Trump ex-sidekick at USF
She speaks to aspiring businesswomen about her drive, talent and prioritizing her career and family.
By MICHAEL A. MOHAMMED
Published September 27, 2006
Carolyn Kepcher has a cool, crisp handshake, as efficient as her personality.
Not severe, just precise.
That impressive presence helped the tall, sharp-jawed blond rise in business and on prime-time TV. Now she's riding the lecture circuit, and spoke Tuesday at a $100-a-plate fundraiser for USF Women in Leadership and Philanthropy, which grants undergraduate scholarships.
At 23, Kepcher became a marketing wunderkind when she convinced Donald Trump to buy a broken-down country club, and then built it into a cash cow.
Then, in 2004, Trump chose her as one of his sidekicks on his boardroom-as-entertainment spectacle he Apprentice.
Her job was to help Trump choose who to dismiss with his catchphrase, "You're fired!"
But last month Trump announced he was letting Kepcher, now 35, go.
Though Kepcher has been tight-lipped about her abrupt termination, it hasn't interfered with her getting lucrative speaking gigs or hurt her self-esteem.
"I used to think I was a hard worker who just got lucky," but now she realizes her success was the natural result of her talent and drive, she told a roomful of USF business students before the luncheon yesterday.
She opened the luncheon speech with a list of her accomplishments: she's managed two world-class golf courses, sold a dozen or so multimillion-dollar golf villas, and given birth to two children.
"People always ask me how I can be a mother and a successful businesswoman," she told the crowd. "(It) has to do with priorities.
"If one of my kids had a problem and I had to run home, I could put Donald Trump on hold, and that's okay," she said.
Married to the project manager of a housing construction firm, she employs an au pair for day to day care of her children, she said.
Her success at balancing motherhood with her meteoric rise in business was a big point of admiration for the nearly all-female crowd.
Phoebe Mercer, 26, a senior in marketing at USF with a 3-year-old daughter, said that as a single mom she found Kepcher inspiring.
Others were drawn in by Kepcher's relative youth or their admiration for her steely TV persona.
29-year-old MBA student Angela Lakin said Kepcher's story "fits within our age and experience (and) adds a sense of reality" to their dreams of ruling the boardroom.
Lakin added that she liked Kepcher's "to the point" attitude.
But that unasked question lingered: Why was she fired?
An article in Sunday's New York Times quoted a friend of Trump's as saying Trump had complained that Kepcher had become less sharp in her management of the golf courses at her celebrity began to peak.
The article also suggested that Trump felt threatened by Kepcher's growing fame.
When asked about the article, Kepcher sidestepped the question. "I think it was time to move on," she said. "I am extra proud of what I've accomplished (with Trump)."
Kepcher ended her speech nearly the same way she started it: by listing her accomplishments.
She closed by saying that while she's not sure what she's doing next, she's certain of one thing: "Although you'll not see me on The Apprentice or at the Trump organization, you will see me soon."
She retired to the back of the ballroom to sign copies of her book and pose for photos with students and donors to the scholarship fund.
When Kepcher was asked whether the fame was getting old something like weariness flickered across her face, but then she smiled.
"No, it doesn't get old. It's still new to me," she said.
[Last modified September 27, 2006, 05:51:14]
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