Spotlight on Women in Business: July 2013
Amelia Roncone, Joyce Markosky, Rose Morris, Diane Pearson and Denise DeSimone.
Owner, Amelia’s Elegant Catering
Amelia Roncone had been working for a year as a neurovascular nurse at UPMC, but she quickly discovered that it wasn’t the right fit for her. So, she reached out to as many resources as she could, asking if any of her contacts had suggestions for how she could get into the oil and gas industry.
Roncone had extensive experience in the restaurant industry, and when a family friend suggested she bring food out to the oil rigs, she jumped on it. Slowly she began building contacts, and the idea took off and transformed into her very own business, Amelia’s Elegant Catering.
Amelia’s Elegant Catering was initially started to offer industrial on site catering to the oil and gas industry but has since expanded to offer their services (rentals, food, floral service, bartenders, etc.) for weddings, business meetings, seminars, cocktail parties and more.
This introduction into the oil and gas industry propelled Roncone into her other job as general manager at Lightning Energy Services. This oil and gas field services company has operations servicing the Marcellus and Utica Shale Basin and provides drilling and trucking services.
“My biggest advice in starting your own business is to seek out a mentor – many females are intimidated and they don’t tend to know their worth,” says Roncone, who graduated from Waynesburg University. “They almost need a background cheerleader for the first year to help lead and guide you.”
In an effort to help young women find that mentorship, she started her nonprofit, Young Professional Women in Energy, an organization that hopes to provide a voice and leadership for women in the energy industries by welcoming new and young entrepreneurs as well as corporate workers who want to find the right mentor.
“It’s not something that I’d always dreamt of, but it’s something that I created out of an opportunity that was presented to me,” says Roncone. “In the meantime, it’s something I’ve become very passionate about.”
President, The Markosky Engineering Group Inc.
223 E. Main St., Ligonier, PA 15658; 724/238-4138
4000 Hempfield Plaza Blvd., Suite 983, Greensburg, PA 15601; 724/832-3106
Joyce Markosky saw engineering as the perfect career path, a challenging profession with plenty of opportunity. With a bachelor’s degree in architectural engineering, Ligonier-native Markosky headed out west and worked for several firms in Washington and Arizona where she garnered design and management experience. After starting a family, Markosky and her husband, Mark, moved back to Pennsylvania, where she started providing engineering services to a small base of clients from her home.
About five years later, she started Markosky Engineering Group, a woman-owned, small business that provides engineering services to public and private clients such as airport design, construction inspection, traffic engineering and environmental services.
“We just wanted to have more control over our future and more flexibility with what we wanted to do professionally,” says Markosky, who is a Penn State grad.
For Markosky, the startup phase was difficult to get through, especially in an industry that’s known to take a long time to receive payment for services rendered. Now, with a main office in Ligonier and a satellite office in Greensburg, Markosky Engineering Group employs close to 30 employees.
“What gives me the most satisfaction is knowing that our firm provides a place where professionals can find challenging work, develop careers and earn a good living for themselves and their families,” says Markosky, a mother of four.
Markosky Engineering Group also formed its own committee that decides what community groups to support. A large portion goes to scholarships and local youth programs, particularly those that promote STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and business education.
Markosky is always looking to bring new people in the industry and encourages young people to see engineering as a viable career that offers many leadership opportunities for both men and women.
“I’d give the same advice for everyone: work hard and continue learning in your field,” says Markosky. “You’re going to be known by the quality of your work, and you’ll advance accordingly.”
President, Abram’s Bed, LLC
PO BOX 457, Wexford, PA 15090
For Rose Morris, her company, Abram’s Bed, was born solely out of necessity. Morris’ middle son, Abram, is autistic and was having issues staying in his bed – he was old enough to be in a bed but “he didn’t have the cognitive ability” to know to stay in the bed.
Morris was continually worried for his safety and accepted a friend’s offer to build a bed that would keep Abram from escaping. While it has since undergone modifications, this has transformed into The Safety Sleeper, a portable bed enclosure system. This tent-like structure sits on top of the mattress, is lightweight and is easy to assemble.
