Spotlight on Women in Business: January 2010

Sharon Willochell, Sandy Burkett, Dr. Shannon Thieroff and Jennifer Melnick Carota




Sharon Willochell

Sharon Willochell
COO, Leed’s
400 Hunt Valley Road,
New Kensington, PA 15068
724/334-9000, Leedsworld.com

Since Sharon Willochell joined Leed’s 12 years ago, it has become the third-largest in its industry.

As chief operating officer for Leed’s, Sharon Willochell oversees a fast-growing promotional products company that imprints logos on tote bags, leather portfolios, pens, business bags and more as giveaways and gifts for corporate giants including Alcoa, Google. Disney, and Microsoft  RIM/Blackberry.

A native of Bethel Park, Willochell graduated with a degree in information systems from Duquesne University. She started her career at Alcoa, first as a programmer and eventually moving into a project-management position. Along the way, she earned a master’s degree from the Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon University. After seven years at Alcoa, Willochell joined what was then Deloitte & Touche Management Solutions and Services as a senior consultant and manager. Leed’s was one of her clients.

When she left her position at Deloitte & Touche to join Leed’s as an employee in 1998, most of her family questioned why she would leave a large, nationally known company to join a smaller, lesser known one. But she and the company have proved the doubters wrong. During her 12 years there, the company has experienced 23 percent annual compounded growth and its division, Polyconcept North America, is the third-largest promotional-products supplier in North America. Revenue has climbed from virtually nothing in 1986 to $24.4 million in 1996, to $31 million when she started consulting in 1997 and to $294 million in 2008.

“It was a small company, so we all did whatever needed to be done. I was a good fit for what the organization needed at the time. I love taking all types of different problems, complex problems, and getting results.”

She was named COO in 2004 and now is responsible for operations, including supply chain, production, customer service, human resources and information technology – everything except product development, sales and marketing.

Willochell attributes the rapid growth of Leed’s to the dedication of its employees. “We have a team of people who like to find solutions and reach further for our customers.”

The company has focused on innovation in products and services and leads the industry in bringing retail brands, such as High Sierra, Cutter & Buck, Wenger and Scripto, to the promotional-products arena. Its Sure Ship program, established in 2002, guarantees that any order placed by midnight will ship the next day – the fastest turnaround time in the industry.

Willochell lives with her family in Murrysville. She serves on the board of Leadership Pittsburgh and the community advisory committee for the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women, among other volunteer efforts.



Sandy Burkett
President, Vital Signs
1915 Park Manor Blvd., Pittsburgh, PA 15205
412/494-3308, Vitalsignspgh.com

Sandy Burkett and her husband always dreamed of owning their own business, but weren’t quite sure what they wanted to do.

With a background in special education and psychology, Sandy Burkett spent 18 years as a special-education advocate, working on behalf of the learning disabled, including her own son. The Upper St. Clair resident hails from Tennessee, but the family moved around as frequently as husband Steve’s career required. When they received the last transfer request, their son was a senior in high school. Rather than uproot, they decided to pursue their dream and started a franchise search. “We knew what we didn’t want to do, so we looked at what was left.” Their franchise consultant suggested a sign company. They liked the idea because it didn't require franchise or independent fees, and offered a creative element.

ital Signs was established in 2005, becoming part of a national network of 250 that provides a range of sign and Web  services, including planning, design, fabrication and installation of signs, displays and Web site applications. The company designs all types of interior and exterior custom signs and large digital printing, such as elevator wraps, displays, trade-show displays, vehicle wraps and more. Recent clients include Bush’s Baked Beans, EQT, PNC Bank, the August Wilson Center for African American Culture, Rivers Casino and Republic Airlines. The business has proved to be somewhat recession-proof, increasing revenue and growing to include four employees.  “When you

invest a good part of your retirement, failure isn’t an option,” she says.

Burkett remains passionate about issues that impact the learning disabled and is an active supporter of many organizations that help women and girls.



Dr. Shannon Thieroff
President, Choice Chiropractic & Wellness Center, P.C.
8199 McKnight Road, Pittsburgh, PA 15237
412/364-9699,Choicechiropractic.net

Dr. Shannon Thieroff is dedicated to improving the health of her patients and the health of her community.

