The relationships I have built in life, whether they be professional or personal, impact me in so many ways. Many of these relationships are women who own or run businesses in our local Orange County area. Each one has impacted me in one way or another.
On this day, we do not ignore men and their accomplishments, but American Business Women's Day specifically honors women business owners and women who work in business.
In the business world, there are some situations that women must walk through that are different and unique from a man's experience. It takes a lot to build a business, to lose sleep, to make difficult decisions and stick by them, and to go through years of hard work and effort, and each one of these women that NPC is recognizing has done just that and succeeded.
We are all women who face fear, develop courage, uphold integrity, emphasize hard work, execute diligence, treasure wisdom, celebrate uniqueness, and practice perseverance as well as other a variety of other common qualities. I asked each of them what prompted them to start their business, and the answers were real and fun.
Each of us treasures the accomplishments of women from all walks of life in business so we want to say thank you for the inspiration and the hard work! We celebrate you!
Wally Gonzales-Project Dignity
I met Wally many years ago while deciding to take YAS (the non-profit) to the next level of forming a Board of Directors. I read her story here Making life more tolerable for families then preceded to call her and meet this amazing woman who never wants the spotlight. I told her my story and she responded with, I will help you in any way you need in order to run a great organization and she kept her word. She was by my side when I cried about how to feed all these people, she was by my side when I lost my husband and he said to her, watch over Michelle and she has. This woman has influenced me probably more than any other because of selfless dedication to serving those whom others might deem unworthy. I do not know how she does it but she does. I have been blessed to serve alongside her on a few occasions but she has far exceeded dedication, compassion, love and patience and that is just with me! I asked Wally why does she run Project Dignity, she said, " I run Project Dignity because I promised my best friend Linda before she died that I would love it for her and keep her dream alive."
Kristen Allison-President and CEO of Burnham Benefits.
Kristen runs a very successful company and yet took the time to come and sit next to me while I discussed gift strategies. She asked me how and why I started my business, that is a question that I usually ask but her warmth despite her success was inspiring which is why she is known for consistently being rated as one of the best places to work in Orange County. I began to study the company and was so very impressed with who she is and what she does and the company she heads. She is personable, kind, listens well and is effective as a leader. I am thankful to have met her! When asked about how and why Kristen started down this path she said, " When the opportunity presented itself to purchase Burnham Benefits, I took the leap in faith that my best investment was to invest in myself and the team. I was ready with the down payment and the entrepreneurial spirit, with a little bit of resilience too. I’m proud to navigate and foster an environment of equal opportunity for all that are passionate about serving others and building their career in the industry."
AJ Sura -G2Bikes
AJ is feisty, darling, works very hard and not only encourages women to ride but has encouraged me as a cyclist. She runs, with a partner, Robin, probably one of the most exciting and edgy cycling shops in OC called G2 (Girls Ride Too) and has a cycling event called G2 Hill Repeats where on any given Wednesday during the summer, 40-100 cyclists come out and ride this tough yet fun hill rides. When I asked AJ what prompted her to start her business she responded with, " I followed my passion and love for cycling.. and if your passionate about what you are doing or what you started success will inevitably follow and it won’t feel like work."
Rachel Klemek- Black Market Bakery
I just love this cool, hip and edgy bakery! Rachel has a wonderful story on how she started this bakery. The atmosphere is fun and the baked goods are fantastic. She has three locations, Santa Ana, The Camp and in San Diego. Kudos to her hard work and ability to build such a fun bakery. When I asked Rachel what led her to start Black Market Bakery, she replied, " I started my own business because I'm stubborn, persistent and used to figuring things out as I go along. My background is in small business so it seemed only natural to start my own bakery once I got graduated from culinary school."
Betsy is by far one of my best purveyors. Anything I need she helps me with which I know she is like for all her clients. She is classy, kind and hard working. Not only is she sweet but she makes extraordinary toffee! Most recently B. toffee received top GOLD honors for “Top Toffee” and “Best Packaging” by the Taste Awards in San Francisco, CA. Also awarded the “Official Toffee” at The Golden Foodie Awards-the highest Culinary Foodie Awards in Orange County, CA. Betsy responded to my question why does she own and run her own business, she responded with, "I love owning my own business, as it allows me to pursue all things culinary and design, as well as meet fabulous people along the way!"
Kristen Lawrence-Pure Ride Cycles
Kristen runs a very cool and awesome bike shop that really caters to women, men as well, but she is known for helping women in Lake Forest that is awesome! Over 25 years of cycling experience, has a huge passion for the industry and loves getting new people into the sport. She has had her challenges along the way but her perseverance and tenacity are incredible. She is patient with her customers, understands who they are and how she might be able to grow them in cycling as well as makes sure they walk away happy and satisfied because they made the right choice. When asked why Kristen started her business she replied with, "Empowering women to achieve amazing things through sport. To have success in a "male" dominated industry is always a plus :)."
What an amazing business and woman! When I first met Marla, I asked her to put in my phone her phone number. She preceded to take a picture of herself and put it into my contact list! I knew she was fun! This took me back to my daughter who did that very same thing. Marla has an incredible story as well and is just as fun loving as her balloons. If you have not seen her artistic ability with balloons, you're missing out! She runs the premier balloon company in OC. When asked why Marla started her business she said, "I wanted my own business because I couldn't take one more "written warning" or denied day off in the corporate world.I always felt like I wasn't being used for my talents."
Peggy Ciley, President SDC Architectural Solutions, Inc.
Peggy right off the bat, inspired me to keep doing what I am doing. You can tell she is inspirational! She read my personal story and we became fast friends! SDC's goal is to be an educating partner to their Architect, Builder/Developer, Owner, Fabricator and Installer client. Peggy and Scott Ciley, wanted to ‘touch those that touch glass’ with their product offerings. Both strive to bring irreplaceable value to their principals and their clients. She is a gem! When asked why she started her business Peggy responded, " If you want something you never had, you have to do something you never did! I love being the boss of me (& my hubby- he's laughing too!)."