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Gigi Stetler is no stranger to adversity. She’s overcome obstacles, survived a near-fatal knife attack and took on the “old boys” establishment in a decidedly male-dominated business. Now, a tight and often unethical finance market threatens to wash out the road to success that Gigi’s paved for herself and her business. But don’t bet against this thoroughbred… bounding over barriers is just another day in the saddle for this equestrian loving, business-building dynamo with rock-solid determination.

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• Theresa Torres named Director of Diversity at Verizon • Pamela Nicholson named President at Enterprise Rent a Car • Dr. Willarda V. Edwards installed as National Medical Association President • CEO Catherine Monsoon honored by International Franchise Association



Women business owners understand the importance of clean energy and are committed to getting the country running on clean energy sources such as solar, wind, and nuclear, according to the national Women’s Survey on Energy & the Environment.

As a small business owner in the murky waters of a bad economy, you may be scrambling for solutions on how to keep your company afloat. But author Robin Fisher Roffer says that letting the fear take over, and not being true to yourself and your company’s mission, can be a recipe for recession-related disaster.

Copyright 2009. All rights reserved. For advertising, email: For editorial, email: EM Publishing Enterprises, Inc. WOMEN IN BUSINESS & INDUSTRY 13351 Riverside Dr.#514 Sherman Oaks ,CA 91423 Tel: 818-654-0870 -3-


Climbers Wanted. TM

To us, “diversity” means more than “race” or “gender.” It means developing, manufacturing and marketing life-enhancing medical technologies in several therapeutic fields. It means cultivating a workforce that spans a variety of cultures around the globe. And it means fostering the careers of talented individuals, whatever their background or avenues of interest. Take the next step in your career. Visit us at: C. R. Bard, Inc. is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer

EXECUTIVE NEWS AND MOVES within global markets and investment banking for Merrill Lynch. While there she focused on employee development and retention strategies for diverse management professionals. Previously, she held various positions at Lehman Brothers including vice president of global diversity recruiting. Torres serves as the president of the New York Board for the Association of Latino Professionals in Finance and Accounting (ALPFA). She holds a bachelors degree in Organizational Behavior from Concordia College.

Theresa Torres, Verizon


PAMELA NICHOLSON NAMED PRESIDENT OF ENTERPRISE RENT A CAR: FOURTH PRESIDENT IN COMPANY’S 51-YEAR HISTORY Enterprise Rent-A-Car’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Andrew C. Taylor announced that Pamela M. Nicholson, 48, has been named

Theresa Torres has been named director of

company president, making her only the fourth

diversity and employee experience at Verizon.

person to hold the office in Enterprise’s 51-year

Her responsibilities include corporate policies and

history. She succeeds Donald L. Ross, 64, who

strategies that sustain an inclusive culture and

will continue as vice chairman of the company and

employee experience.

its board of directors. Nicholson will also retain her role as Enterprise’s chief operating officer and as a

Torres will also be responsible for developing the

member of the board of directors of Crawford Group,

corporate diversity strategy and for undertaking

Enterprise’s parent company.

employee and workplace research. Enterprise is a privately held company owned by Prior to joining Verizon, Torres served as the

the Taylor Family of St. Louis. It is a multi-national

director of diversity program management and the

transportation company with annual revenues in

relationship manager for analysts and associates

excess of $12 billion, and nearly 75,000 employees. -5-


“Enterprise has a long tradition of developing our own managers and promoting from within,” said Andy Taylor. “Our family is fortunate to have someone with Pam Nicholson’s skills and experience to succeed Don Ross as the president of our company. In addition to her work at Enterprise, Nicholson serves on the board of directors for Energizer Holdings, Inc. “I can see why Pam is such an effective leader at Enterprise,” said Ward M. Klein, Pamela Nicholson, President, Enterprise Rent-A-Car

Energizer’s chief executive officer. “She has a highly pragmatic and intelligent understanding of how to

Nicholson will oversee all of Enterprise’s

move a business forward. Her extensive operational

transportation businesses, including Enterprise

expertise, global insights, and high character make

Rent-A-Car, National Car Rental, Alamo Rent A Car,

her an excellent and valued member of our board.”

Enterprise Fleet Management, Enterprise Car Sales, and Enterprise Commercial Truck Rental. Nicholson

Nicholson began her career with Enterprise Rent-

is only the second executive outside the Taylor

A-Car in 1981 as a management trainee in St. Louis

family to serve as the company’s president, following founder Jack C. Taylor, his sons, Andy, and Ross.

after graduating from the University of Missouri with

“Enterprise has a long tradition of developing our

was a small but growing regional rental car and auto

a Bachelor of Arts degree. At the time, Enterprise

own managers and promoting from within,” said Andy Taylor. “Our family is fortunate to have someone with Pam Nicholson’s skills and experience to succeed Don Ross as the president of our company. Pam and Don have been members of our management team for 27 years and 43 years, respectively. Just as important, the two have worked together for more than 20 years, which will ensure a seamless transition.”

leasing company with approximately 200 employees, 50 locations, 20,000 vehicles and less than $100 million in annual revenue. Within nine months she was promoted to assistant branch manager, and within a year accepted a position in the company’s recently opened and fast-growing Southern California group. Throughout the next 12 years, Nicholson was


promoted through the ranks to one of the top operating positions in Southern California – regional vice president. During that period, the Southern California group grew from 1,000 to more than 27,000 cars in its fleet, and today is the company’s largest operating group. In 1994, Nicholson returned to her hometown of St. Louis to become a corporate vice president at Enterprise’s worldwide headquarters, overseeing the efforts of 10 operating groups located throughout the United States. She was also instrumental in establishing the first national preferred provider rental agreements between Enterprise and many of the top auto manufacturers. In 1997, Nicholson was promoted to the top job with Enterprise’s New York group, the company’s second largest operating group. During her two years as New York’s general manager, the group enjoyed excellent fleet growth and saw its profitability more than double. She was promoted to senior vice president, North American operations in 1999 and executive vice president and chief operating officer in 2003. Outside of her Enterprise duties, Nicholson is involved in community causes including past service on the board of the United Way of Bergen County, New Jersey; and as a past member of the board of INROADS of St. Louis, an employment program for minority college students. She currently serves as a member of the board of directors for the Humane Society of Missouri. She is also a member of the board of trustees of the St. Louis Regional Chamber and Growth Association, a director of the Enterprise Rent-A-Car Foundation and a generous supporter of a number of social causes in the St. Louis area, including the United Way. -7WOMEN IN BUSINESS & INDUSTRY

Wine is a blend of vision, character, and style. So is a great place to work. That’s why we made a commitment to an inclusive environment to help us continue to pioneer new ways in which to improve and expand our vision. Valuing the differences of employees, suppliers, and consumers has made us a leader in the wine industry. It’s also - like 75 years of family winemaking - something worth celebrating.

