Elyse Dickerson has been a victim of what she calls the “profit over people” mindset, and it led to her losing her job. She decided with her new venture, she’d run things differently.
“We wanted to create a place where people were at the center, because we felt like corporate America was moving away from people and was more about money and profits,” Dickerson said. “And we felt like, if we put people back at the center of everything that we’re doing, that the profits would then follow. We really started studying this idea of conscious capitalism, making business a force for good in the world.”
Her workplace is a culture of patient care, taking care of employees and a healthy work environment. Any time Dickerson has to make a decision about the company, she starts with this question: How does that impact people?
For example, there was a recall on two of the company’s products for an incorrect expiration date — Ear Pain MD and Ear Itch MD — but they were voluntary. Eosera did not have to do the recall, and it cost the company $1 million, she said. Despite the cost, it was the right decision for the employees, customers and retailers, she said.
“If I had just been focused on the bottom line, I would not have done that product recall because of the expense,” she said. “But because I put people at the center of the decision, it made the decision much easier.”
Dickerson’s path to business was not direct. When she started college, she studied graphic design because she enjoyed art and the creative process. But once she realized how much time is spent behind a computer, she knew it wasn’t the right career for her.
After college, she worked in retail and fashion and completed the JCPenny management training program. But she still was not fulfilled. That realization led her to business school at Southern Methodist University.
“I honestly went back to business school because I didn’t know what to do with my life,” she said. “And I felt like at least business would give me a lot of different options.”
When she started, Dickerson said, she walked into classes and realized only about a quarter of the students were women — a low percentage that shocked her.
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After business school, Dickerson spent 14 years working her way up corporate ladders. She learned more actually working than in school, but her climb ended before she reached the top rung.
“There weren’t a whole lot of women in senior positions; a lot of women made it to what I call senior manager level,” she said. “And you can look around companies across America, and this is a trend, that women make it to this level, and then they just stopped getting promoted. And as a high-achieving woman that felt like I was capable of more, that became really frustrating.”
For her generation, Dickerson said, not a lot of women had examples of women in business. It was seen as dads had the “big jobs” and moms stayed at home. If women did work, their jobs were seen as less important.
Those societal expectations remain in some generations. When she started her business jobs, she said, her peers saw her as an equal who was doing the same job and getting paid the same.
But the people cutting the checks were older, and they still held some older values.
“I was still dealing with essentially my parents’ generation making the decisions, and they didn’t believe women were equal,” Dickerson said. “I think it’s changing. I’m really hopeful, and I think my generation is doing a whole lot to break down and prove that you can be a mom, a CEO, a badass businessperson and a woman.”
Dickerson is following the example of women before her like Darlene Boudreaux, 67, who is a CPA but also ran a company. Boudreaux mentors Dickerson through TechFW, a nonprofit that helps local tech startups learn and grow.
“To me, what distinguishes a real entrepreneur is that those are the people who can keep going and get beyond those obstacles — obstacles are going to happen,” Boudreaux said. “It’s just a question of whether they stop you or you learn from it and grow, and Elyse is the type who learns from it and keeps going and growing.”
Boudreaux wished Dickerson did not face the same obstacles she did as a woman, but she does see more opportunity for women now, she said.
Once she reached higher levels in a company, Dickerson was the only woman in the room and during discussion of promotions and career-planning, her colleagues said, “Well, she has a husband, so we really need to give the promotion to him, because he’s supporting a family.”
Even when Dickerson became a global director at Alcon, it still wasn’t the top. And she wanted to keep climbing the corporate ladder.
“But I was kindly asked to leave,” she said. “It wasn’t necessarily one day I woke up and it was like, ‘I don’t want this anymore. I was kicked out the door, and it ended up being the best thing that ever happened.”
She and her business partner, Joe Griffin, launched Eosera with their own money.
The company spent months talking with doctors about unmet health-care needs, and earwax impaction was the one she heard the most, she said. With that in mind, the company developed an ear wax removal product.
