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HEAR HER ROAR | Local Ladypreneurs


According to Entrepreneur.com women are starting an average of 1,200 businesses a day – up from 740 a day the year prior. The growth of women-owned firms continues to outpace the national average, plus they now lead growth in eight of the top 13 industries. On top of that, ladies are dominating the crowdfunding space, regularly outperforming their male counterparts. Meet these Local Ladypreneurs to Know.

NICHOLE NIEMANN

Director, Fashions with Flair, Inc.

Nichole Niemann has lived in the western burbs since the third grade, “which is really a long time!” she says laughing. She’s been a ladypreneur since 1999 and credits a combination of factors for wanting to become a ladypreneurs. “The combination of controlling your own destiny, setting your own hours and the pride of managing something all your own are all factors that make being an entrepreneur the best career route,” she explains.

Nichole is the Director and commentator for Fashions with Flair, Inc., a fashion show production company. “Everything that happens on the runway is within my purview,” she explains. Nichole is in charge of creating a relevant and exciting presentation and also manages a large team of coordinators, DJs, dressers, models and choreographers, all of whom come together to make a fashion show happen.

For future entrepreneurial plans, fashion is at the top of her list. “Because I work with top models, designers and retailers, I have access to all the current trends,” she says. Nichole plans on branching out as an image consultant for companies, men and women who need a business revamp, and much more! “I’m using my talents in a meaningful way and I get paid to do something that is rewarding and exciting,” she adds.

1. Favorite motivational speaker? I don’t have one. I do love Pinterest. Nowhere else can you find an endless supply of 5-10 word motivational phrases to keep you on track and motivated.

2. #1 reason for being a Ladypreneur? I can still do my job as “mom”

with 100% dedication.

3. The one thing you wish you had known when starting your

business? I understood the product I was producing, but I had to learn

that without good people to help you get there, you’ve got nothing.

ANNE DILLS

Franchise Owner, School of Rock (Naperville, Hinsdale, & Elmhurst)

Anne grew up in Burr Ridge and Hinsdale as a child, so it made since when the opportunity came to open up her first School of Rock location in Naperville with her partner (and mom) Denise Dills back in 2010. She currently lives in Western Springs with her husband and the couple is expecting their first child in fall.

Anne has since opened up two additional School of Rock locations in both Hinsdale and Elmhurst. When venturing out and starting her own business, Anne loved the idea of creating something from nothing. “I find it exciting and meaningful to create jobs that didn’t exist before and give people an opportunity to grow and develop,” she shares.

School of Rock is a performance based music school, where both kids and adults can receive a great musical education. Anne also emphasizes the creation of a caring community within her School of Rock locations, where all students feel inspired and are supportive of one another. “Our faculty is a close knit group of professional rock musicians, who are still actively creating, recording and performing music,” she adds.

As for her biggest inspiration and advocate to become a ladypreneur? That would be her mom, Denise Dills, who became a ladypreneur herself in her 50’s after her children were grown.

1. Favorite motivational speaker? Dale Carnegie.

2. #1 reason for being a ladypreneur? I decided to start my own company, so no one else could dictate to me the values I feel that it is important to live out in my family life and my professional life.

3. The one thing you wish you had known when starting your business? Ensure that you feel so passionately about the service or product you are creating that the journey of having it brought to fruition is worth the effort regardless of if you succeed financially.

JAMIE VARGO

Owner of Vargo’s Dance Studio

Jamie Vargo has lived in Geneva for the past 13-years. She has always had a passion for dance and it was her dream to have her own dance studio. When talking about her first business she says, “Do lemonade stands count? If so I started my first business at 7!”

Keeping with the idea and saying, “if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life..” Jamie did eventually fulfill her life-long dream of owning her own studio and opened Vargo’s Dance Studio in 2011. “Dancing with the Starts reminded our generation on how fun and glamorous ballroom dancing can be and at Vargo’s Dance, we like to bring an element of that to our customers,” she shares. “We also pride ourselves on meeting our students where they are so that they can cram for a wedding, enjoy a date night out or join our family of social dancers.”

For future ladypreneurial plans, Jamie has already experimented with an organic juice shop in Geneva, “Smuzi.” “It was very well received, but not profitable enough to continue,” she adds. However, Jamie does see another dance studio in her

future, “not sure where or when, but we’ll see,” she adds.

1. Favorite motivational speaker? Tony Robbins

2. #1 reason for being a ladypreneur? Same as any entrepreneur, Indepedence!