“Gallo sees diversity as an opportunity to become a company that better reflects the world we live in. It positions us to meet the needs of today’s increasingly diverse marketplace.” – Joseph E. Gallo, CEO

For more information about how we Embrace Diversity at E&J Gallo Winery, please visit us at

Dr. Willarda V. Edwards





Willarda V. Edwards, M.D., an alumna of The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP), will be

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installed as the 110th president of the National Medical Association (NMA) on Tuesday, July 28, during the NMA’s annual convention in Las Vegas,

Wine is a blend of vision, character, and style.

Nev. Edwards, who practices internal medicine in Baltimore, Md., will serve a one-year term as president of the nation’s largest organization representing African-American physicians. The 1972 UTEP biology graduate says she will make health care equality the major focus of her presidency. The NMA has a variety of public-education initiatives aimed at creating -8-


Job are currently available So opportunities is a great place to work. at HSB Global Standards. Please visit That’s why weformade a commitment an inclusive our website more informationtoon environment to help us continue to pioneer new ways current openings. in which to improve and expand our vision. Valuing the differences of employees, suppliers, and consumers has made us a leader in the wine industry. It’s also - like 75 years of family winemaking - something worth celebrating. An Equal Opportunity Employer

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awareness of and reducing disparities in health care

from 2002-2004, and as president of the Sickle Cell

among African-Americans and other minorities.

Disease Association of America from 2004-2009. In 2007, she received the Congressional Black Caucus

“A major focus will be getting minorities in the health

Health Brain Trust Award in Journalism as a co-author

care career pipeline, which will help improve the

of The Black Women’s Guide to Black Men’s Health.

quality of care and ensure culturally competent care,”

She is a managing partner in the private practice of

Edwards said.

Drs. Edwards and Stephens, Internal Medicine, in Baltimore, Md.

African Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans make up a quarter of the United States population, but these groups comprise only nine percent of practicing physicians. Edwards said the NMA will work closely with the American Medical Association (AMA), the nation’s largest physician organization, on health equity issues. The organizations’ partnership will be all the stronger because the new president of the AMA, James J. Rohack, M.D., happens to be a good friend of Edwards and a fellow UTEP alumnus. Rohack, who was inducted as AMA president in June, graduated from UTEP in 1976. Edwards and Rohack have worked together on the Commission to End Health Care Disparities, created in 2004 by the AMA, NMA and National Hispanic Medical Association. Edwards entered private practice in 1984, and since that time has established herself in many leadership roles involving African American and minority health issues. She served as the National Health Advocacy director for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)

“A major focus will be getting minorities in the health care career pipeline, which will help improve the quality of care and ensure culturally competent care,” Edwards said.

FASTSIGNS CEO RECEIVES TOP AWARD FROM INTERNATIONAL FRANCHISE ASSOCIATION FASTSIGNS International, Inc. CEO Catherine Monson was honored by the International Franchise Association (IFA) as the Bonny LeVine Award recipient during its 49th annual convention in San Diego. Additionally, Monson was one of six new members named to the IFA’s Board of Directors. The Bonny LeVine Award is bestowed upon a female franchisor or franchisee who has demonstrated ability in franchising through contribution to the growth of the business; contributions to her community through board positions, volunteer work and activities that promote the professional advancement of women; and her contributions as a mentor to women in franchising. The award was created in 1994 in memory of IFA member and Postal Instant Press co-founder Bonny LeVine, recognizing her outstanding accomplishments in franchising and serving as a role model for women in the franchising community. Founded nearly 50 years ago, IFA is the oldest and largest organization that works to protect, enhance and promote franchising. Its membership includes more 1,250 franchise systems, 11,000-plus franchisees and more than 500 firms that supply goods and services to the industry. Monson says she feels so honored to receive the Bonny LeVine


years from western regional operations manager to vice president of franchise development to chief marketing officer. When Franchise Services, Inc., parent company of Sir Speedy, acquired European printing franchisor MultiCopy, Monson directed operations. She later became president and COO of PIP Printing in 1999. Monson has served as a role model to hundreds of PIP, MultiCopy and Sir Speedy employees and franchisees and helped them become more successful. WIBI FASTSIGNS International, Inc. CEO Catherine Monson receives the Bonnie Levine Award from the IFA.

award and have her name follow so many other prestigious female franchisees. “It is truly an honor to be recognized for my work in the franchise community. I enjoy what I do and hope that I have inspired and will continue to inspire women in business to believe that they can achieve anything they desire.” Monson also hopes to bring some new ideas to the table as a member of the IFA’s Board of Directors. “Business is rapidly changing due in part to the economy, and as a member of the IFA Board of Directors, I take my role as a representative of the franchise community very seriously. I know that decisions I influence and make could impact franchisors and franchisees worldwide.” Monson assumed the role of CEO of the worldwide sign and graphics franchise FASTSIGNS in January 2009, taking over for company co-founder and former CEO, Gary Salomon. Ranked among the world’s leading franchise companies, FASTSIGNS operates with a simple concept of making the sign and graphics process fast and simple for the customer, while delivering a valuable business need. Her experience in franchising began in 1980 with printing franchise Sir Speedy, where she launched a career in franchise sales. She rose through the ranks over the next 16 - 10 WOMEN IN BUSINESS & INDUSTRY

Giles & Ransome, Inc. is a full-line Caterpillar Dealer including Caterpillar earthmoving equipment, compact construction equipment, engine power and rental services.

