Did you know that all this month, the USCCA is recognizing and celebrating women? I am so lucky to have met, trained with, worked alongside and learned from some of the most amazing ladies in our industry. Although the task was not simple, I’ve narrowed a long list down to five of the most influential women to highlight for every week of March, and I’ve given them a handful of questions to ponder and answer. Their backgrounds, experiences, talents and careers may be completely different, but their mission is the same: to share support of our Second Amendment and the right to protect what we love.

Dawn Hillyer: Founder and CEO of HidingHilda, LLC

So far this month, I have had the opportunity to talk with Dianna Muller and Emily Valentine. And this week, I am focusing on Dawn Hillyer, founder and CEO of HidingHilda, LLC. I first met Dawn about four years ago at a concealed carry fashion show in Indiana. I immediately loved her products … and her story. Dawn is an amazing businesswoman, but she is also a survivor and an inspiration to many. While she now owns a successful company that offers a wide variety of concealed carry options and accessories, Dawn never would have thought she would own a firearm, much less a firearms-related company. But in 2006, Dawn’s life changed drastically when someone she casually dated started to stalk her and bombard her with texts, phone calls, appearances at her home and even death threats. It took six years to get her stalker in prison. Dawn survived the terrible ordeal (which she shares in depth on her HidingHilda blog) and is now a firearms enthusiast and an anti-stalking advocate who shares her story and her passion with others.

In my book, you are an important influencer in the firearms industry. Who do you feel is your audience, and what are your most significant messages to them?

My audience is “everyday women” — ladies who are interested in self-defense and who want to defend themselves and their families. These women aren’t necessarily tactical. They didn’t grow up with firearms. Many of them are just looking for style along with functionality. And I think these women ultimately find HidingHilda and connect with me because I believe that with training, anyone can, like one of my most cherished sayings says, “Be Your Own Hero.”

What has been one of your best success stories or proudest moments?

I love working with women who carry. Every time someone leaves excited about [her] new purchase (especially when a woman says she’ll start carrying a firearm now because she has a comfortable way to do it), [it] is a huge WIN! The Fashion & Firearms Concealed Carry Fashion Show last year was a pretty big one too! And the other thing I’m proud of is helping to get some laws changed. I was a big supporter of House Bill 1071 in Indiana. This victim-defense bill, which passed in 2017, allows victims of domestic violence (including stalking) to use a protective order as a carry permit (as long as they otherwise qualify). 

Talk about a failure or a “miss” you experienced. What did you learn from it?

There have been a lot of misses and lessons learned in this business (and in this industry), but one thing that stands out was when I was filming one of the HBO VICE episodes at a friend’s range. Usually, I take my H&K VP9 to use at the range. But this time, since we were filming for HidingHilda, I brought “Hilda,” which is the name I gave to my Glock 42 (and, ultimately, the inspiration behind my company’s name!). Unfortunately, I didn’t switch the ammunition in my range bag, so — you guessed it — malfunctions. And it was all captured by the VICE film crew … because I had the wrong ammo. I was pretty mortified, but I definitely learned that if you shoot different firearms, be sure your ammo matches your gun!

Which people, organizations, training or books have had the most influence on your growth — and why? 

There are so many … I’ve truly been blessed. I would have to say that Dr. Michelle Ward, HBO VICE, Katie Couric, Fox News, etc. were all huge influencers for me. They took interest in the gun aspect of my stalking story and really jump-started the entire business and threw my case (and HidingHilda) into the spotlight. Talk about being outside of your comfort zone! Of course, I wouldn’t be here doing what I do without my tribe and my heroes. Other people I look to are author Liz Lazarus, who has been an amazing friend and supporter, not to mention Carrie Lightfoot of The Well Armed Woman, Rhonda Ezell of Chicago Guns Matter, Dianna Muller of the D.C. Project and you, Beth! There are so many who are paving the way for other women. I am so thankful for all of you.

What keeps you going when things get tough?

The ladies! The ladies I hear from across the country, the ladies in my shooting group, my customers […] I just love their stories as to why they carry, and I get excited to hear from the ones who are super excited about their new HidingHilda purchase. And, of course, my faith, my family and my friends are my rocks.

What are some goals for you and/or for your business?

I want to continue to grow as an anti-stalking advocate, tighten stalking laws and, of course, grow HidingHilda. I would also love to do more collaborations and add to “Hilda’s Heroes” … and just see where God takes us from there!