Candace Waterman: A Leading Voice For Women Entrepreneurs
By Curt Wagner
Candace Waterman’s entrepreneurial spirit lit up at a young age. As a 13-year-old growing up in Detroit, she started her own successful janitorial service. It was at that time, too, that she realized she was fascinated by politics.
“Secretary of State was always my dream job,” she says, laughing. “But I think by now I’ve missed the train on that one.”
Whether she’s missed the train or not (it’s doubtful), Waterman is happy to hit the ground running in another dream job—as the new president of Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP), a non-partisan group that educates and advocates on behalf of women-owned businesses and women entrepreneurs.
“I love what I do,” she says. “I feel very blessed and honored to do what I do and it’s because I can see real impact in real time and that just makes you feel good.”
WIPP’s 2018 platform is built on policy that affects five pillars of business: infrastructure, procurement, taxes and the economy, access to capital and workforce development.
Waterman and her team talk to government policymakers in Washington D.C. about the importance of ensuring that policy affecting any of those pillars are favorable for business owners. On the education side, WIPP teaches women business owners how to successfully do business with the government.
She also works with businesswomen from all over, whether in person or on the phone. She finds all of them “incredibly inspiring,” she says.
“These amazing businesswomen I get to work with every day are fierce! They are solution-driven, they are industry disruptors and I get a ton of energy from them.”
Knowing there are far more women business owners who she has yet to meet, Waterman wants to get the word out about WIPP as her first task in her new role.
She plans to raise brand awareness for WIPP throughout the country to help businesses who might work with any level of government—“from local on up to federal,” she says. She also wants to ensure that women from all segments—small, medium and large businesses, veterans, service disabled, minorities, LGBT and more—are aware of how WIPP can help.
“I think in some ways we are the best-kept secret and I don’t want that to happen anymore,” she said. “I want people to know who we are and what we do. I want them to know the amazing and critical impact we have on the way business is done in this country every day with women.”
Waterman started working on this goal in her previous position at the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC). WIPP Board Chair Lisa Firestone praised Waterman’s track record of success, including her involvement in creating a new partnership between WIPP and WBENC to strengthen advocacy and education of women business owners across the country.
“Watching Candace drive the development of that relationship was amazing,” Firestone says. “Her experience and passion for women entrepreneurs and business owners will be invaluable to WIPP.”
The new position is a natural pivot for Waterman, who has been in business—either on the commercial or government side—for all of her adult life. She owned two successful companies, was a senior executive of a Michigan hospital system’s ambulatory services division, worked for the Great Lakes Women’s Business Council and, most recently, was WBENC’s vice president of certification and program operations.
“I have been able to accomplish many amazing things with my WBENC team and the organization,” she said. “I love policy and politics and saw this as an opportunity to use my skillset, my passion and my drive in a different manner where I can touch business across all sectors.”
Waterman’s passion for business is matched by her passion for life. She’s a traveler who considers any destination with a body of water worth visiting. She scuba dives, snorkels, jet skis and enjoys relaxing on a beach with a good book to read.
She’s also a foodie but seems to love “a meal of beautifully crafted food” not just for the taste, but for the company with whom she shares such meals.
This love for life gets her out of bed every morning, she says, and helped her through some rough times in the past. She was diagnosed with breast cancer about 15 years ago. Despite undergoing several months of torturous treatment for it, she missed just 1 1/2 days of work.
That experience has helped her professionally as well as personally.
“Being a cancer survivor allows me to not sweat the small stuff so much, to look at the bigger picture and to know, even when adversity comes, you can overcome it,” she says.
Waterman also credits her great-grandmother who raised her with inspiring her to always do and be her best. She credits “Mom,” as she called her great-grandmother, with sparking Waterman’s own life mission.
“I aspire to inspire people to live their best life,” she said, “to go the extra mile, dig deeper, think outside of the box and to make a pivot they weren’t thinking about. I hope I can be an inspiration to anyone I encounter.”
Candace Waterman’s typical work day
Prepare for the next day by gathering all documents or other things she’ll need.
“Sometimes I work out, most times I don’t,” she jokes. But she’s ready to “hit the floor running.”
Commute to work:
She takes care of her social media. “I like to be connected,” she says.
She reads any documents for meetings. Sometimes she just looks out the window and soaks up D.C. “I am in awe of the history around D.C. I take it in and it helps me understand this new seat I sit in and what’s expected of me.”
In the office:
She deals with critical emails first. Next, she meets with women business owners, corporate partners and others. She prepares for any speaking engagements she has. “Literally it is talking to and dealing with people all day … for typically 12 hours,” she says.
After relaxing and a good meal, prepare for the next day.