A Salute to all of the area’s Women in Business
In a nation where women make up more than 55% of college students, but only 57% of working age women are in the workforce compared to 70% of working age men, encouraging women to seek a fulfilling and profitable career path is more important than ever. Creating an equal workplace advantage for men and women is also critical for employers pursuing to be the best in their industry.
Looking ahead to WILMA’s Women to Watch awards coming up this Friday evening, we decided to ask some of Wilmington’s most interesting women in business a few questions.
Ann Revell, Founder of a. revell communications and VP of Communications at Cloudwyze, a 2014 W2W finalist offers experience and insight into working in a male dominated workplace.
Stephanie Lanier, Co-founder of Lanier Property Group, gives her spin on what women should strive for in their career.
Fanny Slater, Founder of FanFare Catering, a 2014 W2W finalist gives tasteful advice and insight into working in a fast moving industry as a young entrepreneur.
Emilyanne Atkinson, Senior Database Manager at CastleBranch Corp., is a 2015 W2W finalist and offers her thoughts on perseverance in the work place.
Q: What did you want to be when you were a child?
SL: A country music star
FS: When I was a kid, I had one answer for that question and no backup plan. I was going to be a famous Hollywood actress. That dream didn’t entirely change, but it morphed at 28 when I realized that I could still be in front of the world—and I could do it as myself.
EA: I don’t think I had a firm grasp on what I wanted to be when I grew up. I still don’t. I’ve never viewed science, technology, engineering, art, or mathematics as truly independent fields of study. Rather, they give each other context. There isn’t one thing or one profession that I want to be. I just want to be free to study and create the things that intrigue me.
Q: How did you get into your industry?
AR: I was a theatre major, and while working on my Master’s I learned to program and so was hired by GeVa Theatre in Rochester NY to run their computer department. While there, we opened a new facility and I became enamored with the work being done by the PR team. I was stuck in the “computer room” while they were out managing lights and cameras and actors… man, I knew I was not destined to stay behind the screen forever…
FS: I was always a Food Network-aholic. I never wanted to go to culinary school or owned a restaurant, though, so I had to figure out how to do food in my own way. After a brief stint in Hollywood, California—I moved back east to Wilmington and opened a small catering company, Fanfare. I was able to be my own boss and hone in on my craft and creativity in the kitchen. My other passion is writing, and I was lucky enough to eventually be able to combine those two skills and become a food writer. Having that background certainly came in handy when the Rachael Ray Great American Cookbook Competition came along two years ago. I not only had kitchen skills, but the ability to write about food in a way that was playful and always came with a story.
Q: Did you go to college? What was your degree in college?
AR: I went to Seattle Pacific University for undergrad – BA in Theatre. I subsequently received my Master’s in Public Administration from SUNY Brockport.
EA: I went to CFCC. My degree is in Computer Engineering Technology.
Q: Best advice you have for women in college looking for a career path?
SL: Remember what you were good at when you were in elementary school, what you loved to play, the times when you lost track of time. Look at the little girl you once were for the clues about the woman you should become. It is all there, and when you find “the job” all the pieces will come together. It is like falling in love with someone, it clicks. Keep trying till you find it.
EA: Treat college like a monetary investment rather than a spiritual walkabout or intellectual finishing school. I see so many people my age crushed under the debt of their student loans. They’re angry that they can’t find a job with a PhD in first century Latin poetry. Don’t gain personal enrichment at the expense of personal freedom. Enjoy the journey, but make sure you obtain knowledge that others will pay you to use on their behalf. That will get you the best ROI.
Q: What are your future aspirations?
AR: I would love to play a significant role in helping Wilmington become a real center for innovation. We should be a place where knowledge workers abound and we have 100s of growth companies headquartered here.
EA: I’m a big proponent of S.T.E.A.M. I’m launching a website called getSTEAMedUp.com which will document my exploits and experiments in an entertaining and educational way.
Q: What is the least glamorous job you’ve ever had?
SL: Being the housekeeping boss at a summer camp for teenagers.
FS: In Hollywood, I was a personal assistant for one day. I was asked to place a glass of water in each room for my boss so that if he walked into a room and was thirsty, there was already something for him to drink. I was also asked to clean all of the windows in the mansion. It was a house made of glass.
EA: Corn detasseling. It’s basically running through cornfields and wrestling the tops off of the female stalks.
Q: What makes you unique from your colleagues?
FS: I would say that my peers are those in the food world. I admire many of them for their culinary degrees, but I would say what makes me stand out is the fact that I have no formal training so I’m able to be a bit less technical. Although that is certainly a disadvantage in some ways, there are a lot of perks to being self-taught in your profession. I think that everyone in this field is spectacularly diverse in their own way, but as for me—well I’m the only one who gets to be Fanny. That’s what my parents would say.
