One of Danielle Keogh's business emails ends with “givemeliberte.com.”
The phrase, of course, is a play on Patrick Henry's famous Revolutionary War quotation, but it could be the theme of Keogh's career thus far. From skipping her senior year in high school to starting her own business soon after college graduation, the former Army reservist has had it her way.
Liberte — the French word for liberty and the name of the boutique Keogh recently opened in the Classen Curve — embodies that spirit.
Keogh's main job is as chief executive of Edmond-based Erys LLC, a company that she said provides accounting, contract, background investigations and other back-office services to government contractors. But at least once a week, Keogh works from Liberte, which operates as a division of Erys.
Her firm employs 15 and has about $3.5 million in annual revenue, she said.
Keogh, who will turn 31 Monday, recently sat down with The Oklahoman to talk about her personal and professional life, from her French heritage to her financial expertise and love of fashion. This is an edited transcript:
Q: Will you tell us about your roots?
A: I was born in Stillwater and spent most of my childhood in Ponca City. My mom was CFO for the PC school district and dad, a history teacher who later became an entrepreneur, founding an online high school in Bricktown before they were vogue.
I grew up surrounded by highly intelligent discussions, whether it was attending school board meetings with my mom or Ph.D. classes with my dad. I have a half-sister, five years older, from my mom's first marriage — and five stepbrothers and one stepsister with whom I never lived.
My parents divorced when I was 12, and both remarried. After they split up, I lived with my dad, but remained close to my mom.
Q: What were the highlights from your school days?
A: I competed on a swim team, but had to give that up when my parents divorced. I was one of those kids who never quite fit in. I wasn't involved in school activities because I started working full time at age 16, in tech support for Gateway computers.
I sought independence more than anything, but also wanted to be able to buy clothes.
I was always a fashion person. It was a boost to my self esteem every time I put on that perfect pair of jeans or something else I felt like I looked fabulous in.
My mother taught me to take care of my clothes, and I learned to mix and match to extend my wardrobe.
Q: And college?
A: I skipped my last year of high school, and went on to college at OSU (Oklahoma State University), earning a high school degree from the state of Oklahoma after I completed 30 hours college credit. I joined the Army Reserves when I was 17 to help pay for college, though my father paid the bulk of it.
In Stillwater, I lived with and helped care for my paternal grandparents, which saved me the cost of room and board.
Between my junior and senior years, I studied abroad and lived in a hostel in Dijon, France, where I set off, nearly every weekend, to see another country and experience as much as I could of its culture and fashion. My maternal grandmother is French and she and my mom are fluent in the language, so I learned enough French growing up to get by that summer.
Upon graduation, I moved to Tulsa where I worked as a commercial credit analyst for Central Bank Co. and earned my MBA at night.
Q: How'd you get into government contracting?
A: Accidentally really. I'd posed for an ad for OSU's MBA program, which ran as a full page in Tulsa People magazine. My father, who was working in government contracting in Stillwater at that time, had the magazine on his desk and the ad caught the attention of a co-worker at University Multispectral Laboratories. The next thing I knew I was recruited as the firm's director of finance and contracts.
Today, my father works for my company, which among other things trains UML's controllers.
Q: When did you start your own business?
A: It was 2009 before I hired my first employee and early 2010, before it was full-fledged. My forte is writing business and marketing plans, which clients can take to banks to make commercial loan applications.
I have a knack for mixing writing and numbers together in a way that makes sense. I have a client base of 10 to 15, mainly East Coast-based companies, including some government contracting companies my husband owns. As CFO of The Keogh Group LLC, I built their accounting systems from the ground up.
Q: What led you to open Liberte?
A: I was immersed in government contracting, and needed the brain release of something different.
I missed the boutiques I'd discovered through my travels to New York, Chicago and overseas, so I convinced the landlords of Classen Curve to take a chance on something new. Ninety-five percent of the lines we carry at Liberte have never been carried in the Midwest.
Our designers include Robin Brouillette, Karolina Zmarlak and Issa, one of Kate Middleton's favorites. Price points range from $250 to $1,000.