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Founding Partner and President of Artemis Holdings Group, LLC
With over two decades of experience in developing, acquiring and divesting a myriad of companies, Sheri Orlowitz has proven to be a powerhouse woman entrepreneur in male-dominated fields. She reveals to NAWRB her entrepreneurial experience abroad as a delegate for the State Department, strategies for women entrepreneurs to expand globally, and the story of her newest exciting venture, Artemis Holdings Group, a private investment and international advisory firm dedicated to helping businesses acquire, expand, finance, or successfully sell their businesses.
NAWRB: Let’s start off by talking about Artemis Holdings Group. Your company is highly successful and helps a great deal of businesses prosper. What inspired you to create the company?
Sheri Orlowitz: It’s an interesting story. I was retired but, as any person does, I was still looking for opportunities.
I talked to my past private equity partners. They said, “Sheri, you know how taxing it is to run a business. What you should do is look for businesses to take a minority interest and on whose boards you can sit and share some of your 20 years of knowledge with people who are struggling. Not only do you have a solid pedigree, but a world of experience that will help people, as opposed to going out and operating another company.” By doing so, I found a way to remain part of dynamic businesses without being involved in day-to-day operations.
I liked the idea of sharing experiences with other entrepreneurs and specifically, women. I have a new awareness of the fact that women in my generation are ready to sell their businesses and frankly, do not understand that it’s not always wise to do everything yourself. The ability to reach out and listen to somebody else about growing or selling a business is quite a challenge for a lot of women. They’ve grown their businesses from zero to 20 million. That’s remarkable. But, the likelihood of going from 20 million to 100 million is probably low in a lot of respects. Some reasons are because women are not exposed to private equity and high net-worth networks. They are not familiar with the opportunities provided by access to using, as it us called, other people’s money. Their number one concern is losing control and if women understand they’re good enough and that people can’t simply replace them, then they would gain more confidence and interest. Those are all things that I would love to focus on in terms of getting women to open their eyes to the possibilities. Look at the companies that grew to a billion in two to five years. They were once a million and they were also once a dollar and I can say with certainty they all used other people’s money.
Artemis has been said to gravitate towards Greek and Portuguese companies that receive a significant amount of sales from export. Can you tell us why your company has chosen to focus on those two countries in particular?
Sheri Orlowitz: In 2013, I was recruited by the U.S. State Department’s Global Entrepreneurship Program (GEP) to be a delegate and travel with other highly successful American entrepreneurs and investors to Greece. Several months later, I was again asked to join a GEP mission to Portugal. The mission in both cases was to assist local entrepreneurs, both existing and startup, to find ways to stabilize and grow their businesses. Exporting, establishing offices or acquiring in the U.S. was part of my counsel. In both cases, I received as much as I gave and became interested in the business climate in these recovering economies. I made it a point to get to know people in the highest political and business positions in Greece and Portugal, as well as the U.S. ambassadors and embassy staffs in both countries. Many opportunities have resulted, both for Artemis and for the businesses we work with from Greece and Portugal.
With a similar theme, the United States also has a strong initiative that has been rebranded as Select USA. The goal is to get international investors and businesses to recognize what an incredible marketplace the U.S. is, not only to have sales offices and distribution offices but also to manufacture. I was listening to an Indian company that realized that the certain kind of cotton they needed was actually cheaper for them to acquire and manufacture here in the United States and they built a facility in North Carolina. I am currently working with a Greek company that would like to license its innovative patented technology to reduce fat from meat here in the United States.
Many foreign companies looking to enter the U.S. make a common mistake, they believe that you can hire a U.S. executive that has run a billion dollar corporation and expect that person is going to bring your company from zero to a billion. Generally, people that run billion dollar corporations are the last people that you want helping a startup operation. These people are used to having many people to delegate to. They’re not nimble. On the other hand, entrepreneurs are highly underrated. They are quick and shrewd. A lot of women entrepreneurs don’t recognize the importance of their skillsets.
Circling back, Greece and Portugal are very entrepreneurial countries. They are very focused, as the whole world is that entrepreneurship is the answer to unemployment. You have two countries that really need to expand beyond their border sand also need help with entrepreneurship. I was there and I saw the opportunity for my skillset in the ways that I’ve told you. It’s helped me shape a more international vision for my own company.
NAWRB: That program sounds like an incredible opportunity and eye-opening experience. Can you provide more information on what exactly the U.S. State Department’s Global Entrepreneurship Program (GEP) is and how you were chosen as a delegate?
Sheri Orlowitz: GEP was launched by Hillary Clinton when she was Secretary of State. It was launched at the Presidential Summit on Entrepreneurship. GEP is about sharing best practices with entrepreneurs. It supports entrepreneurship abroad in countries like Greece and Portugal. I’ve been invited because of connections established over years of working in Washington, D.C. and with certain State Department officials and I am now known as someone who delivers results.