The McCandless native attended Indiana University of Pennsylvania, the University of Pittsburgh and graduated from Logan College of Chiropractic. Dr. Shannon Thieroff started practicing 10 years ago and bought her practice in May 2001 from her mentor, Dr. Lee Newman of Newman Chiropractic Centers. He helped her to understand that clinical skills are very different from business skills.

Dr. Thieroff has since made a point of learning something business-related and something personal each year. She attended the Entrepreneurial Fellowship Program at Pitt’s Katz School in 2007, and in 2008 she was a PowerLink Panel recipient. Her most recent personal pursuit was earning her SCUBA certification. She also is active in a number of professional and networking organizations. Her hard work has paid off – she now has 11 employees and her practice has gross annual revenues of $1.2 million. “You realize that every business around you has the same issues that they need to deal with, regardless of industry.”

Dr. Thieroff lives in Ben Avon, where she is restoring an old Victorian, and continues to support the North Hills Community Outreach, which addresses  many different aspects of people in need.

In her office she conducts a toy drive, trading an adjustment for a toy donation. In the summer months, she conducts a food drive.



Jennifer Melnick Carota
CEO, The Gift Therapist
Belle Vernon, PA
412/559-1754, Thegifttherapist.com

Jennifer Melnick Carota, The Gift Therapist, is a credit-card-debt survivor.

Born, raised and still living in Belle Vernon, Jennifer Melnick Carota earned degrees from Washington and Jefferson College and California University and then launched a career as a licensed professional therapist and behavioral-health marketing executive. As she started to build a professional wardrobe for her new career, she became a shopaholic and ran up major credit-card debt. But she managed to kick her overspending habit while sustaining her passion for giving. “I created a strategy that allowed me to do my Christmas shopping without looking like a cheapskate and forced myself to do it with cash.”

Her wise words spread and led to appearances on local programs and the establishment of The Gift Therapist Web site in October 2007. Carota has since been quoted in media outlets including “AOL Money & Finance,” Clear Channel Radio, iVillage, “Fox Business News,” and syndicated gift guides. Carota is the author of “Shop Smart, Give More” and “Giveology,” and has two blogs, “The Gift of Three” and a “foodie” gift-giving blog, “Just Keep the Dish.” She attributes her success to the power of the Internet, especially making connections online and social networking.
 

Sponsored by:

The Spotlight on Women in Business was created to shed light on the many successful local businesswomen whose work may go unnoticed in our community. A panel of advisers seeks out and selects women to be profiled each quarter. If you know a local woman who should be considered for this section or would like information about sponsoring this section, please e-mail publisher Betsy Benson at bbenson@pittsburghmagazine.com or call at 412/304-0920.
 

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

A History of Pittsburgh, in 50 Artifacts

A History of Pittsburgh, in 50 Artifacts

For a city only two centuries old, Pittsburgh has amassed a surprising amount of history. To assemble this collection of 50 of the region’s most fascinating historical artifacts, we hunted through museums, archives and private collections. We also looked for things many of us might pass each day without appreciating their significance.
The Origins of Isaly’s: It's Not What You Think

The Origins of Isaly’s: It's Not What You Think

Tracing the story of the chain back to its roots — which, surprisingly, are not in Pittsburgh.
In the Frame: Julie Sokolow Sees the Future

In the Frame: Julie Sokolow Sees the Future

After making films focused on Pittsburgh, Sokolow is rising through the ranks of U.S. women documentarians.
Restaurant Review: Salem's Market & Grill in the Strip District

Restaurant Review: Salem's Market & Grill in the Strip District

Salem’s offers accessible and delicious meals for Pittsburghers of all stripes.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 412

Pittsburghers Get Less Robocalls Than The National Average

Pittsburghers Get Less Robocalls Than The National Average

Next time you get a call from a telemarketer, just be thankful you don’t live in Atlanta.
Four Pittsburgh Chefs Honored on James Beard Long List

Four Pittsburgh Chefs Honored on James Beard Long List

The four are semifinalists for James Beard Foundation Awards, considered the most prestigious of the nation's culinary honors.
Is Pittsburgh About to Become the Next Detroit?

Is Pittsburgh About to Become the Next Detroit?

