Five questions with Pim Doerr Alley

Pim Doerr Alley (right) and her Suite Escape business partner Kate Holland

Pim Doerr Alley joins us this month to discuss her career journey from campaign and RNC staffer to her roles as Deputy Director, Office of Business Liaison at Commerce, which sent her around the globe, and as Director of Regional Operations at the HUD office in Chicago. Those experiences fostered an entrepreneurial spirit which resulted in the 2020 launch of Suite Escape, a “community for women dedicated to building authentic connections, inspiring growth, and celebrating every individual path.” She describes the best leadership lessons she learned along the way and shares a very funny story involving President Bush and a mix-up regarding a Christmas present.

Q:  You’ve had a fascinating career – can you tell us about Suite Escape and what led you and your business partner to create it?

As women, we are constantly having to evolve and adjust to various roles whether it be daughter, sister, mother, wife, employee or volunteer.  My business partner Kate Holland and I had successful careers and six children between us, but we could not find a place which offered curated content where women could gather, no matter their title, to be educated and inspired.

In September of 2020, we created Suite Escape to bring women together to share their knowledge and experiences, learning from one another while navigating life’s pivotal and ever-evolving moments.

The Suite Escape community was born to realize growth, positivity, and endless possibilities for whatever the future holds.  Together, the Suite Escape community focuses on the idea that learning throughout life enhances your ability to adapt to change.

Since the start, we have witnessed remarkable stories unfold- stories of resilience, determination, and triumph. Each woman who walks through our doors brings with her a unique set of talents, dreams, and aspirations, and it’s our privilege to provide a nurturing environment where those dreams can take flight.

“Come as you are. Leave inspired,” is the very essence of what we strive to achieve at Suite Escape. Whether you’re seeking enrichment on current events, looking to connect with like-minded individuals, wanting to define your passion and purpose, or simply in need of a supportive community, you’ll find it at Suite Escape. You can find our stories on Instagram @suiteescapelf.

Q:  What is it about the idea of lifelong learning as part of a community that is so meaningful to you?

I believe lifelong learning keeps your mind active and engaged, fostering continuous growth and development. Learning helps you stay curious, open-minded, and adaptable to new ideas.

As the world and technology evolves, acquiring new skills and knowledge allows you to navigate challenges and stay relevant in various fields.  Women need resources outside of their jobs and homes to be exposed to diverse ideas, cultures, and perspectives. Suite Escape’s content broadens one’s understanding of the world and fosters empathy, tolerance, and a global mindset. In a rapidly changing world, staying informed and updated is crucial. Suite Escape helps you stay relevant in your personal and professional life, preventing obsolescence.

Accountability is also at the root of Suite Escape and why learning within a community is so important.  Membership in our community is more than a label; it’s an affirmation that you are part of a purpose-driven collective. When you experience the authenticity of shared educational journeys, the strength of common purpose, and the assurance that, no matter the path you take, there’s a community standing beside you, success is more likely.  When you are held accountable; reaching your goals and expanding your world will occur more meaningfully than if you had attempted to do so alone.

Q:  Since your start with the Republican National Convention in 1996, the world of campaigns and fundraising has undergone dramatic change.  What are the keys today to earning trust, building a fundraising base and ultimately creating a movement on behalf of a candidate or cause?

A key to earning trust is fostering connection and community.  Working for several non-profit organizations and fundraisers in Chicago I have found the key is to create connection through storytelling.  Fighting cancer, expanding education, preserving land are all passions many people find purpose in, but it is the power of storytelling that enables the interest, investment and relationships that moves the needle of progress on these issues forward. Due to the impact of social media and our current political climate, the world of campaigns and fundraising has changed. However, at the end of the day, finding those unique connections through telling stories is paramount.  We are all human beings who are wired to connect.  The power of storytelling creates a sense of community, fosters empathy, and drives positive change. It’s not just about conveying information but also about creating an emotional connection that resonates with your audience.

One of my roles during the Bush campaign was to interview business owners who could potentially be highlighted during a campaign event. I would hear their stories, share their excitement or disappointment as a small business owner, and forward their information along to campaign policy people to vet them to participate in an event with President Bush.  It was powerful to hear the stories of how President Bush’s policy would change lives.  It was a genuine and meaningful way to connect then-Governor Bush’s policies to the audience.

Today at Suite Escape we do the same with our events.  In fact, this week we hosted a digital event with Taylor Baldwin Kiland, author, veteran and a fellow RNC alumni.  She discussed her book “Unwavering: The Wives Who Fought to Ensure No Man is Left Behind.” This is a spellbinding story of six women’s courage, perseverance, and lasting impact amid the tumult of the 1960s and 1970s. Listening to this story, along with many others at Suite Escape, gives women the confidence to start something new, and seek courage over comfort.  Everyone has this power inside of them, it’s just finding one’s passion to fulfill their purpose that unlocks this potential.

Q:  Is there a leadership lesson from your time at Commerce or HUD that continues to serve you well today?

It was a true honor and privilege to serve at Commerce and HUD during the Bush Administration.  One of the many lessons I learned from my time is it’s never over till it’s over and you can always find more drive inside of you for the right cause.  I will never forget running down to the capitol in Austin, excited to celebrate and toast to our new President when the re-count began, we were told we would be sent to Florida the following day.  We had been counting down the days until the end of the campaign and in my head, I was ready to rest and relax.  I didn’t think I had anything left in me, but then we started another part of the campaign that was just as exciting, and my energy and enthusiasm were reignited.  I learned, just when you think you have given your all, you can find more fight if your mission is worthy.  Never give up until your goal is reached.

Traveling around the world for Secretary Don Evans also gave me that same perspective, when working in the Office of Business Development.  I learned to have grace and work hard for Secretary Evans.  I never wanted to disappoint him. He always sought excellence, and his leadership skills and expertise put people at ease.

As we were sent around the world to China, Russia, Bulgaria, Mexico and Africa to expand trade, every trip challenged my toughness and presented a need for endless work.  Time change, food poisoning, different cultures and diverse customs made our days long and eventful.  Some nights I would end my day in the wee hours of the morning, only to change clothes and meet with business and government leaders.  I never relented and only wanted to work harder, not only for Secretary Evans, but because our work connecting companies expanding trade internationally was so important.

Q:  Can you leave us with a favorite story or moment from your time in the Administration?

There are so many wonderful stories I can tell.  One of my favorites is when I served as the “carrier pigeon” or intermediary between Sec. Evans and President Bush, as one of my roommates was Ashley Estes Kavanaugh (Campaign, EOP).  One day, I brought home a bag of Christmas gifts that I told Ashley was for the President, forgetting it also included my Christmas present from Secretary Evans.  An early bird, Ashley left with the bag of gifts at 6 a.m.  She gave the bag to the President, who, due to the misunderstanding, opened my gift.  When I got home, I told Ashley that there was actually a Christmas present from Secretary Evans to me in the bag.  Panicked, she told the President, who then returned the gift, a silk scarf, along with a handwritten note apologizing for opening my Christmas gift.  He wrote, “Merry Christmas!  I hope you like the scarf.  It goes well with blues, browns and greens.  It might look used.  Don’t be fooled.  Stylishly yours, George Bush.”  My parents framed the scarf for me as a gift and I often look upon it for a source of daily inspiration.  I have always loved the President’s sense of humor and thoughtfulness.  It speaks volumes to his character that President Bush took the time to write a personal note that he likely knew would mean so much to me forever!