1998 Horatio Alger Award Winner
"Find ways to remove the obstacles in your life."
Delores Kesler was born in 1940 in Jacksonville, Florida. When she was eight, her father bought a chicken farm to supplement his income as an employee of a telephone company. He commuted each day to his job, leaving much of the farm work of the farm to Kesler and her mother.
By the time she was 13, Kesler, who made her clothes from poultry feed bags, took over the business from her father. He suffered from alcoholism and was never able to recover long enough to be a successful businessman. Kesler ran the poultry business and was involved in 4-H. She graduated salutatorian of her class and was offered a college scholarship, but she was anxious to begin her adult life. Rather than continue her education, she married her high school sweetheart. By the age of 19, however, her world crumbled. She was pregnant, her marriage was falling apart, and her father died suddenly of a heart of attack. Kesler divorced and moved back in with her mother.
She became a secretary and financially supported her younger brother through college. Through her work she attended college on a reimbursement program. She attended Jacksonville University and majored in business. Later, she went to work for her aunt's nurse registry business. At the age of 37, Kesler decided it was time she started her own business.
There were few women entrepreneurs when Kesler founded AccuStaff. She was turned down by 10 banks before finding one she could convince to give her a smaller loan than she wanted to start her temporary employment agency. She worked hard and was successful. By 1992 she had developed her business into a national company through mergers with several other temporary staffing businesses. At one point, Savvy magazine proclaimed Kesler one of the top 10 women business owners in the country. Kesler retired from her company in 1997, which was then the third largest staffing business in the nation.
In retirement, Kesler has developed a venture capital fund for start-up operations. She also heads the Delores Pass Kesler Foundation, which focuses on changing young lives through education, mentoring, and children's programs. Recently, she was appointed as the lead independent director of PSS World Medical, Inc., and is a director on the board of The St. Joe Company.
Thinking back over the number of barriers she faced throughout her childhood and business career, Kesler says, 'There is always a way around a problem. You can accomplish anything you set out to do as long as you have the commitment and are willing to pay the price. You have to do your homework, be prepared, and use your intellect when you sit down at the table. Don't look for excuses that keep you from succeeding. I had plenty of excuses. I am female, I didn't finish college, my father was an alcoholic, and I married and started a family at 19. But you can always find a way around your obstacles.'