Last year, Grow Your Value finalist Denise Uzzelle of Lancaster, TX founded her own human resources company and has since put her passion for supporting veterans into action. The spouse of a disabled veteran, Denise is preparing to launch Operation Vet Works—a company initiative to help veterans retain civilian jobs. You can watch Denise and her fellow finalists compete for a $10,000 bonus onstage this Friday, April 10 during the kickoff Know Your Value live event in Philadelphia. The contest is part of the nationwide Know Your Value effort to provide dialogue, training and resources for women to learn and communicate their value.
Why are you a believer in the Know Your Value movement?
Denise: I lived it. The book made me start to look at my career differently. Changing my way of thinking made me stand up and ask for what I felt I was worth in the corporate world. It was also the catalyst in realizing that corporations were building their organizations through my skills and entrusting me to make decisions that impacted millions of dollars each year. Just that simple adjustment in how I looked at my value to their business, gave me the courage to believe that I could run a successful business of my own.
You and two other women were chosen as finalists in the Grow Your Value bonus competition. What made you decide to enter the contest?
Denise: First, I wanted Mika to know what a difference her book made in my life. The second reason is that there was no way I was letting this opportunity pass. This infusion of cash would allow me to jump-start Operation Vet Works, my company’s initiative to help veterans maintain employment.
You used the skills and knowledge from your 12-year career in human resources to start your own company. What personality traits have contributed most to success in your field?
Denise: Determination. Integrity. Intuitiveness.
You’re now launching Operation Vet Works, an initiative to support job-seeking veterans. What has been the highlight of your career trajectory and what do you hope to achieve?
Denise: In October 2014 I remember being in a meeting with a group of women CEOs and being told that large corporations would not use my little startup company because they already had prime vendors. The highlight of my career was 18 days later when I finalized negotiations and signed my first contract for Starting Point Human Capital Advisors, my little startup company, to provide services to a Fortune 100 company.
My daughter is an extremely hard worker but I want her to know what it is like to love what you do and work for yourself without having to struggle like we did when I was raising her as a single parent. My goal is to build a company that I can leave to her that is not just a financial success, but also a social endeavor that delivers positive change for others.
What advice would you give to young women who are just beginning their careers?
Denise: I would tell them the same thing that I have always told my daughter: the minute you stop trying, you start losing. Regroup, rethink and reset if you have to, but never give up on what you want.
Who are the women you look up to?
Denise: I look up to Suze Orman, Shonda Rhimes, Hillary Clinton, Rachel Maddow, Michelle Obama, Mika and last but not least, my mom, who raised me as a single parent. I’ve never wanted for anything and to this day she is my biggest cheerleader.
You and the other finalists completed a physically and emotionally rigorous “Corporate Athlete” course at the Johnson & Johnson Human Performance Institute in Orlando, Florida. What was most challenging about the training?
Denise: I was on the treadmill not knowing if I was going to take the next step or break down in tears. It was a very emotional experience for me: dealing with the fact that I have let myself get so overweight and out of shape was hard. Since I've been back from the Human Performance Institute, I've started to walk a mile in the mornings.
What else will you take away from your experience as a Grow Your Value finalist?
Denise: I plan to soak up every ounce of knowledge, every tip, every lesson and every nugget of inspiration available to prepare me for the next level of success.
The Know Your Value live event is three days away. How do you feel about being onstage in front of hundreds of people?
Denise: Bring it on.
Check back tomorrow for a preview of our next Grow Your Value finalist. You can also watch a video of our three finalists here.