Spotlight on Women in Business: April 2014
Carla Mader, Laurie Mizrahi, Loriann Putzier, Louann Tronsberg-Deihle, Sharon Gregory.
CEO & Publisher
Pittsburgh PetConnections Magazine
While working for 25 years in the veterinary world, Pittsburgh-native Carla Mader was constantly encountering people who had a crisis with their pet, or pet owners themselves who had cancer or lost their job. This pushed Mader to start a nonprofit, Human-Animal Advocacy & Wellness Centers, Inc. (HAAWC) in2009.
HAAWC recognizes the human-animal bond as a source of wellness for individuals, families and communities and works to develop programs around this idea.
“Animals lead us to wellness and animals teach us about ourselves, which in turn helps us treat others better,” says Mader, who worked as a veterinary specialty technician in oncology as well as a manager at veterinarian hospitals.
In 2011, while she explored the idea of opening a nonprofit veterinary hospital, Mader thought it would be beneficial to have a platform to promote her organizations and other animal nonprofits in the area as well as to educate people on the value of the “human-animal bond.” In 2012, she founded a magazine, Pittsburgh PetConnections.
With no experience in the publishing industry, Mader simply sold ads to finance her first issue. The community-focused magazine provides expert information, with input from five to six veterinarians that write every month on dogs, cats and horses, covering the human-animal bond, health and wellness, holistic care, shelter and rescue, behavior and training. The magazine also covers wellness for people.
Pittsburgh PetConnections debuted at 24 pages with 6,000 copies in 300 locations. The magazine has more than doubled in size in less than two years with 48 pages and 15,000 copies in 600 locations.
With the help of a strong team around her (her husband and contractors such as her sales reps, photographer, graphics team, editor and writers), Mader hopes to continue to develop strong content, grow her advertising base and expand the magazine locally and possibly nationally.
“We’ve filled a niche within the community – there hasn’t been a pet publication in the city for years,” says Mader, who studied at Akron University. “The brand is really recognizable, and people look for it every month.”
President, Mizrahi, Inc.
650 Smithfield St., Suite 1525, Pittsburgh, PA 15222
Laurie Mizrahi started her design and communications career in New York City in the 1980s, where she worked with big-name clients at Siegel and Gale, a brand development and information design firm, a large annual report firm and the ad agency, DMB&B. She took those experiences with her when she moved back to Pittsburgh to form Mizrahi, Inc., a creative marketing communications firm that seeks to deliver fresh ideas and authentic solutions for clients via strategy, branding, design and communications.
“I never went into this with a great desire to start a business,” says Mizrahi, who graduated from Carnegie Mellon University with degrees in design and history. “I couldn’t find the type of challenging job I wanted here at a comparable salary. Perhaps being a business owner is hereditary – both my grandmother and father were entrepreneurs.”
Mizrahi, who initially started out as a freelance designer in Pittsburgh, got her big break when she began designing the auto show graphics for Audi and Volkswagen. This helped to create the opportunity for her to grow her own company and has since added nine employees, shifting the company from a pure design firm to much more of a strategic marketing communications firm that also offers superior creative work. Mizrahi says that the company does a great deal of branding and helping clients to create, refine and communicate their brand in every marketing channel.
“I love the creative side of the industry, but I really love learning about my clients’ industries and figuring out how I can take their business strategies and tell their stories for whatever goal or objective they have,” says Mizrahi. “I really believe that design thinking is a strong problem solving skill for strategy and communications.”
Mizrahi pinpoints her two major successes as her list of long-time clients and her company’s ability to continually evolve with the creative industry.
In her spare time, Mizrahi is a member of the WQED Multimedia Community Advisory Board and served for eight years on the board of Leadership Pittsburgh, Inc.
Co-Founder & COO, IntegraCare Corp.
After Loriann Putzier graduated from Ohio University, she started her careeer in the senior living industry at National Health Management (NHM). She served as vice president of human resources and, later, chief operating officer. During her seven years there, she and her business partner recognized that NHM’s senior living communities needed reconfiguration to remain competitive. Other communities were offering more of a residential product, and she knew that they would not be able to compete effectively much longer.
After attempting to work out a deal to buy the company from its shareholders, Putzier and her business partner, Rick Irwin, separated from the company to form IntegraCare in 1999. IntegraCare focuses on hospital-affiliated and senior living turnaround situations – they find distressed senior living facilities, create a new vision for them, reposition and renovate them, turning them into state-of-the-art, affordable senior living communities. IntegraCare operates 12 communities that offer a mix of independent living, personal care, assisted living and memory care.
