Hall of Fame inductee: entrepreneur & women's advocate Valerie Freeman
By Melinda Guravich, staff writer
This year’s Hall of Fame inductee is Valerie Freeman, an accomplished entrepreneur who, in addition to building businesses from the ground up, pays it forward in the Dallas business community. She will join the prestigious ranks of other influencers during the virtual Tech Titans Awards Gala on Oct. 23.
For 38 years, she’s been an entrepreneur, mentor, encourager, as well as a playing-field leveler for women in technology. She has continually connected the dots across four decades to meet market demand and provide custom-built services and solutions to fit client needs through recessions, dot com years and the pandemic.
During her career, she led her companies through massive changes in how every company does business – what is called disruption today.
Hooked on tech
Valerie was doing work she liked as a business professor at El Centro College—when she traded it for work she loved – starting and running businesses. She recalls the moment she became hooked on technology when an IBM sales rep introduced her to the company’s then state-of-the-art word processing systems. She took a look and saw the future.
“People were scared to death of technology, so I took advantage of the opportunity to train and place people, as well as consult in this new office technology that no one understood,” Valerie said.
She left the safety of education on spec, founding Imprimis (called Wordtemps back then) in 1982. She also started a computer training company, ACE, Accelerated Computer Education, and A+CADD, Computer Aided Design and Drafting. She was instrumental in helping to start the Association of Information Systems Professionals. During the 90’s, she, along with some experienced bankers, started Resource Bank and Bank Direct, the first internet bank in Texas. Valerie continued on their board of directors until it merged into Texas Capital Bank.
During this time she also focused on other areas that were being automated – one was commercial design – graphic artists, illustrators, animators, etc. -- who could now ply their trade using new hardware and software. In 1993, Art Squad was born, which is now FreemanLeonard with an added focus on marketing technology.
In 1994, she partnered with Andrew Jackson, who was leading an engineering staffing firm, and BravoTECH was born. Later she drove the startup of ANSERteam, a national managed service workforce company headquartered here in Dallas. Valerie helped raise the money from 20 investors to get ANSERteam started and hired the first president. That company has grown profit and sales for 12 years through 2019.
Advocating for women, from Dallas to Kabul
Valerie actively encourages women to succeed in tech careers. She took on the role of chair of the advisory board for the Alliance of Technology and Women to help grow the influence of women in tech. Through Technology Ball and other groups, she mentors both women and men to help them make the best decisions about their careers.
In the entrepreneurial world, she and four other women founded Texas Women Ventures, the first firm in Texas (maybe in the U.S. at the time) to focus solely on investing in women-owned and led firms. TWV Capital has invested millions of dollars in women’s businesses through three funds, the first starting in 2005 and the third about to wrap up.
For many years she participated in Peace through Business with women business owners from Rwanda and Afghanistan who came to Dallas to study business and marketing with U.S. women entrepreneurs. In addition to providing business and marketing expertise, she hosted a dinner at her home for these women whose businesses included mobile app development, cybersecurity, managing hotel resorts and farming. Her favorite was a pig and vegetable farmer from Rwanda who lived with Valerie while here and who she still keeps in touch with today.
Her latest venture is as co-founder of Prime Women Media which provides content via website, YouTube, webinars and soon-to-be streaming tv for women over the age of 50. Prime Women Media has been named a top women blog, top women website, etc. for the last several years. Valerie serves as vice chair of the board of directors.
Valerie is one of Girl Scouts’ biggest fans. She served as chair of the board of directors of Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas and is a champion of their nationally known STEM Center of Excellence, where K-12 girls can explore science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers.
She was the first woman to chair the board of directors of the DCCCD (now Dallas College) Foundation. Currently she serves on the advisory board of the Women’s Business Council of the Southwest where she was twice named Women’s Business Enterprise Advocate and once as the Women’s Business Enterprise of the Year. She also serves on the advisory board of EWF (Executive Women’s Forums) a for-profit leadership development company, and the North Texas Advisory Board for Trust Bank. She is a member of YPO Gold, Dallas Assembly and International Women’s Forum.
Valerie has received many awards over the years:
1990 – Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year
1990 – National Woman Business Owner of the Year – NAWBO
1995 – University of Houston Distinguished Alumna
1995 – Women Who Make a Difference – El Centro College
1995 – to 2001 – Trinity River Authority Board – Appointed by Governor George W. Bush
2002 – Athena Award from the Dallas Regional Chamber
2006 and 2007 – Women’s Business Council of the Southwest – Women’s Advocate of the Year
2007 – Woman of Distinction Award – Girls Scouts of Northeast Texas
2008 – Top Women in Business Awards – Dallas Business Journal
2010 – Sterling Bank – Inspiring Texas Woman Award
2011 – Women’s Business Enterprise Hall of Fame
2012 – Northwood University – Outstanding Business Leaders, Class of 2012
2013 – Tech Titans Community Hero Award
2015 – Maura Award – Texas Women’s Foundation
2016 – 2017, 2018, 2020 – Dallas 500 Business Leaders – D CEO
2016 – Dallas Business Ethics Award
2017 – Lifetime Achievement Award – Alliance of Technology and Women
2019 – Prism Award for excellence in promoting D & I – Council for Inclusion in Financial Services
2019 – Lifetime Achievement Award for Women in Technology – Dallas Business Journal
2020 – Orbie Award for Leadership – Dallas Inspire CIO Leadership Network
Middle Market 50 – Dallas Business Journal
Inc. 500/5000 – Inc. Magazine
Dallas 100 Fastest Growing -- SMU
Cougar 100 Fastest Growing – University of Houston
Texas Women Ventures Investment Catalyst – Tech Titans
WPO Fast 50 – Women Presidents’ Organization
Working Woman 500 – Working Woman Magazine