She has seven years of experience running an Information Technology business, six as a mother — and she's the Missouri Women's Business Center's new director.
Jessie Yankee is replacing current director Jaime Freidrichs later this month, and she's bringing all of her life experience with her.
"I've lived the life of balancing kids and balancing school and balancing a business," Yankee said.
MoWBC is a program of Central Missouri Community Action providing resources, networking help, classes and more for women seeking to start or grow their own businesses. With offices in Jefferson City, Columbia and Fulton, the program serves eight area counties.
In the last year, MoWBC helped launch six businesses in the area, Yankee said.
Seven years ago, Yankee founded EasyPC, an IT company in Columbia. She didn't do it out of a passion for tech support, Yankee said.
"I did it because I was passionate about Columbia small businesses at the time," she said. "There were no companies providing affordable, quality IT to small businesses. They can't afford to pay $115 an hour."
Under her watch, EasyPC kept its overhead low in order to charge low rates. At the same time Yankee was raising her children — now ages 4 and 6 — as a single mother.
Yankee sold EasyPC to Midwest Computech and became that company's director of business sales and marketing.
"I really wasn't looking for another job," Yankee said.
Then, she learned Friedrichs was stepping down from her position as MoWBC's director.
"I knew I wanted the job badly," she said. "I'm all about girl power and supporting one another."
While attending an IT conference two years ago, she realized she was the only woman among hundreds of men in attendance, she said.
"With many careers, just being a woman is a barrier to entry," Yankee said.
MoWBC's focus on disadvantaged women — those in low income brackets or raising children on their own — also appealed, she said.
Yankee contacted CMCA Executive Director Darin Preis to learn more about the position and soon found herself turning in an application. During the interview process, she focused on her experience as a small business owner, time on the Columbia Chamber of Commerce's small business committee, and involvement with Missouri Small Business and Technology Development Centers.
Yankee's extensive experience impressed Preis.
"We're thrilled to welcome Jessie to the team. She offers so much insight that will be extremely beneficial to the women we serve," Preis said. "Starting your own business can be a difficult process to navigate, so to have someone with firsthand experience at the helm of a program targeted toward aspiring entrepreneurs is a huge asset.
"Jessie also brings strong connections to the business community that will help us grow our capacity and expand the capabilities of the Women's Business Center," Preis added.
Yankee said she's looking forward to getting to work.
"My No. 1 goal in this first year is to build more awareness of the program," she said.
She wants to build connections with local banks so that when women walk in seeking business loans, bankers refer them to MoWBC. She also hopes to add resources in all the counties MoWBC serves.
In her spare time, Yankee enjoys riding bikes and teaching group fitness classes.
To learn more about MoWBC, visit mowbc.org.