Denise Devine has more than 25 years of leadership experience, ranging from startups to Fortune 100 companies. As founder and CEO of Nutripharm, Inc., she led the development of a technology platform that generated a portfolio of composition and process patents for natural food as well as pharmaceutical products. She is also the founder and CEO of health and wellness company FNB Holdings, LLC, and medical-device company RTM Vital Signs, LLC. In 2016, Devine received the Alliance of Women Entrepreneurs’ (AWE) Iris Newman Award for outstanding leadership in the entrepreneurial community. Here, Devine shares some key insights from her successful career.
What was the first company you started, and how big did you grow it?
Devine: Nutripharm, Inc. — an R&D company with a portfolio of 19 patents directed toward functional foods and over-the-counter drugs. [The company] executed license deals with Fortune 100 pharmaceutical companies, and strategic alliances with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and [several] companies, including the ownership of a manufacturing facility that employed 50 people.
What have you learned from being an entrepreneur?
Devine: The importance of personal stamina and flexibility, the ability to garner resources in multiple ways, and the vital importance of the three Ps — passion, persistence and the ability to pivot.
How has being a CPA helped you?
Devine: Whenever I talk to students, I tell them that accounting is a wonderful degree to have because it is the “language of business.” Unlike some other skill sets, it is complicated and needs to be studied — often hard — to pick up those skills “on the job.” Working in public accounting exposes you to a number of industries and business issues, and also instills a work ethic and provides management training that are helpful for whatever your professional pursuits may be.
How difficult is it for women to raise money today, as opposed to when you first raised money?
Devine: In some ways, so much has changed and yet so much has remained the same. I think the challenge is still in the pre-venture capital rounds because [despite] raising the awareness and expanding networks for women through organizations like AWE, many women are not networked into private investors. And without meaningful private investment to evidence early-stage progress, it is very difficult to get VC funding.
What advice do you have for women who want to launch a business that requires raising capital?
Devine: The same as I would give to a man — be realistic about what the exit plan will be and seek the appropriate funding for it.
What type of people do you like to hire?
Devine: Passionate, dedicated, hardworking — and people who are comfortable with uncertainty and know how to connect dots.
Marc Kramer, author of six books, is the executive in residence at the Erivan K. Haub School of Business at Saint Joseph’s University and executive director of the Private Investors Forum. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.