A CEO’s Sanctuary: Terry Neese
At home with a driven entrepreneur
Photos by Shannon Cornman
Terry Neese has more energy than you and me combined. She is currently serving as presidential hopeful Carly Fiorina’s national finance chair, while still keeping up with her beloved nonprofit, the Institute for Economic Empowerment of Women, which celebrates its 10th anniversary in 2016.
She founded an employment company 41 years ago, and it’s still going gangbusters under the leadership of her daughter Kim. She has squeezed every drop of life out of her years thus far, and odds are good she will never stop. She is a staunchly conservative feminist from Cookietown, Oklahoma, and she is one of a kind.
She has been blessed with a strong streak of determination; after working for multiple personnel agencies that folded, she decided to open her own. At the time, women couldn’t legally borrow money without a male co-signer. This was 1975. Neese is quick to point out that the law regarding women and lending changed, but not until 1988. “It was October 25, 1988, HR 5050. I was there,” she says.
Undaunted, she worked out a deal with her landlord to rent space, then to purchase space. When a highway project obstructed access to her building, she kept working but made a mental note to get more involved with local politics. When her newly renovated building burned to the ground, she found office space just a few doors down, and cobbled together some furniture. Within 24 hours, the company was back up and running: it had hardly missed a beat. And revenue? They quadrupled it.
Neese also is the founder and CEO of the nonprofit Institute for Economic Empowerment of Women. Its mission is to give women – both in the U.S. and abroad; its Peace Through Business program mentors women in Afghanistan and Rwanda – the tools to grow their businesses, pursue greater entrepreneurial ventures and become more active public policy advocates.
Her beautiful Yukon home is her fortress, and she relishes spending time here, where she can slow down, enjoy the company of her 94-year-old mother (who lives here also) and prepare for the next challenge.