- February 21, 2014
Carol Green was rejected for a credit card in 1978 because her husband didn't sign the application. A department store turned down her application for the same reason.
The rejections appalled Green, who at the time ran her own business, a chain of Weight Watchers locations in Denver and the surrounding area. She had a seven-figure salary.
Green, though, fought back. She formed a group of Denver-area businesswomen, who together launched the Women's Bank, owned and operated primarily by women. The bank opened in 1978, and it was a successful local lender for more than 20 years. It opened on 17th Street in Denver, the heart of the city's financial district, and it drew national attention and acclaim.
“Our goal wasn't to revolutionize the banking system,” says Green. “Nor did we want to eliminate men. We just wanted equal opportunity.”
Green has since seized other opportunities. She grew her business, Weight Watchers of the Rocky Mountain Region, into one of the largest in the country. The business stretched to Nebraska, South Dakota and Wyoming.
Green has since retired to the Gulf Coast. But like many other retired executives, Green is no less busy. In 2004 she co-founded Bradenton-based First America Bank, which has since grown to $263.1 million in assets and five branches. Green is also active in several high-profile local philanthropic causes, including the Glasser-Schoenbaum Human Services center.
Green recently reflected on her business career with the Business Review.
Weight dropper: Green lost 60 pounds in her 20s, an accomplishment that led her to a business career. She moved from her native New York to Colorado, where she bought a Weight Watchers franchise. She grew that franchise to locations in four states and 400 employees. “I really wanted to make the world thin,” says Green, “and I wanted to do that through business.”
Fear not: Green had never been west of Ohio before she moved to Colorado, in 1968, in her late 20s. But she soon grew to appreciate the wide-open spaces. She also admired the confident and headstrong people she met. “I was initially very afraid of going off in a car and driving on mountain roads,” says Green. “But I got to love it.”
Girl power: When Green traveled to conferences in the 1970s for work, she often ate dinner by herself. Fellow businesswomen were scarce. That's why she helped form the Committee of 200 and another group, the National Association of Woman Business Owners. Says Green: “The concept was to develop a network of like-minded women.”
First place: The Chicago-based Committee of 200 was launched in 1982. The group's members have accomplished a long list of firsts, including the first female network TV president and the first woman to own a seat on the New York Stock Exchange.
Lesson learned: Green meticulously studied maps of Denver before she found a spot for her first Weight Watchers location. She settled on a storefront next to a bus station, figuring foot traffic would be high. Turned out that was a mistake. “What I didn't know,” says Green, “is that no one took the bus in Denver.”
Risk reward: Green lacked self-confidence and was shy when she was younger — traits people who know her today have rarely seen. The confidence, she says, was honed over years of taking calculated risks. “Don't be afraid to take risks,” says Green. “Even though I was afraid, I was willing to take the risk with Weight Watchers.”
Father's day: Some of the confidence building also came from hearing stories from her dad about his business life. He owned a 12-employee pest control company, but the business was crushed in the Great Depression. As a result, says Green, her father became conservative. “He lost his enthusiasm and his get-up-and-go,” Green says. “I felt he was sad about it. So I wanted to take the chance, and if I failed, so be it.”
Chamber city: Green encourages anyone in business to get involved in chambers of commerce. She was on the boards of chambers in Denver and Littleton, Colo. She also served on the board of the state chamber of Colorado, and was appointed by the governor to the state's small business council.
Give back: Green has been involved in several nonprofits, in Colorado and Sarasota. Women's groups, arts and health care are three passions. So too is her belief that people have to also help themselves. “I use the Chinese proverb that if you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime,” says Green. “That's my philosophy in nonprofit work.”