Putzier is proud of the company’s ability to “assemble, retain, cultivate and inspire” a group of people that lead with success and commitment. IntegraCare currently employs 650 people.
“The key to success is finding staff and building a creative and innovative human resources culture where they want to stay,” says Putzier, who has a journalism/communications degree. “I’m a rebel-type HR person – more progressive but still adamant about fairness and consistency. I’m a believer in that the rules don’t define the business – the business defines the rules.”
Putzier’s passion for making a difference in the lives of residents, their families and her employees is at the forefront of what she does, and she stresses the importance of finding what you’re passionate about in life.
“So much of our culture plays the middle, but you have to be willing to take a risk,” says Putzier, who lives in Butler, Pa. “That means there will be failures, but you take those failures and look for the life learning point in it.”
Putzier and IntegraCare also recently started a charitable partnership with Luke’s Wings, an organization that supports service members wounded in battle by providing their families with the means to visit their injured family member during hospitalization and rehabilitation.
Treasurer, Koppers, Inc.
436 Seventh Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15219
With a dual degree in international business and international relations from the University of Pennsylvania, Louann Tronsberg-Deihle began her career in commercial and investment banking in New York City before returning to Pittsburgh where she obtained her MBA from Carnegie Mellon University. After working for PNC Bank (as vice president of corporate banking) and WESCO Distribution Inc. (as assistant treasurer and risk manager), Tronsberg-Deihle joined Koppers in 2008 as treasurer. Koppers produces integrated producer of carbon compounds and treated wood products for the aluminum, steel, chemical, rubber, railroad and utility industries.
“It’s important to think of your career as a sailboat – you may end up traveling in different directions than you planned,” says Tronsberg-Deihle, who is originally from Pittsburgh. “But, sometimes those changes are more interesting than if you just stayed on one track with very specific stops. I never intended to go from banking to corporate, but you have to be open to opportunities that come your way.”
As an officer of Koppers, Tronsberg-Deihle’s role includes financing and risk management, which involves looking at risks that face the company and then tying management of those risks to Koppers’ overall strategic plan and operations.
At Koppers, Tronsberg-Deihle has helped increase communication and coordination of global treasury efforts throughout Koppers and increased the dialogue between headquarters and foreign operations to manage cash flow, foreign exchange and risk management issues.
Tronsberg-Deihle is also a mentor in Koppers’ Leadership Development Program, which identifies top middle management level personnel that are ready to advance into leadership positions. She guides candidates through the program and offers career development advice and coaching.
“Sometimes in your career, you’re not going to grow vertically, but you should look for opportunities to expand your knowledge horizontally so that you become a more valuable employee over a broader section of the company,” advises Tronsberg-Deihle.
Tronsberg-Deihle serves on the board of trustees for Pittsburgh Fellows, a faith-based organization that works with recent college graduates to place them in internships in Pittsburgh. She is also on the board of Brothers Brother Foundation, among others.
Owner, Hexagon Solutions & Beyond, Inc.
Owner, Sigmas Conference and Event Center
1717 Babcock Blvd., Pittsburgh, PA 15209
412/821-1301 (Hexagon); 412/821-2530 (Sigmas)
After graduating from Indiana University of Pennsylvania with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in math education, Sharon Gregory was teaching high-school math and also bartending, when one of her regular patrons offered her an opportunity in the corporate world.
“You start a path and think that’s how your life is going to be,” says Gregory, who is married and grew up in Butler, Pa. “But a series of events can put your life in an entirely different spot than you imagined but still be tied back to your original passion.”
She left the teaching world and became a full-time practitioner at PPG Industries and later, at Eaton, where she taught the Six Sigma methodology. This method is designed to get people thinking about how their businesses and products operate, with a focus on improving customer satisfaction and offering superior products through process improvement.
Gregory, a Six Sigma Master Black Belt, decided to take that passion for teaching the Six Sigma methodology and create her own company, Hexagon Solutions & Beyond (HexSAB), a consulting company that assists companies in improving their processes through the Lean and Six Sigma methodologies.
“I wanted to work directly with the leaders making the decisions for strategy deployment,” says Gregory. “I wanted to be able to customize solutions for clients and not have the one-size-fits-all mentality.”
As Gregory conducted these training sessions at venues such as hotels, conference centers and on-site customer locations, she was frustrated with the lack of customer service, inadequate technology and high prices. These issues led Gregory to create Sigmas Conference & Event Center, a training center for HexSAB that could also be used to host corporate and social events.
Gregory, who founded the Community of Leaders in Business Excellence (a local group of industry leaders responsible for leading continuous process improvement within their organizations), advises aspiring business owners to be “realistic about your time and initial earning potential and to surround yourself with other business leaders and learn from them.”