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Hope Award

"Young Entrepreneurs", Princeton Alumni Weekly

Physician Donnica Moore '81 aims to do well by doing good

When clients call Dr. Donnica Moore '81, they're likely to hear children's voices in the background. Moore makes it a rule to give her two preschoolers almost total access to her home office. And if Moore has to be away from home for more than three days, her children go with her.

For someone as busy as Moore - she is president of Sapphire Women's Health Group, a women's healthcare consulting firm she founded last February, and president-elect of the American Medical Women's Association - her hands-on approach to parenting isn't typical. Nor is it easy. Balancing work and family "requires a lot of logistical planning," she explains. "Colin Powell has nothing on me."

Family life was one reason Moore started Sapphire. Previously, she worked for Sandoz Pharmaceuticals, most recently as director of professional relations. Starting her own company was a way to "continue to be a high-powered executive and the kind of parent that I wanted to be, and that my children deserve."

Another reason was market opportunity. She realized that companies like Sandoz, which sold prescription drugs, wanted to expand into the rapidly growing women's health market. "There was really a need for a company that had the kind of expertise I had when I put together my contractors," says Moore, a former gynecologist who earned her medical degree at the State University of New York in Buffalo.

Sapphire specializes in bringing corporations to a specific audience - for example, a pharmaceutical company needs to get information to women, public-policy makers, the press, medical professionals, or opinions leaders. With her medical background and communication skills, Moore is seen as the ideal liaison. Other services include advising pharmaceutical or health-care companies that are setting up women's health departments, and developing public-information campaigns. Besides pharmaceuticals, Moore's clients include medical-device manufacturers and venture-capital companies. Moore says one of the best things about running her own company is getting to choose her clients. "I only work with clients who I feel are adding value to the field of women's health: companies and individuals I feel are good people, who have a respect for working with women. It gives me a tremendous amount of freedom. My clients are okay with hearing children in the background."

Startup costs were minimal: a fax machine, computer and printer upgrades (about $5,000), and business cards (about $20). One "phenomenally valuable" resource was TigerNet's Venture Net discussion group, through which Moore got free legal, computer, and accounting advice.

Moore did no marketing, but her high industry profile attracted clients, and she soon found herself hiring. Currently Sapphire has eight employees, all experts in fields like clinical research, licensing, and medical writing. Employees work from home offices on a contractual basis. Already, Moore's personal income is twice what she earned at Sandoz, and it doesn't surprise her. At Princeton, where she double-majored in biology and science and human affairs, she started a student travel agency, ran the beer-mug agency, and was the first business manager of the Nassau Weekly.

Moore would encourage aspiring entrepreneurs to define success for themselves. That way, "you know when you've succeeded." For Moore, success is "being there for the kids but being able to maintain a high profile and have high financial success. If you can have a business where you can help people in society at same time, then you've really scored."

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