“The first day, he couldn’t get out, and I felt like all this weight was lifted off my shoulders,” says Morris, who has three children. “It was the strangest phenomenon, and I knew this was going to make a difference.”
Morris quickly realized that other families were likely dealing with the same issues she struggled with. So, she asked everyone she knew for business advice, created a website, and sold her first bed within a month. Abram’s Bed now employs nine people and has sold beds all over the world – Australia, Germany, France, Ireland and more.
Her motto? If you need this bed, they’ll find a way to get it to you, they’ll find a way for someone to pay for it or offer solutions for you to work toward it.
With that motto in mind, Morris helped start Fund it Forward, a nonprofit organization that assists families with special needs children by raising money for adaptive equipment.
“I feel so fortunate meeting these other families – I’m lucky my child walks around and rides a bike,” says Morris, a graduate of Eastern New Mexico University. “There are some kids I meet that need braces to walk. I would have never been able to help others in this way if I didn’t have Abram.”
Wealth Manager & Shareholder, Legend Financial Advisors, Inc.
5700 Corporate Drive, Suite 350, Pittsburgh, PA 15237
Diane Pearson didn’t intend to get into financial planning – after obtaining a management and accounting degree from Robert Morris University, she accepted a customer service job at what is now FedEx Ground. But she still hadn’t found that perfect fit. She eventually left that position and became an administrative assistant for a financial advisor who planned on starting his own firm. Twenty-four years later, Pearson works as a wealth manager and shareholder at that very firm, Legend Financial Advisors.
Legend Financial Advisors, which consists of 22 employees, is an investment advisory firm that provides wealth advisory services, including financial planning and investment management strategies to affluent individuals as well as business entities and nonprofit organizations.
“A proud moment is being able to have grown the firm,” says Pearson, who has two children. “To hire people, offer employee benefits … there is that satisfaction when you sit down in your morning meeting and look around at the staff and know that you’ve impacted their lives in a positive way.”
Pearson finds that when it comes to dealing with finances, female clients need other women to talk with as they communicate and think differently than men do. She also says that the industry can be very flexible for women who have or want to start a family.
“The bottom line is don’t let anybody ever tell you that you can’t do something,” says Pearson. “Especially in my profession, there seems to be an old boys network – there were so many years where I would be the only woman in the room. But there is such a need for women in this industry.”
Pearson, an avid ice hockey player, has also served as the finance director and treasurer for the National Association of Women Business Owners, a women advocacy group that pushes to get women-owned businesses recognized, certified and heard in Washington, D.C.
*First Commonwealth Bank Women First Committee nominee
Chief Executive Officer, C-leveled
1501 Preble Avenue, 4th Floor, Pittsburgh, PA 15233
After owning several companies throughout the years (like Technical Consulting Group and Advanticom), Denise DeSimone started up C-leveled in 2010, right at the height of the recession. As companies were struggling and “good people” were being let go, DeSimone describes launching C-leveled as the “perfect storm.”
C-leveled is a Pittsburgh-based company that helps entrepreneurs develop a business concept, launch startups and grow their businesses in a fast and affordable way that ensures growth and longevity. DeSimone says that their model is cost effective, efficient and allows companies to get high-end talent with expertise in their industry at a fraction of the cost.
“I think one of the biggest challenges for any business is the ability to recruit and maintain the right employees for your company,” says DeSimone, who attended Washington & Jefferson College and the University of Pittsburgh. “Building a solid culture with great people helps drive a company to achieve its goals.”
DeSimone has been recognized for her entrepreneurial efforts by several publications and organizations (like the Pittsburgh Business Times), but her biggest honor came when she was named the 2008 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year, a prestigious business award that celebrates the country’s most innovative business leaders.
DeSimone, who has a bachelor’s degree in English, is also involved with advancing the efforts of Startup Town, a nonprofit organization that provides collaborative work and living space for early-stage entrepreneurs and their companies at below market rates in the Uptown community in Pittsburgh.
“It’s important not to limit your thinking – too many times I have seen women just not thinking big enough,” says DeSimone who has three children. “Also, it’s important to ask for help. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness but a sign of intelligence.”