3. The one thing you wish you had known when starting

your business? I wish I would have known how many responsibilities and expenses come with owning a business. Sometimes it’s hard to balance the passion and creativity with those secondary business activities.

KELLY MCCARTY

Owner of Kelly McCarty Esthetics, LLC.

Kelly McCarty is a full-time mom and business owner. Her three amazing children, Kylee (12), Joey (8), and Macklen (4) are her world, but she also finds time to run her business, Kelly McCarty Esthetics, LLC., and is the admin for Kaneland Moms Working Together, the Facebook group.

Kelly is all positive actions and has taken a role to help her spread the cheer. “Recently my newest adventure is spreading inspiration to others on The Captains Pod, called “Good News Kelly on Meaningful Mondays,” she shares.

Kelly has been an esthetician for 17 years, but in December 2014 she decided to become a ladypreneur and work for herself, thus creating her business. The path to ladypreneurship started 4 years ago. In April of 2012 she lost her then fiancé to depression that resulted in suicide. Since the 1 year anniversary of his death, she has done Random Acts of Kindness on that day and every day after that. “I always tell my kids that it’s important to never give up and just keep going,” she shares.

The Facebook group Kaneland Moms Working Together was recently started to help others that have independent businesses a platform in order to help get the community to work together. “I believe if you help each other out and work together, the community as a whole is a much better place to live.”

1. Favorite motivational speaker? Ellen DeGeneres.

2. #1 reason for being a ladypreneur? When I lost my fiancé 3-years ago, I had a choice to be positive and I wanted to inspire other people and also provide for my children.

3. The one thing you wish you had known when starting your business? It can be a lot on your plate, but it’s important to get it done.

DONNA SWANSON

Founder of Simple Gifts Foundation

Donna has lived in Aurora for 16-years and has two daughters, Kamille and Abigail. Donna started the Simple Gifts Foundation in 2003 and applied for non-profit status in January of 2005. The organization provides assistance with basic, personal, emergency and other needs to children with disabilities and families in need in DuPage County and the surrounding counties as well.

Donna has always wanted to do two things in her life, “adopt a baby with Down syndrome and have my own food pantry,” she shares. Kamille, her oldest daughter, has Down syndrome and “the adoption came quite quick so it came time to move on to my next endeavor!” she says. Donna extended the food pantry idea into the Simple Gifts Foundation, to serve those with special and medical needs and their family.

As for future entrepreneurial plans, Donna plans on continuing to give, with the assistance of the Simple Gifts Board and volunteers, more community-based activities for kids to grow skills and confidence, along with all that the foundation has to offer, which is “a place for kids to feel like they are accepted and belong, a nurturing friendship and appreciation for who they are,” she says.

1. Favorite motivational speaker? My dad. He has been my rock since day one and helped kick off the Foundation along with my mom and family members.

2. #1 reason for being a ladypreneur? I never set out to be an entrepreneur of any kind, rather, I just wanted to offer a humble, giving service to these kids.

3. The one thing you wish you had known when starting your business? I wish I knew how much work it would be! But all good things cost us a big of work and having a non-profit organization has been such a blessing in so many ways.

MARIANNE CIELAK, ESQ.

Owner of Skinnysweet Frozen Yogurt

Marianne Cielak has lived in Elmhurst for the past 7.5 years with her husband and 3 children. Marianne has been a ladypreneur since April 2011. She had the idea of starting her business when she was on vacation with her family in Arizona and they came across a soft-serve frozen yogurt concept that was self-serve. “We knew this was something where there was a need back home and so the journey began,” she shares. “We developed our own concept that was similar, but something that was all our own.”

They developed a self-serve frozen yogurt concept, but also serve gelato, sorbet, and Italian ice. Skinnysweet Frozen Yogurt focuses on selling a premium product that is hormone-free and antibiotic-free.

Marianne has found that while it’s good to be first in any market, it doesn’t matter as much as having a good product. “If you have a good product, you’ll do well,” she explains. “But, if you cut corners, people will pick up on that.”

For her ladypreneurial journey, Marianne has found that it’s not all about the prize or the reward at the end. “No matter how long the steps are, the prize will always be there, so focus on the work to get there instead.”

1. Favorite motivational speaker? Tony Robbins, Mike Eruzione and Lou Holtz.

2. #1 reason for being a ladypreneur? My driven personality and giving 110% and doing things the right way the first time. What better way to do that than to be in business for myself.

3. The one thing you wish you had known when starting your business? Location is key and it can turn out to be your greatest asset or your biggest challenge.

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