Women at work
Business owners share their secrets of success
By CANDY WAYLOCK
Behind the success stories of woman-owned businesses are the real life women who took a great idea, product or vision and turned it into a reality. While running a business never fits neatly into a 40-hour work week, with vacation days and sick leave, not one of the women we profile regrets the decision to leave the corporate world to become her own boss.
Kathryn Albright, The Mac Shack | mymacshack.com
Kathryn Albright is surprised by how physically demanding cooking for a crowd can be. As the owner of the Mac Shack – a gourmet macaroni and cheese delivery service – every week is like a Super Bowl Sunday of hungry guests.
“I’m still in my first year and it’s a constant learning process,” said Albright, who started Mac Shack this past February. “I didn’t expect how physically demanding the cooking was going to be. There is a lot of heavy lifting, and carrying and schlepping for lack of a better word – but I love every minute of it!”
Albright currently offers five mac and cheese creations – original, lemon rosemary, crab cake, buffalo chicken and chicken cordon gold — and plans to add a new flavor twice a year. Orders are taken twice a month with deliveries to cities across the Atlanta metro area.
Albright says her passion for cooking and entertaining began early. She catered her first party when she was only 13 – a cocktail party for 30 guests that hooked her.
The idea for the Mac Shack came from the recent popularity of food trucks which are sprouting up across the country.
“I thought, ‘what food could I transform from ordinary into extraordinary?’” she said. “My favorite food has always been macaroni and cheese, so I started playing around with different recipes, and The Mac Shack was born!”
But the path from great idea to actual business is a journey of twists and turns, she learned. There were days she doubted the concept would ever get off the drawing board.
“It took a long time to research all of the different aspects of a food business; from finding a commercial kitchen, to the licensing, insurance, website, name, logo – no part of it was easy, but it was gratifying to finish each step and know I was closer to my dream,” said Albright, the mother of two children.
She advises women who are looking to start their own business to talk to people in the industry and get their advice, and solicit honest feedback on your product from friends and family who can serve as a focus group.
“The thing I most enjoy is having the ability to make a product that makes people happy,” said Albright. “When I receive orders for my macaroni and cheese, I feel honored that my customers are inviting me into their home and having a special meal that I created for them.”
Mia Fuller, Comprehensive Therapy Solutions | comprehensivetherapysolutions.com
11180 State Bridge Rd, Ste #305, Alpharetta, Ga. 30022 | 678-992-0303
For more than 20 years, Mia Fuller worked as an occupational therapist for medical entities before starting her own business, Comprehensive Therapy Solutions, in 2004. Coming out from under the safety net of the corporate umbrella was daunting at first, but Fuller quickly gained ground in a competitive business.
“I still remember my paper calendar schedule and how great it felt to have it start filling up with patients,” Fuller recalls of the early days of her own business.
Comprehensive Therapy Solutions is an outpatient clinic offering physical and occupational therapy services primarily for upper extremities (shoulder, elbow, wrist, hand), in addition to work hardening, on-site job analysis and functional capacity evaluations.
Fuller was a one-person agency in the beginning: answering her own calls, scheduling all patients and marketing her services around the clock to introduce old clients and new ones to her business. Over time, she hired the essential people she needed to allow her to focus on her clients.
“I [realized early on] the importance of surrounding yourself with effective people,” said Fuller, who is married with three daughters, ages 8, 11 and 14. “Our office manager is often the first face and voice that patients are introduced to, and that initial impression is key.”
She also employs two physical therapists who work closely with her, and add a combined 45 years of experience in the business. Fuller is also quick to credit her husband, Todd, who is her “accountant, technical support, handy man and biggest supporter.”
Looking back, Fuller said she underestimated the time that would be needed on the business side of the business – the part the clients never see but is essential to success.
“The biggest challenge I faced when starting the clinic was, of course, insurance,” she explained. “In order to accept patients from the many referral sources, I needed to apply to all of the insurance companies to become a participating provider. This was exhausting and time consuming… and it took over a year to complete.”
Fuller loves the flexibility of her own business and helping people of all ages across the spectrum.
“I get to give something back every day,” she says. “When a patient leaves the clinic with more mobility or strength or function or less pain – I have done something to brighten their day!”
Karen Magill, Karen’s Fabrics, LLC | karensfabrics.com
23 South Main Street, Alpharetta, Ga. 30009 | 770-664-4090
From the expansive view of downtown Alpharetta out her front store windows, Karen Magill sees nothing but progress and promise. The owner of Karen’s Fabrics, Magill recently relocated her business to the Main Street location – just in time to be on the “ground floor of downtown Alpharetta’s debut.”
Karen’s Fabrics was founded by Magill in 1987, and was located in Historic Roswell for 10 years before moving to its longtime location on Haynes Bridge Road. Earlier this year, the business moved again to its present location in downtown Alpharetta.
For more than 25 years, Karen’s Fabrics has provided a wide selection of designer fabrics and trimmings, as well as special order fabrics for quick delivery. The business offers in-home consultants and sales associates who assist clients with window treatments and to help solve design dilemmas.
