According to a recent study1, Texas is the best state in the nation for female entrepreneurs. In San Antonio we are lucky to have a plethora of powerful women leading the way in business. These women come from all backgrounds, venturing in all directions, driven by their passions and experiences.
On the next few pages, we highlight four women who continue to shape our city with their innovation while blazing a path for the next generation of businesswomen. Although all specialize in different industries, each woman found success through believing in herself, long hours of hard work, and creating a support system of family, friends, and mentors.
CEO, Express Information Systems
Thirty years ago, Iris Schimke found herself suddenly laid off from her job at Computer Craft and pregnant with her first child.
To help her get through a tough time, she took on contract work for a friend implementing a new accounting system for her company. Schimke found a system through a company in North Dakota. If she signed up as a “value added reseller” her client received added benefits. Although becoming a reseller was not part of her plan, she signed on.
Soon after, the North Dakota company called her with a sales lead. Schimke told them she never planned to sell. “I don’t have a laptop, I’ve never done a demo,” she confessed. “You probably want to get someone else to do this.”
Under threat of losing perks for her client, Schimke agreed to the call. Then, she spent six months learning everything about being the new business.
After a few months, her clientele had expanded so much she needed to hire someone. Cheryl Aceto quickly became Schimke’s business partner. “She runs the technical side of the business. And I run the sales and marketing side.”
Today, Express Information Systems, has 17 employees serving midmarket businesses with $10 million to $500 million in revenues, offering solutions to complex financial needs such as accounting, ERP software, transactions, receivables, payables and payroll.
She said it was out of necessity that she stumbled into entrepreneurship. “You find yourself in a position and you have no alternative,” she said. “You reach for things you normally wouldn’t. You’re willing to take more risks. You’ve already lost your job — you have nothing to lose.”
Mollie Calvert Massari
Founder and President of MCM Group
As a marketing and communications professional, Mollie Calvert Massari has developed expertise in a niche market, luxury retail. One of her first major projects was developing La Cantera in 2005. In 2016, Massari went out on her own to found her own marketing firm.
Although her clients hail from around the world, Massari bases her life out of San Antonio, “I’m here because I love the city. My family is here. My friends are here.”
Her local client list includes architects, interior designers and real estate firms. Nationally, she represents luxury and destination retail shopping centers. She’s also part of Blend Marketing, a firm based in Arizona and next year she takes the reigns as President of the USA Luxury Shopping Consortium.
“For me what’s working is to pull in from all over, clients from across the country,” she said, adding that marketing has changed a lot, and in today’s world it’s about creating individualized and unique experiences.
“There’s no cookie cutter day, no cookie cutter experiences. I hear every day how brick-and-mortar is dead. Quite the opposite, we have to create these (specialized) experiences around brick-and-mortar.”
Massari wasn’t planning on launching her own business, but the opportunity arose and with the help of some mentors she’s found success and a career she loves.
Mentorship and leadership are important to building a business. She said it’s important to pay it forward, to share wisdom with the next generation.
Massari’s advice for entrepreneurs is organization. Time management is integral to finding time to do the work, to be creative and to run the business.
The biggest lessons Massari has learned as an entrepreneur are — not to be afraid to ask for help, to find the right people for the right jobs, and to have fun.
Owner of Boss Bagels
BOSS – Bagels on Southern Soil – Bagels owner Christie Soileau and her husband, Brannon, have opened and run restaurants all over the country.
“We’ve always been in the restaurant business,” Christie said. “I started out as a chef, and a pastry chef, but I found out I like to talk too much so I moved to the front of the house. I like to meet people and learn their stories.”
The couple has lived and cooked in Grand Cayman, Chicago, Austin, San Francisco, Dallas, back to Chicago, Indiana, New York and San Antonio – in that order.
“I’m done,” she told her husband once they left New York. “I’m done moving. I love it here. And he said, ‘Well, good, what are we going to open?’ That’s how this started.”
They settled on a NYC staple, bagels, but with a Texas twist on two classic styles. They would be boiled like New York- style in agave-water, a Texas touch, then finished off in the wood-fire grill like Montreal-style bagels.
“We’re one of six places that cooks bagels that way, and the only one in Texas that I know of,” Christie said. One challenge Christie faced early on in her career was finding balance between being an entrepreneur and a mom to her son Clay.
“It was tough. There were many times when he was standing on a milk carton wearing an apron and breading chicken or catching pasta as it came out of the pasta maker. I felt guilty because other moms could volunteer for everything, and I couldn’t. I tried my best and did what I could,” she said.
“I think having goals as a woman and being a mom is important. It was hard but he’s learned there are certain things he has to do for himself.”
Christie advices other entrepreneurs, “You have to listen and understand what your customer wants and not just think what you want to do is best. You have to humble yourself, otherwise you can lose.”
Dy Lynne Dabney
Owner of Joyeux Home Furnishings
Interior designer and lover of all things joyful, Dy Lynne Dabney is no stranger to running her own business. She was designing her neighbors’ homes before she graduated from college. By 1996 the former flight attendant had officially launched her interior design company, Dy Lynne Decor.
“I like working for myself and even though you don’t have benefits or health care, I knew I wanted to do it,” she said. “I was driven. I had a passion and a plan.”
Dabney’s husband Jack is a homebuilder and they often joined forces and worked projects together. But four years ago he “dragged” her out to look at a piece of property and its three buildings at the corner of Joy Street and McCullough Avenue. It struck her that the name Joy was significant. “I love what the word means and what it evokes,” she said. “It just felt really peaceful and I knew it was meant to be.”
They bought the property, built a beautiful white washed New England-style barn on it and from there Joyeux Home Furnishings was born.
“Even before I met my husband I had dreamed of a little storefront,” she said. “I had investors come to me before but it never quite felt right. Who knew I’d marry a builder who shared the same dream?”
Dy Lynne travels four to six times a year in search of unique items for the store. She’s still an interior designer, specifically enjoying projects where she can get involved from conception, working with the architect, going over the plans and helping to choose the materials.
Dy Lynne has 12 employees and is considering a possible pop up or a second location in the future. She said future entrepreneurs should follow their passion.
“If you have God given talent you should just go for it,” she said. “Don’t let anyone tell you can’t or put you in a box. You are your own best sales person.”
Introduction by Sophie Bauer
Interviews by Tricia Schwennesen
Photography by David Teran