WASHINGTON – President Obama singled out Mount Airy businesswoman, Theresa Alfaro Daytner for her inspiring work building her business, during his speech honoring women in business Tuesday evening.
“I love Theresa’s story,” the president said before an audience that included billionaire investor Warren Buffett, hundreds of women entrepreneurs and 75 girls who aspire to become engineers, U.S. senators or professional race car drivers.
The event in the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium was Fortune Magazine’s “2010 Most Powerful Women Summit,” and Daytner was named one of the periodical’s 10 most powerful women entrepreneurs this year.
The president spoke of how Daytner struggled to raise capital for her contracting and construction business while raising six children and caring for her elderly parents.
“Eventually, she ran out of options,” Obama said. “She applied for a home equity loan. And this resonates with me, this story. She handed her husband the application, and said to him, ‘Here, Honey, sign this but don’t read it.'”
Daytner Construction Group made $16 million in revenue so far this year, but “folks like Theresa, they shouldn’t have to mortgage their family home to build their family business,” Obama said, mentioning the administration’s work to provide small business loans and tax cuts.
“I’m not an accidental entrepreneur,” Daytner said after hearing the president’s “flattering” speech. “I’ve been very calculated in terms of wanting to be a successful businesswoman.”
Daytner grew up in Greenbelt where her father was also an entrepreneur who owned beauty salons and a cosmetology school on Main Street in Laurel, she said during a 2009 hearing before the U.S. Senate Small Business Committee. She studied to become a certified public accountant, graduating from the University of Maryland, College Park in 1989, and landed a job with an accounting firm.
“I found the traditional career path of the corporate world did not share the same family values and creative resourcefulness that I was so passionate about,” she said in 2009. “I believe my experience is similar to many women entrepreneurs who are torn between raising families, caring for parents, economic survival and, oh yeah, creating a life full of passion, purpose and joy.”
She’s also managed to create jobs locally for Marylanders, she said. Her company employs 10 people.
“There’s a neighbor and a friend of mine who was looking for a job as an assistant project manager,” she said. After a few months the right opportunity came along, and Daytner was able to hire her. “I’ve really been able to create jobs within the community, and it’s a wonderful thing.”
Despite Daytner’s success and the success of women like her, Obama said he’s not naive about the work still ahead for women business leaders.
“I also know that thanks to decades of struggle and sacrifice — a lot of it quiet and a lot of it behind the scenes — many of the obstacles that my grandmother faced no longer exist,” he said. “Today, women make up half of America’s workforce. They are primary or co-breadwinners in two-thirds of our families. Their contributions are vital to the success of our economy.
“Today, girls like my daughters, young women like the ones at this dinner, have opportunities that my grandmother never dreamed of for herself.”
Daytner was selected for the Fortune honor from hundreds of women entrepreneurs nominated as “game changers, ground-breakers and innovators in their fields.”
Also selected were Leah Brown, president of A10 Solutions, Inc. in Cary, N.C.; Linda Chaput, founder of Agile Mind in Grapevine, Texas; Wendi Goldsmith, CEO of Bioengineering Group in Salem, Mass; Desiree Gruber, founder of Modelinia/Full Picture in New York, N.Y.; Alexa Hirschfeld, co-founder of Paperless Post in New York, N.Y.; Dina Kaplan, co-founder of Blip.tv in New York, N.Y.; Susan Koger, co-founder of ModCloth in Pittsburgh, Pa.; Mariam Naficy, founder of Minted in San Francisco, Calif., and Elizabeth Perelstein, president of School Choice International Inc. in White Plains, N.Y.