All in the family Featured

7:00pm EDT December 26, 2010
Charles Penzone Nonprofit Board Executive of the Year Award

In 1998, Dick Emens co-founded the Conway Center for Family Business, and in the time since he started the organization, he has donated thousands of hours, worked tirelessly, contributed personally and offered his professional expertise in order to establish an organization in Columbus that serves as a solid resource for families, owners and nonfamily executives of family-owned businesses.

When the organization started, Emens ran operations out of his law office and relied on volunteers to accomplish everything. The center aimed to offer educational programs and networking opportunities to family business owners and their employees to promote business success. In 1999, the center began a family business awards program, and the following year, Emens established an affiliation with Ohio Dominican University.

In 2003, however, things changed for the better when the center began to pay its staff, and in 2004, the center moved into its campus office space, which was donated by Ohio Dominican University. In addition to the educational programs offered, the center also started the family business tour and networking event, which was held at the Anthony Thomas Candy Co. and gave family business owners an opportunity to visit each other’s businesses and spend time together.

Also in 2004, Emens co-taught a family business undergraduate course at Ohio Dominican with the goal of educating students who were interested in family-owned businesses or who had employment opportunities with family-owned businesses.

In 2006, Emens recognized the importance of having even more specific peer advisory groups and created a group specifically for women in family businesses. The following year, the center moved to its current home, and the family business tour continued in its fourth year.

In 2008, Emens recruited someone to lead yet another peer group at the center — this time for young family business members to learn about opportunities for personal exploration and professional leadership issues in a safe and supportive environment.

Today, the Conway Center has a strong advisory board and a dedicated trustee board, and it has grown to include more than 100 dues-paying family-owned businesses — all under the leadership of Emens as board chair. The center also has the support of 24 professional organizations in Columbus, has three peer groups and puts on nine educational programs annually — all in an effort to make the local business community a stronger place.

How to reach: Conway Center for Family Business, (614) 253-4820 or