Spotlight on Women in Business: July 2012
Robyn Race, Beth Elko, Dr. Beatriz De La Roche, Jeanette Spofford and Susan Krol.
Robyn Race & Beth Elko
Psychotherapists and Owners, Evolve Wellness Spa
228 S. Highland Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15206
Psychologists Robyn Race and Beth Elko met as graduate students in psychology at Chatham University in 2006. Passionate about helping people, they became friends and shared grand ideas for launching a holistic wellness center that would offer services like counseling, yoga, massage, tai chi, facials and more—all in a single, nurturing environment. After both graduated with a Masters degree in counseling psychology, they each started their own private practice, although still aspiring to start a business together. Two years later, they moved out of the planning stage and into physical construction. In December of 2010, they celebrated the grand opening of Evolve Wellness Spa.
Located among the trendy shops and restaurants on Highland Avenue in Shadyside, the environment at Evolve is designed to transport clients far away from the hustle and bustle outside the door. Dark wood floors and slate accent tiles are complemented by a relaxing wall of water that sets a soothing, earthy tone. Relaxing music adds to the ambiance, while a discreet sign reminds visitors to speak in hushed tones.
“It’s such a pleasant place to work,” says Elko. “When you leave, you have to remind yourself to keep that calm, happy state of being.”
Starting the business wasn’t easy. Elko says that no one wanted to give them a loan. Fortunately, she already owned a commercial building on Highland Avenue, so when her tenant vacated, Elko and Race completely remodeled it. Both women put considerable sweat equity into the enterprise, demolishing walls, installing floors, painting walls and staining wood. They also planned the services, selected and purchased spa products and interviewed and hired therapists—all while working elsewhere, too. Reflecting on the rigors of starting their business, Elko says they relied on their own philosophies and services to manage the business effectively.
Today, Elko and Race offer counseling for individuals, couples and families upstairs at Evolve, including professional development and personal coaching. On the lower levels, massage therapists and aestheticians pamper, relax and beautify clients. In addition, expert staff members offer healing therapies such as acupuncture and Reiki, personal training, yoga, tai chi and more. Just as the pair had hoped, they find themselves expanding their offerings as the business grows. Race says that they are “surprisingly” true to their business plan and are right on target. Keeping in line with their expansion goals, Evolve offers a membership program in order to help clients make spa visits a habit.
“The reward is inherent,” says Race. “Who doesn’t want to relax?”
Elko and Race say their therapists are among the best in the business, and they care deeply about the clients and their personal goals—from stress relief and clearer skin to leading a happier, healthier life. Race says many studies suggest that the benefits of “massage, yoga and skincare are tangible.”
“Taking time for yourself and learning to relax can have a profound effect on every aspect of your life,” says Race. “When you feel good, you tend to be kinder—it improves your relationships, and you perform better on the job. You get clarity.”
Elko is a serial entrepreneur, and her prior successes gave her the freedom to pursue her dream career as a psychotherapist, which she finds “fascinating.” When she’s not working, she’s riding her motorcycle, reading or spending time with her fiancé, family and three dogs.
Race is also an animal lover and enjoys daily walks in the park with her two dogs, as well as getting out of town for longer hikes and camping trips. She practices yoga and meditation and enjoys relaxing with a glass of wine and good friends.
Dr. Beatriz De La Roche, DMD
President, Tender Care Pediatric Dentistry
6583 Route 819 South, Suite 1, Mount Pleasant, PA 15666
Dr. Beatriz De La Roche is the dentist and entrepreneur behind Tender Care Pediatric Dentistry in Mount Pleasant. A native of Colombia, De La Roche came to the United States at the age of 23 where she received her degree in dentistry at the University of Pittsburgh. She later attended the University of Puerto Rico, specializing in pediatric dentistry and maxillofacial surgery. Her vision is to provide specialized, gentle dental care for children. She practiced with another dentist for a few months before launching Tender Care Pediatric Dentistry 12 years ago.
“I had only $2,000 in my pocket and no credit,” she says. “It was success or food stamps.”