Today, the company has an entire line of ear care products that help with wax, itching and other ear-related issues. Eosera also sells earbud cleaning kits.
Many of the products are made in Fort Worth, but some of the devices are manufactured in China.
From 2017-2020, the company experienced a 657% growth rate, Dickerson said. The company is privately owned and currently has 23 employees.
Eosera will continue to grow and thrive, Abe Minkara, 49, co-founder of Legacy Knight in Dallas, said. He met Dickerson at an event, and she asked for advice as an entrepreneur. Typically, he said, he gives advice to young businesspeople and does not hear from them again, but he and Dickerson kept up communication as she launched the company.
Eosera is unique and focused on a niche product with the potential to become one of the larger brands in Texas, he said. Legacy Knight tracks Texas-based companies, specifically in Dallas and Fort Worth, and tries to support and help them.
“She’s at a point now where she’s got the foundation ready,” he said. “And now she can really push on getting the product into the market.”
Some of her success is a result of grit and resilience, Minkara said. Dickerson always finds a way to overcome challenges and obstacles thrown at her.
While she navigates a quickly growing company, Dickerson said she has a support system to help her get through it all in her husband, children, parents and girlfriends.
“Success is not one person,” Dickerson said. “It’s really the whole village around you that makes you successful.”
Her husband, C.D. Dickerson, is an art curator at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. He spent some time working at the Kimbell Art Museum before the D.C. job. Together, they are raising two teenagers.
Though she and her husband travel back and forth a lot, Dickerson said, they have imparted on her children that they are a team. She is fighting back against the ideas of the generation before her by teaching her children that she and her husband’s jobs are equally important.
“I learned it from my mom; I always observed her,” Dickerson said. “She was just always empowering to people. The business she started was all about empowering women, so I had a really good influence at a really young age.”
Her mother still runs a business as an image consultant, Dickerson said. It started out of her home growing up, but now she has a studio with a cosmetic and skin care line and personal shopping.
Dickerson has the ability to be an example for the next generation of women, too. Her company has an internship program for students at the Young Women’s Leadership Academy, and two interns from there are on the campus at Eosera. She hopes to teach the next generation that more is possible.
“I think a lot of times when you’re young, you just think it’s got to be one. You can’t be everything,” Dickerson said. “And I think you can, and it’s setting limits on yourself. Like, at 5 or 6 at night, I’m done with work and I’m with my family. Whether it’s your body, your success in business, your success as a daughter or a parent, whatever it is — just be the best you can be.”
Elyse Dickerson bio
Birthplace: Fort Worth
Moved to Fort Worth: Born and raised in Fort Worth
Family: Married to C.D. Dickerson and mother of Amelia, 13, and Simon, 16.
Education: Masters of business administration, Cox School of Business, Southern Methodist University; bachelor’s, University of Notre Dame; completed both Stagen Integral Leadership Program and Advanced Leadership Program
Work experience: Worked at Alcon for 13 years and became global director before starting her own biotech company in 2015.
Volunteer experience: YPO Global One Chapter, TCU Neeley School of Business Healthcare MBA Advisory Board, Fort Worth Country Day Board of Trustees
First job: Merchandise manager and department manager at JC Penney’s
Advice for someone learning to be a leader: “Through my years of learning to be a leader, I’ve found that it’s OK to ask for help, and you can’t do it alone. Those two pieces of wisdom have carried me through tough decisions as a leader. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. People often want to help you, and by allowing them to assist you and be a listening ear, you’ll learn, grow, and round out your skills as a leader.”
Best advice ever received: “I was told once during a difficult time that ‘this too shall pass.’ I’ve learned through the years that advice holds a lot of meaning. The bad times will pass, sure, but the good times will, too, so it’s important to soak up every minute and be present, because time will pass, and it’s one thing you’ll never get back.”
Kristen Barton is an enterprise reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.