Giles & Ransome, Inc. 2975 Galloway Road Bensalem, PA 19020 215.245.2741

We stand in support of equality for and advancement of all people based on their qualifications and actions alone without regard to color, gender, age, religion, national origin or disability.

JACOBS is creating the world of tomorrow as one of the largest providers of architecture, engineering, construction, and other professional technical services. Jacobs Technology, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Jacobs Engineering, is a worldwide leader in providing advanced engineering and technical services for government and industry.


Rehrig Pacific is a world-leading manufacturer of reusable plastic pallets and crates for handling and transporting commercial products, manufactured goods, produce, food and beverage products, and more. We help thousands of businesses move their products more efficiently through the supply chain. An international company with licensees worldwide, Rehrig Pacific offers an ever-expanding line of transport packaging products, such as our new export pallet, and logistical services for industry. In addition, Rehrig Pacific also manufactures a full line of roll-out carts and recycle bins for the curbside collection of household waste and recyclables, and commercial containers and litter bins for automated refuse and recylables collection. Private haulers and municipalities alike enjoy the many advantages of using Rehrig Pacific collection containers and distribution services. To learn more about us or to explore careers with Rehrig Pacific, visit us online.

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How to Fearlessly Keep Your Small Business Sailing through the Rough Seas of the Recession As a small business owner in the murky waters of a bad economy, you may be scrambling for solutions on how to keep your company afloat. But author Robin Fisher Roffer says that letting the fear take over, and not being true to yourself and your company’s mission, can be a recipe for recession-related disaster.


If you own a small business, you’ve probably been

So, what should small business owners do at a time

losing a lot of sleep at night while you spend your

like this? Roffer says it’s time to refocus on your

days poring over budgets, hoping desperately for a

company’s core values, to remind yourself and your

new client to walk through your doors. Indeed, with

employees what it is that sets your company apart

the economy in trouble, businesses everywhere are

from all the rest, and most importantly, to be fearless.

feeling the crunch, but no one is more worried than

Read on for Roffer’s seven steps to being a fearless

small business owners. While fear may drive you to

fish out of water in the small business world, and how

go into survival mode and compromise your values,

they will help you survive and thrive in this economy:

author Robin Fisher Roffer says do that and you may be making a huge mistake that in the long run can

Go fishing for the real you. It’s time to focus

hurt your business far worse than the recession.

on what your business does better than your competition and put that out there to your clients and

“You can’t let yourself, or your business be paralyzed

prospects. Maybe you’re a boutique ad agency that

by fear,” says Robin Fisher Roffer, author of The

can create any kind of campaign, but your best work

Fearless Fish Out of Water: How to Succeed

is in B2B advertising. Or maybe you own a sandwich

When You’re the Only One Like You. “In times

shop where you’ve been sticking to the basics, but

like these it’s more important than ever to maintain

your true passion and talent is in creating specialty

your brand identity and focus on what makes your

sandwiches that your customers love.

company stand out, what makes it great. You have to be what I call a ‘fearless fish out of water’—

“You have to peel away all the layers that have made

shining a light on those qualities that make your

you a jack-of-all-trades and focus on the area that

company different and more desirable than the other

you are truly passionate about so you can excel,”

businesses in your industry. Playing up what makes

explains Roffer. “That’s your vein of gold. Sure,

you special could be the very thing that keeps you in

ham and cheese on rye is a guaranteed sale, but


your customers can get that at any sandwich shop. Get back to being creative. That’s where you can

While other companies are taking on any project that

show your clients your value, and impressing your

comes their way (whether it’s the right fit for them or

customers is how you can ensure you keep bringing

not), Roffer says that now more than ever is when

in the revenue.”

you should be staying true to your company’s brand by sticking to projects where you can excel.

Use your differences as a lure. In extraordinary economic times like these, the natural tendency

“If you try too hard to work outside the boundaries of

is to just hunker down, do the work, cut back on

your talents, it will be reflected in the quality of your

expenses, and try to keep as many clients as

work,” she warns. “And in an economy when new

possible. Newsflash! That’s exactly the kind of

business is already hard to come by, providing less

strategy that will hang you. Because if you’re not

than stellar results is a sure way to put the nail in the

luring your old customers back and new customers


in based on something they feel they can’t get anywhere else, your days may be numbered. - 14 WOMEN IN BUSINESS & INDUSTRY

“In times like these it’s more important than ever to maintain your brand identity and focus on what makes your company stand out, what makes it great. You have to be what I call a ‘ fearless fish out of water’… “Small business owners get so caught up in stressful economic times like this that they essentially just start going through the motions to keep their doors open,” says Roffer. “Unfortunately, often this means they start giving their customers the bare minimum. Just enough to satisfy their order but very little of what most likely attracted the customer to you to begin with. Now is the time for you to hone in on what has always made your business great. Is it exceptional customer service, your creative flair, or organizational skills? Time spent refocusing your efforts is not time wasted. You have to prove to your clients why they should go with you over your competition and once again lure them in based on what makes you special.” Find a few fish like you. While your first instinct may be to fly under the radar right now, Roffer says that now is the time to build relationships with your clients so that you can anchor yourself in these rough seas. Rest assured that you aren’t the only small business owner worried about what

will become of your company in these tough times.

recognize yourself or your own company, and that

Your clients are likely feeling just as nervous and

can have damaging effects on your business long

unsure as you. Invest in some serious face time to

after the economic crisis is over.”

build your client relationships. Doing so will help ease Put yourself out on the line. Businesses that

your fears and theirs.

