From A Construction Office Clerk To Entrepreneur Of The Year

From A Construction Office Clerk

To Entrepreneur Of The Year

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.

Stacey Sullivan Hall

In her day job, Stacey Hall serves as a veteran PR flack enjoying the art of the written word and a good corporate reputation crisis. At night, she unwinds with creative writing, crosswords and California Chardonnay.

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