The founder of one the biggest direct marketing companies for women and the head of one the biggest minority-owned IT companies in Tennessee returned to their Alma Mater Tuesday night to be inducted into the UTC Gary W. Rollins College of Business Entrepreneurship Hall of Fame.
In its 20th year, the business Hall of Fame event honored Cindy Monroe, founder of Thirty-One Gifts headquartered in Columbus, Ohio, and Albert Woodard, the founder of both BCA and KaZee, Inc. in Nashville. The new inductees join more than two dozen other business entrepreneurs and managers that the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga has saluted since creating the business Hall of Fame in 1999.
"Each year, we come together to honor individuals who have made a lasting impact in and around Chattanooga," said Dr. Robert Dooley, dean of the UTC College of Business. "Collectively, the Hall of Fame members illustrate how the power of entrepreneurship can transform a city and this year's inductees add to that story."
Monroe launched Thirty-One Gifts in the basement of her home in Tennessee in 2003 with just two employees. Today, the company has more than 1,000 employees at its home in central Ohio and an independent sales consultant force of about 63,000 throughout the United States and in nine provinces in Canada.
Monroe said her goal when starting Thirty-One was to provide an opportunity for women to find financial freedom through owning their own businesses in direct selling of fashionable products for working women. She held the first party, recruited the first consultant and helped develop the first products.
She named the company for Proverbs 31, a chapter of the Bible that celebrates women's strengths. Monroe and her company have been honored as the Most Influential Women in Direct Selling (in both 2014 and 2017) the 2016 winner of Women for Economic & Leadership Development Riveter Award, and Enterprising Women magazine's Hall of Fame.
To-date, Thirty-One Gifts has donated more than $100 million in products and cash to nonprofits. She also established the Cindy Monroe Vision and Values Scholarship, available to any high school girl in Hamilton County, Tenn., providing $12,400 to attend a college or university.
She received a bachelor's degree in marketing from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, and is married with two children.
Woodard, a Chattanooga native who is also a UTC graduate with a degree in engineering, joined IBM after graduating from college and implemented computer systems in hospitals. He later left IBM to launch his own information technology firm in Chattanooga. That firm, Business Computer Applications (BCA), became one of the largest minority owned software companies in the country.
Under Woodard's leadership BCA deployed one of the country's first Electronic Medical Records (EMR) systems and built the world's largest telemedicine system outside the US Department of Defense's military EMR. BCA also became a major provider of health IT products and services to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta's Grady Hospital System, several federally qualified community health centers and a number of large private practices.
In 1984, UTC recognized Woodard as the most outstanding alumni that year. It was the first time any UTC graduate had received the award within 10 years of graduation. In 2011, Woodard was recognized as one of the 50 Most Important African-Americans in Technology and honored in Washington, D.C. mid-January where he joined other honorees at the 12th annual Innovation & Equity Symposium.
In 2015, Woodard sold BCA to Falls Church, Va., technology firm Acentia, Inc. He and several former local BCA executives spun off a newly created healthcare software operation, KaZee, Inc., where he serves as chairman of the board.
During Tuesday night's ceremony, Hiroshi "Chantz" Yanagida, a UTC senior in mechanical engineering and the founder of eLab Repairs, also was recognized with the Collegiate Spirit of Innovation award for his venture providing service and maintenance to the 16 digital fabrication labs by Volkswagen Group of America for Hamilton County Schools.