Women in Business: Cara Osborne

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Class of 2020 Women in Business Cara Osborne Professor; Strategy, Entrepreneurship and Innovation University of Arkansas, Fayetteville

Residence: Rogers

Education: B.A., biology, Transylvania University; M.S.N., Vanderbilt School of Nursing; M.S., S.D., Harvard School of Public Health

Professional background: Previously an assistant professor in the UA’s Eleanor Mann School of Nursing, Osborne now fills a new role in the Sam M. Walton College of Business as an assistant professor of practice. She is the founder of Baby & Co., a business to serve expecting mothers who want an alternative to hospital births. She established eight centers in different markets in the U.S. and sold the company to a large private equity firm in New York. Prior to Baby & Co., Osborne worked for the Clinton Health Access Initiative in Jamaica and has contributed to the work of public health non-government organizations in a number of developing countries.

What was your dream job as a kid and why? As a child, I was certain I wanted to be a pediatrician. My pediatrician was a woman named Priscilla Lynd. She was small in stature but a giant in my eyes. From my earliest memories of seeing her for my annual physicals, she talked to me as if I were a peer and took the time to explain everything. She modeled for me what we now call “shared decision making,” teaching me that she would give me all the information I needed, but she expected me to be responsible for my own health and well-being.

When I was about to graduate from college, she finally sat me down and told me that she thought it was probably time for me to find a provider who specialized in adults. If she hadn’t, I’d still be flying home to Kentucky to see her today.

What character traits do you feel have benefited you in your success? I have always been intensely curious. I think that has been the underlying force in my unusual career path and has kept me learning and growing. I believe that there are always new things to learn, and I find that even in moments of frustration if I can find something to be curious about, it will help me find a way past whatever the obstacle might be.

How do you spend your time away from work? What are your hobbies? I have more hobbies than time, but I do my best to make time. I have been a student pilot for several years, most recently learning to fly helicopters. I’m sure that I will eventually get licensed, but I love the training process.

I love the water. I’m a certified scuba diver, but living here in Arkansas I find myself gravitating to the lake to wake surf. I was a dancer growing up and still try to find time to move to music. As a native Kentuckian, I take great pleasure in bourbon, Bluegrass music and horses. I recently got a fancy new bicycle and am enjoying exploring miles and miles of dirt and gravel with my partner who is an avid cyclist. And last but certainly not least, my teenage sons play club league soccer, so I am a card-carrying soccer mom and spend many nights and weekends on soccer fields.

What’s the next big personal or career challenge that you plan to take on? I’ve spent most of my academic career teaching in nursing schools, but in the fall, I will get a chance to bring my business experience to the forefront as I take on a role as faculty in the newly formed Department of Strategy, Entrepreneurship & Venture Innovation at the University of Arkansas’ Walton College of Business. I think of myself as a nurse and midwife first, a teacher second and a business person only because I wanted to solve a problem that required a business solution, so this will be uncharted territory for me.

When I moved to Northwest Arkansas in 2007, I was often asked by friends where my boys were born and what sort of care I would recommend during pregnancy and birth. I had received and provided midwife-led care in freestanding birth centers, but that sort of care just wasn’t available here. So, in 2013, a friend and I started a freestanding birth center to address that need. We then sold the business to our capital partners and helped build six more in North Carolina, Tennessee and Colorado. In the process, I learned what it takes to start a business and keep it going.

In my new position, I will be working to bring many of the lessons that I learned to students who may not think of themselves as business students but who want to solve problems and will be better able to do so with business training in their tool belts. I’m wildly impressed with the work that my colleagues at the Walton College are doing, and I am really looking forward to being part of it.

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