Doug Villhard’s new novel follows ‘go-big-or-go-home’ entrepreneur to California

  • November 15, 2023
  • By Jill Young Miller
  • 3 minute read

Once again, the charismatic real-life entrepreneur E.G. Lewis bites off more than he can chew, this time in Doug Villhard’s newly published second historical fiction novel.

“City of Women” is the sequel to “Company of Women”, published in November 2022. This time, Lewis promotes his new city of Atascadero, California, just before World War I. He dreams of it one day rivalling Los Angeles and San Francisco.

“I’ll be forever fascinated with the exceptionally entrepreneurial mind of E.G. Lewis,” said Villhard, Olin’s academic director for entrepreneurship, whose new book launched November 14.

Lewis targets the millions of subscribers to his national women’s magazines with enticing sales brochures, and many buy homesites in what Lewis paints as a utopia for progressive women and their families.

The project, however, soon attracts conspirators from his past and threatens to destroy everything.

Why did you write City of Women?

Villhard: “The first novel chronicles all that he created during his time in St. Louis—including University City and the largest women’s magazine in the world—while weaving in many of the entrepreneurial lessons I teach in my classes.

But Lewis had an equally interesting run in California. The second book continues his story, taking readers on a journey of the challenges he faced creating a progressive city for women in California just as World War I was breaking out.”

In the previous book, you wove in major themes that you teach in class. One example was to fall in love with your customers’ problems. Will you give an example of a theme or two in this book that you teach, as well?

Villhard: “There is a misnomer in entrepreneurship that you have to raise money in order to start a business. Venture capital, however, only goes to a very, very small number of new businesses each year. Though E.G. Lewis did raise money in St. Louis and in California, I wanted to parallel other approaches to business by showing how other rival developers tackled the same challenges but in very different ways.

“This book is about ‘go big or go home’ versus ‘slow and steady wins the race.’ Basically, this book explores the tortoise versus the hare approaches as they relate to starting new companies.”

What’s your next writing project? Will you write more about Lewis’ life?

Villhard: “I would love to write a prequel about Lewis’ time in Connecticut before he came to St. Louis when he started a large cigar and diamond importing business while he was still in college and employed hundreds of women (versus the thousands he employed later in life). But I’m going to take a break from Lewis for the moment.

“My next book looks at the price of fame by exploring the life and times of America’s first sports agent —C.C. Pyle—who helped to get the NFL off the ground in 1925 by convincing college football star Red Grange to turn pro.

“I’m drawn to real-life entrepreneurs who had mixed results but are remembered for being early pioneers in their industries. C.C. Pyle negotiated so successfully for Red Grange that sports agents were banned until the 1960s.”  

What do you hope readers of “City of Women” take away from it?

Villhard: “I hope readers enjoy a glimpse into the mind of a high-risk entrepreneur who is only wired to go big or go home.  This book allows readers to not only live vicariously through Lewis’ exploits but also to decide if an entrepreneurial career might be right for them.”

“City of Women” and “Company of Women,” from Mabel Publishing, are available from online booksellers including Amazon and Signed copies are available from

About the Author

Jill Young Miller

Jill Young Miller

As research translator for WashU Olin Business School, my job is to highlight professors’ research by “translating” their work into stories. Before coming to Olin, I was a communications specialist at WashU’s Brown School. My background is mostly in newspapers including as a journalist for Missouri Lawyers Media, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Washington Post and the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida.

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