Dawn Heller opened iDropped's first franchise location in Pennsylvania in November 2014. iDropped provides fast, on-site mobile device repair for the most popular brands of mobile devices. The company has five locations throughout Pennsylvania.
A Pennsylvania native, Heller has more than 15 years of experience spanning technology, media, sales and operations industries. She also owns two locally based companies, and spent nearly a decade advising organizations on technical and creative solutions. Heller was drawn to the iDropped brand because of her technology and business expertise.
How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
Most people wouldn't bet on the kid that got bullied, the nerd, the introvert, or the woman who blazed through 20 jobs before age 30 to become a leader. But that's my story. Throughout my life, I always stayed focused on my work and the opportunities at hand and once I found something I believed in, I held on, dug in, and made it work. Then one day I looked up and saw that people were following me and realized success is determined by heart, guts and grit more than anything else.
How has your previous employment experience aided your tenure at iDropped?
Before opening iDropped, I had fifteen years of technology experience in various roles, which definitely helped running iDropped. But when I think about what helped most, it was the soft skills I honed throughout my career, such as the ability to calm people down, communicate technical information in layman's terms, market my business, manage employees and so on.
I also always approached my previous roles as an entrepreneur, acting like I owned the job. I operated as if my employer's business was my own and in the end found out that the best option for people like me is in fact to own our own businesses.
What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at iDropped?
The first highlight was quitting my job and opening my first small shop as a licensee before iDropped launched its full-fledged franchising program. The next highlight occurred when I in fact joined iDropped as a full franchisee and opened a much larger location in a bigger market. In terms of challenges, the biggest one came as a result of opening my licensed shop in a cheap but very inconvenient location. Playing small doesn't pay off in this business. Another challenge was -- and continues to be - staffing, finding the right people to grow with. A brilliant technical mind and skill isn't enough. You need someone you can trust who goes above and beyond. Someone who owns their job.
What advice can you offer to women who want to be a franchisee?
Think big. If you're completely happy playing small and asking other people for more money every year or so, owning a franchise isn't right for you. Instead, stick with a salary. Being a franchise owner is similar to owning a small business. It's for people who want more - more freedom, more money, and more market share.
If you decide franchising is right for you, make sure to partner with a knowledgeable and trustworthy franchisor. Otherwise, you might waste your time or money in the wrong market at the wrong location. For me, the executives at iDropped were tremendously helpful and have made a huge difference in the success of my business.
What is the most important lesson you've learned in your career to date?
You are responsible for creating your own happiness. If you're unhappy about what you're doing or how something is working out, stop tolerating it and make a move. Set the change into motion. Don't wait for someone else to fix it for you because that probably won't ever happen. There are no white knights in shining armor anymore.
How do you maintain a work/life balance?
My husband is the unsung hero here. Luckily he is much more domestically inclined than I am. He cooks, cleans, shops and does almost everything to keep our home life manageable. I am much more selective with the projects that I take on with all of my businesses and try to partner with professionals who have similar work styles. I need to work with people who can get things done without my physical presence. I prefer email and text communication for most issues because I can prioritize my day better and be more effective that way instead of constantly reacting to phone calls and going offsite to sit in meetings all day.
What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
Hands down, equal pay is still the biggest issue. I had to work twice as hard to get half as far as my male counterparts in my previous jobs. Beyond that, "comparisonitis," or being compelled to compare yourself to other women is a huge problem. I would like to see more women working together and lifting each other up instead of competing with one another in the workplace.
How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
Mentorship has made all the difference. Until I struck out on my own, I didn't realize how many women were running the show. Many of these women went the extra mile to reach out to me and take me under their wing. In the beginning I questioned the price point of my services but they helped me realize I was providing a fast, high-quality and trustworthy service that warranted higher fees than fly-by-knight repair companies.
On the flipside, I have mentored a few millennials already that doubled their salary after a year under my wing. That is the most satisfying thing about what I do. Watching the young people that I've nurtured go above and beyond their own expectations when they first started working for me.
Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
I'm most inspired by the women I get to work with. My life and business coach Evelyn Kalinosky of Inner Affluence is a profoundly strong and wise woman who has overcome so many obstacles in her own life. Another woman I admire is Lynn S. Evans who founded her financial firm over 25 years ago, co-founded a local Women's Resource Center and a local chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO). Both of these women have books coming out soon to impart their wisdom to women like me. They have amazing stories to tell.
What do you want iDropped to accomplish in the next year?
iDropped has grown by leaps and bounds since I first noticed the company in 2012. After speaking with some executives, I understand they have plans to open hundreds in the next few years and carve a niche as the trustworthy mobile device repair brand in the industry.