By Ashley Roten Athens Banner-Herald, Ga.
Women are paving a permanent path in the business world. Today, they're climbing the corporate ladder more quickly than ever, and are establishing themselves in businesses and other enterprises large and small.
According to the National Association of Women Business Owners, more than 9.1 million businesses are owned by women. Thus far this year, those businesses have generated an astounding $1.4 trillion in sales.
Today, the Women in Business committees of the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce and the Oconee County Chamber of Commerce are celebrating the women who have helped shape this community with a fall fashion show and luncheon at the new Epps Bridge Centre off the Oconee Connector.
Hosted by the businesses and restaurants in the shopping center, the event is designed to bring the women of the community together and recognize how important they and their businesses and other enterprises are to the area.
Here are just a few examples of local women involved in business enterprises:
LAURA WHITAKER, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, EXTRA SPECIAL PEOPLE For the past 11 years, Laura Whitaker has held the reins at Extra Special People, a nonprofit organization that enhances the lives of children with developmental disabilities. Whitaker is passionate about the role she plays both within her organization and in the community.
"What's amazing about being a woman in business for me is that I not only get to give at home as a mom and wife, but I have the opportunity to give daily and selflessly in my workplace," Whitaker says.
"The most amazing part about being in the field of service is that it designs a beautiful life, rich and full of community, relationships and the ability to work toward something much bigger than myself. From my lens, I see that Athens is the most generous community in the world; one that accepts those who are different with welcome arms and problem solvers who utilize our resources to meet the greatest needs."
MYCHELL LANG, OWNER, CHOPS & HOPS Four years ago, Mychell Lang joined her husband, Patrick, and Andrew and Jessica Wallace to bring Chops & Hops to downtown Watkinsville. Aside from dishing up a fine-dining experience, Lang's passion goes above and beyond running a restaurant.
"Being a woman in business is challenging and very rewarding," Lang says. "It gives me a tremendous sense of purpose. As with any business, challenges arise daily and as an owner, I take pride in resolving issues, ultimately finding ways to better our service. Serving the community allows me to develop relationships, which is very fulfilling. I love that I can call many members of the community my friends."
CHRISTY TERRELL, NORTHEAST REGION EXTERNAL AFFAIRS MANAGER, GEORGIA POWER For the past 28 years, Christy Terrell has served northeast Georgia at Georgia Power and its parent, the Southern Company. For the past seven years, Terrell has worked as the regional external affairs manager for Georgia Power in Athens.
"To me, being a woman in business means you constantly push yourself beyond your comfort zone to pursue your goals," says Terrell. "It means you cannot depend on anyone else to make your dreams come true, and it means you work where you feel like you are making a difference, but more importantly you enjoy what you do.
I believe in Georgia Power's motto 'to be a citizen wherever we serve' and that motto empowers me to be the best I can be representing the company in the community. It is important for each and every woman to find a network of women who encourage each other and support each other."
PEGGY HOLCOMB, DIRECTOR OF TOURISM, OCONEE COUNTY TOURISM BUREAU
Peggy Holcomb has lived in Oconee County for 37 years, and for the last eight of those years, she's been tourism director with the Oconee County Tourism Bureau. She knows what it means both to serve and work alongside her community, and she thrives on being a role model.
To be a woman in business means "to be a role model for women, to be able to stand strong in what I believe in, so that those who come after me have the strength to do it as well," says Holcomb. She went on to say that she wants "to be able to show that one person can make a difference. I believe giving back to your community is one of the most important things you can do. You only get what you give."