Memphis has produced incredible innovations, talent, and brains; and Oteka Technologies has got all 3. This Memphis tech firm run by two female Memphian powerhouses, exhibits so much of what we love about this city—Black excellence, the power of family, an exceptional company culture, and tenacity.
Keenan Lowery recently contacted Alandas Dobbins and Rasie Dobbins-Turner to learn more about the mother-daughter duo that runs Oteka Technologies. But before we jump into learning more about them and their company, it’s important to understand the impact that women have made in business, in this world, and in the great city of Memphis.
Women have worked hard throughout history to earn their rightful praise and credit for the impact they make on businesses and the economy as a whole. In 1972, there were a little over 400,000 women owned businesses but today there are over 13 million. Although there are still many roadblocks and struggles that women face in business, they have contributed over 1.8 trillion dollars a year to the economy.
Memphis ranks in the top 15 of all the cities in the United States as the Best Places for Women Entrepreneurs. While all tech companies are on the rise, private, women-led companies achieve a 35% higher return on investment than men-led tech companies (Source: Forbes). Also, 64% of all women-owned businesses were started by women of color. These stats show just how important woman owned businesses are to this world as well as in this city.
Let’s get to know Alandas and Rasie a little bit more:
Keenan: What is something you want people to know about you as a person?
Alandas: I am Alandas Dobbins, and I’m the President/CEO of Oteka Technologies LLC. I wear many hats from Chief of Sales to Chief of Sweeping the Warehouse. I went to school right here at The Memphis Central High School. I worked with my father after college to grow our company, Southern Communication Systems, an Avaya Business Partner. I’ve always been very glad to work hard and grow this business right here in my hometown. It is Memphis’ time to take care of our own and grow our city for all of our citizens.
Rasie: My name is Rasie Dobbins-Turner. My title is Vice President/ Business Development Specialist. I was born in Atlanta, GA, but Memphis, TN is my hometown. After leaving Chattanooga where I went to college, I continued to develop my customer service/sales background. I became a leasing agent and out of all the apartments and leasing agents in Memphis, I was awarded leasing agent of the year in 2017 by the Apartment Association of Greater Memphis. I was the best sales associate in the city of Memphis for apartments and I was very proud of that. Our family business was growing very fast so my mother and I both decided that it was best to bring my talents to Oteka. We have not looked back since!
Keenan: What is the Mother/Daughter duo life like?
Alandas: The Mother/Daughter duo is absolutely awesome. Rasie is an amazing young emerging leader, and she is a true salesperson extraordinaire. To have her work with me to grow this business is a blessing! It is stressful (parents can understand what I mean-LOL) but also lots of fun!
Rasie: Working with my mother has been a complete gift from God! I have learned so much from her the past three years. Being able to grow a company with someone you can completely trust is a blessing also. We do have to practice work/life balance so that we are not always talking about work. We are very hungry and always looking for ways to grow Oteka, so it is hard at times to cut the conversation short. It can be stressful to say the least but there is no one else I would rather do this with!
Keenan: This month is Women’s History Month, or as I like to call it, Women’s HERstory Month. Explain what it’s like to be a woman entrepreneur/ business owner?
Alandas: It is very tough but there are so many women who have paved the way for us to be able to feel confident to start this business, but it takes a lot of courage, strength, prayer, and tenacity. I am so thankful to have my father and mother and my grandparents as true examples, but I am also thankful for women like Madame CJ Walker, Ida B. Wells, Harriett Tubman, and Queen Nzingha. If you read about these women, they blazed a trail against undeniable odds. Reading their stories and knowing that they faced such huge obstacles and still prevailed is inspiring. Certainly, with hard work and the help of my children and the rest of the team we are aiming to be a Memphis success story.
Rasie: Being a woman entrepreneur/business owner is very tough but rewarding! Especially in a climate when minority women owned businesses are growing at a faster pace than ever in history. To be apart of that statistic is a blessing. I deeply and truly thank all the women in history that have paved the way for us to be where we are today!
Keenan: Tell Me. What is Oteka Tech? What services do you provide?
Oteka means strong in a South African dialect and Princess in a Cherokee Native American language and Sunshine in an Indian Sanskrit language. When you put that all together it encompasses the fact that we want to provide excellent service to our clients with a little sunshine and southern charm. We provide Low voltage Cabling, Security Cameras, Access Control. Any cable that goes to computers, telephones, cameras, CCTV’s etc. is what we excel in. We are located right in the heart of Whitehaven where we both grew up. Our uniqueness is with our staff and just how extraordinary they are, and we make sure our customer service is the best possible. We are also very eager to make our work “Pretty” for our clients…. after all, we are women owners.