shine a light on what’s different about them are “Now is the time to meet with your clients face to

perfectly positioned to makea difference. You may

face,” asserts Roffer. “Find out what attracted them to

be paralyzed by fear, cutting the budget on anything

you and ask what you can do to be of further service

that’s not payroll and necessary expenses, but Roffer

to them. Brainstorm with them. Bounce revenue-

says you should instead be finding ways to give back.

boosting ideas off of each other. Show them that

There may come a time when your own company is

you want to be more than a vendor or a provider of

in need of a little help, and people will be more willing

a certain service. Partner with them now and not

to return the favor if they’ve seen your willingness to

only will you make it through the recession, but you’ll

help others in the past.

have an even stronger business when the seas have “Getting behind a cause is good for business and


makes you look like a hero,” says Roffer. “Now is the Swim in their ocean your way. Every time you

time to step up and volunteer, join a board, or give

pitch your company to a new prospect, you are a fish

what you can to a local nonprofit. When clients see

out of water. When you’ve won them over and you

your philanthropic nature, they will trust you more.

finally get inside their organization, it’s important to

For example, if customers know that your company

learn how to be part of their culture without getting

is environmentally conscious, it can give you a great

lost in it. Remember that your clients have hired you

competitive edge. And even if giving back doesn’t

because you bring an outside perspective, and you

mean you’ll see an immediate profit increase, it can

have talents and skills that don’t already exist within

help you to re-identify what you are passionate about

their organization. It’s okay to tailor your ideas to fit

in life, and that passion will bleed over into your

their particular needs or style; just make sure you


hold onto the core of what makes you you. Evolve by casting a wide net. As any business “I once was hired by an organization that threatened

owner knows, each year can be vastly different from

my integrity,” Roffer says. “Just from the disrespectful

the one before it, and 2009 is already a whole new

behavior that was commonplace among the

world compared to 2008. We have a constantly

employees, I knew right away I would have trouble

changing economy and a new president, and our

fitting in. What I thought would be a great fit turned

clients will certainly have different needs this year

out not to be, and I concluded that no amount of

from last. In tough times many business owners hold

money was worth my soul and I made the decision

strong to doing what has always worked for them in

to walk away, despite the loss in revenue. Look for

the past, but Roffer says refusing to change with the

people with values that resonate with yours. If you

times can have disastrous effects on your business’s

don’t, at the end of this recession, you may not

success. - 16 -


to use your unique power to make them believe that “Operating with a business-as-usual mentality will

you are indispensable and that is exactly what you

not allow you to distinguish your business,” advises

will be!”

Roffer. “You have to continue reinventing yourself, changing with the times and with your clients. But

“The biggest problem is that most small business

remember, don’t let go of who you are as a company

owners are failing to see the big picture right now,”

while updating your style, your website, your

Roffer concludes. “And when your livelihood and the

advertising, and the way you think about things. The

livelihood of your employees is dependent on your

key is staying true to the essence of who you are,

ability to be successful in a tough economy, I can’t

and then recasting your image to feel brand new.

say that I blame them. The trick is to quit thinking

Your clients, both existing and new, will appreciate

about what’s going on right now. And instead think

the break from the business-as-usual approach.

back to who you were when your business first

Working with you will be a refreshing change in a

started, and what kind of business you want to have

stifling business world, and that will garner success

on the other side of this recession. If you hold on to

for you this year.”

who that person is, and who your business truly is, you’ll sail through this time and into an even brighter future.”

Reel in your unique power. In these tough times, it is only natural that you will experience moments of fear and anxiety when thinking about the future and


your business’s fate. However, you know that you

Robin Fisher Roffer (Los Angeles and New York) is

and your business are valuable, or you wouldn’t have

CEO of Big Fish Marketing, one of the entertainment

started it in the first place. And nothing, not even

industry’s preeminent brand marketing and digital

a bad economy, can change that. Roffer says that

advertising agencies. She has provided the rocket

the fearless among us overcome these doubts by

fuel that has ignited the launch pad of dozens of

practicing their ABCs—action, belief, and courage—

brands all over the world, developing brand-building

and doing so will help to free you from the fear and

marketing plans and promotional campaigns for

allow you to move forward and be successful.

top media companies like Sony, Time-Warner, and Twentieth Century Fox.

“It’s time to stop wringing your hands and start using them to improve your business,” says Roffer. “The

Roffer has written strategic plans and executed

story that you tell about your company is what others

marketing tactics for a prestigious client list that

will believe, so make sure it’s a story of strength and

includes ABC, A&E, AMC, Bloomberg, Bravo,

success. If you believe that now is a time for your

CNN, Comedy Central, Discovery Channel, Disney

company to start a new division, have the courage

Channel, History, Lifetime, MTV, Oxygen, and Turner

to do it, despite what others may say. Maybe you

Networks. Today, her client roster includes over 25

have an idea for a new product or some thoughts on

television networks, a global cosmetics company,

unconventional ways to approach customer service.

and several insurance and investment firms.

Now’s the time to believe in your instincts and have the commitment to follow through. Have the courage

A dynamic and engaging speaker, Roffer has given - 17 -


keynote presentations to some of the nation’s biggest companies and organizations, including AOL, Mattel, Verizon, Wharton School of Business, and many more. In addition to her work with Big Fish Marketing, she serves as a strategic branding consultant for a variety of corporations. Drawing on her experience in creating some of the world’s leading entertainment brands, Roffer penned her first book, MAKE A NAME FOR YOURSELF: Eight Steps Every Woman Needs to Create a Personal Brand Strategy for Success. Her latest book, THE FEARLESS FISH OUT OF WATER: How to Succeed When You’re the Only One Like You, hit stores in February 2009. It shows professionals how to stay connected and relevant at work while maintaining a unique identity, how to fit in without blending in, and how to transform exclusion into high impact. Roffer’s core belief is that entertainment should be leveraged for a greater good. She has received accolades for developing community outreach programs like Lifetime’s “Women Rock,” a concert event designed to raise awareness for breast cancer issues; CNN’s “Your Choice Your Voice” high school-based election promotion; FSN’s “Reading All-Stars” literacy campaign; The History Channel’s “Save Our History” initiative, which raised money and awareness for the World War II Memorial; and Comedy Central’s “Comedy RX,” a hospital-based program promoting the healing powers of laughter. ABOUT THE BOOK: The Fearless Fish Out of Water: How to Succeed When You’re the Only One Like You is available at bookstores nationwide, from major online booksellers.
For more information, please visit WIBI - 18 WOMEN IN BUSINESS & INDUSTRY


