Congenius has been humbled to work closely with so many incredible entrepreneurs over our years as a one-stop consultancy for companies of every size and niche. Since March is Women’s History Month, we’d like to highlight some of the amazing women we’ve partnered with, including business owners and some of our in-house Geniuses we love working alongside.
Written by Joanna Pearson, Copywriter – JoAnna@congenius.io
Women’s History Month – Congenius Celebrates Women in Business
In 1980, the National Women’s History Project led a consortium of women’s groups and historians to push for a week of national recognition for women. In February of 1980, President Carter issued the first Presidential Proclamation declaring the week of March 8th (International Women’s Day!), as National Women’s History Week, with the message:
“From the first settlers who came to our shores, from the first American Indian families who befriended them, men and women have worked together to build this nation. Too often the women were unsung and sometimes their contributions were unnoticed. But the achievements, leadership, courage, strength, and love of the women who built America was as vital as that of men whose names we know so well.”
In 1987, Congress passed Public Law 100-9, extending the celebration through the entire month of March, so for decades, the month of March has been designated to celebrate the achievements of women. For this year, the theme is “Providing Healing, Promoting Hope,” as a “a tribute to the ceaseless work of caregivers and frontline workers during this ongoing pandemic and also a recognition of the thousands of ways that women of all cultures have provided both healing and hope throughout history.”
In the world of business, while much progress has been made for female representation, there’s still much work to be done. As of 2021, there were more women running Fortune 500 companies than ever before, but women are still a minority at only 8.1%; that’s just 41 female executives out of 500 Fortune CEOs.
Congenius believes that a diverse workforce creates an innovative workforce, and we deeply value the contributions of the women entrepreneurs and leaders in the many industries we consult for, as well the contributions of our Women Geniuses who provide fulfillment for the services we offer. Here’s just a small sampling of the women who inspire us (and so many other around them!).
Laura Ritchie-Johnston, of LR-J Health Solutions
When it comes to health insurance, it can be a confusing and daunting process to navigate all the available plans and options out there. As a health insurance broker serving both Arizona and Arizona residents, working with Laura is like a breath of fresh air. Her warm and personable personality sets her apart from other agents in the business, and her dedication to being a trusted resource is evident in all she does.
Laura began her health insurance business at 55 years old after working in the corporate world her whole life, and loves the ability to be her own boss and the great feeling of independence and satisfaction it brings her daily. Laura states, “I have the freedom to do the things I want for myself and my clients, and I try to balance that daily. Bottom line is that I really enjoy the relationships I have with my clients. I love to help them!” In every interaction, it’s certainly obvious how proud she is of building a sustainable and profitable business but most of all, she’s proud of being a successful and nurturing parent of her two amazing boys.
As a woman in the life insurance industry, Laura has faced her fair share of obstacles. The field is very male-driven with lots of “boys clubs,” and Laura has had to work extra hard to prove she could make it in this business. She even watched them bet against her! But, she loves a good challenge and is naturally competitive, so those doubters just made her work that much harder to surpass them. Laura draws her inspiration from many other successful and influential women throughout history; but for us at Congenius, we are inspired by Laura herself! From our perspective, her ability to build relationships with her clients has been instrumental to the success of her business, and her genuine heart and passion for everyone she encounters is awe-inspiring; every business owner should take note!
Shelby Fischler, Genius of Design
Shelby Fischler joined the Congenius Team of Geniuses in November of 2020, and is an invaluable asset to our organization. With a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts with a concentration in Graphic Design from East Carolina University, we fancy her to truly be a creative genius.
To Shelby, her inspiration to create provides an opportunity to make others happy, especially given that the world can be dark and it can be sometimes difficult to find a reason to smile. Like many others, 2020 was a difficult year for Shelby. She got laid off from a major company, was unemployed for 4 months, and nearly lost hope and her sense of purpose. She began working retail, and while it helped her morale to be around people in customer service, it seemed like finding a design job to fulfill her career goals was never going to happen. Applying to countless jobs was exhausting, and to consistently not hear back or be told “no” over and over again was certainly discouraging. As fate would have it, Sean, Managing Partner of Congenius, found Shelby and set up an interview, adding her to the team with no hesitation. For Shelby, it proved that “good things really do take time and if you really want something in this life, you can’t just give up.”
Rather than pointing to women in history who’ve inspired Shelby, she’s been more influenced by the women around her, but acknowledges she’s fortunate to grow up in a time where women working, voting, and speaking up is normal since that hasn’t always been the case. “In the most professional way possible, I come from a line of badass women.” Her mother has always been one of her biggest inspirations and supporters, raising Shelby to be anything but quiet and to see the importance in working hard toward a career and chasing after her dreams, and to knock down any walls because the only thing holding anyone back is themselves. Additionally, other women in Shelby’s family inspire her – her dad’s sisters are both business owners and she notes how her grandmother on her mother’s side was fearless in all aspects of her life, “loved by many, feared by most.”
We value how Shelby puts her heart into every design project we throw at her, and the consistency and ingenuity of her Creative Genius! To Shelby, finding her place at Congenius means she gets to live her dreams of using her creativity to make dreams come true for people across the country. We know Shelby is a Disney fan, so we’ll conclude with this – with Shelby, “If you can dream it, you can do it.”
Ali Tso, Genius of Photography and Videography
Arizona native, Ali Tso, first discovered the art of photography in sixth grade, but it wasn’t until after college that her passion flourished when a friend gifted Ali her first DSLR camera. As a Division 1 college gymnast and a psychology major at Seatle-Pacific University, Ali never imagined that she would be capturing the beauty of life for a living! But once that season of life ended, she felt lost, longing for something more, and craving the creativity and artistic expression gymnastics had given her. With her faith guiding her, she poured herself into photography, capturing her friends and their beauty in her photos, and continues to specialize in portrait photography as a full-time photographer.
