Spotlight on Women in Business: April 2012

Carol Harris, Cidalia Duarte, Cameil Williams, Candice Mill.

Carol Harris
Founder/CEO, Carol Harris Staffing
2703 Mosside Blvd.,
Monroeville, PA 15146

Carol Harris believes that Pittsburgh is the city “where the American dream can actually be realized”—and as a founder and CEO of Carol Harris Staffing, she knows what it takes.

Before Carol got into the staffing business, she would match job advertisements in the newspapers to her friends who were looking for jobs. That passion to help others find their career path translated into the creation of her very own staffing company that currently employs 26 in-house employees as well as more than 6,000 temporary employees in the clerical, industrial, technical, IT, engineering, medical and hospitality fields.  Carol and her staff work to help create the perfect match between employer and employee and offer services such as drug screening, criminal background checks, training and more.

The road to Carol’s success started out at the front desk of a staffing company, where she advanced to managing eight different offices before branching out on her own. Carol’s confidence in her abilities gave her the push to create her own business, but she faced the uncertainty of being the sole support for her two children who were just starting college. She worried about how long it would take her to become successful, but within six months of the business’s formation, she started to turn a profit.

Carol attributes much of her success to her strong belief in the staffing concept and industry, her staff and her true love of the business.

She operates her company with a “family concept,” where every employee has a contribution and is accountable to everyone else. In fact, her company has been recognized in just about every way—one of the 50 best places to work in western Pennsylvania (Pittsburgh Business Times), the number one staffing firm (PA Business Central Temporary Staffing Services publication) and plenty more.

With this complex amount of success, Carol offers simple advice: do what you are passionate about, and enjoy the type of business you want to start.

When Carol’s not busy at the office, she enjoys giving back to the community. She serves as the President Emeritus for the Allegheny Valley Habitat for Humanity, and her work with this organization has garnered her recognition, most notably from Oprah Winfrey. While watching the Oprah Winfrey Show, Carol heard of the opportunity to donate money to Habitat for Humanity through a corporate sponsorship. She donated $60,000 to sponsor a home for a single mother and her children in the Pittsburgh area and also worked alongside her staff in helping to build it. Carol received Oprah Winfrey’s Angel Network Crystal Globe award and was invited to be on her show.

“I had the privilege of dining with her and was just awestruck by her ability to inspire others to give back,” she says.

Carol also sponsors the annual Carol Harris Staffing Walk, Run, Ride for Habitat for Humanity, which has raised around $30,000 each year that Carol has sponsored it. Her work has also reached all the way to Mississippi—in 2006, Carol traveled there in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Carol and her group of volunteers repaired roofs, rebuilt homes, provided free meals and managed a free medical clinic and distribution center.

Aside from a strong devotion to volunteering, she’s passionate about golf and spending time with her kids and six grandchildren. In fact, there isn’t much she’s not passionate about—and living in Pittsburgh has only reaffirmed her belief that hard work will get you everywhere.

“Pittsburghers who have watched their parents or grandparents build solid lives and careers from scratch believe that good things can be attained through hard work and determination – there is a strong sense of pride and an unparalleled work ethic.”

Cidalia Duarte
Owner, Boutique La Passerelle
417 Wood St., Pittsburgh, PA 15222

In Portugal, Cidalia Duarte owned several clothing boutiques and created her own brand of sweaters. When her husband’s job brought her almost 4,000 miles to Pittsburgh, Duarte took the Steel City’s fashion scene by storm.

Duarte, 50, opened up Boutique La Passerelle in 2009 with a vision in mind: she wanted to create a shop that would visually stand out and beckon women to come inside. One of the major draws of the boutique is the international retail with one-of-a-kind pieces from Portugal, Spain, Italy and France.

Without the help of a college degree, she built her own success inspired by the drive to do well for her family and opened her first boutique in Portugal when she was in her twenties. Her current shop is located in downtown Pittsburgh, a place where Duarte wanted to create a space of relaxation for women in the downtown area looking for “the luxury of beautiful, European style without the purchase of a plane ticket.”

One important aspect of her job includes building a strong relationship with her clients. Since much of the clothing is European style, she wants her clients to trust that she will find something great for them even if it’s a little outside of their comfort zone.  

“Every woman, no matter her income, deserves to look her best,” she says.

Duarte also uses Boutique La Passerelle to support the community. She has worked with Carnegie Mellon University, KAPLAN, the Salvation Army and others by providing clothes for fashion shows. Duarte has also been a strong supporter of the Anna Seethaler Hospital in
Oaxaca, Mexico.

Cameil Williams
President/Founder of Williams Management Solutions LLC
4885 McKnight Rd., No 192,
Pittsburgh, PA 15237

In 2004, native Pittsburgher Cameil Williams lost her government job and had to think quickly. She took matters into her own hands and did what most people wouldn’t dream of:  hire herself.

She created Williams Management Solutions LLC, a program and project management consulting firm that manages all aspects of major construction programs and projects on behalf of its clients through budget management, team selection, contract negotiations and more.

Williams started out in the local housing authority, where she was responsible for more than $100 million of capital improvements to its public housing stock. Later in her career, she worked in areas that were traditionally barred to women, and she succeeded as the sole contract administrator on the Port Authority of Allegheny County’s Stage 2 Light Rail Transit—a $500 million project.  

For Williams, the most challenging part of managing a company is maintaining a balancing act. From marketing to product deliveries, Williams is involved every step of the way, while simultaneously facing external factors, like the economy, that throw a wrench into plans.

She formerly worked as the Director of the Allegheny County’s Minority, Women and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise program, where she ensured that minority and women-owned firms would be included in public contracting. Her company currently provides that service to the YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh.

“As women, it is critical that we send proud and brave messages that we are not going to be judged by how short our skirts are but by the intellect, academic and technical abilities that we possess. It’s not what we say— in this case, it’s what we do.”

Candice Mill
Senior Vice President and Chief
Operating Officer of Aon Risk Solutions
EQT Plaza, 10th Floor, 625 Liberty Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15222

When Candice Mill graduated from Texas A&M University, she sort of “happened” into the insurance industry when a fellow alum offered her a job as a health and benefits consultant. Years later, she’s risen to the top of the industry as the Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Aon Risk Solutions, a provider of risk management services, insurance and reinsurance brokerage and human resource consulting.

Mill’s role falls mainly in the Health and Benefits practice where she is responsible for helping clients reach their benefit goals in a responsible and cost-effective manner. One of Mill’s proudest accomplishments was saving a non-profit client more than five million dollars in benefits over 10 years.

Mill also participates in Aon’s mentoring program, where she works with and provides guidance to future company leaders. She attributes much of her success to a strong level of communication, maintaining relationships and volunteering in the community.

One community project that Mill plays a role in is Variety the Children’s Charity, an international organization that began in Pittsburgh, which offers support to disadvantaged children. Mill will be co-chairing an upcoming April event, “A Night to Remember,” with all proceeds directly benefiting the organization.

Another passion of Mill’s is education and her relationship with the Community College of Allegheny County. As past chair of the CCAC Educational Foundation Board of Directors, she recognizes the importance of the college, as most graduates go on to work in the Pittsburgh area.

“Providing an education to individuals who may not have had an opportunity otherwise is very rewarding.”

Categories: Women & Business