Over the last three years, I have interviewed numerous area leaders, many of whom are entrepreneurs. Some of these business owners were second, third or even fourth generation owners, having acquired their business from family. Some were franchise owners. And, many started their business from scratch, often within the same industry they had been devoted to for years beforehand.
Some businesses were created out of necessity. I can easily name a handful of entrepreneurs who once felt deflated by a job loss but who went on to build successful businesses. For Dawn Hillyer, however, it wasn’t a job loss that prompted HidingHilda LLC; it was a desire to be safe.
Hillyer’s horror began in October 2006 when she became the target of a ruthless stalker. In March 2012, her pursuer was finally convicted of two felony counts of stalking and sentenced to 10 years in prison. For over five years, she was filled with uncertainty and fear, living in seclusion; hiding from her tormentor. After finally deciding that she was not going to live that way, Hillyer took charge of her own safety. She took classes, got her concealed-carry permit and purchased “Hilda,” her Glock 380.
“HidingHilda was born out of the need for peace of mind and the want of style,” Hillyer says. “Carrying a concealed weapon is not something to take lightly. Safety is of the utmost importance, but being a business professional, I also had an image to uphold—fringe and studs weren’t going to cut it.”
HidingHilda offers women stylish accessories designed to safely conceal a weapon, along with other self-defense items.
“According to the IndyStar, the number of women who applied for their concealed-carry permit went up 42 percent last year. Women are becoming their own hero and refusing to be victims. There is a strange and amazing confidence that comes with knowing ‘you got this,’ whatever ‘this’ may be,” says Hillyer.
Hillyer is also in the process of coming out with her own line of handbags which will be manufactured in Fort Wayne. HidingHilda bags will not only have the concealed-carry option for handguns, but she is also working with Eric and Jenny Eversman of Eversman Knives to incorporate the option of safely concealing a punch knife, if someone wants a less lethal way of protecting themselves. Hillyer hopes to have her handbag line available within the next two to three months.
Hillyer’s business isn’t the only positive outcome stemming from a devastating past. She is also an advocate for stronger stalking laws. Her story has been aired nationally, including an interview with Katie Couric and as a featured conversation on NRA News’ “Cam and Co.” She has an active schedule of speaking engagements locally and nationally. She also offers support and resources to other stalking victims on her website (boldandcourageouswoman.com) and donates a portion of HidingHilda’s proceeds to training for those working with stalking victims.
No matter what the reason for starting a business, it is reassuring to know that there are people like Dawn Hillyer who have the wherewithal to turn a devastating event into a business and then use a portion of its proceeds to help others.