The value of promoting local business owners is not lost on Karen McVey, the Columbus district and state Small Business Administrations Women in Business Advocate of the Year.
Every day, in fact, she works to help women find resources for life or career transitions through WINGS, Women in New Growth Stages, which she founded in 1995 with her husband, Michael McVey, as a project of their nonprofit organization, New Paths Unlimited.
In earlier years, when she was an account executive and special projects coordinator at Cheryl&Co., she often heard women speak of how they looked up to company founder Cheryl Krueger-Horn.
Before that, she was an independent sales representative and regional adviser, working with 150 other consultants for The Longaberger Co. There, she helped convince founder Dave Longaberger and others in his family to see the importance of occasionally signing the bottom of baskets to make them more valuable to sales representatives.
People do see them as bigger than life, or someone who has changed their world, McVey says of Longaberger and Krueger-Horn.
Now shes found herself in an awkward position admired in much the same way.
Uncomfortable bragging about herself, she couldnt put together the award support materials after repeated prodding by her nominator, SBN Editor Nancy Byron. McVeys husband and WINGS Administrative Director Barbara Greenfield wrote her nomination packet and solicited support letters.
I was an introvert as a child, McVey admits, almost apologetically.
The words might come as a surprise to those who know her unhesitant compassion for reaching out to help others.
Karen has accepted the recent nomination to sit on our Community Advisor & Justice Board, showing her commitment and spirit for working with and for disadvantaged, incarcerated women. Those are rare qualities that make a huge difference to this population, writes Patricia Andrews, warden of the Franklin County Pre-Release Center, in her letter of support for McVey. The women leave here with a good chance of not returning when they draw strength and improved self-esteem from Karens monthly pre-release presentations.
Irene Chelsey, president of Chelsey Paralegal Services Ltd., writes: With Karens responsible mentoring, guidance and encouragement, Ive developed a strategy to bring my companys vision for the future into the next millennium.
McVey hatched the idea for WINGS, originally intended to be a one-time conference, on a paper tablecloth during dinner at a Bravo Italian Kitchen restaurant with her husband.
Since then, the organization has grown to support initiatives of resources, networking and mentoring through not only the annual conference but a mentoring program; McVeys talks on a radio program on WRFD-AM; a golf outing; Web site; Networking After Hours; membership; education; promotion; and scholarships. McVey also recently created a business, WINGS Inc., to provide training and business support for clients.
Her mantra is one of encouraging others to follow their instincts.
It all has to do with staying focused and following your dream, she says, referring back to Krueger-Horns and Longabergers success.
McVey is an inspiration to others simply through her philosophies, which likely started, at least in part, as the result of a book, James Allens As a Man Thinketh, passed down through generations of women in her family.
It wasnt until later that I understood the power of the mind, McVey says.
She often quotes ideas from the book, such as, When you plant a seed it will grow in your mind. Weed out the garden of negatives and only let the positives grow.
She keeps a box full of copies of the book handy to pass out to the women she mentors.
The backbone of her inspiration, McVey says, is the opportunity she has to help people through her work. She looks at each on an individual basis, recounting stories of those who have returned to say thank you.
When I die, Im not going to be able to take the house and the belongings and the money, but its so nice to be able to change one life, she says, quickly adding: And Im not the only person who does this.
Joan Slattery Wall (firstname.lastname@example.org) is associate editor of SBN Columbus.