Gigi Stetler is no stranger to adversity. She’s overcome obstacles, survived a near-fatal knife attack and took on the “old boys” establishment in a decidedly male-dominated business. Now, a tight and often unethical finance market threatens to wash out the road to success that Gigi’s paved for herself and her business. But don’t bet against this thoroughbred… bounding over barriers is just another day in the saddle for this equestrian loving, business building dynamo with rock-solid determination.



ost of our cover stories deal with leaders of Fortune 500 companies. CEO’s who run multi-billion dollar enterprises with thousands of employees and dozens of subsidiaries have graced the cover of this publication over the years. Many have served as inspiration to our readers urging them to reach for the stars while ignoring societal or self-imposed limitations. This issue is a little different. Our cover story still echoes the same calls to action… to do more, to achieve loftier goals, to cast off the anchor lines that keep women tied to the dock while men cruise the sea of big business catching big fish. Yet, this story is still different. These days it’s not uncommon to hear about a kid from a poor family who makes it big, nor is it uncommon to read about a violent attack on an unsuspecting victim at the hands of an inhuman criminal. The same goes for stories about how those less likely to succeed due to the realities of gender, economic or racial bias can often rise above such petty yet powerful obstacles to achieve more than their “betterequipped” counterparts. What is uncommon is to come across an individual who fits all of those embattled descriptions yet managed to overcome, and in many cases, overachieve. Someone like that is well worth reading about.

wealth, south Florida was a good location for an RV business and over the course of twenty some years, Stetler steered the business down some bumpy roads to become one of the most successful RV dealers in the United States. While it may sound like so many other “success” stories out there, how Stetler came to be at the helm and what she went through along the way separates her story from any other I’ve covered. Early on, when just a young girl from a poor family, Gigi discovered she had a passion for four-legged creatures, namely horses, and not just any horses… jumpers… equestrianism at it’s highest. While not exactly a realistic hobby for a young girl from a less than wealthy family, she was not deterred. Instead, she found a way into the high priced world of equestrian sports by taking a job doing the “dirty” work… cleaning out stables, hauling feed and doing what she described as “the jobs that nobody else wanted to do just to be around the horses.” “I believe that laid the foundation of my work ethic and the reason I am successful as a businesswoman” says Stetler. “It taught me that nothing comes easy and you have to work to get what you want in life.”

Meet Gigi Stetler. Stetler is the owner and CEO of RV Sales of Broward County in sunny southern Florida about midway between the trendy nightclubs and hotels of Miami and famous South Beach and the moneyed neighborhoods of Palm Beach. With its high percentage of retirees and personal

Perhaps it was that early introduction to hard work that gave Stetler the strength to deal with what was the harshest obstacle life would hand her. “Prior to getting into the RV business I was working in hotel and property management and was renovating a run-down apartment building” Stetler relays in her book, ‘Unstoppable.’ “I made a deal with a guy who was living in the boiler room to let him live in an apartment in exchange for painting. One day he went a little


“It is never easy to be the only woman in a male-dominated industry, and I was not taken seriously as a cute and bubbly girl among the cigar-smoking fat cats of the RV industry.”

crazy and started throwing beer bottles from the roof. I called 911, but he burst in and stabbed me 21 times and tried to strangle me with an air conditioner cord while I was on the line with the police. I fought back and finally played dead, doing whatever I had to do to stay alive until the police got there” For most of us, surviving an ordeal of that magnitude would be cause to retreat from society, certainly cause to pull back from people and the risk’s involved with putting one’s self “out there” – whether it be a business situation or simple everyday life. Not Stetler. Surviving the attack seemed to galvanize her will to succeed and her passion for living life to it’s fullest. Stetler was in her early twenties when she met the man who would introduce her to the RV

business and take a role as mentor to the young woman eager to learn and earn. “I came into this career completely by accident. My mentor, Jerry, was a man who had been involved with my mother and was a father figure to me for many years. He had purchased an investment property and it came with an inventory of mobile homes. I was just 23 years old, but I could see that the man running the lot was lying to customers and not delivering what he promised. I told Jerry about it and the lot just became my problem to deal with after he kicked the guy out.” Over the course of several years, Stetler learned the business and ran the show all while drawing a paltry $500 a week in salary for long, long hours and high pressure to turn profits from a business that was $400,000 in debt with lots of unhappy customers. Her perseverance – coupled


with her willingness to deal face-to-face with disgruntled clientele and seek out resolutions to the issues that satisfied the customers while still making business sense – laid the groundwork for her future success. “I just started doing what I could do on my own, making repairs for existing customers. Once I had gotten to know several of them, I threw a party and offered each of them a $500 referral bonus for any new business they sent me, and from there things just boomed. It turned into a real business.” But disgruntled customers and red ink weren’t the only hazards on the road to success for Stetler and RV Sales of Broward County. Her mentor was taking out money faster than Gigi could bring it in. “We were doing a lot of business, but I was never paid more than $500 a week plus a small commission on sales. I never even earned a Christmas bonus. When Jerry started complaining that there was no money in the bank, I didn’t understand it. Our overhead wasn’t very high and we owned the property, so I didn’t know where the money was going. I didn’t know that the entire time, he had been drawing a $5,000 a week salary for himself.” “For the first 11 years in the business, I worked 14-hour days, seven days a week, everyday except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. My philosophy when I was young was ‘Work to learn’ not ‘Work to earn.” Stetler goes on to say, “I had worked for so little, always believing that Jerry and I were partners and that I was working hard for a business that would be mine in the end. The story of his

Stetler’s passion for horses started when she was just a little girl and continues to be an important part of her business and social life. (Photo courtesy of Equi-Sports International)

betrayal is long and involved, but the bottom line is that he decided to sell the property and cut me out, despite a long-standing verbal agreement that if and when he was ready to get out he would sell to me. He had drained the business of assets and it was encumbered by debt.” If not for the goodwill Stetler had built up by dealing directly with unhappy customers, the story may very well have ended then and there. However, the very clients that had been turned off by the previous management had now become allies of Stetler’s bringing in new clients by way of referral. “The goodwill I had built in the community saved me. I went right across the street and made a deal for a new lot.


