Tami Fitzpatrick's story is so intense, fascinating and astonishing that you'll surely wonder if you're reading a movie script. But, the story of this entrepreneur is real and incredibly true. She skeptically moved to Beirut with her oppressive husband (and had three children by him) and ended up leaving the country and her marriage under dramatic circumstances.
It was upon her return home to the United States that she launched the business Thunderbolt International (TBI) with inventor Edward Shaver and sold three million dollars in tornado defection software.
But, Tami's story doesn't end there with a happy ending tied up neatly in a bow. It's not just about good business sense—it's about empowerment and standing up for yourself—and worth—when no one else will. It's about taking risks, following your gut and doing the right thing—which is extremely different from doing the easy thing. Fitzpatrick walked away from TBI because she was undervalued. But, today, her company Entropy Technology Design, Inc. is launching Nimbus 4, an advanced, real-time, severe weather detector—including real-time lightning and tornados—that's a true game changer. But, to hear the woman who lived it talk about it, it becomes clear that it's more than just saving lives and getting people out of harm's way—it's a movement to change the world and how we help one another.
“I want women to understand you don't have to sacrifice," says Fitzpatrick. “There's always a way out." Here, Fitzpatrick explains in her own words how her journey unfolded, what it's taught her and what she wants other women who feel trapped—be it in a relationship or career—to know.
Three months after, I managed to get myself contracted by the State Department, working in the public affairs office of the US embassy. Five years later when war broke out between Israel and Hezbollah—I knew that was my opportunity to get out. The Ambassador approved us to leave on a military chopper. I told my husband, “I'm leaving—you can come or you can go—but I'm leaving."
So, with one suitcase each, and bombs going off everywhere, we managed to leave on the last chopper out of the country. It was exhilarating because, after 15 years, I saw the light and I knew I was about to be free. I was about to go back on my turf, to my world. Within three weeks of being back in the US, I had the kids in a new home, a new school and I was about to set off some bombs of my own to free myself from my marriage. He gave me nothing—no child support, no money—but, I said, “That's fine, I want nothing from you! I will take care of the three kids, I will do everything myself."
I pulled from that inner strength when I started my first business, Thunderbolt International, selling severe weather lightning detectors. I sold three million dollars' worth of these devices. I met the inventor Edward Shaver and as he explained his technology to me, I knew it was something that I could market around the world. I'm unafraid of unchartered waters and I've always been entrepreneurial. When I was young, instead of dreaming of getting married and having children, I fantasized about having a business career and inspiring other women.
But, ultimately, Thunderbolt failed—the product itself didn't fail but I refused to give up 51 percent ownership of my company to a creditor that wanted to control everything. I fought back on that and when I refused to give in, I lost everything again. I took a few months to lick the wounds. I had to sell my car so I could take care of my kids and pay the rent. I had to sell my furniture to keep my kids supported. And then I asked myself, 'Okay, what do you want to be when you grow up?'
I was continually pulled back into this environment because Shaver, really pioneered this industry with the first handheld lightning detector back in the late 90s. That's why I stay with this because I saw the value in Thunderbolt and I realized no one was doing what we're doing. I started Entropy by turning to Mr. Shaver and saying, 'Look, I believe in what you're doing, I believe that you have even more things to invent, better than the Thunderbolt.
Let's get back in this arena again.' We started with a negative—I had nothing in my bank account—and I went out and raised a million dollars towards the 1.5 million goal. We started from scratch and what we've created with the Nimbus is so incredibly powerful that it will literally change the way that the world reacts to weather.
My dream is that when it's fully developed, it'll feature sensors that can be placed on cable and phone towers and building—and then cover entire cities, states and nations with its detection.I want the Nimbus beacons to be visible from miles away as a sign of weather and safety information—but also a visual sign of hope. I want to create facilities where people see those beacons and know they can come to that area for food, shelter, clothing and more. It's much more than providing safety. Once I really make the billions of dollars that I believe Nimbus will make, I have this dream that I'll give it back into finding the women who aren't visible—the ones like me at my darkest hour. I didn't have internet or a phone.
You get swallowed up and forgotten. You're sitting alone in the corner of your room and feel like the world doesn't know you're there. I want to find a way to pull women out of that when they don't have any other way to wave their hand and say, 'Hey, I'm here.'
Women think they're supposed to hide the pain and they're supposed to accept that's just the way things are. But, every woman has her strength, and every woman has her story. Feeling you must accept what you're given is simply no longer true. Don't accept it— fight back. I'm not saying fight with claws—I think it's important that we're classy, sophisticated and have dignity. But, don't accept being put down simply because you're a woman. Believe in yourself and trust yourself. All women are strong. We share that common thread."
WRITTEN BYLauren Brown West-Rosenthal