As a highly competitive athlete, Ali learned the value of hard work, and learned to train her mind and body to push through discomfort to compete and perform under pressure, and while that serves her well as a woman in business, she is most proud of the growth that she’s done post-gymnastics. Personally, she’s transitioned her identity into not being about what judges think of her performance, but rather in what God says about her. Professionally, her greatest joy comes from the genuine responses from clients when they see their photos for the first time. It’s humbling to be trusted to capture some of life’s most precious moments!
For Ali, Brené Brown is an inspiration. As a researcher, author, academic, and storyteller, she was the first person who spoke about vulnerability and boundaries in a way that resonated with Ali. Ali was a psychology major, so she appreciates Brown’s research and studies that back up her claims, and thinks it’s super cool that she built an empire based on principles of authenticity and morality. Ali feels challenged and eager to heal and grow in these areas of my life, and believes women have a unique gift to offer the world by showing up in a way that is inviting and open; not seeing it as a weakness by any means. Ali strives to operate in a way that is kind and of service to others.
Being a woman entrepreneur isn’t without its challenges. The administrative side of business can be a challenge, and it can be difficult to balance running a business vs. making space for creative freedom and expression. It can be a challenge to not get caught up in the hustle and grind of business when our culture glorifies it. She’s an artist at heart so she has to intentionally remember to let herself play and create too. “But my approach to business is direct, efficient and intentional. As a woman, I think this can surprise people sometimes!”
In her work as a Creative Genius with Congenius, we depend on Ali to fulfill our various photography and videography needs; we are so thankful she decided to turn her passion into her profession, as she is an invaluable asset to our team.
Gena Fotovich, Ace Mobile Wash
Ace Mobile Wash has been making the Valley shine brighter since 1983, but in just four short years, business owner Gena Fotovich went from knowing nothing about fleet washing to growing Ace Mobile Wash three times over. Working with every sized business from some of the biggest companies in the world to small, local businesses, Gena’s strategy is simple: she wants Ace Mobile to be the best at providing the service you need. Ace Mobile is a family business, but as owner, she takes pride in being the owner and command-central – she is the first and last point of contact for all of their clients, as she takes all the calls, sends all the quotes, builds orders, and ensures every job is done right the first time, and on time.
Gena learned leadership skills early in life from riding horses. As a competitor at Spruce Meadows and a riding instructor, being responsible for horses honed Gena’s work ethic. She learned to make a commitment and follow through, values that now drive her as a business owner. Growing up, Gena was always inspired by her father who served as the CEO of many different companies, learning from him as he worked with his teams and absorbing his love of education, sales, marketing, and motivating others.
Now, Gena is inspired by being a role model to her own children – three young daughters and a son who’s due in September. Gena loves showing them that women can run a business 7 days a week, yet still be an engaged mother at the same time. It makes sense that Gena admires the beautiful Gisele Bunchen, someone who came from humble beginnings and worked her way up to the top of her industry, all while remaining grounded and balancing her work life with her commitment to her husband and children.
As a woman in business, Gena found that initially, many of Ace Mobile’s customers had a difficult time seeing her as the owner of the company, and they would frequently ask to speak with Brian, her husband, instead. But she’s gone on to earn all of their respect, and they all know if they need something handled, she’s the one to talk to. At Congenius, we certainly admire Gena’s talent for building relationships with all of her customers, which is evident by their impeccable reviews and how rapidly Ace Mobile is growing.
Krysia Kolasa, Cupcake Couture Dress
Cupcake Couture is an online boutique that specializes in exquisite and unique handmade lace, sequin, and tulle dresses for young girls for all special occasions. Founder and President, Krysia, grew up loving fashion and design, and once her friends started finding their Prince Charmings and planning their special days, she was often asked to create hand-made flower girl dresses. Once faced with being the sole provider for her children, Krysia worked hard to finish college and begin her business, turning her passion into an extremely successful online shop. Her children serve as both her greatest inspiration, and her greatest accomplishment, making her stronger and providing her the courage to keep fighting whenever she’s lost hope along the way to where she is now.
In the day-to-day of running Cupcake Couture, Krysia enjoys the interactions with her customers. Most of the people she deals with are stressed out brides or close family and friends that are part of the wedding party, who are also under a lot of pressure. Krysia loves to be able to provide solutions to people who are under time constraints or stressed about finding the perfectly designed and sized gown for the big day. When happy customers leave a kind review and acknowledge the extra touch her company provides in customer service, she can’t help but smile.
As a child, Krysia grew up reading books illustrated by Eloise Wilkins (1904-1987), who was one of the artists for the popular book company Little Golden Books. Once Eloise started her family, she returned to working for the company under the condition that she could work from home so she could be with her four children. For Krysia, Eloise serves as an important inspiration as a creative and a hard-working mother. “As working mothers, we are constantly battling to find the right balance between career and home, and Eloise showed women across the nation that you can be a wonderful mother and still have a successful career.”
Running Cupcake Couture means finding that balance, and Krysia has been challenged by others in her role as a female entrepreneur. Growing up in an Eastern European household, men have always been viewed as the one who should be the breadwinners, so she’s heard her fair share of snarky comments and been made to feel her business shouldn’t be taken seriously. But, instead of viewing those moments as obstacles, she’s viewed them as opportunities. “It does feel pretty good when you prove everyone wrong.”
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The best part of what we do is connecting with entrepreneurial-spirited and uniquely talented individuals. As a full-scale consultancy in people, process, technology, branding, strategy and product development, our team of consultants can deliver solutions to whatever unique challenges small to mid-sized companies face. Connect with us via our website, email (firstname.lastname@example.org), or via phone – 480.900.1850.