The employees came with me and the vendors kept supplying me. I covered payroll using my credit cards. I paid off every single one of Jerry’s creditors even though I had no legal obligation to do so. So there I was working for free again for those first few years, but we made it and I have since bought out two other dealerships.” Enter the “old-boys” club and further obstacles meant to derail her plans for success. “It is never easy to be the only woman in a male-dominated industry, and I was not taken seriously as a cute and bubbly girl among the cigar-smoking fat cats of the RV industry. At the first dealer meeting, they said, ‘you need to go home and bake cookies, little girl.’ The next month, they held their meeting an hour before the official time so that I would be excluded. They tricked me three months in a row.” Such behavior was par for the course, but once again, Stetler’s “never give up” attitude came through bolstering her ambitions. “I didn’t care that I wasn’t accepted, because I was there to make money. So I started getting more aggressive and undercutting everyone’s price. They had a complete monopoly—they were all carrying the same product at the same prices, so there was no negotiating. I cut prices in half and was giving customers better value and better service, and then they started paying attention to me.” Stetler went on to post $18.2 million in sales in 2007, a tangible testament to the benefits of hard work and perseverance. With financial success came the ability to further pursue equestrian competition, albeit with a focus on growing the business. “These days, business

always comes first. I provide housing for all the equestrian competitors, which allows me to have an excuse to go to the horse shows.  Often while I have my game face on and am getting ready to compete, a customer will start inquiring about a product or be in need of a repair.  I always accommodate them first and remember if it weren’t for the customer, I wouldn’t be where I am today. The horse show customers do business with me because I’m one of them.” The simplicity of her approach stands in the face of many a highdollar marketing campaign. Bringing high-dollar RV’s into the world of equestrianism created the opportunity to match those products with those that could afford to purchase them… without the hefty bill associated with traditional marketing efforts. Charity and community play a big role in Stetler’s life as well. Since the days she could afford to help, she has. One example of her philanthropy includes donating dozens of emergency trailers to victims displaced by hurricanes Andrew and Katrina. Another recent act of benevolence was the donation of an RV complete with fuel and insurance so that the group, Driving for Donors, could mount a national campaign traveling throughout the U.S. in search of bone marrow donors, the shortage of whom are at record highs. When asked about her motivation to do such things, Stetler responds, “I believe in ‘pay it forward.’” “I also believe if you do good things for people, they will do good things for you.  We’ve been able to help so many people in the past, and I want you to know that came from the heart.  The greatest pleasure I get is being able to help someone else and make a difference in his or her life.”


In a response to tough market conditions, Stetler took RV Sales of Broward County in a new direction focusing on the rental and consigment sales end of the business. Her ability to accept change and adapt accordingly is a major factor in her success.

One might think that Stetler has seen more than her fair share of adversity and should, at this point of the game, have clear skies and smooth sailing. Yet, along comes another set of challenges and another set of battles to wage. Two major players have entered the business environment and they are a weak economy in the midst of a recession and a tight credit market with unfair practices that place far too much strain on the sagging RV industry. I asked Gigi what she sees in the cards for RV Sales of Broward County and here’s what she had to say. “Since the credit market is not opening up any time soon, and the cost of carrying any

new inventory is out of the question because financing is almost impossible, combined with the uncertainty of the stability of certain RV manufacturers, we have been concentrating heavily on the consignment market, used units and rentals. A lot of my customers were struggling to make their monthly payments on RVs they owned, so I put them in a rental which is a much more affordable option and easier for them to make their monthly payments. Also, it’s free inventory for RV Sales of Broward.  A known fact is that it is 78% cheaper to travel in an RV compared to flying, renting a car and staying in a hotel. So that has driven our rental market to the sky.”


month and they didn’t arrive until three weeks later. When they finally did arrive, they didn’t all work. Parts were missing, components failed and many units arrived damaged. Before you can put them out for sale, they need to be fixed and that’s where the problems come crashing down on the financial statements.

A willingness to change and the foresight to see what changes can be made to fit current market characteristics has kept the Broward boat afloat and it promises to continue to do so. However, there is another battle that Stetler is engaged in and it places her squarely in a “David and Goliath” adaptation with Gigi in the role of David and the powers of the U.S. banking and finance systems playing the larger than life Goliath. The basics of the battle are as follows. Let’s say you’re the owner of an RV dealership and you need more new units for display and sale on your lot. You contract with the manufacturers of those units and order a dozen or so $150,000 and up units. You arrange financing to cover the cost of those units while they remain on your lot waiting for the right buyer. Everyday you have those units on your lot, you’re paying interest but you’re okay with that… you’ll get them sold quickly, after all, it is your business and you’re good at it, right? Well, partially right. Problem is that you ordered the units on the first of the

You see, the day you order the units is the day the financial clock starts ticking and the interest accrues. Even though the units don’t arrive the day you order them, the interest accrues. Even though the units sit in your service department waiting on parts to fix what was wrong straight from the manufacturer, the interest accrues. Even though it could be weeks or months before the units are in actual saleable condition, the interest has accrued since that phone call ordering the units was made. And it’s not nickels and dimes, it’s $50,000, $60,000 even $100’s of thousands of dollars down the drain, something no RV dealer (or any other small business for that matter) can absorb in today’s economy.