I’ve been really successful in these places not only in mentoring but keeping up relationships and creating something based off the ongoing mission, both in Portugal and Greece. For Greece, I have a Facebook page where around 60-70 people from Greece can communicate with me and other delegates. Artemis also represents several Greek businesses to raise money and enter the U.S. market. In Portugal, I’ve been working with the largest private equity fund that is owned by the government. It’s not really a private equity fund in the way we know it since it’s funded by the government. They’ve been really happy with the way I’ve become involved. I think it’s a great opportunity when you work internationally because you get a global perspective on things.
NAWRB: How can women-owned businesses tap into the global economy and what resources can they access to expand their business globally?
Sheri Orlowitz: One way would be to look at companies that are doing something similar to your company or work in your industry or areas of interest and explore alliances. You can contact companies that you would use as a service provider that may also want to be a service provider in the United States. These are potential companies with which to consider working and that may produce leads and entry into their countries. But, you have to reach out. One avenue that has been tremendously helpful to me has been membership and active participation in women’s professional groups. Not only can we learn a lot from each other, but the transnational connections are invaluable.
It’s also important to join international organizations. Thanks to the Women’s President’s Organization I taught in a University in Saudi Arabia. In my business, I try to reach out to investment banks in Brazil and Germany, in addition to embassies and represent them in the U.S. We have a wealth of resources in the U.S. embassies because one of the goals is to get foreign companies to come to the United States.
You can also contact the commercial officer in the foreign embassies of the countries you are interested in. Those are a couple ways women can tap into the global economy.
NAWRB: During your career, you raised over $100 million and actively help entrepreneurs develop their business, whether it is with capital, acquisitions, or mergers. What advice do you have for other women that want to raise capital and turn their small business into a large, thriving company?
Sheri Orlowitz: I think it is critical to hire a consultant with an understanding of the capital markets. It has been my observation that most savvy business owners overestimate the amount they know about private equity, forms of lending, and the like. But, these same women will go to a real estate or mortgage broker to sell or finance their homes. Think about how you want to grow and what it will cost. Do you want to increase capacity organically, acquire or partner with a compatible business outside of the U.S.? There are many ways to approach global expansion and to finance it. And, do not forget to talk to a good tax lawyer.
What also helps in business is to attract investors if you have a differentiator—something that makes you stand out among your competition. If you have something like that, it’s going to interest people. If you’re really small, you can raise money from friends and family. If you are adventurous, you can take your five million dollar business and perhaps acquire a 20 million dollar business. This is doable if a women has the desire and I would like to help.
NAWRB: The legal profession is notorious for being male-dominated. According to the American Bar Association, men comprise 66 percent of the legal profession whereas women are only 34 percent. How did you confront this when you started your legal career and has the experience helped you become the powerhouse entrepreneur and CEO you are today?
Sheri Orlowitz: Forget about legal, I was in manufacturing in 1993. That was not a time when you found women in manufacturing. From there, I transitioned into manufacturing as a government contractor. I went from that role to supplying the automotive industry. So, I got more and more into male-dominated arenas. I never paid attention to other people’s issues with me. I quickly learned that the only way to confront the ubiquitous male bias was to ignore it and get on with my job.
NAWRB: In addition to decades of experience in acquiring and managing companies, you have seven years of experience as a stage and television actor in NYC. How did you enter into the artistic field?
Sheri Orlowitz: Maybe the better question is why. The question of ‘how’ is simple. I was at Boston University and I auditioned for a play and got a part. I fell in love with it. After graduation, I joined the throngs heading to New York to ‘make it’ in acting.
I had some success, but what I really wanted was a platform from which to effect change. While actors can do that, I decided it would be wiser to try and “make it” in business. In my years as a C level executive I have had the privilege to make lives better and companies healthier, to mentor people, and make a statement in how I worked, lived, treated and valued people which I think demonstrated that as women WE do things differently, and frankly in many ways better.
Today I belong to Women Corporate Directors, along with several other organizations and Boards including a non-profit of which I am a founder. What both of these disparate organizations have in common is they came along when few others existed to champion an underserved and underrepresented populations in society.
NAWRB: As stated in your bio, you have experience as a motivational speaker. What motivates you to continually grow as an entrepreneur?
Sheri Orlowitz: I don’t think of myself as continually growing as an entrepreneur but just as a human being. I’m very curious. And, being curious gives way to learning. Learning will develop you. I think curiosity is what really sets people apart in terms of success. That’s probably where a lot of the great inventions come from. I am not an inventor in the product sense, but I am an inventor of strategies. Whatever you need to do or want to do, Artemis can figure out how to get you there. There is always a way.
NAWRB: Do you have anything else you would like our readers to know?
Sheri Orlowitz: Thank you. Of course much, but let me share this. Woman need to learn to support each other more. Sometimes I sense that woman to woman there is an old bias at work that sees women as less effective than men. Simply not true!
I often act as a cheerleader for my business friends and colleagues and not insincerely. I focus on strengths and attributes. Yesterday at lunch I spoke with a business associate of some of the special attributes of my partner Jan. She is so bright and one of the most effective communicators I know. In part because she is a great listener.