Keenan: I know y’all just celebrated 5 years! Congratulations….What do you think attributes to the success of your company?
Our team, hard work, lots of prayer, excellent customer service, extremely long hours, and a determination to make this company work. We want to be an example for our community and show young African American women and men that you can be a business owner and you can be in technology. In addition, you can do something that is not common for Black people or for women. You just have to first believe that you can. A Wo(man) is what she/he thinks she/he is.
Keenan: How does it feel to be running a woman-owned and managed company within an industry that is so male-dominated?
Alandas: For me it does not matter that I am a woman. I still have to do the same thing that anybody would do…. We offer a great service at competitive prices and take the absolute best care of our customers and our employees. I enjoy my job very much and I look forward to leaving a very good portfolio of quality work when it is time for me to retire. My father made sure he told me that I could do anything in business that my dreams allowed. More people need to know that!
Rasie: For us to be a woman-owned and managed company in an industry that is male dominated you have to be able to take big risks. People will try to demean or undervalue who and what we are but with God, strength, and tenacity we will always be able to prevail. We are a testament that not only men but women can also be a force in the cabling sector.
Keenan: What is your favorite part about the company and what you do specifically in your role?
Alandas: I love winning a new customer and bringing them into the Oteka family and making sure they will be a repeat customer. We currently have a 98% retention rate. We have cookouts and cornhole competitions and our customers are always invited to compete. Rasie is the current cornhole champion!
Rasie: My favorite part about our company is our culture. Our technicians and office staff are one of a kind. Everyone has so much personality, but we also come from so many different backgrounds. We try to be there for one another to the best of our ability. We truly are a family here. One thing I love about my role is the networking part of it. I am a very social person so I love meeting new people and seeing how we can grow and benefit from one another. Relationships are everything!!
Keenan: What made you choose the city of Memphis to start and build your company?
Memphis chose us. There is so much room for growth here and we have only just begun to explore our truest potential in Memphis.
“Black people are 67% of our population but do less than 1% of the business receipts. If we economically activate that part of our community, we will grow in such a way that is great for our local economy and will help lower our high poverty rate. Success in the African American community means success for the whole city.”
Those businesses can hire more inner-city youth and cut down on our crime and make Memphis more attractive for businesses and the best and brightest to move here. We are very excited to be apart of the blossoming of Memphis for all of its citizens.
Keenan: We are celebrating Women’s History Month—If you had one piece of advice or word of encouragement for an upcoming woman entrepreneur or business owner then what would it be?
Alandas: Women entrepreneurs and future women entrepreneurs of the world, now is our time. There has never been a better time to open a business once COVID is contained and we currently have more resources than ever before for businesses. Women should really explore their dreams if those dreams include opening a business. Never take “no” as the final answer. You have to be strong and blaze a trail. Boldness will help you and make the path a little easier for the ones that are coming behind. Make sure you surround yourself with a very strong support group! Always prepare yourself so that you have the knowledge and the skills to be successful. Save as much money as you can for investment in yourself and your business, keep your credit score very strong, and believe in yourself and your abilities no matter what. Always treat everyone with true respect and care. You never know who can help you. Grow and pray to the Creator constantly.
“There will always be reasons why you should not become a business owner. You must make the case to yourself why you should and then never look back. If you do not do it, who will?”
Rasie: My advice to upcoming women entrepreneurs is to NEVER give up. Always push through and do not take no for an answer! Know where you are headed and always plan for the next steps of your business. Keep a growth mindset. Once you grow your company to a certain point you will also have to learn how to work on your business and not in your business. Never be afraid to fail or ask questions. Lastly, just get out there and do it! Do not be hesitant. It will not be easy, but you will be very happy you stepped out on that limb and took that chance. As a former basketball player, I always used to say, you will always miss 100% of the shots you do not take. Take advantage of what God has in store for your life!
Keenan: For those that want to stay connected, how do we stay involved with you and your company?
Our website is www.otekatech.com. You can also follow us on linked in at https://www.linkedin.com/company/oteka-technologies/mycompany to keep up with any virtual or in person events that we have coming in the future.