Growth came quickly, requiring her to take her first expansion loan after only six months. Today, “Dr. Bea” employs a staff of 12 and cares for kids in a $1.5-million facility that features fantastic three-dimensional scenes showcasing beach activities, playful pandas and friendly dinosaurs. Dr. De La Roche, who designed the murals, believes that the environment helps put both kids and their parents at ease, which is better for treatment and education.
The positive work environment has attracted a loyal staff, some of whom have been with Tender Care for 10 years. Dr. De La Roche says that her “fantastic” staff shares in her desire to grow and be successful. In addition, she is considering expanding to Latrobe or another location soon.
“We see many patients from deprived areas—8-month-old babies with decay or 14-year olds who chew snuff,” she says. “We make a difference.”
While not at work, Dr. De La Roche is busy with her children and hobbies such as painting, swimming and windsurfing. Her children, Abbey (9) and Ben (7), are still in elementary school, while her older children, Carolina and Mario, are married and have young children.
President, Justifacts Credential Verification
5250 Logan Ferry Road, Murrysville, PA 15668
In 1982, 40-year-old Jeanette Spofford was itching to start a business. The former teacher and mother of four had sent her youngest children to school. She earned a certificate in Human Resources from the University of Pittsburgh and bought a book on businesses that could be started from home. She settled upon launching a background screening service for employers.
In the beginning, Spofford and her two partners worked from a spare bedroom, dressing in business attire every day, making sales calls and hoping the phone would ring. After six months with no sales, her partners quit, but Spofford was stubborn. A week later, she received her first order with Allegheny Power, a partnership that continued for the next 27 years. Within a few months, The Hillman Co., Federated Investors Inc., Eat’n Park and others followed.
Thirty years later, Justifacts Credential Verification Inc., is a privately held, national corporation serving 2,400 clients from its modern headquarters building in Murrysville.
“Our goal is to be one of the major providers of background screenings services in the United States,” Spofford says.
She anticipates opening sales offices in major cities nationwide to fuel expansion. At one point, Spofford managed a second office on the West Coast, but technological advances made it possible to consolidate to one location. The 70-year-old Spofford remains at the helm, overseeing 75 employees. Spofford says that 15 to 18 percent of all employment applications are misrepresented in one way or another. The firm prides itself on personal, timely and accurate service, providing every client with a dedicated account team and verification specialists.
While some of her competitors outsource the screening process, sometimes to offshore call centers, Justifacts uses an in-house staff of college graduates as verification specialists. With three decades of success behind the firm, Spofford is proud of what her company has become.
“Justifacts is not the biggest, but we’re the best.”
President, Krol Media Associates, LLC
20436 Route 19, Suite 620-208, Cranberry, PA 16066
Susan Krol founded Krol Media Associates, LLC in 2006. The agency, which employs seven, offers advertising, public relations and media buying services to a large list of clients in the region, including several nonprofits such as the YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh, Family House and St. Barnabas Health System.
For Krol, heading up her own firm offers her the freedom to care for a family, while managing a growing business and giving back to the community. As a cause-marketing specialist, Krol frequently finds innovative ways to support the firm’s roster of nonprofit clients. She accomplishes this by creating mutually beneficial programs with her retail and hotel clients.
Krol is also committed to helping young college graduates get started in the advertising industry, and her firm has implemented a successful internship program to help young people get the experience necessary to succeed. Kimberly Hamilton, once an intern, is now an employee at Krol Media Associates.
Prior to starting her company, Krol worked for 18 years with KDKA Radio, most recently as general sales manager. But in 2003 she decided to become a stay-at-home mom. Her mother was in failing health, her children were young and although she loved her job, it was exceptionally demanding.
“My sister, Betsy Connelly, died of breast cancer in 2001, and that was a big part of my decision,” she says. “It made me realize that life is very short, and I was living mine traveling for business and working, and I had two babies at home.”
In 2006, when her youngest son started school full time, Krol began consulting for local ad agencies. Before long, she decided she wanted to go back to work full time, on her own terms. For Krol, entrepreneurship has been a passport to personal and professional fulfillment.