By Stefanie McLeese
General Motors; The Hershey Company; Staples; Ulta Beauty; PepsiCo. What do these S&P 500 companies all have in common? They boast female CEOs, many of whom are mothers.
Moms are running more than their own homes these days, and have been for some time. According to a Pew Research Center study published in 2013, mothers with children younger than 18 comprise 71 percent of the workforce. Further research indicates that many mothers’ feelings about work change and evolve over time.
Moms have hard, painful decisions to make about careers and motherhood, and how to make it all work. But there are many moms in Monticello who have found their answer in entrepreneurship. These ladies may not top any Standard & Poor’s lists, but they are the heart and soul of Monticello’s makeup. They are the smart, savvy business owners who have figured out what works for them and their families. (And isn’t that what we are all trying to do?) Kudos to just a few of these Monticello “mom-preneurs.”
Debbie’s Dance Studio, Debbie Dobson
Debbie Dobson acquired the dance studio as a teen in 1978. When the then-owner fell ill and could no longer run the studio, she turned to her talented and faithful employee to take over. Debbie has never looked back. She’s owned and managed up to four studios at once, but finds balance being a wife, mom and business-owner by managing only two studios, one in Monticello and the other in Decatur. “I’m blessed to have had so many supportive and loyal students and alumni in my life throughout the years,” Dobson said.
Kelly’s Accounting Services, Kelly Finet
It was 1988 and Kelly Finet knew then she wanted to do work that helped people and also offered the flexibility to be there for her kids, so she launched her own tax and accounting services practice. The company has given her what she needs and even evolved. “People don’t know I am also the executor of several wills and serve as a guardian for people in need,” Finet said. “I never knew I’d earn so much ‘income’ from the feeling I get helping others.”
Faith Christian School, Teresa Peterson
Since 1997 Teresa Peterson has been at the helm, providing a faith-based education preschool curriculum for Monticello’s children. Mrs. Peterson’s adult daughter, Rachel Porter, has been a teacher at the school for many years, but has been out battling liver cancer. Mrs. Peterson has been an inspiration to the community as she gracefully manages her responsibility to the school children and her own adult child during such a difficult time. Students have faithfully worn green “Mrs. Porter t-shirts” every Wednesday in solidarity. “What big, sweet, kind hearts they have,” Peterson said.
Zybell House, Samantha Koon
After her daughter was born – like many mothers – Samantha Koon began reconsidering her priorities, namely, time at work vs. time with her new daughter. She launched Zybell House, which offers three product lines: 1) Gourmet to Go; 2) Classes@Zybell, a full line-up of fun classes designed for kids, families and girlfriends; and 3) Guestrooms and event spaces to accommodate everything from birthday parties to corporate retreats. “I love that I have a job where my daughter can see me doing something I love, even if it’s not always easy,” Koon said.
Steeple Coffee House, Marti Gortner
While Steeple Coffee House has been around a while, its current owner is new to entrepreneurship. Marti Gortner recently purchased the coffee house portion of the business from her father-in-law, Jim Gortner. “My favorite part of owning my own business is seeing my kids more. I used to drive to Champaign everyday. Now I work a half mile from my house and my son walks to the coffee shop after school everyday,” said Mrs. Gortner. “I’ve sat behind a computer all day for as long as I can remember; this is a totally different environment and I love it.”
The Brown Bag, Harlean Swing
This mother runs a tight ship, ensuring everything her downtown eatery serves up is fresh and tasty. From the homemade chips to the in-house meats made daily, Harlean Swing means business when it comes to feeding families. Her adult daughter, Leslie Glickman, helps manage the restaurant. “We’ve been serving great food since 1976, and we’re just getting started,” Swing said.
This is in no way an exhaustive list of the many moms who make Monticello thrive. But it is a peek at some of the Monticello mothers who also wear ‘entrepreneur’ quite well.
Stefanie Santos McLeese is a native Texan, an independent public relations advisor and the mother of three children (5, almost 4 and 2) who are her “toughest clients.” She met her Monticello-native husband playing rec league flag football in Dallas where they married and had their children before moving to Illinois in June 2015 for a wholesome, Midwest, child-rearing experience, and near retired, babysitting-in-laws who live seven minutes door-to-door.