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Women Mean Business - Beth Williams

Beth Williams

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Women Mean Business host Leisa Holland-Nelson, president of ContentActive, interviews Beth Williams, Techtrans International Inc.

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Leisa: Hello. I'm Leisa Holland-Nelson and welcome to a special edition of Women Mean Business where we're going to take you up close and personal with extraordinary women doing extraordinary things. I'm coming to you tonight live from Houston Technology Center's celebration of entrepreneurs and my very -

[Applause]

- special guest this evening is this this evening's honoree, Beth Williams, award-winning founder of TechTrans International. Beth, welcome to Women Mean Business.

Beth: Thank you.

Leisa: Tell us about TechTrans International.

Beth: We're 18 years old and we started very quietly with five employees and a government contract. I had a partner; we lost her to a drunk driver right away, and since I didn't speak Russian and I really didn't speak business, it was quite a challenge. And the five people stuck with me and we grew. This year, we were in 81 countries. We started working just Russia - now we're in 81 countries, we're all over the world.

Leisa: I wanna make sure that all of you understand that TechTrans isn't technology transfer, it's technology translations. I was gonna ask you, since I know personally that your first translations were into Russia -

Beth: Yeah.

Leisa: - if Russia is your second language but it may not be. What is your second language?

Beth: No, that's important. I'm fluent in BS.

Leisa: I wanted you all to get to hear that. I think that's kind of exciting. I know also something else - that your life was incredibly interesting before TechTrans International. Share with us the highlights.

Beth: I started out waterskiing at a little place called Cypress Gardens in Florida and a grew up in a little town called New Bern, North Carolina and I was told that that's what you do, like _____, you get married, you move on. And somehow or another I knew I had to go somewhere. I just had to. And we used to watch movies on waterskiing. My brother and I could do it all and so I wrote them a letter and they said, "Come ahead," which told me you can pretty well do anything if you write somebody a letter. And kind of went on from there.

Leisa: Did you go from Cypress Gardens to NASA? What happened in the middle?

Beth: No, I went from Cypress Gardens to San Francisco because it seemed like a nice place to go at the time and I learned banking and was dating this very nice man who became an astronaut.

Leisa: Why did he become an astronaut, though? I want you to tell us. I heard you asked him to become one. Is that true?

Beth: Oh no, no, no. No, no, no. He asked me to marry him so he could become one.

Leisa: Oh, is that what it was? Oh you had to be married to be an astronaut?

Beth: Well he thought so.

[Laughter]

Because he was the first bachelor and I thought this was a really terrible thing, because I, you know, that's not nice. If I had done that, I mighta held it over his head.

Leisa: I understand that - I know that you set a high bar for him. He became an astronaut. I think you've set an incredibly high bar for yourself. I know that you were a young widow, what was it like to be in Clearlake, Texas as a young widow? What did you do with yourself right away?

Beth: Well, first of all, I was pregnant and I had a baby and so I stayed pretty busy. But, you know, it wasn't hard to live in Clearlake City. It's never hard to live in Seabrook, Texas. I had such a group of people worrying over me and taking care of me that it was a very easy thing to do. It wasn't difficult. It was sort of a pleasure to have the girls and have their friends. And that's really why I stayed. I just fell in love with the area.

Leisa: So you went to work, though, and had a great career. What were you doing? Were you in real estate or -

Beth: Real estate and then later I worked for the ________ Planetary Institute and helped them build a new building and then when Natalie came and said she wanted to do this, I said, "Why not?"

Leisa: Why not.

Beth: There was no reason not to, so my job was to build the company and her job was to take care of the technical.

Leisa: If you can waterski, I think you can do anything. I think that. I really do. I know NASA has a very special place in your heart but I've heard the same said of the Astrodome.

Beth: You know when I came here in July and I thought God really punished me. It was hot. I got off that plane at Hobby Airport and I thought, "Lord, what have I done this bad?" And I wasn't here two weeks and I thought, "This is the most curious town 'cause they're building something called the Astrodome." Now mind you, I'm living where they're going to the moon and I'm more fascinated with the Astrodome. And so I used to drive into town and watch it and the night they had the grand opening, my husband and I went and he and a group of his friends threw out the first ball. And it was so over the top and so perfect and just the most wonderful thing. I thought, "You know, I really belong to these people. This is where I belong." And riding home in the car, I said, "You can relax; now I found my people. I'm staying." And then, you know, and then we focused on the moon but still that Astrodome - it worries me now because we got the Astrodome in mothballs; we don't know exactly what's happening in NASA; we're all hopeful, you know, and I'm getting a lifetime achievement. So I'm thinking, "Is it time we're all - are they retiring me?"

[Laugher]

Leisa: I don't think that they're retiring you. I think we're trying to put a lot of good stuff in your hands and I bet you would have a great idea for revival or next steps or whatever. So I have one last big question for you. You've been leading your company now for 18 years. Let's look at the future. I know you get asked this a lot. What's your exit strategy?

Beth: Lord, it's cremation.

[Laughter]

Leisa: I want you all to know - that was a trick question. That is my favorite answer that I've actually ever had. Ever had - and I'm gonna add one little extra to all of this. And just say - I want you to have a moment to tell what you would advise the next generation of young professionals, especially women, if they wanna go into your business or into the space business or build an Astrodome. What advice would you give them?

Beth: You just have to be incredibly stubborn and you have to be determined and you have to believe in the people around you and other than that, I don't know what to tell you - that's what worked for me.

Leisa: Thank you so much. There you have it -

[Applause]

- ladies and gentlemen. Another extraordinary woman doing extraordinary things. I'm Leisa Holland-Nelson, President and Chief Marketing Officer of Content Active, Houston's leading Web and mobile technology company. You can find me at Content Active.com, or follow me on Twitter at nelson. We'll be back again next week with another edition of Women Mean Business.

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