Pledge 1%’s #WomenWhoLead series celebrates female leaders who are changing the world. Our leaders come from a variety of backgrounds and industries, and are all doing their part to have an impact in their communities and at their workplace. We’ve asked them to share a bit about their background and path to success.

What is your name and title?

Courtney D. McWilliams, founder/owner of MaryMac’s Doggie Retreat.

Briefly (1-2 sentences) describe your current role.

I like to refer to myself as the Canine Emotional Officer (CEO).

What’s the best decision you’ve ever made?

This is a very big question! I left my career as a Master’s level social worker to open a doggie retreat. I must say, I would have never thought in a million years that I would be working with animals.

What’s the number one challenge you face as a woman in your industry?

For me, it’s more than just being a woman that’s a challenge- the biggest challenge is being an African American woman in the Caucasian male driven field of pet care.

There’s no one who looks like me in this line of work OWNING a doggie day care/doggie boutique. As a result, it’s difficult to gain respect as a black, female owned pet care business. I could not use the traditional route of getting business or referrals from veterinarian companies or any other pet companies. I had to think outside of the box with marketing in order to generate revenue and clients.

Do you have any mentors? What does mentorship mean to you?

I do have mentors, but not in the traditional sense. They do not even know that they are my mentors.

What advice do you have for women who are just starting their career?

Do not take no for an answer. Do not allow people to tell you that your dreams are stupid or invalid because they do not understand them.  Do not allow your FEARS to STOP you.

Sometimes you just have to close your eyes and rock out with your hair down to overcome your fears.

What women inspires you the most? Why?

Lisa Nichols, Ming Lee, Oprah, and Tracy Ellis Ross.

Are you reading/listening to anything interesting at the moment? 

The Secret by Rhonda Byrne is the most recent book I’ve read. If you have not heard of it, it focuses on the law of attraction. It’s helping me work on being more purposeful in what I say, hear, and do.

What is something coming up that excites you?

My cousin recently had twin boys which I am super excited about. I am focusing more on family and being present, as well as continuing to grow my business. I am learning to prioritize things so that is exciting as well.