Becky Sharpe

B.A., German '87 & MBA '91

CEO/Owner, International Scholarship and Tuition Services, Inc.

About Becky

Becky Sharpe is a Jack – Jane – of all trades. Her achievements have been fueled by a desire to help people grow and guided by gratitude and positivity. Becky wears many – impressive – hats as the CEO/owner of three companies, the president of the Private Directors Association Nashville Chapter, a board member of nine other Nashville non-profits, a workshop leader, and an author, yet she never forgets the importance of balance in her life. Outside of her professional life, Becky is a devoted mother of three children and a loving wife to her husband Michael. She is an avid meditator and always remembers to give gratitude to the beauties in life.

Shattering the Glass Ceiling

Becky began her career under the wing of “real estate goddess” Shirley Zeitlin after graduating from Vanderbilt in 1987. Beginning her career under strong female leadership trained Becky to believe women can be successful businesspeople. “I didn’t realize until later how special it was that I had worked in an office with a woman CEO/owner and many successful women,” Becky said. “I just thought it was normal.” In Becky’s case, ignorance was more than just bliss, it was empowerment. She did not pay mind to the gender discrepancies in business at the time. This served her to defy expectations and become a successful woman in business.

Fast forward to 1991, Becky graduated from Vanderbilt again, this time with her MBA. Becky sought guidance for her job search from a gentleman she was introduced to in her not-for-profit marketing class after a slight change of plans led her to stay put in Music City. His response to her request was, “let me think about companies that are pro-women in leadership.” While Becky recognized the circumstances for his remark were doleful, she was grateful for his awareness and his effort to help her land somewhere she could be consequential.

The gentleman introduced Becky to the owner of Optimum Solution, an IT consulting firm, who hired her as the vice president of sales. During her 11-year stint at Optimum Solutions, Becky helped grow the company from almost no revenue to around $8 million. Although Becky enjoyed her time at the company she reflects, “I realized that I had missed the opportunity to ask for what I thought I had earned, which was ownership and by then it was too late.”

In 2002, Becky left Optimum Solutions to realize her goal of owning a company. She was introduced to the then-owner of International Scholarship and Tuition Services who was looking for a woman to run the business. ISTS manages scholarship and tuition reimbursement and loan forgiveness programs. She bought half the company with her most valuable asset, her own dedication and determination, through a sweat equity deal. Under the terms of the contract, Becky spent the next few years doubling the business size and bought the final 50% of the company in 2006.

Through the process of acquiring a competitor at ISTS, Becky was introduced to the M&A associates representing Collegiate Sports Data, a platform to connect high school football players with college coaches, and she decided to purchase the company. During the purchase, Becky was also introduced to the owner of WatchGameFilms, a platform to help athletes either improve or correct their athleticism through watching their own film, she also purchased that company and merged the two together.

Becky’s success did not stop there, she was determined to bring more attention to the gender discrepancies in the workforce. In 2018, she joined the Private Directors Association, a nonprofit designed to assist private companies with board formation and governance. Upon arrival at her first meeting, Becky became immediately vexed at the make-up of the room. “I got to the meeting, and it was all wealthy men,” Becky recalled. “I thought that I can either run screaming or I can step in and diversify. So that’s what I’ve done.” Now the president of the Nashville chapter, Becky has made it her mission to bring inclusivity to the organization through its members and through the organization the chapter supports. Despite pushback, Becky is proud of the work she has done to change the organization for the better.

“Part of [stepping in as President] was saying yes to something that made me uncomfortable and then saying I’m going to play a role in changing that.”

Soaking Up the Highs & Managing the Lows

“For me, the most important elixir for stress is an abundance and a positive mindset,” Becky said. For a woman that seems to do it all, dealing with stress is not unfamiliar to Becky. However, she has spent years perfecting the craft and now imparts her skills to others in her workshops. Becky provided three key practices to help achieve a positive mindset:

1. Practice Gratitude

“I consciously think about how fortunate I am before I go to bed. When I wake up in the morning, the more I do that, the first thought I have is extreme gratitude to be alive and in a healthy human body.”

2. Meditate

“I meditate daily. When I do it, I notice the beauty all around me and it reduces stress. It’s a simple way to really change all aspects of your life.”

3. Evaluate who is in your circle

“ I try not to spend any time – if I can – with people who have a pessimistic mindset. The more you hang out with great people, the more your attitude is great.”

A Sharper You Workshop   

Becky’s workshop teaches students and professionals about the importance of balance. She reverences eight different facets and three different mindsets to assist in developing “your best self.” Her workshop got its start right here at Owen. Becky was asked to be a guest speaker on personal branding. She recognized that the students all knew about business, so she decided to provide value to students that could be implemented in every stage of their life. She talked to the students about the personal side; how to stay married, have kids, and stay in shape while working towards professional goals. “The students totally leaned into that,” Becky said. Although she admits she winged the first several classes, she began to develop the eight facets and three mindsets that have allowed her to run a cohesive workshop.

In the workshops, Becky allows herself to be extremely vulnerable with participants, sharing big mistakes she’s made throughout her life. “It doesn’t embarrass me to share all my mistakes,” Becky said. “I feel driven and energized to help people avoid the same mistake or make it impact them less negatively in such a way that they move through the mistake and onto success quickly.”

If you are sitting on the edge of your seat wondering how you too can develop your best self, do not fret, you won’t have to wait until Becky presents her workshop at your office. Becky is in the works of writing her first book of two in her series. Although the title is still unknown, the book will go in-depth into the three words and eight facets of her workshop. She is almost finished writing the book and hopes to start the publishing process at the beginning of the year. Make sure to stay on the lookout for the release date!