Fast Lane

Power Broker

By Jessica Goins

They say that in Texas, everything is big . . . and Cheryl Thompson-Draper's company is no exception. In 1995, she started Warren Electric Telecom & Utilities, a wholesale distributor of telecommunications and utilities products. Since then, the company that ranked No. 19 in Entrepreneur's Hot 100 has been growing at lightning speed, bringing in $8.25 million in revenues for 1997, with more than $12 million expected this year.

Thompson-Draper's Houston company is roping up a sizable portion of the Lone Star State's telecommunications and utilities products markets. How does she do it? By distributing almost every kind of product used by the power companies and by Southwestern Bell, all the way up to the outlets in the wall, says Thompson-Draper-no small feat in an industry that's been traditionally male-dominated.

"The utilities side is still very male-dominated," says Thompson-Draper. "The telecommunications side is not. The telecommunications industry is very blind to which sex they're dealing with, and they really don't care. It's a new enough industry that it doesn't have any hang-ups from the old days."

Not that Thompson-Draper, 47, was a novice when she started her telecommunications and utilities company. She also owns Warren Electric, the 79-year-old industrial electric company owned by her family that she gained control of in 1993. Her experience turned out to be a big help when she was seeking $2 million in financing for her new company. The banks looked at her track record with Warren Electric, which boasted a Texas-sized $200 million in sales; needless to say, she got the loans. Laughs Thompson-Draper, "I guess I was a good risk." That's a big deal anywhere.

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This article was originally published in the June 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Fast Lane.

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