the latest gender discrimination debate across the world. After crushing her competition in the women's 800-meter dash in 2016, Semenya was subjected to scrutiny from her peers based upon her physical appearance, calling her gender into question. Despite setting a new national record for South Africa and attaining the title of fifth fastest woman in Olympic history, Semenya's success was quickly brushed aside as she became a spectacle for all the wrong reasons.

Semenya's gender became a hot topic among reporters as the Olympic champion was subjected to sex testing by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). According to Ruth Padawer from the New York Times, Semenya was forced to undergo relentless examination by gender experts to determine whether or not she was woman enough to compete as one. While the IAAF has never released the results of their testing, that did not stop the media from making irreverent speculations about the athlete's gender.

Moments after winning the Berlin World Athletics Championship in 2009, Semenya was faced with immediate backlash from fellow runners. Elisa Cusma who suffered a whopping defeat after finishing in sixth place, felt as though Semenya was too masculine to compete in a women's race. Cusma stated, "These kind of people should not run with us. For me, she is not a woman. She's a man." While her statement proved insensitive enough, her perspective was acknowledged and appeared to be a mutually belief among the other white female competitors.

Fast forward to 2018, the IAAF issued new Eligibility Regulations for Female Classification (Athlete with Differences of Sexual Development) that apply to events from 400m to the mile, including 400m hurdles races, 800m, and 1500m. The regulations created by the IAAF state that an athlete must be recognized at law as either female or intersex, she must reduce her testosterone level to below 5 nmol/L continuously for the duration of six months, and she must maintain her testosterone levels to remain below 5 nmol/L during and after competing so long as she wishes to be eligible to compete in any future events. It is believed that these new rules have been put into effect to specifically target Semenya given her history of being the most recent athlete to face this sort of discrimination.

With these regulations put into effect, in combination with the lack of information about whether or not Semenya is biologically a female of male, society has seemed to come to the conclusion that Semenya is intersex, meaning she was born with any variation of characteristics, chromosomes, gonads, sex hormones, or genitals. After her initial testing, there had been alleged leaks to media outlets such as Australia's Daily Telegraph newspaper which stated that Semenya's results proved that her testosterone levels were too high. This information, while not credible, has been widely accepted as fact. Whether or not Semenya is intersex, society appears to be missing the point that no one is entitled to this information. Running off their newfound acceptance that the Olympic champion is intersex, it calls into question whether her elevated levels of testosterone makes her a man.

The IAAF published a study concluding that higher levels of testosterone do, in fact, contribute to the level of performance in track and field. However, higher testosterone levels have never been the sole determining factor for sex or gender. There are conditions that affect women, such as PCOS, in which the ovaries produce extra amounts of testosterone. However, those women never have their womanhood called into question, nor should they—and neither should Semenya.

Every aspect of the issue surrounding Semenya's body has been deplorable, to say the least. However, there has not been enough recognition as to how invasive and degrading sex testing actually is. For any woman, at any age, to have her body forcibly examined and studied like a science project by "experts" is humiliating and unethical. Under no circumstances have Semenya's health or well-being been considered upon discovering that her body allegedly produces an excessive amount of testosterone. For the sake of an organization, for the comfort of white female athletes who felt as though Semenya's gender was an unfair advantage against them, Semenya and other women like her, must undergo hormone treatment to reduce their performance to that of which women are expected to perform at. Yet some women within the athletic community are unphased by this direct attempt to further prove women as inferior athletes.

As difficult as this global invasion of privacy has been for the athlete, the humiliation and sense of violation is felt by her people in South Africa. Writer and activist, Kari, reported that Semenya has had the country's undying support since her first global appearance in 2009. Even after the IAAF released their new regulations, South Africans have refuted their accusations. Kari stated, "The Minister of Sports and Recreation and the Africa National Congress, South Africa's ruling party labeled the decision as anti-sport, racist, and homophobic." It is no secret that the build and appearance of Black women have always been met with racist and sexist commentary. Because Black women have never managed to fit into the European standard of beauty catered to and in favor of white women, the accusations of Semenya appearing too masculine were unsurprising.

Despite the countless injustices Semenya has faced over the years, she remains as determined as ever to return to track and field and compete amongst women as the woman she is. Her fight against the IAAF's regulations continues as the Olympic champion has been receiving and outpour of support in wake of the Association's decision. Semenya is determined to run again, win again, and set new and inclusive standards for women's sports.