There are entrepreneurs. Then there are serial entrepreneurs.
Tiffany Norwood falls in the latter category.
The Washington, D.C. businesswoman laughs when asked about the serial entrepreneur moniker during a recent conversation with Free Times at the Richland County Library on Assembly Street. Educated at Cornell and Harvard, Norwood has been a part of seven startup companies during the past three decades. In the 1990s she raised nearly $700 million in capital for WorldSpace, one of the first satellite radio companies, and she was an early player in global broadband. She worked on some of the first global digital content licensing deals with companies like Bloomberg News and CNN International. She currently is the founder and CEO of Tribetan, a company that helps individuals develop entrepreneurial concepts.
Norwood says she has always enjoyed being a part of the beginnings of big ideas.
“[A serial entrepreneur] is a different kind of entrepreneur,” she says. “If you’ve started anything [in business], which a lot of people have now, you know that it’s really hard. It’s physically hard, emotionally hard, financially hard, spiritually hard, psychologically hard. There’s been this whole thing now where we’ve had decades of people doing startups. There’s sort of a special recognitions for the ones who are serial.
“For one, it’s like, ‘Oh, they’re sort of crazy, because they know how hard it is and decide to do it again.’ It’s also, I feel, a term of endearment and respect and appreciation, because other people started calling me [a serial entrepreneur] first and then I was like, ‘Yeah, you know what, I am.’”
Norwood will bring her insight into business and entrepreneurship to the Capital City on Nov. 16 as the featured keynote speaker at the South Carolina Women’s Business Summit at Columbia College. The daylong event, which will feature numerous talks and breakout sessions from women who are business leaders locally and globally, is being hosted by the Women’s Business Center of South Carolina at Columbia College. The event is being held in concert with Global Entrepreneurship Week and International Women’s Entrepreneurship Day.
Norwood says she’s looking forward to addressing the summit at the women’s college. Over the course of 30 years in the business and tech startup economy, she’s seen the climate change for women and minorities in entrepreneurship.
“When [the startup economy] started happening, there was all the tech stuff or whatever, but it was all guys,” says Norwood, an African-American woman. “Now, to be around where you have these various communities like women or people of color popping up and saying, ‘We are in support of the startup economy, we want to be entrepreneurs, too. We want to collaborate and be supportive,’ that is so exciting to me.”
South Carolina, in particular has been fertile ground for women in business. According to the National Association of Women Business Owners, there are more 160,000 women-owned enterprises in the Palmetto State.
Other notable speakers at the business summit will include Elaine Pofeldt, author of The Million-Dollar, One-Person Business, and La-Z-Boy Southeast president and CEO Martha Brown, among numerous others.
Norwood tells Free Times that she sees women continuing to emerge in entrepreneurship in South Carolina, particularly with the help of the Women’s Business Center of South Carolina at Columbia College.
“You are really starting to see [Columbia] put a stake in the ground with regard to the startup economy in the community,” she says. “I say that in the sense that there have always been startups, but it’s sort of connecting the community in saying, to the rest of the country, ‘Hey, we exist, we’re a player.’ For Katherine [Swartz-Hilton] and for Kasie [Whitener], who co-founded the Women’s Business Center at Columbia College, their stake in the ground is that they want to lead in regard to women entrepreneurship.”