Stetler is leading the battle to right the wrongs in the relationship between dealer and the finance company.

services as before the recession. You have to get the customers to your store.  You may have to be a little creative, be willing to adjust pricing if possible, but you can’t just sit back, you must bring them back to your store.  Also, don’t be afraid to explore other avenues.  Dig deep down and find that entrepreneurial spirit and go in another direction.  For me, I launched my own line of custom-made bedding sheets, focused on giving motivational speeches to different groups and organizations and wrote my first book “Unstoppable.”  The saying ‘turning lemons into lemonade’ is really appropriate here.”

“I cannot disclose all the details of the case, but we are in Federal court with one lender and AAA arbitration with another. The case has generated national attention since the first article was written about it months ago” Stetler states. “I have received more than 400 e-mails and hundreds of calls from supporters and other dealers who are in the same boat. Since filing my case, I have been pretty much black listed from doing any financial business in the RV industry because all the manufacturers and banks are sticking together. None of the allegations against the lenders have been denied; it’s just a question of the legality of it. These lenders have made millions of dollars by charging interest on products months before they were even delivered.” The bottom line is that Stetler is not going away and is certainly not afraid of making some noise aimed at righting the wrongs. In the midst of the battle, Stetler still finds the time to reach out and engage other small business owners. This past April, she ran a seminar aimed at assisting business owners maintain their businesses during the current recession. When asked what advice she has for those who may be faced with the possibility of closing their doors, Stetler had this to say. “Companies don’t shut their doors, people shut their own doors.  I hear people tell me they have no customers and no one comes into their stores anymore.  I say go get them… don’t wait for them to come.  The recession has hurt us all, but people still need many of the same goods and

It’s been nearly twenty years since Stephen R. Covey penned his now famous book, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.” In the book, Covey talks about those seven habits as being critical in finding one’s “true north” – principles that form a solid character. I asked Gigi about her seven habits and while I’m not sure that they qualify as habits, I will say that they are rules to live by, or at very least, solid advice backed up by solid actions and results. Here’s what Gigi had to say: 1) 2) 3) 4) 5) 6) 7)

Never give up. Always get back on the horse. Always bet on yourself. Never take your eye off the goal. Always think of yourself as “Unstoppable.” Re-negotiate life. Remember that failure is only a steppingstone to success.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t think that Gigi ever had to look for her true north… I believe she’s had her compass in hand from the very beginning. WIBI




AND CLEAN ENERGY New Women’s Survey Finds Business Owners Plugged in and Turned on about Clean Energy Women business owners understand the importance

done the same at home, and nearly eight in 10 (79

of clean energy and are committed to getting the

percent) have taken steps to make their businesses

country running on clean energy sources such as solar,

more environmentally friendly.

wind, and nuclear, according to the national Women’s Survey on Energy & the Environment, the first in-depth

“We moved our company to a four-day work week,

survey of its kind commissioned by Women Impacting

which reduces energy consumption at our facility and

Public Policy (WIPP) in collaboration with the Women’s

reduces travel-related consumption by our employees,”

Council on Energy and the Environment (WCEE).

said one business owner. Another survey participant

The survey of 455 women business owners also

reported, “We try to conserve by controlling building

shows they have already made their businesses more

temperatures, lighting, and investing in energy-efficient

environmentally responsible.

manufacturing equipment.” Another said, “We use daylight from windows and less from electrical lighting.”

LEADERS IN ENERGY CONSERVATION According to the survey, 77 percent have reduced

Barbara Kasoff, President of WIPP, a national

electricity use at their businesses, 98 percent have

bipartisan organization that advocates on behalf - 29 -








of women and minorities in business, noted, “Many


women business owners have taken significant steps



to conserve energy, and they understand the urgent

In addition to being more supportive of clean energy

need to 40 move the country toward clean energy. In

than women overall, women business owners

order to grow and develop their businesses to the

emerge as opinion leaders on energy and electricity

next level, it is imperative that they have an in-depth

and have more information than women who do not

20 understanding of the key energy issues and policy

own businesses, the survey found, when compared

decisions we are facing today.”

to results of a nationally representative sample of



801 women 18 or older. For example, 41 percent of


women business owners are aware that coal is our


country’s largest energy source, compared with only

• Women who own businesses strongly support

12 percent of women overall.

clean energy sources. - 89 percent think solar energy should play a very

Women business owners are also more

or somewhat important role in addressing our

knowledgeable about the benefits of nuclear energy:

country’s electricity needs.

Only 33 percent mistakenly believe nuclear energy

- 86 percent think the same about wind energy.

releases a lot or some air pollution (compared

- 71 percent think the same about nuclear energy.

with 54 percent of women overall), and only 18

- 54 percent see cleaner energy as the most

percent mistakenly believe nuclear power is a big or

important energy policy goal.

somewhat of a cause of global warming (compared

- 87 percent support federal tax incentives for

with 54 percent of women overall). In reality, nuclear

companies to become more energy efficient

energy does not release air pollution or cause global

- 63 percent believe global warming is one of the


most serious problems facing the world - 30 WOMEN IN BUSINESS & INDUSTRY



Renewable energy sources such as hydroelectric,

Hydroelectric power uses the kinetic energy of

wind, solar, and geothermal produce virtually no

moving water to make electricity. The winds and the

emissions. Nuclear energy also produces no GHGs

sun’s heat cause water to evaporate. When this water

in the production of electricity because nothing is

vapor turns into rain or snow and flows downhill into


rivers and streams, its energy can be captured using hydropower.

