As a woman-owned business, Women’s Entrepreneurship Day is an important day at FastTrack.
Celebrating progress, particularly in the United States, is what this day is all about. It is also a time to applaud the drive and determination of those who worked hard to overcome the barriers of starting a business as a woman and a young woman at that.
FastTrack Staffing is on the map in two states with 9 branch locations because of the entrepreneurial spirit of our owner and leader, Mary K. Thomas. She saw a need in her community for a unique service to help her fellow business owners and when the opportunity presented itself, she ran with it.
At the age of 22, Mary quickly realized that working for others wasn’t something that she wanted to do for the rest of her life. Admittedly she says she ‘wasn’t that great at being an employee.’ She has always been the type of person that when she sees something she wants, she dives in headfirst. With her internal drive and her head for business; Mary began her entrepreneurial journey after seeing the need to provide staff to Ocala’s equine community.
Mary relied heavily on organic growth at the beginning. Much of her business was earned by performing above and beyond for her current customer base. She provided top talent, as well as terrific customer service to various equine-related businesses in Central Florida. Even though her good reputation spread quickly, she still faced business hurdles. Her biggest blockade came in the form of startup capital. Today, only about 2.3% of venture capital goes to women entrepreneurs, but back in 1982, that number was minuscule in comparison. A woman-owned business was still a relatively new development at that time. It was only 10 years earlier than women began owning businesses. Mary was rejected by 6 different banks before deciding that she would need to spend her own money and use personal resources to get her business running. Her first payroll was borrowed from a friend in fact. As Mary’s business grew, her resources grew as well. By keeping her word, paying back the borrowed funds in a timely manner, she was able to flourish.
During the beginning, Mary says that her initial market, mostly farms and equestrian-related business, was very much a ‘boys club.’ She guestimates that 95% of the decision-makers she dealt with in that time were men. She was lucky to have a female mentor who managed a large farm in the area. Still to this day she quotes her warmly when asked about the advice she was given. “Become an expert at what you do and don’t acknowledge any barriers.” These would become words to live by and she didn’t let her and or gender stop her from succeeding. When discussing what it was like being a woman in business during a time where there weren’t many, she had this to say. “Don’t give it any power. There is always plenty of business out there, so if someone didn’t want to work with me, I just ignored it. If I hit a wall, I just moved on to the next potential customer.
A lot has changed since 1982 when only 400,000 businesses were owned by women. That seems like a large number, but when compared to today’s statistics of 13 million in 2021, it’s clear that women have come a long way in the world of business ownership. the world has strong-willed, hard-working women like Mary K. Thomas to thank for their contributions over the years. Without her perseverance and dedication to becoming an expert at her craft, FastTrack Staffing, a company that employs hundreds of people weekly, would not be here today.
To all the individuals out there working hard to find success, keep going. Even when the world around you says that you can’t do it, don’t give it any power. When you hit a wall, don’t let it slow you. And to the hard-working women out there, every time you want to give up, remember that you are not only giving it your all to create a better future for yourself but for the women that will come after you. You are an inspiration, just like Mary K. Thomas.