Nolan Research founder speaks at Millbrook luncheon

Montgomery resident and marketing research company founder DeeDee Nolan speaks about raising a family and battling cancer while running a company. (Amalia Kortright/The Herald)

Community business leaders had the chance to meet a nationally-recognized entrepreneur during the Millbrook Area Chamber of Commerce’s Women in Business luncheon last week.

DeeDee Nolan shared the story of how she went from being the child of a dysfunctional family to the founder of a Nolan Research, a marketing research company.

Nolan said her mother had an addiction to prescription drugs, while her father suffered from alcoholism. As a teenager, Nolan said she was taken from her family and sent to live with a mentor.

After graduating high school, Nolan said she felt pressured by her uncle to attend the University of Alabama and follow in his footsteps as an orthodontist. “It lasted six weeks. I just couldn’t do it,” Nolan said.

Once she returned to her home in Montgomery, Nolan said she began working asfa special education teacher, met and married her husband.

After having her first child, Nolan said she wanted to stay home with him. She went back to work briefly, and then became a freelance interviewer before she started Nolan Research in Montgomery.

In addition to having three children of their own, Nolan said she and her husband became foster parents.

“As they were growing up, my company kept growing,” Nolan said. Nolan said her business continued to grow, before and during her battle with cancer. Nolan, who was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma, was one of the first patient with her type of cancer to survive.

While she was cured with the help of an experimental drug, Nolan said she suffered severe allergic reactions and side effects. While receiving treatment, Nolan said she became angry with God.

“I had a knock-down, drag-out with God. They thought I was talking to an invisible person, or had just gone crazy,” Nolan said.

While conducting business, Nolan said she began to miss her work with special needs children, and decided to hire a person with Down’s syndrome. She said hiring that employee was one of her best business decisions.

In 2006, Nolan was listed as one of “Newsweek’s” Unsung Heroes. She said she didn’t believe the news until she heard from the friend who nominated her.

Despite all of the challenges she and her family faced, Nolan still said they were blessed to have lived the American dream.