Among renewable energy sources that generate electricity, hydropower accounted for 6 percent

There are several types of hydropower facilities;

of the nation’s electric power in 2008. Other non-

some use dams and some do not. They range

hydro renewables (biomass, geothermal, solar, and

in size from small systems for a home or village

wind) accounted for approximately 3 percent of total

to large projects producing electricity for utilities.

electricity generated. Nuclear energy generated 20

Turbines and generators convert the energy into

percent of our nation’s electricity. Of these emission-

electricity, which is then fed into the electrical grid

free sources, currently only hydropower and nuclear

to be used in homes, businesses, and by industry.

operate around the clock – 24/7 – to generate

Over one-half of the total U.S. hydroelectric capacity

dependable power to consistently meet demand.

for electricity generation is concentrated in three








businesses and for sale to utilities.

states (Washington, California and Oregon), and Washington is the location of the nation’s largest

The most economical application of wind electric

hydroelectric facility – the Grand Coulee Dam.

turbines is in groups of large machines called Conventional hydroelectric power is unlikely to enjoy

“wind power plants” or “wind farms.” Wind machines

rapid growth under current expectations, due to the

generated electricity in 28 states in 2008; the top

lack of many additional large sites for hydroelectric

five states with the most windpower production are


Texas, Iowa, California, Minnesota, and Washington. According to the American Wind Energy Association,


wind energy could supply about 20 percent of the

Wind power produces virtually no emissions. Wind

nation’s electricity.

energy is really a converted form of solar energy, created when the sun heats the earth’s surface and


the heat drives the winds. The wind produces energy

Solar energy comes from the sun’s rays – solar

that is captured by wind turbines. As long as the sun

radiation – that reach the earth. Solar energy is

40 the wind will blow. shines,

convertible into other energy forms, such as


electricity and thermal (heat) energy. Solar power


Air in motion has kinetic energy. A wind energy

converts the sun’s energy into a pollution-free source

20 transforms system

of heat, lighting, and electricity.

the wind’s kinetic energy into

electrical 10 energy that can be used. A wind turbine can harness the wind’s energy; a generator then 0

Solar energy can be converted to electricity in two

converts the mechanical energy into electrical

ways: Photovoltaic (PV) devices or “solar cells”

energy for distribution and practical use. Wind

change sunlight directly into electric power. PV

electric turbines generate electricity for homes and

systems are used to power watches, calculators, - 32 -


ATM machines, and lighted road signs. Solar thermal energy is often used to heat swimming pools, heating water used in homes, and space heating of buildings. Around the U.S., available sunlight varies considerably as a result of differences in cloud cover and latitude, and also varies with the seasons These variations must be taken into consideration when planning solar collection facilities. Solar power currently provides less than 1 percent of U.S. energy needs, but this percentage is expected to increase with the development of new and more efficient solar technologies. GEOTHERMAL Not all emission-free energy sources come from the sun. Geothermal energy taps the Earth’s internal heat for many uses, including electric power production and the heating and cooling of buildings. Geothermal power plants use hydrothermal resources, which have two common ingredients: water (hydro) and heat (thermal). The Earth’s heat can be drawn from several sources: hot water or steam reservoirs accessed by deep drilling, geothermal reservoirs located near the earth’s surface (mostly located in western states, Alaska, and Hawaii), and the shallow ground near the Earth’s surface that maintains a relatively constant temperature of 50°-60° F. The U.S. generates more geothermal electricity than any other country, but the amount of electricity it produces is less than one-half of a percent of electricity produced in the U.S. States such as California, Nevada, Hawaii, and Utah have geothermal power plants, and other plants are in various stages of development in several other states. BIOMASS Sunlight causes plants to grow. Biomass uses - 33 WOMEN IN BUSINESS & INDUSTRY

50 40 30 20 10 0

organic matter – wood or plants – called biomass to generate heat and electricity and produce transportation fuel. Biomass energy, or “bioenergy,” recycles organic leftovers from forestry and


agriculture – corn stalks and leaves, rice husks, wood waste, willow, pressed sugar cane, switchgrass – as fuel to produce electricity and heat. It can be fermented to produce fuels – ethanol, for example



– for cars and trucks, it can create methane gas to power turbines, and it can be heated or “gasified” to break down into a clean-burning gas to make a range of products from diesel to gasoline to chemicals.



Biomass helps reduce toxic air-borne pollutants and decrease our dependency on foreign oil.


According to the American Lung Association’s


report, Agenda for Clean Air: Protect the Air We Breathe, clean air remains one of the nation’s


major environmental and public-health challenges. “Climate, energy, and clean air are inexorably linked.


Solutions that lead to cleaner air must be included in any approach to cleaner, more efficient energy use and reductions in global warming,” the report states. - 34 -


“Many women business owners have taken significant steps to conserve energy, and they understand the urgent need to move the country toward clean energy. In order to grow and develop their businesses to the next level, it is imperative that they have an in-depth understanding of the key energy issues and policy decisions we are facing today.” Barbara Kasoff, President of WIPP

between May 14 and 18, 2009. The margin of error for women 18 years and older is plus or minus 3.5 percent. The survey was commissioned by Women Impacting Public Policy in collaboration with Women’s Council on Energy and the Environment, and was underwritten through an educational grant by Entergy Nuclear. RESOURCES FOR WOMEN Women can learn more about how electricity impacts their world and their planet by downloading a brochure, Women and Clean Power: Electricity Matters, at


ABOUT WIPP Women Impacting Public Policy is a non-profit national bipartisan group with more than half-a-


million members. WIPP is the collective voice in Washington, DC, for 48 national women and small business organizations. WIPP advocates for and on behalf of women and minorities in business in


the legislative processes of our nation, creating economic opportunities and building bridges and alliances to other small business organizations.


WIPP’s policy agenda, the Economic Blueprint, the Women Business Owners’ Platform for Growth, is


found on the WIPP Web site. Visit ABOUT WCEE


The Women’s Council on Energy and the Environment is a non-partisan policy-neutral organization that focuses on women, energy, and


the environment. WCEE’s mission is to provide

Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, the international public-

consistently high-quality, non-partisan and policy-

opinion research and consulting firm, conducted a

neutral forums for dialogue on cutting edge energy

national telephone survey of 801 women 18 years

and environmental issues, and to foster the personal

or older, and a national web survey of 455 women

and professional growth and leadership abilities of its

business owners. The surveys were conducted

members. Visit WIBI - 35 -


Work Here. Fly Anywhere.


the journey begins here

Women In Business & Industry 2009  

An online magazine for working women looking for new opportunities in today's job market. Follow in the footsteps of our success profiles, l...

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