For more than 25 years, Carol Bosshardt (MS Entrepreneurship, ’05) has crafted one of the area’s most impressive entrepreneurial enterprises. She began Bosshardt Realty Services in 1987 with only 10 agents. Now, her company has become one of the area’s premier real estate firms with more than 150 employees and realtors.
It’s a remarkable and inspiring story of perseverance, especially for a female entrepreneur trying to gain a foothold in a male-dominated industry. Bosshardt detailed her journey during her keynote address March 14 at the Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation’s Women in Entrepreneurship Summit.
“In 26 years, business hasn’t changed very much,” Bosshardt admitted. “For women, there are still lots of struggles. You have to work twice as long and twice as hard.”
“If women want total equality in the business world with their male counterparts, they must collaborate and support each other as men do,” Bosshardt said. “This has been businesswomen's greatest weakness. Form more groups of businesswomen and support each other! It will work! Even the men in this room want their daughters to have an equal chance at success.”
“You have to be willing to take risks and you have to have that drive to succeed.”
And while she supports programs like CEI’s Women in Entrepreneurship Summit that empower female entrepreneurs, she cautions women to not shun their male counterparts. If female entrepreneurs wish to collaborate on their ventures, those partners will most likely be men because there are so few female business owners, Bosshardt said. Bosshardt herself had a male business partner during the early stages of her company.
“I had strong male partners and mentors throughout my career,” Bosshardt said. “I had great relationships with the publisher of the [Gainesville] Sun, the President of Santa Fe College and the CEO of Shands. That opened a lot of doors for me.
“Strong men don’t feel threatened by women. Some of them will do whatever they can to help.”
The opportunity to share this wisdom and help make a difference in the lives of Warrington students is what keeps Bosshardt involved in the College’s activities. Bosshardt, who made her third appearance at this event, has served as a mentor in past years and taught a class on family-owned businesses.
“Helping shape the lives and careers of young women who follow in her entrepreneurial footsteps is dear to Carol’s heart,” said Katharine Burks, CEI’s Director, Support Programs & Special Events. “I will never forget the year she left Orlando in the middle of a conference just to drive to Gainesville to participate in the Summit, and then immediately turned around and drove back to Orlando for the rest of her conference. She is truly dedicated to giving back to UF and to offering her services to our students.”
“I feel good about the school and programs,” Bosshardt said. “I always make time for them. You have to make priorities in life, for the things that are most important to you. This is one of them.
“It feels good to give back whenever I can. It’s what everyone should do.”