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North Hills Monthly

Sage Advice: Women Business Owners Learn from a Myriad of Mentors

Apr 30, 2019 09:59AM ● By Kathleen Ganster

Kathy Chabala, owner of Hallowed Grounds Coffee Roasterie

Words of advice from our favorite mentors mean a lot. Mentors can give personal or career advice, oftentimes both. For women business owners, mentors may be other strong women, business owners, family members or teachers and professors, among others.

“My grandmother was the best advisor and mentor in my life. She told me to get a good education, because no one could ever take that away from me, and it has served me well,” said MJ McCurdy, owner of Bottlebrush Gallery & Center for the Arts, which is located in Harmony. “She also modeled tenacity and determination, both of which have served me well.”

It was her Tina Teimouri‘s mother who gave her daughter guiding advice. “I have five brothers and sisters and when we were little, we would have the normal daily squabbles. My mother would make us sit there until we made up,” remembered the owner of Beaver Valley Foot Clinic. “She would say, ‘When you grow up, all you’ll ever have is each other who you can 100 percent rely on.‘”

Teimouri works with her brothers and sisters, so that advice has paid off in many ways. “Even though we work together all day, we still do things with each other on evenings and weekends. We are very close and now the second generation has begun to enter the picture—it’s amazing,” she said.

Toni Shelaske, owner of Healthy Pet Products and Healthy Pet Grooming, said her best advice came from her parents, Bill and Antoinette Shelaske.

“My parents were from what is considered The Greatest Generation. They led by example, worked very hard and gave people the benefit of the doubt. Their many mentoring words echo in my ears daily but mostly, ‘If you work hard and believe in yourself, you can accomplish just about anything,’" she said.

Kathy Chabala, owner of Hallowed Grounds Coffee Roasterie in New Brighton, received both personal and business advice from mentors.

“When my husband and I got married, my parents told us to work difficulties out on our own because our place was now with each other,” she said. “I have heard similar messages in church and from the Bible that God is the only third person you should let into your marriage. And that a man leaves his father and mother and cleaves to his wife. So, that is one very good piece of advice that has lasted for 40 years of our marriage.”

On the business front, Chabala trusted the expertise of other business owners and herself.

“I have had many, many people tell me how I should or should not run my shop; sometimes the advice even conflicts with each other. However, one thing I read when I was researching setting up my roaster/retailer coffee shop is that every square inch of space needs to make money. If it's not making money for you, it is wasted space. I have taken that advice to heart, and if you’ve ever been in our shop, you would be surprised at our maximum use of minimal space.”

Carol Kinkela, owner of Carabella Oakmont Inc., said that her favorite advice came from her mother, Doris Czekaj.

“The best advice that I ever received—and that I share with my sons—is ‘Because Nice Matters.’ You never know what is going on in someone’s life and those three little words can make such a difference in someone’s day. The other bit of advice—‘Don’t Stop Until You’re Proud,’” she said.

Nancy Reader, owner of Hearth & Home Furnishings in Zelienople, falls back on advice from a fellow business owner and friend, Dominic Federico. “He told me, ‘Don’t worry about the others—do what you know and do it best!‘” she said.

A fellow business owner and client of Maggi Aebi, owner and teacher at Yoga on Mars and the nonprofit Healing4HeroesHeart, Inc., provided her with words of wisdom.

“My good friend Jean Haller, owner of Journeys of Life in Shadyside, offered some sage and heartfelt advice years ago at my previous studio for alternative therapies,” she explained. “Jean told me, ‘You are good at a lot of things, but if you could just PICK ONE and put all your energy and enthusiasm there, you would fly!’" said Aebi. 

Stephanie G. Rhoads, owner of Rhoads Orthodontic Specialist, feels lucky to have had so many amazing mentors who each taught her different things. Some of the words of advice that she often relies on are from two of her former professors from the University of North Carolina. 

“Dr. James Kaylee always said, ‘Success comes from how you make people feel. Work hard to treat people well and ensure that they know how important they are to you. You can have a great impact on someone by a simple gesture of kindness,’" Rhoads said. 

She added, “Another professor, Dr. Bill Proffit, told me, ‘Every challenge, job or task you are given is an opportunity. Look at it as an opportunity to meet someone great, to learn something new, to test your boundaries, or to do something that you have never done before. You never know how much you can gain from what seems like the most mundane task.’”