EA: Empirically speaking, from my encounters with other people in IT, my knowledge base is broader and deeper than most. I owe this in part to my autodidacticism. But I have found my educational tutelage from private school and home schooling by tutors to be a treasure beyond measure. For better and worse, the road that I took was less traveled. Being non-traditional has given me a different perspective of the world. I also have chickens.
Q: Have you ever had any issues working in a male-dominated work place?
AR: Oh, man, yes. I’ve had so many experiences helping men understand that women are “greater than or equal to” men in the work place that I’m not sure where to start. With the boss that hit me with a ruler each time he didn’t like the way I wrote? Maybe with the first time I was on an all-male Board and had to explain why blonde jokes and women driver jokes didn’t elevate the conversation (as a blonde woman driver)? Or back to that temp job where the boss made me lick the envelopes in front of him … I can go on and on.
FS: Seeing as I’ve worked in many kitchens, which are typically male dominated, you’d think that I would have had issues with this. But I’ve always been a very confident, take-no-shit kind of person so men have seemed to respect that about me. I’ve certainly had some bosses who I could have done without, but as for co-workers, I’ve always been lucky to mostly work with very polite men.
Q: What is your advice for young career women working in an environment that is predominantly men?
AR: The key is to stop giggling, don’t talk like a little girl, stop flirting, and first and foremost, see yourself as a professional. Then, take none of their crap. Nip it in the bud – quickly, and quietly at first. Then, get louder and go up the ladders until it’s resolved. But be sure you keep your sense of self and sense of humor throughout.
EA: Poise is power, so maintain your composure. The moment your voice starts climbing in pitch is the moment they tune you out because you have forfeited your credibility.
Q: Do you believe the WILMA W2W is an important event in Wilmington? How so?
AR: We so seldom celebrate women as professionals. W2W is one of the only times we in Wilmington have a chance to say “woman, you rock,” and call out key leaders (and leaders-to-be) in our community for being really great at what they do. I believe this could be one of a handful of events that helps us get to Wilmington’s next FEMALE Mayor!
SL: It helps promote the great work of women in our community. I especially love the Rising Star category, so that we can help invest in the next generation of female leaders.
FS: Absolutely. The Women to Watch event is not only encouraging for those involved, but it inspires those who aren’t to want to be part of it. It’s a wonderful feeling to be recognized for your accomplishments in your specific field, and this event does exactly that. It empowers such a large amount of women in so many versatile professions. It also brings so many people in the community together. Wilmington is a small town where everybody runs in the same circles, so it’s fun to all celebrate together in one place.
EA: WILMA’s Women to Watch is a great event that showcases the amazing local women in the area. Women tend to be self-effacing. By contrast, this even shines a spotlight on their accomplishments. I think it’s also good because it gives other women something to aspire to and role models. If they can do it that means it’s possible to do it, that means I could do it! I’m also a part of WILMA’s inaugural leadership initiative. I can’t recommend being in that enough! We’re a small band of eight go-getters who serve as each other’s personal board of advisers. There is safety and insight in a multitude of counselors.
Q: How did W2W help your career or exposure? What would be your advice to other women who are hoping to be part of W2W in the future?
AR: I can’t really point to anything in particular – like, there’s no ‘new business’ that came from the award, however I certainly got a lot of “atta-girls” from colleagues. It could be that it’s because I didn’t win… Ha! What I really think is that those of us who win these awards need to position the award as critical. When other women point to the award as symbolic of success, it will have even more meaning.
FS: Right around the time of my nomination, I was just starting to get a lot of press for my win on the Rachael Ray Competition. The W2W event was specifically rewarding because I was acknowledged alongside of so many peers that I respect. It was a wonderful feeling to be nominated in a category, Rising Star, which felt so true to who I was and what I was currently experiencing. In regards to helping my exposure, a lot of people who just knew me as a local foodie saw me on the cover of WILMA and realized that I had just taken a huge leap forward in my career. One minute I was interviewing other chefs about their success, and the next everybody wanted to write about me! It was pretty surreal.
Q: What’s on your reading list?
AR: My bookshelf is full, but here’s what I’m buying next: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time; Pitch Anything; Simple Rules: How to Thrive in a Complex World; Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl; Common Sense (Paine); The Rebels of Ireland; New York (an historic novel).
SL: Anything by Brene Brown, Jim Collins or Seth Godin. I always recommend The Confidence Code for young women…it has wisdom you can directly apply to your career. For small business owners the #1 book is E-Myth Revisited.
FS: I’m glad you asked. Orange, Lavender & Figs by Fanny Slater is currently available for pre-order on Amazon right now! The book hits shelves March 1st.
EA: Tesla: The Life and Times of an Electric Messiah by Nigel Cawthorn, The Federalist Papers by Alexander Hamilton, Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath,Signature in the Cell by Stephen C. Meyer, Art of the Start by Guy Kawasaki.
We are looking forward to WILMA’s Women to Watch awards and the spotlight that it brings to all of the amazing women in business that are making Wilmington better and more innovative.