More than 75 women came together on Tuesday to celebrate their strengths in running a business.
Lydia Mihalik, director of the Ohio Department of Development, was the keynote speaker at the Bowling Green Chamber of Commerce’s fourth Women in Business Luncheon.
Kathy Wilhelm of Hagemeyer Fine Photography and Sheri Gentry of Gentry Wellness LLC also shared tips on running a successful business.
“There are so many amazing women in our community,” said chamber executive director Mary Hinkelman.
Mihalik spent four years as mayor of Findlay before being hired by Governor Mike DeWine to head the Ohio Department of Development.
“We all want to support small businesses,” she said. “It’s what we do, it’s our bread and butter.”
Mihalik spoke about his background, starting out studying political science at the University of Findlay. He was offered a job in this city right out of college.
“It didn’t really interest me,” Mihalik said of the government’s work. “I took the leap and did an internship in community and economic development and I loved it.”
She soon joined the Hancock County Regional Planning Commission and raised over $18 million in grants for the county.
“I learned very quickly that collaboration… is very powerful and can do a lot of things,” Mihalik said.
She was successful in her first mayoral bid and ran for a second term unopposed. In 2019, a year into her second term, DeWine approached her.
Mihalik said it was important to have a local perspective in Columbus and while she loved being mayor, she believed she could influence change in the state capital.
“What’s rewarding about my job has to do with the variety of things we do every day,” Mihalik said.
Her office consults, invests in degraded areas and infrastructure, and helps individuals pay their utility bills, she said.
More than 90 percent of businesses in Ohio are small businesses, and more than half of those seeking support from her office are women-owned small businesses.
Wilhelm and Gentry also shared how they have been successful with their small business.
Wilhelm and his sister Cheryl have been running their photography business for 35 years and have watched the industry evolve from film to digital.
Their business principle is that when they make a decision, it’s best for the customer and for each other, Wilhelm said.
“It was never about me first,” she said.
Wilhelm explained the seven Ps the sisters follow in their business.
To be passionate about the profession on a daily basis because it is contagious.
Connect with people and take care of people in the business. Network inside and outside the industry.
Plan with a mission statement because it’s the North Star. Watch it all the time and live with it every day.
Process by doing things the best way, the same way, every time.
Persevere looking to the future and don’t stop until the goal is reached in an ethical way.
Pivot and be ready to change, adapt and pay attention.
By using the first six Ps, expect to thrive as a person and financially, Wilhelm said.
Gentry said getting from point A to point B isn’t always a straight line.
“There’s the messy middle,” she said.
Gentry said she was responsible for family care at an early age and a hospital stay planted the seed to help people.
She studied to be a medical assistant in college in an effort to show patients that fear of medicine is not something to worry about.
Over the years, Gentry has also worked in women’s health and as a midwife. But at some point, she decided that all the knowledge she had acquired should not end with her.
She began teaching at the University of Toledo and the University of Findlay, and it was her students who remarked that her health might be better.
“As healthcare providers, we have to live what we teach,” Gentry said.
This epiphany led her to help others regain their health in a place where they can achieve their dreams, she said.
Progress consists in embracing the disordered mediums of life; don’t try to keep making a better past and always grow and be willing to learn.
The event was held to celebrate National Women’s Small Business Month.