No offense to the motor city, but auto companies are eyeing the steel city to develop the next generation of driverless vehicles.
Even the Penguins Helped to ‘Shear Da Beard’ This Year

Even the Penguins Helped to ‘Shear Da Beard’ This Year

A who’s-who of Pittsburgh legends were on hand Monday night to help shave what may be Pittsburgh’s most famous beard.
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

A History of Pittsburgh, in 50 Artifacts

A History of Pittsburgh, in 50 Artifacts

For a city only two centuries old, Pittsburgh has amassed a surprising amount of history. To assemble this collection of 50 of the region’s most fascinating historical artifacts, we hunted through museums, archives and private collections. We also looked for things many of us might pass each day without appreciating their significance.
The Origins of Isaly’s: It's Not What You Think

The Origins of Isaly’s: It's Not What You Think

Tracing the story of the chain back to its roots — which, surprisingly, are not in Pittsburgh.
In the Frame: Julie Sokolow Sees the Future

In the Frame: Julie Sokolow Sees the Future

After making films focused on Pittsburgh, Sokolow is rising through the ranks of U.S. women documentarians.
Restaurant Review: Salem's Market & Grill in the Strip District

Restaurant Review: Salem's Market & Grill in the Strip District

Salem’s offers accessible and delicious meals for Pittsburghers of all stripes.
Pittsburgh Penguins Share Tips for Parenting on Ice

Pittsburgh Penguins Share Tips for Parenting on Ice

In a year when youth-hockey participation is expected to increase, Pittsburgh Penguins players weigh in on the role of the hockey parent.
Face the Frost: Go Daytripping on Winter Hikes in Pittsburgh

Face the Frost: Go Daytripping on Winter Hikes in Pittsburgh

There’s a magical, snowy landscape right in your backyard.
Edit Module
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


Pittsburghers Get Less Robocalls Than The National Average

Pittsburghers Get Less Robocalls Than The National Average

Next time you get a call from a telemarketer, just be thankful you don’t live in Atlanta.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
Union Standard Will Open This Weekend

Union Standard Will Open This Weekend

The highly anticipated restaurant from Derek Stevens opens is located in the Union Trust building Downtown.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
Five Inexpensive But Memorable Date Spots in Pittsburgh

Five Inexpensive But Memorable Date Spots in Pittsburgh

These spots are tailored for couples who are looking for a simple, chill night out on Valentine’s Day (or any other day). If your significant other isn’t the type to be wooed by expensive wines and chocolates, this is the list for you.

Comments


Social House 7 Is Okay ... But There's This Really Weird Thing About It

Social House 7 Is Okay ... But There's This Really Weird Thing About It

While it's not among Downtown's best, Social House 7 is a fine place for a drink and a bite — but we're stuck on a bizarre element of the décor.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Love Affair Between Pittsburgh & Keisel is a Two-Way Street

Love Affair Between Pittsburgh & Keisel is a Two-Way Street

Where else but Pittsburgh would a football player, two years removed from his playing days, be able to raise about $85,000 in one night for the staging of an event that involves the gathering of a crowd to watch a man shave?

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
Tantalizing Textiles for the Table

Tantalizing Textiles for the Table

Check out the chic decor from Pittsburgh-based artist and designer Janice Nelson.

Comments


The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
Great Wall Crumbles, Fist Fight Whiffs

Great Wall Crumbles, Fist Fight Whiffs

Reviews of "The Great Wall" and "Fist Fight," plus local movie news and notes.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Our Favorite Unique Centerpiece (That’s Not Flowers)

Our Favorite Unique Centerpiece (That’s Not Flowers)

This couple’s centerpiece from our Real Pittsburgh Weddings shines brighter than the traditional table bouquet.

Comments


Weekly inspiration for your home from the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine
The Candle Lab Ready To Make Its Debut in Lawrenceville

The Candle Lab Ready To Make Its Debut in Lawrenceville

The Columbus-based store, where you can customize your own candle fragrance, is expected to open in March.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education
Get a Behind-the-Scenes Look at ‘Fences’

Get a Behind-the-Scenes Look at ‘Fences’

An art director from Warner Bros. Studios will visit La Roche College to talk about the Oscar-nominated film with ties to Pittsburgh.

Comments