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“We solve real life problems”, With Douglas Brown and Denise Hazime of Prodoscore

Well, let me say that it’s not necessarily that women should be founders, but I think that women should pursue their interests. I think that as women we do encounter a lot of obstacles, whether it’s raising kids, or running a business, or figuring out what’s for dinner. We were made to problem solve. So […]

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Well, let me say that it’s not necessarily that women should be founders, but I think that women should pursue their interests. I think that as women we do encounter a lot of obstacles, whether it’s raising kids, or running a business, or figuring out what’s for dinner. We were made to problem solve. So I think we have a natural instinct to do that, but how do we turn that into a business when we, most of the time, have a thousand things on our plate. I think we have to want it, and want to be a problem solver. That is how we get more female founders. We solve real life problems.


As a part of our series about strong women leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Denise Hazime.

As Founder and COO, Denise understands what it takes to keep the engine running. For close to 10 years, she has managed and run successful businesses. With her strong people skills, Denise keeps teams motivated and in sync. Prior to Prodoscore, Denise managed the growth lifecycle of two startups, each culminating in an exit sale. An entrepreneur at heart, Denise has launched several businesses — both large and small — whenever an opportunity presented itself and the market displayed a need. Although she started her career as a finance professional, Denise’s responsibilities have expanded over the years and she has driven results in multiple business areas.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

I was not at all interested in tech when I came into this space. The reason I ended up here is because I had just had my baby and wanted to be able to work without putting my daughter in childcare. So, I started working with a tech startup that was eventually acquired by a publicly traded company. At first I did feel out of place because my background is more in finance and management, not in tech.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

Well I wouldn’t say that it’s an interesting story, but I would say that it is an interesting lesson I learned. Running a startup can be very lonely and challenging. A lot of times the obstacles you’re facing or struggling with are not relatable to friends or family, or even business peers. So my advice is to try and meet other people in your industry that have run a similar path and reach out to them for guidance — that has been a saving grace for me.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I would say that my family has been my biggest support system. Whether it is helping with the kids, listening to me complain, or just picking up the phone to talk about something that has nothing to do with work. A strong support system is so important if you are going to embark on a journey to start your own business.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. According to this EY report, only about 20 percent of funded companies have women founders. This reflects great historical progress, but it also shows that more work still has to be done to empower women to create companies. In your opinion and experience what is currently holding back women from founding companies?

I think we have definitely come a long way. Yes, the number is still very low, but I feel that there has been change. Don’t get me wrong, you will still run into plenty of males that 100% discredit you because of your sex, and don’t give you a chance. But there are others that are so supportive and helpful. So I do truly believe that there are cheerleaders of the opposite sex watching us grow in our numbers.

Can you help articulate a few things that can be done as individuals, as a society, or by the government, to help overcome those obstacles?

I don’t think that the government needs to be involved, that would make things worse and increase the antagonism that we face. We need to always lead by example. If the government wants to help then they need to have more women as part of government. If individuals want to help then they need to lead by example and hire more females. But I do believe that the person with the best qualifications should get the position — take away the name, the face, and the race and look at credentials and experience — are they in line with what the job duties are?

This might be intuitive to you as a woman founder but I think it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you share a few reasons why more women should become founders?

Well, let me say that it’s not necessarily that women should be founders, but I think that women should pursue their interests. I think that as women we do encounter a lot of obstacles, whether it’s raising kids, or running a business, or figuring out what’s for dinner. We were made to problem solve. So I think we have a natural instinct to do that, but how do we turn that into a business when we, most of the time, have a thousand things on our plate. I think we have to want it, and want to be a problem solver. That is how we get more female founders. We solve real life problems.

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a founder. Can you explain what you mean?

That it’s all fun and highs, and that you must be making so much money. Those are the biggest ones that I’ve heard. When you run a startup, it’s about making sure everyone gets paid first and that the company is healthy and growing. It’s almost like having a child — would you feed yourself first or would you feed your child first?

Is everyone cut out to be a founder? In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful founder and what type of person should perhaps seek a “regular job” as an employee? Can you explain what you mean?

I think I touched on this briefly already, but you have to be a problem solver. I’ve actually seen some of these traits in some employees. In some you see that they do what they need to do, they do their job, and then check out. That may be because they have other interests and responsibilities but I think founders that have this innate need to problem solve and make a change.

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

1- There will be a lot of sleepless nights, I mean A LOT!

Again, I compare building a startup to having a baby. You will have sleepless nights and anxiety worrying about the business. Did I make the right decision? Etc. It doesn’t mean you’ve done anything wrong, that’s just the way it goes. So if you’re not built for that level of stress, don’t do it!

2- Sometimes people don’t know what they are missing until they see it.

Education is key. Teaching people about your product is so important. With Prodoscore, people did not know that a tool like ours even existed. We had to teach people about it and educate them on how it can improve their business.

3- Seeing people’s reaction to your product makes it all worthwhile.

When I see someone’s reaction when they see a Prodoscore demo for the first time and it’s unlocking all this data that they didn’t know they could tap into, it’s like putting on a pair of glasses for someone who could not see. And that lets you know that you are doing something amazing.

4- You must learn to turn it off and take a break.

Burnout is real. Especially with a startup. So you must set aside some time where you don’t check your email or look at your phone. It doesn’t have to be hours, it can be an hour in the evening to read a book or watch mindless TV. I find that this helps to clear my mind and even give me new ideas.

5- Ask for help when you can get it.

Sometimes it’s hard to ask for help or accept help when it’s offered; it’s something I’ve learned to be open to. We are not machines and we do get tired or burned out. I personally love to cook for my family, but sometimes I just don’t have time. It’s one of the things that I used to feel guilty about. Thankfully my husband is so supportive and reminds me that I’m not failing just because I don’t cook dinner every single night.

How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

I don’t know if I’ve made the world a better place, but I hope that just by sharing my story, I’ve motivated others to take that first step and do what makes them happy. Maybe what they create will change the world for the better.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

I was fortunate enough to have a loving family, and never had to go without essentials. One thing my parents taught me was to always give and have compassion toward others, especially those in need. It breaks my heart to see kids that don’t have the basic necessities and have to worry about if they can eat that day, or be worried about a big hole in their shoes because it’s going to rain. That truly breaks my heart. We need to strengthen and grow the support system for children in America.

We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

Wow, that’s an interesting question. I don’t think I’ve really thought about that. But I guess it would be Michael Jordan. He was my idol growing up. I loved seeing him play basketball. He really didn’t let any obstacles slow him down. He went out every day and gave his all. His focus was amazing. It’s like the next level of tapping into your abilities as a person to achieve your goals and really just become unstoppable.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.

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