When it came to business advice, Magill learned her father really did know best.
“I was working for a competitor at the time and my father said ‘why not do it on your own?’” she said, recalling the advice her father gave her years ago that laid the groundwork for Karen’s Fabrics.
Like any new business, Magill said financing issues were the biggest obstacle standing between her and the dream of her own business. She worked through the challenges by developing good relationships with lenders and the dream became a reality.
Magill’s first year in business was made a bit easier when her new employees were people she knew and trusted.
“Many of the key employees from my former employer jumped ship and came with me,” she said. “In particular, Penny Theriot, my current store manager, [came to work for me and] has been with me for over 20 years.”
Looking back over a quarter century in business, through boom times and down trends, Magill has sage advice to offer to new business owners.
“Continue marketing, even in a recession, own your retail space [and] trust your instincts,” she advised, noting it is advice she wishes she had when she first started out.
And surround yourself with supportive family and friends to keep you moving forward through the rough patches.
“Great long-term employees and my mother and father [deserve much of] the credit for the success of the business,” said Magill.
Kay Paschal, Peachtree Park Prep | peachtreeparkprep.com
9670 Ventana Way, Johns Creek, Ga. 30022 | 225 Park Bridge Parkway, Alpharetta, Ga. 30005
Faced with a possible move halfway across the world, Kay Paschal searched for a business she and her husband could open in North Fulton that would keep them planted in Georgia. She made the decision to open Peachtree Park Prep, a preschool and daycare facility in Johns Creek in 1995, and followed that with a second location in Alpharetta three years later.
“My husband’s impending job transfer in 1993 to Singapore led us to explore a business opportunity that would keep us here in the United States, as well as a business where we could be more involved with for our two young children,” said Paschal.
Peachtree Park Prep provides private preschool and day camp to families across North Fulton and surrounding counties, built upon a foundation in infant, toddler and preschool curriculum.
The idea to open a preschool was not something in Paschal’s career plans, but was the path she was led to after extensive research into potential businesses. She spent nearly two years educating herself on the concept before the doors to the school opened.
“It was two years of attending conferences and seminars, finding just the right location to build the school, becoming an expert on licensing, as well as adjusting our family life to the responsibilities and obligations of becoming a small business owner,” she said, describing the years she spent preparing to open the business.
Paschal says the first year in business was “exciting, exhausting and rewarding,” and she was thrilled to see her school embraced by the community.
“We did not expect to become as fully enrolled in our first year, but it happened,” said Paschal.
Her advice to anyone looking to start their own business is simple: visualize your dream and work every day to that end.
“By sticking to the integrity of your vision and business plan, success will follow,” Paschal said.
She loves her job, and loves watching the children grow from infants to graduates under the roof of her school.
“I look forward every day to the hugs, the smiles, the first tooth popping through or falling out, the first time a name is written or the monkey bars are successfully crossed, and the first time that a child says to their parent at pick-up, ‘Come back later….I’m not ready to leave yet!’”
Dr. JoAnne Roesner, Loving Hands Animal Clinic & Pet Resort | lovinghands.com
13775 Highway 9, Alpharetta, Ga. 30004 770-667-9022
As a veterinarian, Dr. JoAnne Roesner wanted to be part of a practice that did more than just meet the medical needs of animals. She envisioned a clinic that would also be community-based, allowing a shadow program for people interested in veterinary care, working with service dogs, helping to rescue and place pets and visiting schools.
Roesner also realized that the clinic she envisioned would have to be her own.
“I had a desire to be more involved in the community than my employer (at the time) wanted to do,” said Roesner, the owner of Loving Hands Animal Clinic in Alpharetta/Milton.
In 1993, Roesner set off on her own. She started in a retail strip center and later operated in a renovated house on Highway 9. But in 2005, a dream was fulfilled when the clinic expanded to its present location in a state-of-the-art facility farther north up Highway 9.
Opening her own practice called upon skills Roesner never learned in veterinary school. She quickly realized she had a lack of business training essential to a successful practice.
“I took every class the Small Business Administration offered, found a mentor, trusted experts in law, accounting [and other areas of business],” said Roesner.
She recalls living in fear the first year, so worried of missing calls that she had the clinic phones forwarded to her home on nights and weekends. Roesner said she also realized she was “lousy at hiring staff.”
“I was surprised by the decency and compassion of some people and the blatant dishonesty of others,” she said. “I tend to see the potential – not the actual – in people and the two don’t always match!”
But her belief in the value of providing a high standard of veterinary medicine and making a difference through community service helped meet the challenges of a new business.
“It’s what sustained me through the rough patches in the early years,” said Roesner.
Making the decision 20 years ago to open her own business has been gratifying, said Roesner, noting the core reasons why she set out on her own are still the focus of her business today.
“Doing good in the world,” she said. “Helping animals and people. The relationships with people and animals. Knowing I can translate my values into tangible actions like my student shadow program and treating service dogs.”